Knowledge is Power

I read an interesting article this week that discussed the ability of family-run businesses to survive, even during hard economic times, while their shareholder-run peers often struggle to keep their heads above water.  The reason for this, according to the article, is that family-run businesses take a long-term view, investing in the business and moving with the times in order to safeguard their legacy for future generations rather than focusing solely on this year’s balance sheet.

It’s a theory that rings very true.  When Napoléon disparagingly referred to Great Britain as a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ he was deriding our lack of ambition, but what his intended insult actually highlights is the entrepreneurial spirit that has helped ensure we still have a thriving SME business community.  It’s a community that has taken a bit of a battering over the past few years of economic turmoil but it remains a commercial powerhouse that is determined to succeed in order to safeguard heritage, jobs and reputation.

Nevertheless, businesses generally don’t succeed on determination alone.  The other significant advantage that family-run companies often have is experience. Any company that has been in the hands of the same family for generations will have been through change and periods of economic uncertainty before and the experience gained along the way helps those businesses to evolve, diversify and step up to new market conditions.

The thing is, no matter how much experience and determination there is in a business, predicting the future is much more difficult than valuing the past. And while the economic climate and resulting commercial uncertainty is a massive influence on businesses’ capacity to thrive or survive, it is not the only factor. Advances in technology have affected sales channels and communications, emerging markets have created new opportunities and new threats and the cost of fuel, raw materials and commodities means that overheads are more difficult than ever to forecast.

So what does all this mean?  It means that luck, experience and guesswork are not enough to steer a business towards future growth and stability: incisive information based on targeted research also needs to be added to the mix. When budgets are tight, market research is often the first casualty but, without it, how much do you really understand about what’s influencing your customers’ purchasing decisions? Or where your next untapped customer base might lie?

In business, knowledge really is power.  What you do with it once you’ve accessed it is down to you!

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