x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Have a plan B just for tomorrow

The chief executive of Baker Tilly International discusses why businesses need a certain kind of strategy plan, and what can happen when they don't.

Geoff Barnes.
Geoff Barnes.

Geoff Barnes, the chief executive and president of Baker Tilly International, one of the world's largest networks of independent advisory firms, elaborates on the dangers for businesses without the right strategy plan:

When should a business create a plan?

The utopian point of view: you'd like to do it at the beginning. The business plan has got to change and have flexibility. It's no good saying "we have a business plan" and the whole market has changed. That's stupid. That's obsolete.

Is just talking through a plan enough?

I do believe you need to have committed to writing a strategic business plan. It will deal with succession, ownership, research and development, markets, people, competition. All these things.

Why does it have to be written in ink?

If you don't have a written plan, people don't tend to be accountable. People who work in a company want a business plan written down because not only is it accountable as far as management is concerned, but they want employees and other colleagues to be accountable. How else is their performance measured?

What's the most important piece of a plan?

Of course, they're all interlinked. But what is it you want to be? That's fundamental. Once you do that, everything else builds around it. Then you have to work out a critical path analysis: this is where we want to be; how do we get there? Well, we've got to have the right product. We must have the right people to deliver the right product. We have to have the right marketing strategy to get the product to market. They're all linked.

How might this work locally?

Does Dubai want to be the major financial centre globally? If it does, what does it have to do to get to that point? Well, it's got to get regulation, unfortunately. It's got to get these people trained.

Should a company change its strategy for offices in far-flung locations?

If you have a business plan, you have to get buy-in from everybody. It's no good having two white-haired old men sitting in an office in London or Dubai, saying "we're going to do this" if everybody says "what, are you crazy"? You have to get all employees - everybody - understanding what the strategy is. Does that allow for variations? I think it does. But only to deal with cultural issues, not to critique against the main strategy.

Share an example.

We laugh about manana (tomorrow). You speak to the boys in Spain: "It's a lovely, hot day; it can wait." Well, manana is OK provided you build it into your plan. But if it's manana, manana, manana, it blows the plan.

* Neil Parmar