What We Do

 

STRATEGY

“A strategy is necessary because the future is unpredictable.”

Robert H. Waterman Jr.

Without a strategy and plan you are just living in hope.

With a clear purpose and robust business model you can execute and make decisions with confidence. Plot the right course with us.

We work with you to create a clear and effective STRATEGY to achieve your goals, put a solid framework in place, and create a high-performance culture to take your business to the next level.

SCALE UP

“Strong customer relationships drive sales, sustainability and growth.”

Tom Cates

Some businesses are growing and want to accelerate - others have stagnated and need to find their way back to growth. 

We unlock your potential.

 

We deliver successful SCALE UP by deepening your customer engagement with a compelling proposition that sets you apart, and exploring new product and market opportunities

TRANSFORMATION

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”  Benjamin Franklin

Change is the one constant and adaptability our biggest strength. But delivering effective change can be hard. We can help.

We are TRANSFORMATION experts - this is our change ethos:

  • Successful change is always centred on the customer

  • Keep continual focus on the desired outcomes (not the process)

  • Change only happens with the people (not done to them)

  • Consider all aspects of the business

"For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them." Aristotle

We make lasting changes to businesses through the training we deliver at our Business Club Academy, our Covid-19 initiative, the many seminars and webinars we speak at and as an accredited Rocket Remote partner.  

LEADERSHIP

Strategy

 

Strategy is just choice-making for organisations and our goal is to help you discover options and make great choices. It is challenging to put aside the day-to-day detail and step back, take a fresh look at your business and the landscape in which you operate and think creatively about the options available.  That's where we can help. And strategy must lead to action; it is not an ivory tower exercise but grounded in delivering results that matter.

Lack of a written strategy leads to a lack of focus.  Rather than develop propositions that truly fits with customer needs and market trends, businesses become reactive, chasing all opportunities without any logical way to set priorities.  Even in small firms, individuals build business silos to focus on areas which they believe are beneficial.  In the short term this can work and appear profitable.  But in the long run such tactical wins are hard to build and sustain.  We have seen many cases where opportunist investments that lack a strategic fit have become financial and regulatory burdens.  The organisation becomes forced to invest in maintaining a product or platform which cannot be scaled enough to be profitable or spend effort and money dismantling it.

We co-create strategies which:

  • State a clear description of the problem

  • Define your approach to address this problem

  • Be credible and execution ready

 

For strategy to be effective it must come from within the business. You need to believe it, understand it and own it, and it needs to align to your values and purpose. But creating a strategy is hard, and even more difficult on your own – we are often too close to our own business, so struggle to be objective or create new ideas.

We prefer to be "Business Consultants who do Strategy" than "Strategy Consultants".  Semantics maybe, but we prefer to focus on co-creating good strategies that come from within the business, rather than create it for you in isolation. You need to believe it, understand it and own it, and it needs to align to your values and purpose.  The strategy must be execution-ready; do-able within your resources and constraints and aligned to your vision and purpose.  But that does not mean that leaps of innovation, transformation and leadership will not be called for.  

Developing and implementing strategy is a leadership challenge.  The strategy absorbs the uncertainty from your teams so that they can focus on what they do best without worrying about the (known or unknown) unknowns.  It is not a committee compromise.  We can help you develop your leadership, innovation and transformation mindset and act as independent mediator between your key stakeholders.

Whatever your organisation's size or sector we are open for a chat about whether we can help. 

 

Scale-up

Businesses with plans to grow need to grapple with seven challenges.  The good news is that you do not need to face them alone.

The first challenge is to develop a robust strategy that is execution-ready - see above and Strategy Insight.

The second challenge is being "ready for scale".  A large business, or a business growing fast, will need a different mindset.  That means up-skilling the leadership team.  New things are important.  Communication will become more formal, motivating a bigger team in what might become challenging and uncertain times is a new skill and you all need to be united around crisply-articulated common goals.  We have a variety of ways to help, including the multi-award winning Rocket Remote team-building and leadership game.

 

With the right team, right skills and out-sourcing where needed, the leadership team can embark on challenge three.  We talk about a strategy being execution-ready, but that does not mean that execution is a just a to-do list.  In scale-up, there is usually exploratory work needed to mitigate the key risks.  That work might be varied - test if key market assumptions are right, understand offshore licensing requirements or overcome an engineering limitation - but one path to successful growth relies on them.  If the risks cannot be mitigated then perhaps an alternative plan is needed.

 

Challenge four is funding.  Raising money is a process.  Any angel, bank, crowd-funder or government agency will look for a commercial story that appeals to their hearts and commercial acumen.   Writing a business plan that is succinct, credible, engaging and commercially viable is not easy.  We can then guide businesses on how to flex the plan to align to funder needs.  We cannot guarantee getting you funding, but we can improve your chances.

Overlapping challenge four is number five, operating model development.  Often scale-up plans rely on doing things in a  new way.  Key to success might be cutting waste, faster turn-around, technology to access markets or streamlined production.  The operating model documents  how that will really how your customers, suppliers and staff are impacted.  It may be key to securing funding.

 

Step six is detailed planning.  Let's recap.

 

  1. You have a clear strategy (for example you are going to outsource manufacture of components and expand the high-value skilled assembly process).

  2. Your leadership team have united the workforce, they communicate clearly, are authentic, demonstrably care about the right things and can remove uncertainty and roadblocks to growth.

  3. You have done enough testing that the key risks are unlikely to cause melt-down. 

  4. Funding is secured.

  5. You understand how the new model will work to ensure quality, price and timeliness while retaining flexibility.

Execution will demand some level or project management.  Whether the underlying work is a merger, legal, factory set-up or something else, it will require some level of planning and it is possible that investors will need to understand that plan because it partly determines your cash flow.

 

Step seven, executing the plan, will be a lot easier with steps one to six complete.  No plan ever goes without a hitch, but with your backers, staff and leadership team fully aligned the problems will be surmountable.  Scale-ups do go wrong.  Our structured approach minimises the chance of that happening to you. 

Whatever your organisation's size or sector we are open for a chat about whether we can help.  

Transformation

Businesses undertake transformations to fundamentally reshape how they operate so that they can cope with new challenges.  From March 2020 and for the foreseeable future, businesses of all sizes face existential threats – the ongoing impact of covid-19, Brexit, high levels of national debt, recession, climate crisis and technological change from AI and robotics.  Disruption is all around us. 

 

Transformational change goes beyond incremental change to changes that alter the context in which it is taking place. It is not business as usual, and tomorrow will not be the same as yesterday.  Most often it is irreversible - the technical challenge is too hard, the financial impact too great, the media and shareholder impact too painful and the loss of credibility for the leadership team unbearable.  Failure, and doing nothing, are likely to be fatal.

Transformation is a blend of process, organisational and technology change aligned to a cultural shift.  Not only does the business work differently, but it has new values and behaviours.  It embodies the concept of institutionally sustained results, a consistency of achievement over time.

Transformation is not just project management.  There are some critical differences and thinking of transformation as a collection of project process steps can lead to failure according to McKinsey.

  • Project methodologies focus on tasks.  Transformation is driven by outcomes.  Tracking tasks is easy - the MI is about completion rates.  Outcomes require far more extensive MI and a strong leadership team willing to stop failing initiatives, rework and reinvest.

  • Projects benefit from a well-supported, crisply-articulated and over-communicated vision.  It is critical for transformation, partly because the journey to the transformed business will require many people to put "skin the game".  

  • Transformation puts a burden on the C-Suite and challenges vested interests, silos and their resolve around the common vision. They need to resist the  easy compromises, deal with the obstacles, maintain the pace and be passionate evangelists.  

  • Projects rarely require a hearts and minds change.  At the transformation level, the messaging is not an update to process but a complete reboot on the way the organisation views itself. Customers, investors, employees and suppliers need to be willing (and ideally active) partners in a journey.

  • Most organisations are not immediately capable of transformation - it is not a muscle that will get much exercise and few organisations can afford to keep all the talent they need on tap.  Before starting, capability needs to be assessed and key gaps plugged.

We have delivered high-profile transformations for most of the UK banks and bring fresh thinking.  Our perspective is that employees and customers should have a louder voice in shaping transformation, upfront investment is needed in MI, leadership alignment and creating a vision which resonates emotionally and logically. Communication needs particular attention to create an interactive dialogue with showcased prototypes, visible quick wins and transparency of the process.  Throughout the transformation we should demonstrate the authentic commitment of the leadership,  emphasise urgency and crystallise the benefits to customers and colleagues.  

If your business needs fundamental changes then please get in touch and find out how we can help.

 

Leadership

There is an iron triangle between Strategy, Execution and Leadership.  Since the financial crash in 2007, there has been a spotlight on Strategy plus Execution.  Having a good strategy is clearly worthless without a capability to execute.  But good leadership is also critical for any business to navigate how to land the value proposition.  Creating a great business, ones that will make the world a better place, requires great leaders.

Leadership is often equated to lone hero figures - military leaders, CEOs of tech giants and a handful of politicians.  From these great men (and the lists are mostly of men) we can perhaps distil certain common qualities.  But the question is not "how to stack our organisations with replicate Ghandi and Jobs?".  Nor is it "how do we lift the C-Suite from excellent leaders to extraordinary leaders?". The place where we can most impact is simply by making middle managers and SME bosses into better leaders".  Boardroom leadership quality is a function of the individuals available and affordable.  Across the rest of the management layers it is amenable to improvement through training, culture, communication and role-modelling. 

 

Why should we care about leadership? 

Broadly speaking, good leadership benefit the organisation in three ways:

  • The organisation is more productive.  People fully understand the purpose of their task, are able or willing to innovate and improve, feel valued and trust the leaders to recognise their extra effort.    Uncertainty is addressed, so lower-level decisions can be taken and momentum is maintained. There is a sense of well-being, with fewer cases of absenteeism and stress-related issues. 

  • Capacity to change.  Leaders are evangelists.  They motivate by painting the picture of the promised land and convincing stakeholders that the land is within reach.  Through winning hearts and minds, and  maintaining a discourse on change, it is possible to change organisational culture.  And with cultural change, transformation is possible.

  • Decisions are deliberate.  Strong leaders don't make decisions off the cuff, Instead they use information in a repeatable manner to make decisions which can be rationally explained and as a result are less risky, can be learned from and are not idiosyncratic.  The decision-making framework is important - leaders need to know the organisations appetite for risk, how competing factors like profit, well-being and financial risk should be balanced and the scope of their authority.

At Ahead Business Consulting we address the leadership challenge in middle management in three ways:

  1. We provide seminars on leadership, speaking alongside leaders from sports, military and industry.

  2. Our "high performance teams" training directly addresses the outcomes from leadership and provides a pathway to improve performance.  

  3. We are accredited partners for Rocket Remote, an innovative online game that generates insights for leaders and their teams. 

If you want to achieve more then please get in touch.

Based in Falkirk, we support organisations across Scotland.

Get in touch! Tell us your successes, your aspirations and the challenges you face. We will share how we can help – with no obligation for more.

 

© 2020 Ahead Business Consulting