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Plotting the right strategic course

By Elliot Harris

At every networking event I attend, I learn something. Whether by talking to another business owner or listening to a guest speaker, there are always takeaways to use myself or share with a client.

Recently, a speaker started banging on about EEE – an acronym for Engage Experts Early. As an expert, I liked the sound of this. But he said prospects often had another acronym at the ready: ECM or Experts Cost Money.

Much of life is about this balance between taking action now or pushing back until this is unavoidable. How often have I heard the phrase: “I wish I had spoken to you sooner!”

Speaking to the right expert early enough – and I emphasise the right expert  – will save time and money.

For example, a client goes to see his accountant. He tells her that he is selling something new tomorrow – or sold something new yesterday – and asks if there are any tax or VAT consequences. He discovers a tax or VAT bill that could have been avoided!

Trust me, no matter how often I tell my clients to speak to me when doing something new, there is often a scramble to try and undo that something at the last minute to avoid a tax or VAT bill. As a result, they have a large and avoidable fee attached to my work.

The same is true for business and strategic planning. Business Plans or Cash Flow Forecasts exisst to provide early warning of problems and time to react to them. Or of opportunities and time to seize them.

If you aim to retire or sell your business – or to expand or diversify – what makes you think you can do it without long-term planning? Why would you think that when all is going pear-shaped, an expert can pull you out of a hole at the last minute?

The adviser may succeed, but she won’t be cheap, and the advice will be less effective for being rushed.

Think of your business as a supertanker that takes a lot of time to turn around if it comes across an obstruction. Think of an expert as your early warning system.

If you are using an HR consultant to get your employment terms and conditions right, isn’t it better to do it before you recruit and have a problem with an employee? If you are designing and producing a new product, shouldn’t you take advice on protecting that product by patent or other protection from an expert? If you are buying a property, you should get it surveyed by an expert. So if buying a business, shouldn’t you get an expert to advise on the best way of doing that first?

Elliot Harris | UK Business Advisors (

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