Press release

The case for a business strategy review - an interview with Gary Markham

Is your business ready for change?

The world is moving fast. With developments in digital technology alongside widespread political and economic change, it has never been more important to consider what your business’s operating environment might look like in the future. Boards and executives need to take a structured approach to scenario planning so that they can minimise risks and maximise opportunities when they emerge.

As specialists in co-operative governance, Co-operatives UK offers its members a business strategy review workshop to facilitate the process of evaluating their business’s current position and strategies for the future.

Here we talk to Gary Markham, the Director of Farms and Estates at one of the leading accountancy firms for agricultural businesses, who explains the importance of a business strategy review and steps involved.

Q: With Brexit among the many issues facing UK businesses, the future looks uncertain. What role can a review of a business strategy play?
GM: The bigger the change, the bigger the threat to your business – and the opportunity. During a period of change managing risks is a key part of good corporate governance for any business. The Board of Directors has an obligation to their members to manage the risks facing the business. There is a need to explore the possible scenarios so they are on the front foot and can react to change quickly and positively. A robust risk management register managed by a separate committee will also protect the board members themselves.  

Q: Why is important to have a formal review of your strategy and how often should it be done?
GM: I have spent 35 years advising businesses of all sizes in the agricultural industry – in some cases in difficult circumstances, when there have been conflicting interests. I know that it is easy to have ‘business strategy’ on a board meeting agenda for discussion. A formal review is far more than this. A minor review ought to take place annually, to ensure there are no new issues emerging, but a full review should be undertaken every three to five years.

Q: Who should be involved in the review process?
GM: A formal review needs the undivided attention of the full Board and be led experienced independent facilitator who can get the most out of the review in the time. Board members are busy people, often with several other business interests. It’s important both that their time is used well and that their expertise is used as a resource. A review is also about bringing the Board together around possible strategies. The process of the business strategy review is almost as important as the output from the review.

Q: What are the key issues to get right when undertaking a review?
GM: I identify six factors that make for a successful business strategy review:

  • It needs to be taken seriously by the Board
  • Sufficient time needs to be allocated – at least a full day – possibly followed up by half a day 
  • It needs a formal structure and agenda
  • Ideally the review session should take  place out of the office in order to avoid distractions 
  • There must be formal agreement on what needs to be achieved and produced by the end of the review
  • And board members ought to individually prepare their personal goals and priorities before the review begins

About Gary Markham

With more than 36 years of experience in the agricultural industry, Gary advises clients on such diverse subjects as succession planning, restructuring, mediation, management accounts and tax advice. He has considerable experience in the agricultural co-op sector including auditing annual accounts and advising on managing risks, advising boards on commercial activities whilst complying with the co-op rules and assisting boards with business development and management skills. Gary has penned numerous articles published in the press, written books on machinery management and two issues of the Institute of Chartered Accountants reference book on auditing and accounting.

Learn more about a strategy review for your co-op

Co-operatives UK’s business strategy review workshop provides expert facilitation for co-operative Boards to evaluate their existing business position and new strategies. The workshop is tailored to the requirements of the business, with a focus on involving all Directors and appropriate management team members, challenging existing assumptions and encouraging innovative thinking. The core output will be a detailed report on the discussions, scenarios and agreed strategic actions, which will then allow management to develop the business plan. Members of Co-operatives UK receive a 20% discount.

To discuss further contact Richard Self.