Belfast Telegraph

'Health check' for firms vital in identifying problem areas

Joan Houston of business rescue and recovery firm Begbies Traynor has nursed sick companies back to health through tough love, discipline and clear strategy. In the first of a series of three, she outlines the similarities between people who take their fitness seriously and the success of "fit firms".

The idea that companies are like people is by no means far fetched. Everyone says about their organisation that people come first, that they are people-centric, and that they value their employees above all other resources. What is plain fact is that people also constitute the single largest overhead of most companies.

A company's fitness is not easily measured, but it is possible with some effort to see where the need for exercise and therapy lies. Some small family firms for instance may appear successful and base this success largely on the fact that "we've always done things this way". A recent survey shows that 75% of Northern Ireland's SME base is family businesses and that an alarming number of these face internal problems ranging from divorce and sibling rivalry to sclerotic practices based on what grandfather established.

In order to be fit to compete, a business would be wise to complete a health check to identify the problem areas, anything ranging from lax credit control to poor client communications. Whatever the problem is, once identified, it can be resolved. While this sounds easy, it can be painful. No-one likes to face up to his or her weaknesses. SMEs are often populated by personalities whose functions and their attention to these might not welcome criticism.

Other issues, such as finance and necessary investment, might appear insurmountable – yet these too can be tackled successfully given a broader understanding of the options available.

Making your firm fitter means going through the pain barrier. Gaining stamina, flexibility, suppleness and adaptability means what once was overwhelming can now be overcome.

This drive to fitness can make a firm more energetic and more willing to take on new challenges. In short, it generates confidence, possibly the most underrated of business attributes.

The future for companies who take such measures and who undergo frank and robust self-analysis will always be much brighter.

Belfast Telegraph