Some thoughts as 2014 comes to an end

I cannot quite believe that I have been running my own business, Alan Fletcher Solutions, for three years now. During that time I have met some incredible people having widened my network of contacts, clients and friends. I am pleased to say that my clients tell me that I have delivered the quality of work they were looking for and have brought added value to their businesses.

Since November 2011 we have seen the economy grow albeit perhaps more slowly than most of us would have liked. Quite recently we were told that interest rates will probably remain very low to avoid long-term economic stagnation although just a couple months earlier we were all, or many of us, expecting small rises in interest rates during the latter months of 2014 and during 2015

Andrew Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England more recently said that he was downbeat over the UK economy mainly because of weaker global growth, financial risks and productivity in the UK. Some good news the price of oil seems to be falling further and we are all enjoying the lower price of fuel at the pumps!

In an article in July, the FT reported that with the next five years the UK will need 1 million new manages and 71% of business leaders said that first-time manages do not receive any training! The UK is well behind Germany, Japan, Canada and the US in the effectiveness of managers. I believe that people tend to get promoted into management positions based on their Skill-Set rather than their Mind-Set.

Many of my clients are in the construction sector and generally it has been a good year; order books are reasonably full, there is clearly a lot of new build going on in both housing and commercial projects. Construction is a huge market – £112.6 bn, which is somewhat less than its peak in 2007 (£128.2 billion). It is still a very competitive market with some contractors reporting that margins are being squeezed with little likelihood of reasonable profits.

Increased productivity, improved supply chain relationships and better planning and foresight might well help. In the UK we so often start working at something (a project) without setting clear goals and without considering the best approach. We then have to back-track, start again on Plan B with all the cost and time implications (biting into those profit opportunities).

The highly successful leaders are clear sighted, communicate well, engage with their employees and inspire confidence. These people always see the glass half full, they are positive and confident in their own and their senior colleagues capabilities and their mind-set.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a successful 2015.

Alan Fletcher 20 December 2014