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Elite Business: Optimising business decisions: The power of focused strategy

Elite Business: Optimising business decisions: The power of focused strategy

In this article, originally featured in Elite Business: Maximise your time and attention with a framework that simplifies the complexity and noise of day-to day- business


Recently, I had the privilege of addressing a substantial audience of around 680 individuals, comprising government officials, corporate executives, private business owners, and numerous employees. The topic I presented, which resonated with many, revolved around an idea first introduced in 1956 by George Miller: the magical number seven. Miller proposed that our short-term memory can handle seven items, give or take two. Some can manage five, while others can juggle nine.

This concept made me ponder the complexities faced by business owners today. With the growing uncertainties in technology, employment, supply chains, and politics, decision-making has become increasingly challenging. The key to navigating these complexities lies in avoiding cognitive overload—an impediment caused by an excess of information that hinders clear decision-making.

The M.O.S.T. Framework for Effective Business Strategy

The essence of my talk focused on maximizing time and attention through the M.O.S.T.E framework, which stands for Mindset, Objective, Strategy, Tactics and of course, Execution. Here’s a breakdown:

Mindset 

A winning mindset is crucial. This goes beyond merely having a growth mindset; it’s about maintaining a vision that transcends the current moment. Such a mindset equips you to tackle present challenges with an eye on future success.

Objective

The power of one objective cannot be overstated. Studies indicate that having more than one primary objective can reduce your intellectual capacity by 38%. In business, this objective should focus on increasing your asset value. This singular focus ensures clarity and enhances productivity.

Strategy 

Your strategy should be singular and concentrated on building your business into a valuable asset. A successful strategy encompasses three main attributes:

  • Income Generation: Ensure your business consistently generates revenue.
  • Capital Value Improvement: Continuously work on increasing the value of your business.
  • Tradability: Develop your business to be an asset that can be sold or traded independently of your direct involvement.

Tactics 

Developing effective tactics is the next step. Here are five essential tactics to consider:

  • Positioning: Stand out from competitors by focusing on whom you serve and how you serve them uniquely.
  • System of Delivery: Develop systems that are teachable and trainable, allowing your team to manage operations efficiently.
  • Purposeful Team: Assemble a team capable of running these systems, freeing you to focus on growth.
  • Growth: Constant growth is vital. It attracts the right team members, customers, and maintains supplier enthusiasm.
  • Value: Always concentrate on transforming your business into an asset, ensuring it’s not merely a complex job but a thriving enterprise.

Execution

This is where all great efforts live or die. Too often we find ourselves stuck in the daily, weekly, monthly operational grind needed to sustain our businesses. Adopting an approach to get you our of the engine room and onto the bridge of your ship by way of an analogy, places you in a position to lead execution.

By adhering to these principles, you can simplify decision-making processes, enhance business efficiency, and ultimately build a more robust, valuable enterprise. I hope these insights prove beneficial. Until next week, cut out the noise of competing narratives around our politics, inflation, Brexit, national service, climate change and so on, to focus on what you can control and build.

Elite Business: Converting the talent you hire into company value

Elite Business: Converting the talent you hire into company value

In this article, originally featured in Elite Business: In a skills crisis, how can we find, train and retain talent, ensuring their contribution builds the business, not just their careers


To build your business into an Asset of Value that will generate income today and capital tomorrow, you need to build a team. Unless you have a purposeful team on board, you are up the creek without a paddle. Or rather, paddle you will, 24/7/365, which means you have a job. 

In 2023, British businesses advertised upwards of 1.4m jobs. Put differently, businesses needed to fill almost 1.5m job vacancies to sustain and grow their companies. Without people, you cannot grow and sometimes sustain what you have worked so hard to build. Yet our country barely released 400,000 people into our working economy. We have a skills and labour crisis, and it’s driving several outcomes that are likely to stay, including inflation, upward delegation, slow/stuck/regressive growth and disillusionment. Plucky politicians, including our current PM, dodge the issue, for which all sensible resolutions would be politically fraught and risk an uproar from vested Brexit interest, tax legislators, anti-globalists, and nationalists. The current rhetoric is that A.I. will plug the gaps. It’s a useful position where everyone slings the acronym around as a catch-all to sound smart, activate investment interest, and even win over new friends and contacts. It’s of no value right now when you are trying to build a team to take on the daily, weekly, and monthly operational activities that anchor you in the daily operational grind of sustaining your business, never mind growing it. You need people and talent to get going and growing.

This invites a conundrum. How do we source, win, and onboard talent where business owners and employers must gain equally from the relationship? 

Talent invites several risks, including competition to afford their hefty salaries, attitude and arrogance once talent is onboarded after the hard sell of winning their favour, and vulnerability when talent delivers value and holds you ransom. Of course, the risk of expensive talent failing to deliver is also ever-present and all too common.

If your intent remains building an Asset of Value, ensuring that you translate talent’s value into company value is vital. The greatest, unmeasured cost I’ve seen across business is the cost of winning talent and receiving value from it when the talent vacates takes the value with it. It is a horrible failure in leadership, too, and a mistake that should only ever be made once. Watch the session below to appreciate the true cost a business owner faces after 20 months of investing in unmeasured and unmanaged talent.

There are several approaches to guarding against this cost.

Should building an Asset of Value be your objective? Once you are clear on your company’s purpose, bring it to life by first creating a system of delivery. This requires you to translate your desired customer experience into sequential, measurable activities that can be taught, delegated and remunerated, including how you market, sell, deliver, service and administer customers. Once done, the value lies in your company. Alternatively, hiring talent to create this consistent client experience means that the value of that experience lies with your talent unless you can ‘decode’ your talent into a system that can be shared, used and taught to other team members. Grinding out the former option takes longer but is more sustainable and valuable. It’s also more affordable and ensures your time and attention invested in getting it right remains your company’s IP.

Perhaps winning the war for talent is less about the scarcity of able, capable employees and more about adopting a different approach to how you lead, build, and capitalise your company. Wear both hats: that of an operator who can build solutions to win customers and hold them through a consistent, dependable customer experience and that of an investor who ensures that all your investments in human talent translate into value that vests in your company.

Elite Business: The six phases of business leadership to deliver your legacy

Elite Business: The six phases of business leadership to deliver your legacy

In this article, originally featured in Elite Business: To create wealth as a business owner, you need to change how and what you lead over time.


Wealth creation is a strategy, not luck. As a business owner, embracing change is vital to remain relevant, grow, and win in a noisy and competitive market. It’s essential to wealth creation.

Across your lifespan as a business owner, how you lead your business determines your wealth creation outcome. As your company grows, how you lead and direct it must change to ensure it becomes your greatest wealth-generating asset. 

Using a framework against which to know when and how to change the way you lead a business is helpful. I’ve noticed six distinct shifts in leadership attention and direction that enable the likelihood that your business and career generate wealth and a legacy.

Positioning growth leadership

This is about understanding what business you are in defined not by your product or service but by who you serve, what problem your product or service solves for them and what the ideal engagement experience would be to favour your business above competitors. When you start, it’s about serving anyone and everyone in your industry. It ends when you can prioritise less than a handful of segments you want to dominate in the future. This engagement experience includes how to market, sell, fulfill and retain your customers and forms the blueprint of your business model.

Organic growth leadership

Once we know what business we are in and who our customer segments are, the next phase of leadership centres on scaling your customer engagement and fulfilment system using the blueprint. Put differently, it is about building commercial processes and systems, which you can delegate to a team that will create a reliable, consistent customer experience. Getting this right is vital to release your time from daily operations to deliver the next phase of leadership growth.

Accelerated growth leadership

At this point, at least 70% of your attention should focus on accelerating your growth to dominate your segments by deepening your market share of the segments you have chosen to dominate. For example, if a furniture manufacturer decides to dominate the SOHO segment, calculate its approximate value and ensure you develop and enable market access strategies, campaigns and relationships that deepen your market share.

Next-level growth leadership

As you deepen your share of the segment you’ve defined your business against, the next phase of leadership is about de-risking your exposure to that segment and deepening your profitability. In my book, Sweat-Scale-Sell, I highlight the trickiness of this phase of leadership through the story of Jack the Baker. 

Having positioned his business to solve the requirement of 365-fresh-baked-goods for continental breakfast to hotels, he created the ideal experience with his team to dominate this segment in the hospitality industry. His next-level growth play saw him translate the same proposition into the supermarket segment across food retail to solve the problem of morning trade. 

It brought in a new source of revenue that could be serviced off his scalable fulfilment platform, necessitating only a moderate cost increase. The “yawn” between revenue and costs dropped down to the bottom line and a significant shift in profitability. The key to next-level growth is that leveraging your fulfilment platform solves the same problem. It was and remains the blueprint against which his brand, commercial system and team had become expert at delivering. 

Capital growth leadership

This phase ensures you lock in your business value for a successful capital exit. From start to exit, over a 20–30-year period, a business built and led against the above framework should achieve a capital exit above £50m. 

Yes, it is possible, and you can do it. I’ve seen this year in and out across the UK, USA and EU companies. Retiring in the sun by the sea is for the birds, bringing us to the final phase of leadership.  

Legacy growth leadership

The opportunity to create a Family Office to house the capital gained from an exit is worth considering. Set aside a portion of the funds within your Family Office to invest in a few early-stage companies within the industry in which you have successfully built your now-former business. You will have the network and relationships to spot young winners who benefit from your knowledge, insight, relationships, and mentorship. Investing in them can keep you in the game at a strategic level, not a daily grind, and allow you to remain relevant and enjoy a life of purpose and meaning. 

Wealth has three elements: Make money, the first 2 phases; Grow money – the subsequent 2 phases. And Protect money, the last 2 phases. Having a plan to make it happen is as important as enacting it. It will set you apart from the 94.6% of businesses started that ultimately close. It will also let you continue serving humankind, arguably a key to a rich, fulfilling and contended life.

Elite Business: Lead you must, so set the right destination!

Elite Business: Lead you must, so set the right destination!

In this article, originally featured in Elite Business: A goal that can’t be measured is meaningless, you need to calculate the numerical value of the business you’re working towards


A business owner has little choice but to lead their business. And you cannot lead without a destination or goal to guide and direct your leadership. So, what should it be?

I always ask about the future when I meet with a business owner. It’s the only thing we have control over. Mostly, in response to my opening line, “Where do you want to be in 3-5 years from now?”, answers talk about doubling growth or reaching a leading brand status. Alternatively, it is to exit the business, but without a clearly stated value.

I’ve always found these vague answers limiting as a destination. A better approach is to create a framework to lead that incorporates the entire business and team.

A business is a dynamic system of people, products, activities, and money. A single metric or two does not cater to this complexity and is not sophisticated enough to drive the well-being of a business and its intended outcome or destination. 

Your company’s enterprise value offers a comprehensive, yet simple-enough-to-manage destination. It requires that you understand how your company would be valued, and the good news is that company valuation is largely in your control. It has five primary levers that you can design, build, manage and pull in your favour to maximise your valuation. At the same time, these “levers” incorporate your team, products, services, customers, and suppliers. It is decidedly comprehensive yet simple.

The levers of valuation can primarily be presented in 5 areas of attention.

Positioning:How do you differentiate your business in the eyes of customers?

To strategically position your business for growth, it is imperative to differentiate it in customers’ eyes by clearly defining your target audience, addressing their problems, and crafting a unique and compelling customer experience. Identify the segments you serve and articulate the value proposition you offer to each. 

Measure your success by overall market growth and assess your segment market share expansion. This approach ensures a focused and tailored strategy that resonates with your audience, fostering sustainable business development.

A system of delivery: How do you achieve consistent, reliable customer experiences?

To establish consistent and reliable customer experiences, integrate commercial functions within a unified system to streamline your business positioning. It involves aligning various customer identification, acquisition, fulfilment, and retention activities. By focusing on the seamless coordination of these elements, businesses can achieve a standardised and dependable approach to customer interactions, ensuring continuity and reliability throughout the entire customer journey.

Measure the effectiveness of each commercial function by tracking key outcomes resulting from the activities within the integrated system. 

A purposeful team: How do you always get the right people to do the right thing?

To consistently align actions with strategic goals you need a deliberate approach to human resources. Recruit and train new hires to operate the systems that deliver your business positioning. By cultivating a workforce that understands and executes their roles within the overarching business strategy, you can foster a culture where the right people consistently contribute to achieving the right outcomes, enhancing overall organisational effectiveness.

To gauge success, measure staff retention rates and performance outcomes against specific job descriptions. 

Growth: How do you grow revenue and profitability?

Accelerate growth by harnessing the power of your scalable commercial platform. If you have pulled the first three levers, the platform now has the capacity to handle increasing demands and adapt to evolving business needs. 

Evaluate success through clear metrics, measuring not only overall revenue growth but also assessing improvements in profitability. This approach ensures that as your business expands, the commercial platform remains a dynamic and efficient engine for sustained growth, allowing you to capitalise on emerging opportunities and optimise financial performance.

Dependencies: How do you secure your value?

To secure your business’s enduring value, focus on the succession and transfer of operational and managerial responsibilities. Develop a robust plan that systematically identifies key roles; documents critical processes; and grooms internal talent. By ensuring a smooth transition of duties, you strengthen the organisation’s foundation, mitigating risks associated with key personnel changes. This strategic focus safeguards the continuity of operations. It contributes to your business’s long-term sustainability and resilience, solidifying its intrinsic value.

Applying your time and attention to these five levers and creating a framework around them lets you lead with purpose, intent, and consistency. Suppose you go further and involve your leadership team in defining the framework. In that case, it brings the efforts of your leadership team and their teams together within a framework everyone understands and is governed by.

Leadership is about building confidence and clarity of purpose. It’s about getting your people on board and ensuring you are sailing towards one articulated destination. Getting it right is hard until it is not. The starting point is choosing that destination.

Remote work is for the birds Remote work saved our businesses in Covid, but could kill it if left unchecked

Elite Business: Remote work is for the birds

In this article, first published in Elite Business, Pavlo puts a question mark on remote working.


Businesses are about people. And people are about skills, thinking and action. If your people are less than that, you should be looking at technology to do that person’s job. It’s more reliable, dependable and far easier to manage. But it won’t create magic, innovation or culture across your business. People will and do. Remote working puts a question mark on that. 

Here are some reasons why.

Troubleshooting

When a problem arises, the ability to immediately resolve it by pulling people into a room before it cannot be done remotely. And if the problem and its solution need a multidisciplinary approach, which most problems do, then the right people in the room can step out after and all do what needs doing to get the job done. 

As your business grows, it is even more critical because the people in the room might have to coordinate and organise their teams to get the job done. It’s instant, and when it comes to retaining clients and building a brand (problem resolution builds a brand better than any marketing campaign), you need to get it done there and then.

Culture and value

Culture is nebulous, yet without one, your business creates a staccato experience for suppliers, customers, and employees. Values create the nous that enables your business and its employees to operate against an intuitive framework when needed. This intuition or unconscious response develops over time. It doesn’t build from the values stated in your website or reception wall but through living, breathing and observing the behaviour of all business employees, especially its leaders. 

If values create the framework and culture of the behaviour about what a company stands for, the best way to learn it is in person. Imagine a scenario where an employee enters the office of a manager. The door closes. A few minutes later, the employee leaves the office, pale and slightly stressed. Your colleague sitting next to you asks what went down. You explain what that employee did, and through that, you learn the authentic culture and values of that company. A word indicating a value, be it integrity, honesty, etc. means very little until it is understood and witnessed in practice.

Learning and training

While aspects of employee training are best offered online and therefore accessible remotely, the context, the application and the improvement of an employee’s performance arguably cannot be. We learn by doing not online engagements and content. Observation and “show and tell” are far more impactful ways of developing capability in your employees. Imagine trying to learn kung fu remotely rather than in the ring. Only when a punch lands do you genuinely understand how to take the theory and put it into a useful practice suited to your inherent abilities. The same goes for riding a bicycle, managing a project, managing a team, collecting a debtor book or selling.

Growth

Beyond a job, why do people opt to work in your business? I’ll put it into context in a recent meeting with a global law firm specialising in tax. Their brand exciting and innovative brand operates across a  federation of autonomous companies operating in 169 countries. In the past, they won recruits with their innovative approach to tax, assured learning and very quick exposure to exciting clients. Their vibrancy won them talent before bigger firms’ cold, hard salary packages. But, they have found that remote working has directly prevented the handover of relationships from senior partners to junior partners and associates. It has harmed the transfer of knowledge on the subject matter, the personalities making up a client, the industry, and it has stunted the ability of senior partners to pick junior partners effectively and for junior partners in return to compete to work with promising associates. 

Remote working is a privilege, not a right. If you are attracting employees who demand it, consider moving on. They are there for their comfort rather than the well-being of the business as active, engaged, committed contributors who go beyond fulfilling a functional role.

When is there a case for remote work? It should be part of your business-building toolkit. How to use it, when and where and then how to manage it is a future article. 

Elite Business: Crack the skills crisis

Elite Business: Crack the skills crisis

In this article, originally featured in Elite Business, Pavlo explores the topic of the UK’s GBP6.6 billion skills gap, exacerbated by inflation and tech advances, demanding attention. To succeed, prioritise growth and talent. Build a resilient business model and hire system operators to navigate the skills crisis and pursue higher growth.


Skills are short globally. In the UK, the skills gap cost businesses an estimated GBP6.6 billion. The subsequent challenges of inflation, war in Europe, and the accelerated adoption of AI and other technologies can only have increased this.  

This shortage of skills is not a problem if you don’t want to grow. There are two parts to this comment.

First, growth 

If you’re not growing, you’re dying because your competitors intend to, and in a low-growth environment, their growth will come from eating your lunch. Add inflation, and you are eroding the value you have built thus far. If you opt not to grow, look to exit and realise your value before it whittles away.

If you want to grow, there are two options. First, grow to maintain what you have. This pegs your annual growth rate at inflation, the tepid country growth rate, and your industry growth rate. It approximates 8% per annum. At this level, you are maintaining what you have. To grow beyond what you have, your growth rate should add another 5-10%, depending on your ambition.

Next, talent

In the instance of growth, you need a plan, and that plan needs two things. First, and most importantly, your time and attention to focus on growth. Next, a business model and team that allows your time and attention to focus on growth. Both mean you need to have a good team on board of the right people doing the right thing at the right time.

Across businesses I visit the following constraints regarding human talent become apparent.

  1. I need help finding the right people.
  2. I have people in senior roles who don’t have the skills or mindset to get the job done without my regular support and guidance.
  3. It takes ages for new employees to get up to speed and wash their faces.
  4. My “rock-star” employee is constantly toying with other opportunities.

The employment challenge is here to stay. Demographically, each year sees fewer people entering the workforce. Over 2.8m working people are sick, waiting for operations. About 500 000 able, capable 50 years and older, experienced people opted for early retirement. 

If structure determines behaviour, build your business to accommodate the skills challenge.

A business does not just emerge. It is built against an operating model. Your operating model must sympathise with the challenges of growth, size, and shifts in the economy.

However, the bones of the operating model that will resolve many of your human capital challenges remain the same. 

It begins with defining your business in terms of the customer segments you serve rather than the features and criteria of your products and services. 

Understanding these segments, what problem you solve for them, and what experience they want in the process forms the blueprint of your operating model.

Using the blueprint, build the operating processes and systems to deliver that outcome reliably. Systems are sequential activities that bring the experience of the blueprint to life, and that can be taught and measured. Do this across all your commercial functions that comprise that customer experience blueprint. In each function, these activities make up a job description. 

You can now hire people, not because they bring some of their superstar ability to the role, but because they can be evaluated and trained against the activities in their employed function. 

Hiring system operators, rather than mavericks and gurus, has several benefits:

Recruitment is simplified as you can assess through simple questions whether someone has the experience or capability to perform the tasks that make up the system.

Your employees are motivated and have a purpose as they know what to do and when to do it, to achieve a specific outcome. Their performance can be measured and managed.

Your business becomes less reliant on you, as the systems that underpin it are documented, trainable, and don’t depend on a few superstars to get things done.

This unlocks your time to focus on next-level growth despite the skills crisis.