Planning for the Future

Posted on the 13 May 2020

Planning for the Future

Business as we know it has changed. For many, the toughest task is now looming: how do we plan for the future and ensure our business is stronger and more resilient in a post COVID world?

Planning for the future means trying to assess what your company is going to need, in both the short and long term. While immediate planning focuses on balancing budgets, and responding to the ever-changing business environment, in the longer-term, it’s about thinking bigger.

As Graham Sleep, founder of IA Growth, explains, planning for the future starts with a wider consideration of the network in which the business operates. 

“We’ve been used to profit as being the key focus in business for last century,” Graham comments. “However, I see a bottom-line model with a heavy focus on sustainability gaining traction.”

Sustainability, as Graham explains, refers to the economic, social and environment development as outlined in the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Here, purpose – and particularly business purpose – is vital.

“Business purpose is the new currency in that it should illustrate your company’s impact on your stakeholders and their stakeholders,” Graham explains.

The benefits of purpose-driven businesses are clear: purpose-driven businesses create more emotional and profound bonds with their customers, they grow three times faster than their competitors and finally, they attract the best talent to their company.

Graham explains that while many have already begun their journey to become a sustainable business, the sustainability movement has gained attentionin recent weeks.

“Futureproofing your business now means giving consideration to how you will become a sustainable business, how you will help and support the wider environment in which you operate. Sustainability is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s an essential for any business wanting to thrive in the future.”

In addition to building a greater conscious and awareness of environmental sustainability, the prolonged period of working from home has also changed many employees’ expectations of work, influencing how we will all work – and want to work – in the future.

“The value of life has rightly been refined,” Graham comments, “All directors and leaders should have renewed view of their own emotional care, as well as that of their staff.

“Work/life balance has become a key conversation for most business owners, especially those balancing family life and caregiving while trying to run the business as normal.

“In the future, businesses will need to accommodate individual’s needs and requirements. Businesses will need to be flexible, especially if they are looking to recruit and attract the best talent.”

As Graham explains, flexibility is only one key aspect of future business operations. Transparency is just as important, particularly when future business planning brings significant change.

“Businesses are already moving toward flat organisational structures and I think this is something that will gain popularity in the future, resulting in hierarchies being squashed to build trusting relationships and connectedness between teams and leaders.

“Leaders who embrace change and empower their teams through open and honest conversation will be the ones to guide us through the current situation and beyond.”

All future business plans need to account for external changes but Graham emphasises the need for rapid response.

“I love the word ‘velocity’ in relation to business operations. If the COVID-19 situation has taught us anything it’s that any business planning for the future will need to make considerations on how they will shorten supply chains and adapt rapidly to change.

“it sounds like a daunting concept but during the current crisis, some businesses have worked faster and better than they dreamed possible just a few months ago.”

Part of this, Graham states, has been the adoption of new collaborative technologies that have enabled businesses to deliver their products and services ‘as normal’.

However, Graham acknowledges that businesses that had invested in their technology infrastructure prior to the COVID-19 outbreak has been at an advantage.

“Businesses looking to get ahead in the future will need to adopt digitisation and utilise it in all aspects of their business. This can include investing in data analytics software to inform decision making to financing online learning platforms, enabling you to upskill and reskill your workforce and support resilience and wellbeing.

“Technology is – and will continue to be – a huge part of the workforce of the future. Investing in it now will be crucial if businesses are to thrive in a post-COVID world.”

Planning for the future may seem a difficult task, particularly during the current changing environment, where new legislation is being introduced every day, but Graham emphasises the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit in times of uncertainty, referencing the following quote:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us, and when we bring this out into the open, miracles happen.”

Graham refers to himself as an engineer by trade, but a generalist by birth, who after undergoing various "crucibles" in life including long-term debilitating illness, still managed to deliver a highly successful corporate career. This led to him heading up a turnaround in the USA and multi $300m plus acquisition-fuelled growth, before leading year-on-year double-digit growth for a North East-based organisation. 

He is Founder and MD of a Scotland-based productivity consultancy, which has worked with Scottish Government and agencies as a niche provider to large organisations and local high-risk supply chains, as well as his most recent venture, IA Growth in the North East of England. He has supported some of the largest and fastest growing organisations across the UK (as well as over last two years, some of the largest government and public sector organisations, where he is seen as a top Senior Leadership trainer and Corporate Executive Coach). He was named Entrepreneurs’ Forum Mentor of the Year in 2019 with those who had worked closely with him describing him as a ‘fantastic mentor’ and a ‘great visionary’.