Help to Grow: Management Course | Kingston University

Risk Management

As a small business owner or leader, you’ll know first-hand that risks come constantly from multiple angles and areas of the business. It’s a combination of understanding, preparation, prioritisation and planning to drive ownership of a risk, mitigating actions and planning should it occur, that enable you to make decisions, protect your business and drive your business forward.

Often combined with decision making, understanding the risks your business faces should be a key focus in leading and managing your business both day to day and strategically.  Do you know the risks across your business or of a decision or change you are planning?  Can you assess the likelihood of occurring and impact should it occur on your business?  Can you use that likelihood and impact to RAG status (Red, Amber, Green) the risks to focus on the most important, potential showstopper, risks to mitigate? Do you have actions in place to mitigate that risk or handle the outcome should it materialise and become an issue?

If you don’t already have one, it’s worthwhile creating a risks and issues log to manage your risks. Capture and categorise those risks to match to your business areas and RAG them for likelihood and impact.  If a risk is a green-green it shouldn’t need the same amount of time and focus as a red-red a potential show stopper.  As an SME leader, your time and your team’s resource are a precious commodity so using this technique to prioritise which risks to focus on is a good way to manage them, without losing sight of smaller risks that may change. State who owns the risk in your business and the mitigating actions and action plan should the risk occur, and it becomes an issue.

Socialise the risks and issues log with your team for input – team members are likely to have a different perspective so can spot different risks and mitigating factors and may challenge RAG status based on their experience in the business.  Give your team that platform to discuss, challenge and suggest.

Maintain awareness and continually update as those risks may change (either internally or external influences can do this.)  Having regular risk meetings with the owners of the risks to review and update the plan and for the highest RAG risks making sure your team can recognise potential red flags of the risk occurring and know how to action.

As the famous words of Benjamin Franklin state – “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”

So prepare, prepare, prepare!

The Importance of Strategy

Strategy in business is important. Right?

It forms the foundation of all that we, as business owners, build our enterprises upon.

Strategy helps us define our business, gives it a set of values, gives it purpose and helps us understand what success actually looks like. It provides a roadmap for our business, shows us our destination and identifies useful stopping points along the way.

After all, who would set off on a journey without having some idea of where they were heading or how they would get there?

It’s surprising then that, according to a recent survey conducted by Barclays, a staggering 47% of small business owners have no formal strategy in place to support their business growth. Of that total, 25% have an informal, verbal business plan, whilst 23% have no plan whatsoever.

Why is that?

Virtually every business owner I have met has some kind of vision for their business in their head – but it is often unstated, almost sub-conscious. Nevertheless, that core belief drives them to growth and achievement. In the early days this, along with boundless energy, enthusiasm and hard work, can be enough to deliver some initial success. As time goes by and the business gets busier, many owners find that they simply don’t have the time to step back from the day-to-day to think about strategy. Planning becomes a luxury that they can’t afford.
The problem becomes compounded if sales dip, costs rise or competition bites. The business starts to suffer. Time, that most precious of commodities, gets harder to spare. Every free moment is spent putting out fires. Many business owners come to feel like they’re on a ship without a rudder, being blown by the winds of fortune, with no control over where they might land.

This can all be avoided.

Most successful business owners that I have come across are successful precisely because they have spent some time out of their business, thinking about strategy and developing a formal action plan. They understand their values and the purpose of their business in their customers’ eyes. They have a set of financial targets that they strive to achieve and they understand the means needed to achieve them. They know what risks they might be facing and they have a plan to minimise them – or even turn them into opportunities. Most of all, they understand their unique point of difference; the thing that gives them a sustainable competitive edge, the thing that makes them truly valuable to their core customer base. Because they know that, they know who their most valuable customers are and they know how to reach them.

Creating a strategy is not difficult but it does take a little time and focus to get right. And that’s not easy when you’re busy running a business. After all, when urgent meets important, urgent usually wins. I always advise business owners to try and make some time to step out of their business and think about what they really want to get from it.

Making that time is the first step. I have never come across a business owner that has regretted taking it.

Next comes the planning itself. This can be daunting, but it’s easier if you break it down into bite-sized chunks. I find the best approach is to divide the process into 10 simple step and to work through them methodically. They are:

  1. Personal aspirations – why are you doing this?
  2. Values and beliefs – find your culture DNA.
  3. Purpose – what business are you really in?
  4. Destination – what are your visionary goals?
  5. Future proofing – look outside. What are the risks?
  6. Know your market – and identify the opportunities.
  7. Look in the mirror – what are you great at? What can you improve? Where do you have vulnerabilities? What is your edge and is it real?
  8. Find your focus – build your strategy around it.
  9. Press the reset button – and get your structure right
  10. Make it happen – People. Sales. Performance – and measure all the way


And remember, a strategy isn’t just an obscure document that sits on a shelf in the office, gathering dust. It’s a living, breathing embodiment of your business. It should be visible, inspiring, feasible, time-specific, measurable and, above all, flexible and fun. You should use it every day, share it with your team, build on it as your business develops and use it as your guide to success.

Digitisation and Customer Service

As a small business owner or decision maker, you put a lot of time, effort and resources into finding new customers and employees for your business. Retaining and maintaining loyal customers and employees needs to be a key part of your business strategy to enable growth.
Digital advances have already had a significant impact on customer service for small businesses, and this trend is likely to continue in the future with increasing automation and AI. Here are some ways that digital advances could affect customer service for small businesses and what you need to be aware of as it can be both an enabler and disruptor to your business:

Improved communication

Digital tools such as social media, chatbots, and messaging apps make it easier for you to communicate with your customers in real-time. This enables you to quickly address customer queries, concerns, and complaints, which can improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. This also means that customers increasingly have an expectation for this level of communication, so having the processes and operation in place to meet this expectation is necessary.


Digital advances such as data analytics and artificial intelligence can help you personalise their customer service. By analysing customer data, you can tailor your communication, product recommendations, and promotional offers to each of your customer’s preferences and needs. There is also the need for the human personal touch and knowing your customers non tangible preferences. Building that relationship can really support your customer service team to have the ability to react and pivot to customer emotions, unusual situations, or requests.

24/7 service

With digital tools, you can offer round-the-clock customer service. Chatbots and automated responses can handle routine queries and requests, while live agents can provide more personalised support during business hours. It’s absolutely key to look after your staff if you are promoting longer opening hours – they are the face of your business.

Increased efficiency

Digital tools can help you streamline your customer service processes, reducing the time and resources needed to handle customer inquiries and complaints. This can help you operate more efficiently and effectively. Customers are becoming more aware of talking to bots, not always to the benefit of the business. Knowing your customer preference for an instant response vs human contact is another way to build your customer service satisfaction.

As digital advances continue at a rapid pace, they have the potential to revolutionise customer service for small businesses, enabling you to provide faster, more personalised, and more efficient support to your customers. They also have the potential to provide greater competition and customer switching and lose the intangible learnings from a person-to-person interaction. I’d argue you need to have the processes, culture and operation in place to make your employees and customers feel valued, beyond the digitisation. To make them feel more than just a cog in a digitised machine, but as part of an integrated community where they can belong and align to your business values.