10 ways to cultivate 2012 company growth

(As originally published in Business in Vancouver, 23 January 2012)

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By Vincent Bryant, Leader, Performance Improvement Advisory Services, EY

A new year means new opportunities for Canadian companies – and this year, those opportunities revolve around growth and performance improvement. Demographic transition, a shifting global power structure and disruptive innovation are just a few of the many factors setting the stage for new business opportunities in 2012.

While driving sustainable growth for many companies depends on pursuing an agenda that often includes expanding into new markets and sectors, not all growth has to be from traditional large-scale mergers and acquisitions. What many companies are slow to exploitis the untapped potential for growth that’s hiding within their existing operations.

Companies looking to up their game this year will need to pair growth opportunities in emerging markets with sustainable performance improvements. Whether by focusing on leadership, strategy, engaging people, reengineering processes, selecting technology or managing projects; thinking outside the box when it comes to your growth agenda can have big benefits on the bottom line.

Successful companies will be those that not only navigate tomorrow’s global trends, but shape them. So, how does a company begin? Strategic planning is essential but it is not enough; execution capability is the acid test for any organization. By focusing on the areas that support decision making and accelerate the successful execution of change, Canadian companies can work their way to success from the inside, out.

Businesses looking to improve performance and drive the value of their brand can start by taking a close, critical look at these top 10 areas of potential improvement:

1.Analysing to strategizing

Analysis informs strategic decisions and provides the context for a compelling stakeholder and employee communication program.

2. Executing strategy and leading change

Many well-planned strategies fail the execution test; companies can reduce the risk of failure by ensuring the essential execution and leadership fundamentals are firmly in place.

3. Delivering successful transformation programs

Achieving an aspirational vision, noticeable market differentiation or creating a new customer experience begins with a transformational leadership style, high levels of employee engagement and a program management process that fits the context of the program – the key success factors to achieving sustainable transformation.

4. Evaluating transactions pre-and-post merger

Pre-merger evaluation and financial and commercial due diligence are essential ingredients of a successful transaction as they inform the decision and price negotiation and provide the evidence base for the merger process.

5. Selecting IT applications and suppliers

The selection process is a crucial opportunity for any business to clarify its requirements and create an objective baseline to compare competing products, clarify necessary levels of customization and their cost and set performance expectations with suppliers.

6. Achieving performance objectives

Differentiating between performance drivers and results measurement is an important distinction to make when pursuing performance improvement goals. Scorecards enable the translation of strategic aims into clear objectives and provide the context for individuals and teams to focus their energy and talent.

7. Understanding and transforming corporate culture

Few transformation or post-merger integration programs can succeed without recognition of cultural discrepancy and a program to reinforce or reshape the operating norms of the organization. Decision makers must understand corporate culture before they can achieve congruence with the vision and aims of their organization.

8. Improving processes and operating costs

Processes can influence cost, regulatory compliance, customer service levels and differentiation in the market. Activity based costing enables the allocation of costs to activities and can highlight and quantify opportunities to improve the cost of operations.

9.Benefiting from the business case

Developing a business case provides decision makers with an objective appraisal of options and a summary of the costs and benefits associated with each option plus it provides the business with a crucial framework for benefits realization.

10. Managing entrepreneurial growth

Entrepreneurs raise finance, commercialize innovative products and services, build their reputation and brand and establish networks and partnerships to scale-up and strengthen their business models. Properly managing these phases is crucial to the growth trajectory and sustainability of the business.

Vincent Bryant leads EY’s Vancouver Performance Improvement Advisory Services team and teaches on the subjects of strategy execution and business transformation on the Executive Education Program at the UBC Sauder School of Business in Vancouver.