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How good are SME’S at using Investment?

An Article by Patrick  Sutton, partner of O’KellySutton in the Sunday Business Post

So your company has just received that big investment you’ve been chasing after for ages, now what happens? You will have prepared the business plan and sales pitch as to how great the idea is. In theory it’s all figured out now and it’s a just a matter of spending the money and reaping the rewards.

If only it were so simple. I am at times surprised with Venture Capitalists, State Agencies and other private investment vehicles that they are not more rigorous in their follow-up after the money is invested. There are hundreds of books available on business strategy, business models, strategy implementation, change management and so on, far too much to be addressed in any meaningful way here but I will outline a few simple pointers in delivering successful implementation.

  • Business Strategy – must ensure your strategy and vision for the future is clear, understood and owned by all in your company. Among others, I like the one page strategic plan as outlined in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish and also the one page Business Model Canvas as outlined in the book Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder. Having the right strategy is vital to long term success and reviewing it every year is essential. It does make sense to get an outside facilitator to help the company pull the strategy together by asking the right questions and challenging the assumptions.
  • Employ only good people – try and recruit the best and retain them, the ones Jack Welch ex CEO of GE referred to as the ‘A’ players. If employs are not performing move them on early. Any business is only as good as its people. Having good staff is great but you also have to train them and give them the necessary tools to be able to do the job and ensure they are working with the right plan.
  • Set goals and priorities – if you don’t set targets don’t expect to achieve the results. I worked with a company this year and their number one goal was to achieve €1m in sales every month. That was their most important ‘Critical Number’.  It was an ambitious target for them but they reached it 6 times. The company operated as one team and when the target was hit there was a celebratory night out on the company. The previous year they only reached it once. They firmly believe if they hadn’t set such ambitious targets they wouldn’t have achieved the results they did this year. Remember manage for the short term, plan for the future.
  • Implementation plan – having set your targets you then set out an implementation plan which outlines how you intend to achieve the goals and targets. Setting quarterly actions, responsibilities, deadlines and listing resources need. This should be underpinned by daily and weekly measures i.e. a performance measuring system. To capture data and monitor performance management creates a measuring and monitoring system, and establishes a performance framework, policies and procedures to asses if goals are being achieved.
  • Performance measurement – there should be continuous performance measurement in place, reviewing employees performance, giving performance feedback and rewarding to high performers. If you don’t reward high performers don’t expect to maintain high performances.  You must be diligent about holding people accountable to results.

To develop a successful company requires rigour, energy, hard work, leadership and ambition. You need to know your competitors business nearly as much as your own business. Success brings substantial rewards so remember the end goal.

In conclusion you’ll only get once chance to spend the investment so make sure you have the right plans, and structures in place to help you do that. Patrick Sutton, O’KellySutton Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, Kildare, Sutton@okellysutton .com