in-Cumbria's Business Doctor offers up some great hints and tips for Cumbrian businesses.

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I worked for a Managing Director once who was not just a great visionary but also a very driven leader focused on achieving his aspirations. Every employee communication or 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!

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 and keep the momentum going.

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 growth plan are:


Ensuring good communication: look at your current hierarchal structure within your business. Who reports to whom? Is this appropriate for today and your future business needs?

Start from scratch and don’t put existing staff names into boxes and design and adapt the structure to meet future needs. Establish clearly defined job roles and responsibilities and what key competences are required for these roles. Obtaining improved clear lines of communication 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 the amount of duplication and people involved, including yourself in each process will make a significant difference. Utilise or bring in IT systems where possible to create consistency.

Clarifying policies such as customer complaints procedures, staff sickness, holiday requests, even use of personal mobile phones and social media within the workplace can make processes more efficient. Overtime employees become more productive, resulting in a better level of customer service.


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.

Ensure all employees have 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. Staff should be 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, giving them the necessary tools to be effective and efficient in their roles.

Some suggested Christmas reading and e-books:

Leadership; Jim Collins, Good to be Great

Dealing with change; Dr Spencer Johnson, Who Moved my Cheese?

Being more successful yourself; Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here Won't Get You There

Becoming a successful SME; Michael Gerber, The E Myth Revisited, why most small businesses don't work and what do do about it

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

Time management , Gary Keller, The One Thing

Understanding and improving your sales; Robert B. Cialdini, Influence, the Psychology of Persuasion

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 and understand the steps you need to take to fulfil your aspirations.

Contact us for more information on 07966 686 112 or email

You can also visit our website at