Great business management - what’s the secret?

I was lucky enough to work for a large organisation for 31 years, at a time when they took the development of their managers very seriously – with a great support structure from your immediate bosses, and regular training courses and workshops throughout your career.

Most were at residential training centres in leafy Surrey lasting anything from three days to four weeks – and the battles afterwards weren’t just in the application of all your newly acquired skills and knowledge, but how to get the extra two inches off your waistline!

It taught me the principles of how to be a great manager – not just of the branches and business centres I would go on to run, but also how to get the best out of the people who worked for me. I didn’t always get it right, sometimes I got it badly wrong, but I always learnt how I could do it better next time.

Of course, you never remember (or consciously apply) everything you learn, but one thing that stuck most in my mind was a simple six step business management structure, which I adapted and used in every management job I did, and shared it with all the business owners I looked after as clients. And it goes something like this:


  • Having the vision, drive and motivation not only to inspire yourself – but also everyone who works for you
  • Being clear about what you want to achieve – both in the short term and long term – and having a realistic and ‘live’ business plan that turns your ideas into reality, focusing on the what, why and how, with relevant objectives and target setting,
  • An effective team structure, excellent communication and great people management – where everyone clearly knows how important their job is to the success of the business
  • Planning ahead – to be proactive rather than reactive and avoid the “OSINTOT” syndrome

Income management

  • Having simple but effective financial information systems that you can understand and work with, focussing on profit not just sales, improving cash flow and maximising potential income
  • Assessing historic performance to create more meaningful / realistic budgets


  • Looking at market opportunities and vulnerabilities, competition, advertising, brand image and product mix
  • Assessing the cost of growth and how it can be best financed
  • Understanding the importance of organic growth through client retention, cross selling and recommendations.

Operational effectiveness

  • End to end process management, constant improvement and cost management
  • Team management to make sure you’ve got ‘square pegs in square holes’ and a ‘get it right first time’ approach
  • Assessing the benefits of changes in technology and innovation, and a positive and creative approach to problem solving

Service Quality

  • Defining standards and expectations
  • Making sure they can be measured and managed
  • Having effective internal and external communication/ feedback systems

Asset management

  • Effective controls on stock/ debtors/ work in progress
  • Management, maintenance and replacement plans for term assets (property/ vehicles/ equipment)
  • Situation management (premises move, product launch, any large project etc)
  • Staff recruitment, training and succession planning

It’s a pretty simple structure – but believe me it works – and it’s probably as effective for the printing company or the manufacturing business as it is to the recruitment company or retail shop. The core principles apply to the vast majority of businesses.

Generally speaking, great businesses have great leaders, but great leaders need great managers to support their dreams and vision. In most SMEs the owners are the leaders and the managers – and each day they wear several of the six ‘hats’ above, with varying degrees of success. There isn’t a magic wand to make you a great business manager. Some do it naturally very well, but most are just very quick learners by necessity.

I hope this structure can help you, if you need any help on how best to implement it in your own business, just give me a call on 0845 260 0101.

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