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Take your business to the premier league



As Brighton’s rise from last minute survival to the Premier League gives other “smaller” clubs hope, I look at some of the lessons businesses can take from this remarkable story to get themselves heading in the right direction.

Lesson 1 – Strategy and Planning

For Brighton and Hove Albion this was not only about the match-to-match planning but the longer term strategy to move the club forward. Many SME owners struggle to create the time to work on their business strategy, but having a clearly focussed vision is critical in taking your business to the next level. Business owners are often so preoccupied with the day-to-day management that they lose sight of the strategic direction. That’s why, if you really want to give your business some focus for growth, a strategic plan is an absolute necessity.

Lesson 2 – People and Skills

Brighton’s success has been achieved through building a squad of players capable of performing and excelling together week in week out. However, the role of manager Chris Hughton and his management team has been pivotal in achieving the goal of promotion.

Likewise, a business’s growth is driven by the management of the company. Having a strong leadership team, whoever that consists of – it could be just the owner, can propel a business into strong growth mode. However, very few SME’s invest in training and development for the owner and senior managers. This doesn’t just mean training on how to manage people effectively, but giving them other skills to, for example, manage change or understand financial reports. A business owner must also acknowledge their own weaknesses and build a team around them that complements their own skills. 

Having an engaged workforce will make growing the business much easier. When all team members are engaged – from ownership to leaders to staff – the entire organisation benefits. Engaged organisations perform well against virtually any measure of business success. Everyone feels shared accountability for success, and shares in the achievement – just like Brighton, from kit man to Chairman.

Lesson 3 – Finances

As recently as 1998 Brighton and Hove Albion FC was on the brink of financial ruin. Failing to control the finances of a business, football clubs included, is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. Yet I still see so many SME’s whose financial intelligence can best be described as 1-star, relying on the bank balance and a set of year end accounts produced months after the financial year has ended.

Yes, cashflow is vital, but measuring cashflow without profitability can mask a multitude of problems waiting to pounce. A robust financial management and review system should be the cornerstone to any growing business. Monthly management accounts, with comparison to budget and prior year, enables action to be instigated as soon as a potential problem becomes apparent. But in my opinion financial intelligence should go one step further still and incorporate rolling forecasts which provide a more accurate year-end prediction, as well as aiding long-term cashflow management. 

Lesson 4 – Having the Right Premises

Whilst not attributable to all businesses, those in manufacturing and retail particularly would benefit from taking heed of the problems arising from not having a fit for purpose facility. In the case of Brighton, the move from the Goldstone Ground in the early 90’s led to a period of insecurity as they moved from “home” to “home” – sharing with Gillingham FC, being tenants at the Withdean Stadium etc. – and this was holding the club back. The building of the Falmer Stadium (known as the Amex Community Stadium through a sponsorship deal) was completed in 2011 and gave the club a firm base from which to operate. As well as a state of the art football stadium it also boasts extensive corporate, conference and banqueting facilities, generating additional income for the club. All of which has aided the final rise to the Premier League.

For SME’s having the right facility to allow growth is vital. Planning ahead and identifying tipping points where premise changes will need to be considered allows time to consider the options – outright purchase, lease, expand existing facility etc.

Lesson 5 – Exporting

Having reached the top level of English football will Brighton be eyeing a place in Europe in the coming years?

How does this impact SME growth I hear you ask? For most SME businesses exporting isn’t something that jumps out as an opportunity. However, selling your goods or services abroad opens up a whole new world of opportunity, after all the UK has under 66 million citizens in a world of over 7 billion!

For businesses with no experience of exporting it can all be very confusing. But just like any other element of growing your business, having a clear strategy is the first step. Undertake research of potential markets and which of your products or services fit the bill, understand what modifications would be needed, for example language on packaging. There is then a spectrum of options of how to enter the world of exporting, from direct sales from the UK to establishing a local presence, whilst in between are various options involving local collaboration, such as working through a distributor or a joint venture.

Exporting can be very rewarding, although it requires an investment of time and money.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of your business strategy or growth plans please contact me at or on 0845 163 1498.