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Want to be successful in 2016?, be “Brilliant at the Basics!”

John Nelligan


I worked for a MD once who was not just a great visionary but also a very driven leader focused on achieving his aspirations. Every employee presentation ended with the same mantra “Be Brilliant at the Basics”

Whilst supporting many SMEs business owners, helping them implement a clear strategy for growth and particularly improving their sales, I tend to be asked, what’s the one thing that would make the difference? And the answer, there is no one thing! However if you make continued incremental improvements in all areas of the business you tend to find the business outputs and results increase dramatically over time. Therefore continually look for ways to improve, even if just small steps.

One quote which has always stuck with me is: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”, Henry Ford (1863-1947),

Three key areas to focus on to help deliver a successful business development plan are;

Structure, ensuring good communication; look at your current hierarchal structure within your business. Who reports to whom? Design and adapt the structure to meet the future needs of the business, establishing clearly defined job roles and responsibilities and then determine what key competences are required for these roles. Obtaining improved clear communication lines internally ultimately means you will be more effective when it comes to customer communication.

Processes and Policy; is there defined processes for important tasks? These don’t need to be military level Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Understand the key process flows within your business. A good tip is to walk through them and highlight any bottlenecks.  Determine if these are due to batch mentality of certain tasks such as work planning, job sheets allocation or invoicing? Then as a team find a better way of working. Simply reducing these bottlenecks, or the amount of duplication and people involved, including yourself, will make a significant difference. Clarifying policies such as customer complaints procedures, staff sickness & holidays requests, even use of personal mobile phones and social media within the workplace can make processes more efficient therefore employees becoming more productive, resulting in a better level of customer service

People; Ensure you have the right person on the right seat of the bus. Recruit or fill job roles with people whom have the competences or the potential required to establish and fulfil the future roles within the business structure. Give all employees the opportunity to sit down with their line manager for appraisals at least twice per annum and hold monthly less formal 1-2-1s with your line managers. Ensure staff are supported “to be the best they possibly can be” within their roles. This is not just sending them on training courses, but coaching, mentoring, buddying up with others “on the job”, and through following up on 1-2-1’s and giving them the necessary tools to be effective and efficient in their roles. 


It’s the holiday season, so why not take the opportunity to start working ON your business rather than IN your business and start planning some small improvements in 2016!

Some suggested worthwhile reading/e-books/downloads.

Leadership;     Jim Collins, Good to Great, Random House Business Books

Dealing with change;    Dr Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese, Vermilion

Being more successful yourself;      Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Profile Books Ltd

Being a successful SME’s;     Michael Gerber, The E Myth revisited, why most small businesses don’t work and what to do about it, Harper Collins

Managing people;       Ferdinand F. Fournies, Why employees don’t do what they’re supposed to do and what to do about it, McGraw Hill Books

Time Management;    Gary Keller, The One Thing, John Murray General Publishing

Understanding and Improving your sales;      Robert B. Cialdini, Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion, Harper Collins