Hayley Pells, Director at Avia Autos, explores the role of business strategy against the backdrop of the pandemic.
If you are in business, you will have heard of ‘strategy’ and that it is important, no matter which industry you operate in. But, what to do about it? One trialled and tested option to develop that strategy and then communicate it, is to write a business plan. This idea can sound daunting and often quickly becomes one of those things that is put on the back burner, especially if you have a busy workshop and there is money in the bank. However, the events of the past year may have marked a shift in this attitude.
A chance to strategise
The first lockdown saw unprecedented amounts of fiscal support, distributed through the business rates framework to organisations throughout the country. A blunt tool, it was a fast method to identify businesses that would require cash flow scaffolding, and to swiftly determine their rough size. Guidance was issued from Westminster, which meant that the devolved nations had to customise the offering, and then this was further interpreted at local government level. Frustratingly, such a rapid response left some behind, but it did enable a lot of workshops to thoroughly examine their processes, develop forecasts and create a business plan to adapt to the unfolding situation.
The grants and lending available reassured many workshop owners that they could continue to develop their business. It became evident through social media and other peer-to-peer support groups that there was an appetite to use this resource to the fullest advantage. Future-proofing equipment investments was popular, as was spending to improve the presentation and organisation of the workshop. Investments like these naturally feed into the social media marketing aspect of a business, allowing garages to present the reasoning behind the costs of maintenance and repairs for modern vehicles to their customers.
It is never too late to employ a strategy and it does not need to be a highly polished document. If it develops your thoughts and is clearly communicated, it is fit for purpose. Finessing the plan can come later if required.
Assess the situation
The strategy of no strategy is not necessarily a bad thing. If it has served you well, then there is no harm in it. However, if you do have a plan in place, have you planned to review your plan? This sounds like an awful lot of planning, but it can be as simple as setting a reminder in your diary to review.
Working out where you are and how that corresponds to any previous plans is an important place to start. If the current situation is not in line with the original strategy, working out why can be useful for developing the next step.
Developing the strategy
Firstly, decide on your goals. A popular method is to decide what you would like to achieve in the short term, medium term, and long term. The short-term goal could be as simple as making sure you finish early this Friday to have more leisure time, which means you would have to ask yourself what you can do earlier in the week to make this happen.
Once the goals are established, working out how they are going to be achieved is the next task. Investment in expensive equipment can benefit from this approach. By thoroughly examining the timeframe that the investment requires to pay for itself, you should be able to ascertain whether the cost of the equipment may outstrip the potential benefit. Analysis like this could lead to wiser equipment investment.
You don’t have to do it alone
Peer-to-peer support groups on social media, such as the Automotive Support Group UK (ASG UK) on Facebook, have a wealth of free resources available that have been produced by experts in the subject. For example, Andy Crook, Director at Gotboost Performance Tuning, has provided business planning advice that is available to members of ASG UK.
The pandemic has stifled face-to-face instruction, but has thankfully provided opportunity to develop digital skills and then use those skills to access further guidance on how to improve business processes.
Another aspect to consider is how you want to involve the rest of the team. If you develop a strategy and then clearly communicate what it is to your team, it invites others to the process of working out how to achieve any goals you might have. By making your goals a team effort, you will inevitably reduce the wasted resources that can result from people pulling in different directions.
This being said, the strategy of no strategy can keep a business agile and perfect for reacting to a changing environment. Quickly responding to demands can be a highly profitable and a satisfying way of working.
In conclusion, only the person responsible for the organisation knows what might work and what might not, be it an organisation of one or 100. However, the need to review remains the same, even if you choose to remain without a strategy as your strategy. The first lockdown almost a year ago gave many the opportunity to evaluate their businesses to a level that they may not have reached before, perhaps now would be a good time to reflect back on those plans and refine them further?