Jenny, my eldest daughter is learning to drive.

While sitting nervously in the passenger seat, as I have no control of the car, I thought: if we are in the driving seat of our businesses, but don’t check our surroundings regularly, our mirrors, check the dashboard instruments, our speed and have no map/navigation system to show us where we are heading, are we really in control or just reacting to the obstacles we meet en route?

So how do you drive your business from A to B effectively and without any major mishaps?

Well, first and foremost before you set off, you need to ensure your business is in good running order and will survive the journey.

As you would check the mechanics of your car before a long journey, check your business processes and systems are clearly mapped.

Could you update any parts? Use IT systems, software or apps to make your business run more smoothly, consistently and efficiently rather than risk a breakdown.

Are your tyres, brakes and safety equipment fit for purpose?
Relate these to policies and procedures, insurances and accreditations within your business and sector.

Check these are all in order and up-to-date (including HR and GDPR).
Without these being secure you could be challenged legally, lose out on a business contract opportunity or be pulled up by trade authorities or even HMRC.

Are we nearly there yet?
You then need to ensure you have the best support around you, whether it’s a navigator, help with the driving or a service team (back office) to support you on your journey.

Ensure all your fellow directors and employees are on board and on the right seat of the business bus.

You may need to secure subcontractors or surround yourself with freelancers to give you the necessary skills and specialist support required to achieve your journey's end.

You must also ensure they all clearly understand your goals and ambitions and are fully committed to joining you on your journey.

While en route you need to continually communicate where you are at all times against plan and what the next section of road looks like or the next obstacle is, rather than being asked “are we nearly there yet?”

Next, you need a clear route plan to get to your destination with agreed set milestones, with consideration taken to build in reflection and rest periods along with a list of what additional parts you’ll have to pick up or replace on the way.

Spend time with your team developing a roadmap for your business. Link this to a clear strategy or business growth plan and agree the measures, timescales and set milestones with built in review periods.
Be clear from day one what additional resources, people, equipment and systems you will need to invest in to complete your journey.

We are now almost ready to set off.

But what about fuel? Is the tank full, half full or nearly empty? This is the businesses working capital to fund your growth journey.

Whether it be directors' loans, traditional banks or from external investors before you set off on your journey ensure everything is in place. It’s worth spending time creating a financial forecast for the next 2 to 3 years to be properly prepared.
Because if you run out of fuel (cash) en route, the chances are you’ll come to a grinding halt and end up somewhere where you may not be able to get any assistance.

Start the engine . Then as any competent driver does before they release the handbrake, check in the rear mirrors, is there anything coming up behind you which may catch you out?
Maybe you’ve no patent or IP in place, or a legacy debt to deal with or a key supply contract is due for renewal.

Then check though the side windows. What are the other road users doing?
Keep a close eye on what your competitors are doing. Do they have a similar strategy to grow and take market share from you?

Or is there a clear gap which you can fill? Try not to let them get in front of you either, as they could stifle or dictate the pace of your businesses growth.

Take your time. As with all journeys, start off slowly and in first gear, so take your time, it’s a marathon not a sprint.

Learn the new road and adjust to the weather and traffic conditions (external market forces) as you slowly build speed.

Adapt with incremental steps to ensure you don’t go too fast and risk being derailed along the way.

Use your “dashboard” instruments on your journey for feedback regarding how your business vehicle is performing.

Check your fuel gauge and top up when necessary.

Ensure you run your business efficiently and don’t over-rev your engine or work it too hard. As you don’t want to overheat the engine (you and your team) as it may eventually fail.

So ensure you plan in holidays to cool off and recharge you and your team’s batteries.

Always check that you're being effective and the productivity levels in your businesses, your MPG are acceptable.

Are Key Performance Indicators on plan and above the benchmark for your sector?

If not, you may need to adapt and change your driving style.

Finally keep your windscreen clean and ensure you have a constant clear view of what’s up ahead.

Whether that’s getting out to meet your customers and suppliers regularly or even networking.

Spend at least 75 per cent of your time looking forward, as if you’re driving a car.

Learn from what happened so far by looking in the rear view mirrors regularly.

Make sure you take time to adapt and plan any new road layouts or routes which will help you get to your journey's end using the least resources and effort.

“ We cannot change the direction of the wind but we can adjust our sails ” - Jimmy Dean .

At Business Doctors we offer free access to the Value Builder online tool , along with a free no obligation meeting to go through the key factors which will increase the value of your business.

Our next business breakfast seminar Working Smarter not Harder 8am, Thursday 13 September, Crown & Mitre Hotel, Carlisle.

We will also be running some Freedom seminars and workshops during September and October across Cumbria. Please keep an eye on our website's events page .

If you are looking to grow your business, Business Doctors Cumbria offer a free business health check where we can help you to set a clear vision to understand the steps you need to take to fulfil your aspirations.

Alternatively contact either

Peter Fleming 07966 686112 email

Steve Howard 07774 287640 Email

Or click here to view our website for other services we can offer you.