Business experts


Expert opinion: Don’t fall for the same reasons as House of Fraser

Written by Rob Perks on .

Rob PerksRob PerksHouse of Fraser has been the news for all the wrong reasons. Whilst I’m sure most people will feel sympathy for any business that finds itself in trouble, it’s all so preventable.

House of Fraser can blame high rents, business rates and lack of footfall in the high street, but nothing can disguise the fact that the business is in trouble because its strategy hasn’t kept up with changes in its market and its customers’ behaviour.

It's easy to see in other businesses, but how do we as local SME businesses fare? It is essential to have a constantly evolving and successful business strategy which keeps you ahead of the competition, technological innovation, political changes and all those factors that can rapidly overtake any business who is focused purely on day to day operations.

The most common thing I hear from business owners is “I’m too busy running the business to worry about strategy”. It could easily be the most accurate epitaph on the grave of most businesses that sadly fail. It's all very well for me to say that, but what does a really good strategy look like?

It starts with a very clear vision for the business. It’s hard to plan a route until you know where the destination is. Where would you like your business to be in three, five or ten year’s time? What is the point of the business – to give you something to do and earn enough to get by? To grow the business to a level where you could create time to step back and enjoy the finer things in life? To build a business which you can sell at a given point in the future? To build a retirement asset to live on? For the sheer challenge and enjoyment of being a successful entrepreneur? It could be any one of these or a number of others but there needs to be a clear goal if you are to even be able to judge whether you have been successful.

It’s one thing to have a clear goal but it will remain a dream without a robust implementation plan. Putting the plan into action and measuring your progress is essential. It is a fact that 80 percent of strategic plans fail at implementation stage.

Even in large companies, it’s often only too evident that the business is hopeless at implementing its strategy. Understanding the key measures of success which will be essential to delivering your plan and monitoring them regularly is absolutely key to delivering the success you’re hoping for.

The third ingredient of a successful strategy is a winning market proposition. A well thought out strategy will be based on thorough market and customer research. That means really understanding your market, what your customers really really want and what your competitors are doing.

A business with a sound strategy knows exactly where they fit in their market, they offer something unique to their customers and they talk about it relentlessly in their marketing, on their website and whenever and however they engage with their customers. They also think ahead. What will their customers want in the future, what changes are likely in their market and how can they plan to exploit those emerging opportunities.

Fourthly, successful strategy requires the business to have the right leadership and the best people possible to deliver the plan. Too often, because it requires courage, businesses put up with less than the best people.

Maybe, there were friends or family who helped you to start up and you feel a sense of obligation towards them but they are no longer the right people who have the skills and expertise to get you the results you’re looking for. Managing people and getting the best out of them is a skill in itself – have you got those skills?

This brings us to the final ingredient for successful strategy implementation – bringing in the right experts to fill the gaps. Nobody can be an expert at everything. Admitting that and bringing in the expertise in the areas where you don’t have that is essential for optimum success. Many business owners struggle on in areas where they just don’t have sufficient expertise, costing themselves money, wasted time and sub optimal results.

Inspire is a business support company with three key aims: to work with its client businesses to develop a winning strategy, to agree with them the areas in which outside expertise is needed, and to introduce them to the right experts and to link them to a community of well over 100 similar growing businesses for education and shared experience.

To help financially with this vital process of strategic planning, Inspire has worked with the European funded SME growth programme to lead a business through the process to establish a winning strategy which enables growth and will avoid joining House of Fraser and many others who have been too busy with the day job to keep on top of this. It starts with a business strategy seminar, funded by the Programme. Any business can start by booking on at

Rob Perks is chief executive of Inspire