You know you’ve got the knowledge to make this business hum, so why isn't it working?

Article By

Peter Wilkinson

Director - Tipping Point Advisory

Over a 30-year career in Engineering and Construction I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges that businesses small and large face in getting things to really hum along.

The circumstances may differ – for example tenders are all about time pressure and having to deliver on time come what may, whereas the ebb and flow of business growth requires effective steerage. How this plays out every day though is pretty much the same:

  • dealing with the pain of pulling submissions together without descending into blind panic as deadlines loom
  • chasing weekly timesheets and invoices and reporting on job progress
  • closing out Month End which seems to come along every week
  • keeping up with Management reporting, informal updates etc etc

In short, it’s the little things rather than the big issues that generate most business pain and frustration.

But do you know specifically why this is fundamentally your issue as Owner and Leader of the business?

The answer to this question lies with what Management capability is in a business.

Before we delve further into the answer, you might be interested to know that Management capability, along with Vision is one of two key elements that experienced business investors look for when evaluating where to bet their money (that’s right – the typical 50-page Business Plan, in most if not all cases being filled with good news and heroic projections - is given scant attention). In the investor’s mind Management is the engine room of the business, being the means by which organisations get things done and deliver the work for which they’re paid for.

So what comprises Management capability? Traditionally, it’s been all about:

  • having the Right people
  • in the Right roles
  • with the Right skills and experience.

Gone are the days though when an Owner could just rely on great Managers and their teams to “muddle through” and get the job done. The modern business environment is almost totally reliant on IT systems to perform and enable tasks that are central to producing outputs. Increasingly, smart companies are harnessing common data platforms and process automation to optimise “end-to-end” business processes. Consequently, what in the not-so-distant past felt like a string of disconnected systems is becoming increasingly unacceptable (and if you’re still questioning whether your people are still prepared work to around clunky systems and processes, take the time to have a chat about this with some of your younger staff….)

So, effective Management Capability also requires fit for purpose IT systems as well as aligned business processes. Just like people though, IT systems and business processes need to be maintained, nurtured and – on occasion – transformed. It stands to reason then that your business needs capability in effective systems implementation and associated change management skills.

So is the answer to stand your Managers aside and do it all yourself? (I’m guessing you already know the right response here). In my observation and experience though, it is a rare Owner that is reliably informed about the business to really understand how it’s currently working (or not as the case may be)  – is this challenge showing up for you?

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