Every week, we seek out expert advice to help a small or medium-sized company overcome a key issue it is facing in its business.
When Canada's insurance companies have too much on the go, they call on Simon Bell and Chris Murumets, co-founders of Toronto-based LOGiQ3 Corp.
Most of their business is in reinsurance, taking on underwriting, auditing and other responsibilities for larger financial institutions. Mr. Bell and Mr. Murumets also spend a lot of time acting as consultants for other firms that need insurance-related advice.
But after seven years of building their business, it's now Mr. Murumets and Mr. Bell, chief executive officer and chief operating officer, respectively, who have too much on the go. They need help to figure out how to make time for a key task: long-range planning for their own company.
The pair have managed to relinquish a few of the duties they used to perform: for instance, some of the company's 23 staff have taken over meeting with potential clients.
But they're doing most of the consulting work themselves. They haven't passed that on, Mr. Murumets said, because they've built up strong reputations after years in the industry, and clients insist on talking to them directly.
And they have no human-resources staffer so they handle those responsibilities themselves. They also do some of the financial work, and occasionally help on the sales side.
They've considered hiring outside help, but Mr. Murumets said it's too costly. "It's tough to afford right now. If I could easily afford outsourcing the service, I would, but we are self-owned and capitalized, and all money is going into growing the business."
It gives them little time to think beyond the day-to-day operations and "sit back and think deep thoughts" about the company's future, Mr. Murumets added.
They know they need to find the time for long-range planning. They're just not sure how to find it.
"We're working 68-plus hours a week," Mr. Murumets said. "We don't have a lot of time to think about what we're going to do next, and that makes it hard to grow a business."
The challenge: How can Logiq3's top executives make time to plan for the company's future?
THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN
Nathan Mean, Ottawa-based director of business resources for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business It's not just a matter of setting time aside for strategy. Their other responsibilities, like dealing with HR, impinge on them. They have to consider doing what they do for others – outsource the work. Most people don't have the money to hire a (full-time) professional HR team, but they can hire a consultant. Consultants can offer advice on how to hire or fire or tell the CEO about labour board issues. Do it yourself and, all of a sudden, you've spent hours away from your principal skill set. It would have saved them huge amounts of time that they could have set aside for strategy.
It would be great if they could have at least one uninterrupted hour of thought per week. But they're not going to get that if they don't have a good foundation, if they're being sucked into other activities.
Peter Conrod, Toronto-based vice-president of client and business strategy at Royal Bank of Canada All successful business owners need to get out of their day-to-day and find time to plan in four areas: budget for the coming year; direction for the next one to three years; they need an idea of what kind of team members they'll need to execute their three-year plan; and they have to determine how much capital they'll need to execute on that plan. Think about these four things annually, then review it on a monthly basis and, quarterly, spend a few hours making sure they're headed in the right direction.
They should also do a one- or two-day retreat – it could be over a weekend. It needs to be offsite, have an agenda, include external financial or business advisers and a facilitator to stay on track. Bring key team members. At the end, give everyone a mandate.
Also, create a mentor or advisory board. There are a lot of retired business people who enjoy helping businesses grow. Meet quarterly and share business information and the owners should seek advice from the board.
Gary Mauris, founder and president of Port Coquitlam, B.C.-based Dominion Lending CentresThe first thing is you have to do is spend an exorbitant amount of time training staff and clearly outlining their expectations. If you put 400 hours into training someone, they will save you thousands of hours later.
Make sure everyone from your bookkeeper, receptionist, to the general manager are aware that they are responsible for looking for opportunities to make the cash register ring. Make certain your message is clear and consistent that "that's not my job" is outlawed from your organization. Set targets and monitor them monthly with your staff. This holds them accountable, keeps everyone in open regular communication. Explain to your key people that you want them to learn their position so that the company runs on autopilot, and everything can happen without you.
Things like this give the owners time to work on strategy, rollouts and growth. I go to the library two or three times a month during business hours to find quiet time to create and implement new strategies and initiatives. I've made this an integral part of my month.
THREE THINGS LOGIQC SHOULD DO NOW
Hire someone else to handle human resources issues. Try to do the same with other tasks, such as accounting.
Plan a retreat
Take the senior management team offsite on a one-or two-day retreat and hammer out ideas that will help grow the business.
Create an advisory board
Bring in experienced business people to help plan strategy. Meet with an advisory board quarterly to discuss new ways to grow.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Facing a challenge? If your company could use our expert help, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.