When to get help – Scottish firm says these 8 questions are key

Neil Bradbrook, managing director of ABC

COVID-19, Brexit – and now a recruitment crisis – could lead to more company failures, unless business owners ask for help, a Scottish management consultancy is warning.

“Some businesses have already failed through COVID,” says Neil Bradbrook, Managing Director of Falkirk-based business consultancy, Ahead Business Consulting. “But there’s a whole load more who haven’t failed yet – and are at risk of failure right now.

“The government’s furlough scheme, alongside grants and loans, have been lifelines. But when they run out, businesses still trying to tackle underlying problems may struggle.”

The company has identified eight questions business owners can ask themselves to decide whether they need expert advice.

“Most businesses have the teams and resources to fix their own problems,” Bradbrook says. “And when cash is tight, doing it yourself makes sense. But there are some scenarios where hiring in an expert might genuinely be your best – and possibly only – option.”

Ahead Business Consulting’s checklist for change includes eight questions:

1. You’re not sure of the solution?

You know what your problem is and the outcome you want – but you’re not sure how to get there.

“Especially in smaller businesses, we’re used to doing everything ourselves,” Bradbrook says. “But like in life, I don’t do my own plumbing for a reason. Fixing things is often best left to the experts.”

2. You’re not even sure exactly what the problem is?

Bradbrook says: “You know you have a problem, because you feel some of the symptoms. And you know where you want to be. But you’re stuck.”

3. It’s complex change?

Most change is small. But increasingly, it’s become more complex.

“Often change involves lots of moving parts,” Bradbrook says. “Interdependencies and multiple stakeholders with different needs. So the change you’re grappling with might be a combination of processes, people and technology. “

4. You don’t have the time or resources?

We’re all busy in business – and sometimes just don’t have enough staff to deliver the change that’s needed. Trying to fit this alongside your day job can mean failing at both.

“Even the biggest corporates with huge internal teams need to hire in outside experts to deliver their change challenges,” Bradbrook adds.

5. You need an external perspective?

Sometimes we are too close to our own business.

“An impartial outsider can bring clarity and a fresh perspective,” Bradbrook says.

6. You need to be one step removed?

Difficult staff changes – like redundancies – are the toughest challenge for business owners and managers. Sometimes it can help to be one step removed and have a third party take the lead. 

Bradbrook says: “This way, you can still be there for your team as a separate point of appeal or support.”

7. You need to get it right first time?

Regulatory and compliance changes need to be done correctly from the off. The same is true of any other change that directly or significantly impacts people.

“If you can’t afford to get it wrong, get an expert to guide you from the start,” Bradbrook says.

8. It’s already gone wrong?

It happens. Things go wrong. This is part of the journey to getting it right. Maybe it was the planning, unexpected events, or an incomplete solution.

Bradbrook adds: “If it’s gone wrong and you don’t know how to fix it, get help.”

These eight questions highlight common situations, Bradbrook says.

“Small businesses especially are used to doing things themselves and maybe getting by,” he adds. “But the volume of external change companies are having to grapple with just now is unprecedented.

“No business can be a good at everything,” he adds. “And getting expert help can make a big difference.” 

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