The seven most essential progress drivers within the enterprise

Since the advent of COVID-19, SMEs have grown rapidly, shifting priorities and changing their management overnight.

For some, this has been an opportunity to reassess business models and operating costs, diversify offerings, and find new ways to provide the same services. Despite the challenges of this year and the uncertainty about future trade relations between the UK and the EU, SMEs continue to demonstrate their ability to be agile. Many entrepreneurial firms remain cautiously optimistic about how they could turn.

In the midst of economic disruption, there are key growth drivers that can help entrepreneurs and SMEs maintain their ambitions and protect growth plans. These drivers can help emerging companies to think differently about their business and to successfully implement their growth strategy in the long term. These drivers are: customer, employee, technology, operations, finance, transactions and risk.

Our research has shown that focusing on each one of them can help executives assess where they are today and plan the right path to accelerate growth. The most successful companies tend to keep their medium to long-term priorities in mind, and they continue to invest in areas like new talent that they know will be critical to the future.

The customer

Leading companies put customers first and place great emphasis on customer needs in order to gain a competitive advantage. Being customer-centric helps companies understand their customer base and enables them to anticipate future needs and deliver targeted services that will help build loyalty and long-term sustainable growth.

Even after becoming market leaders, companies are still thinking about how to keep their customers going.

People

Any organization is only as good as the people who work for it. To get the most out of their talents, leading companies create a workplace that values ​​diversity and attracts and retains the right people to grow their business – those who fit the corporate culture and share its purpose and vision.

Leading companies combine their purpose and vision with their performance management and reward strategy. They provide strong leadership and create an inclusive environment where differences are valued and people can innovate to drive business forward.

To ensure that their employees reach their full potential, companies need to invest in their people, nurture their talents and help them develop skills that match the needs of the company.

technology

Technology is changing every aspect of business. It enables executives to make better, faster, and smarter decisions and to respond to rapidly changing customer needs, improve business performance, and manage risk.

Digital, technology and data analytics have a profound impact on companies in every industry and present significant opportunities and challenges. Digital technologies are fundamentally changing the way customers interact with brands and opening up new business models.

For example, companies that successfully leverage the power of technology are using AI to improve their business. This allows them to focus more on innovation, creativity and strategic thinking, and in many cases gain a competitive advantage.

Operations

A clear approach that aligns business activities with strategy increases a company's ability to succeed as it is confronted with changing customer needs and buying patterns, industry convergence and new market entrants.

Market leaders cultivate a culture of continuous improvement that takes into account all aspects of operations at the macro and micro levels. They focus on the details and understand that every aspect of their business must stand up to scrutiny and continuously improve in order for the company to stay ahead.

The processes have to be very flexible so that they can both adapt to take advantage of business opportunities and to minimize risks.

Finances

All businesses need resources to grow, and how a company manages its money – and its investors – will affect its future.

Driven by their growth strategy, leading companies determine the best financial approach at each stage and get maximum benefit from managing the funds available.

To achieve this, they are transforming their finance function into a strategic and economic role where the CFO becomes a business advisor who helps improve performance by providing critical insights to decision makers.

Transactions

Often times, to get to the top, companies need to look for successful partnerships and strategic acquisitions to improve their growth, competitiveness, and profitability.

Business leaders are generally quick to see the value of transactions and alliances in today's dynamic markets. They appreciate that it's not about luck getting the right deal or finding the right partner, but rather about making a concerted effort to align their transactions and alliances with their overall growth strategy.

risk

At every stage of business growth, the ability to identify and manage risk is a critical element of success. Good risk management will limit the impact of volatility in the business, and there is a strong correlation between risk management maturity and sales and earnings growth.

Market leaders find the right balance between risk management and risk appetite to manage change and drive sustainable growth.

looking ahead

While UK entrepreneurs and companies find themselves in these challenging times, many continue to show real resilience in adverse conditions. Their role in boosting the national and local economies, creating jobs and bringing communities together will be an integral part of the post-pandemic recovery.

The key to this will be companies that unlock these seven growth drivers and provide powerful tools to unlock the full potential of companies and achieve long-term success.

Lynn Rattigan is COO of EY UK and Lead Partner for EY Entrepreneur Of The Year UK.

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