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“There are many things we do not know we don’t know”
This is a well known quote from Confucius that was recorded by Henry David Thoreau in Walden; how appropriate this quote is when it is viewed in the context of manufacturing in the UK.
Many UK manufacturers can trace their history back over a number of generations, as the business has been passed from generation to generation, with each making their mark on the business and in due course handing it over to the next one.
Having worked in the accountancy and advisory sector for the last 25 years, a few observations are being the head of a family manufacturing business can be a lonely place and how often does the day job get in the way of planning?
This time is spent doing what is required to sort out the current issues, the day to day firefighting but not enough time is spent working on the business, to plan, prepare, focus and give direction in to the business.
What the owner manager needs to do is set aside that time to look at the business from the outside and prepare a plan of action to ensure it is moving in the right direction and delivers the long term goals set by the owner manager.
So, what is the relevance of Confucius’ quote? As much as the owner manager tries, he or she cannot know everything, they are experts in their field, but that doesn’t always mean they will be experts at running a business.
The key for the business owner is to look for help from a trusted advisor, a sounding board, a wise sage. Someone who understands the business and also bring external knowledge and expertise to the table.
This relationship is built on trust and honesty, the advisor must challenge, probe and question but without undermining the owner. This relationship has to be a two way process with the adviser looking to the owner manager to be honest and to come to the table with an open mind, willing to hear the views of an external party.
The owner and adviser will not always agree, but what is important is that a plan is formulated and given a chance to thrive. Yes it will change and like any journey, there may be detours on the way but the final destination has to be clear, focused and attainable.
So, my final thoughts are running a business can be lonely for the owner and there may be things you do not know. But take time out and put the long term future of the business on the agenda. Continually seek advice, seek guidance and seek expertise. By gaining knowledge and advice along the way, you will be able to enjoy the journey by achieving your objectives.
David Richmond, Partner
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