Category - Governance

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Does my small business really need a Board?
So you manage your family business, but do you govern it?
Six Steps to Make Your Business Resilient
Are YOU making your business too complex?
Never mind the width, feel the quality!

Does my small business really need a Board?

Last week I wrote about establishing a governance framework in a family business. If you missed it, look here.

Just to refresh ourselves, the difference between governance and management is that governance is about strategic direction, overall policies, establishing a vision and mission, whereas management is about caring for the operations of the business, the “how’s” of running the business to meet strategic direction and policy.

The decisions correctly made in governance are about the really big things in the business that will affect the long term future of the business.

Appropriately these governance decisions are made by a Board of Directors while the CEO and other managers look after operational management.

In a small business, whether a single owner-manager business, or one with a number of family or unrelated partners, both governance and management decisions are often made by the same people wearing different hats, and more often than not, the decisions are made smoothly and efficiently.

So, why would you need to put a Board in place?

I believe a number of issues make the establishment of a good Board beneficial to your business, at the right time. Read More

So you manage your family business, but do you govern it?

I’m going to talk about “governance” in this and next week’s posts.

What is “governance”?

Governance and Management are two different things. Managing is what you think it is, where you manage the operations of your business, manage the finances, manage the staff ensuring they are given responsibilities and rewards, manage purchases and sales and quality of product and service. Managing is what gets things done in the business, in the most efficient and productive way, providing the results you want.

Governance on the other hand is about the oversight of the business, not the operations. Governance is about strategically setting the business’ direction, goals, limitation and borders. The best example of the difference I can give you is a practical example of when the business’ founder “gives up the reins.

Imagine the family business where the founder, perhaps the Parent started the business years ago. Typically he or she started on their own, doing everything from sales to purchasing and inventory. In that simple start-up he or she managed the business and the staff of one as well as set direction and decided what the business should and should not do overall. The Parent decided what markets and products they got into and what they would not and why; they started hiring staff and worked out what type of people they would hire and how they should be treated; and, in time, they worked out what were the “right things to do” in the business.

Then, as they expanded the business they brought in family members, sons and daughters, to help in the business. These offspring worked in the business to learn the ropes (even if they might have gone to university or college to learn new and more professional techniques). Eventually, sons and daughters took up management positions, they managed the sales team; or looked after the finances and investments; they hired, fired and fired and trained and rewarded staff; they looked after inventory and production and service.

Then one day the Parent decided to take their hands off the day to day business, while still being involved. The eldest daughter was appointed in charge of the business – they might have given her the title of CEO or MD or General manager, or just “Boss”.

At this point the governance of the business and the management of the business diverged. The Parent represents “governance” while the children are “managers”.

And the difference?

Can you imagine what would happen if eldest daughter decided to hire cheap labour against the business values of quality staff and quality rewards? Or decided to buy cheaper materials from overseas when the business had always worked on supporting local quality suppliers? Or how about if she decided to branch out from selling hand-crafted toys to cheap plastic toys? Read More

Six Steps to Make Your Business Resilient

Reckless person


As I write this, there are fresh concerns across the world economy over recovery in Europe and North America, Chinese GDP is slowing, and the Australian mining boom seems to be coming to an end.

These are world-wide economic affairs, and as owners of small businesses you might be wondering how this affects you, the small fish in a big pond.
The effect on you trickles down from what happens on a global scale. As countries batten the hatches, the larger companies in your nation’s economy slow down because their customers buy less. These larger companies buy from smaller companies, and these smaller companies buy from you. As the larger companies tighten the belt, employees might lose their jobs. Some of these individuals buy from you. Business might still seem good to you today, but it may take some time for an economic crisis to trickle down.
Nevertheless all is not doom and gloom, there are some signs of opportunity that encourages continued optimism. So what do you do today with these mixed messages?
As a small or micro-business you need to recognise and take advantage of modest opportunities to grow, but at the same time recognise the existence of potential downside risks.
Certainly, pay attention to your bottom line but at the same time, focus on cash flow and not just profit growth. Ensure that you are putting away sufficient working capital to survive any shocks. You need to continue pursuing business opportunities, but with discipline and careful planning. And, this is the time to put in genuine efforts at reorganising your business for efficiency.
As a small or micro business today, realising that you are at the mercy of market forces outside your control, I would look at these 6 steps to build resilience into your business.

Are YOU making your business too complex?

Businessman Overwhelmed with Paperwork


Who said running a business was easy?

It’s a bit like learning to drive a car. You have to remember to look in the mirror; you have to press on the clutch and then change gears; don’t look down, you have to steer; and don’t forget which is the accelerator and which is the brake pedal – what, I have to do this all at once?
So, anything to reduce complexity would be a boon for business owners, right? A bit like driving an automatic, at least that’s ONE pedal and the gearshift out of the way!
A business has four areas that can attract layers of complexity:-
  1. The structure
  2. The products
  3. The processes
  4. Management behaviour.
The business structure can be complex. There is the legal entity, and each different one has different regulatory and reporting aspects, some more complex than others. You can review the legal entity and perhaps choose one that is more simple to operate (but be careful of tax ramifications in any change).

Read More

Never mind the width, feel the quality!

Businesswoman Holding Bar Graph
I hope that you are keeping an eye on your business performance. However, even if you are, you may be overlooking several critical factors about how your business is performing, and some of these could be the difference between success and failure.
Most business owners probably keep a good eye over quantitative measurements such as sales, average markup, salary costs and expenses. However some of the most useful measures can be qualitative rather than quantitative, for example staff and client turnover rates or average service-delivery times.
Overall, before you start measuring your business performance, you need to be very clear what “success” means to you so that you can measure and benchmark the measurements that really count toward that success. If you are not clear on what success means in your business, you may be measuring the wrong measurements. For example if you focus on profit, you may actually be driving away customer volumes if your success is based on low margin/high volume.
Having determined what success means to you, you can then choose the metrics, both quantitative and qualitative, that drive that success. As you choose them, always ask yourself: “If I improve this measure, will that improvement lead to success?”

Read More

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