2024 – how leaders can focus on growth in a year of change
Jan 8th, 2024
I was delighted to be asked to write an article for PrimeResi to look at how business leaders can focus on growth during a year of change, the five priorities I outline are relevant to all leaders in all industries…The article below was published in its journal on 03 January 2024.
2023 was a year for many of managing constant challenges, high interest rates, rising costs and an unstable economic climate. So it is heartening to hear many speak about 2024 being about focusing on growth.
As one CEO of a property consultancy told me his focus is on growing in a high interest environment, retaining talent, keeping an eye on costs and then prospering with high margins from 2025/6 onwards when interest rates fall.
In 2024 there will be over 70 elections worldwide, including the UK and USA, bringing uncertainty around economic and political leadership.
As many have learnt over the last few years, managing through uncertainty is a juggling act where you have to keep your eyes on the risks as well as the opportunities. So the best thing a business leader can do is be agile and continue with their growth plans and have contingency plans in place to adapt quickly to change.
In the luxury property sector, we are seeing an ongoing trend of leaders breaking away to start their own agencies and development companies. This in itself creates challenges for those starting afresh and the board executives of the companies they are leaving. Both however will have very similar challenges this year, even if on a different scale.
Here I look at five priorities for business leaders in 2024…
1. Build a foundation for growth
Many new businesses who set up over the last 3 – 5 years are executing their growth plans. These leaders acknowledge that much of their early success was based on their experience, networks, hunger and intuition. They realise that to have a strong foundation to support their next growth phase, they must put in place structures and processes that were not necessarily there in the early years.
The MD of a property development company spoke of how they had built the business on a bootstrap, using their own money. They are now in a position, with a track record and financial credibility, to look to get funding and seek investment to grow to the next stage.
There are four questions that I ask people when setting up or growing a business:
- Vision: What is your vision for the business and what are the key goals or priorities that will help you get there? Ideally have no more than four so that they are manageable.
- Roles: What is your role? How clear is every team member about their role, responsibilities and priorities?
- Systems and Structures: What systems and processes make you efficient? What needs to change?
- Communication: How do you and your team communicate?
Knowing what you do and don’t do and clarifying the roles of everyone in your team gives everyone a clear direction and removes any ambiguity over who is responsible for what. It also enables you to build succession plans – every role needs someone else in the team who can step up to do that job.
Communication is key and needs to be regular and systemised. As a minimum a weekly team meeting, monthly one-to-ones, and quarterly business plan reviews, with an agenda for each one that will evolve based on what is important.
2. Have your own leadership manifesto
We are going to hear a lot about political leadership manifestos this year.
Your own leadership manifesto needs unwavering clarity as it is sets out your vision for others to buy into. Create it with input from your management team.
Rather than a business plan that is pushed in a drawer and reviewed twice a year, it needs to be a living document evolving with you and your company. Revisit it regularly and refine it over time. Use it as a compass to review progress, clarify priorities and keep you on track, especially in challenging times.
When communicating your vision to your teams at the start of the year, demonstrate how they can help it happen and what the benefit to them will be in achieving these goals.
3. Have plans B and C ready
Leaders have come to expect unexpected disappointments and the most successful ones are those that are able to pivot because they have created agile teams.
A high-end boutique developer had been looking forward to significant growth towards the end of 2023. Changing circumstances that included under-valuations on purchases being made and a lending source no longer available meant that projects were postponed and plans had to shift to navigate this period.
If political analysts are to be believed, we could see a Labour Government come to power before the end of the year. Spend time planning for this with your senior team on the potential impact on the luxury property sector.
Stay close to your clients and speak to them about what they need from you to help them minimise the impact of any challenges the industry is likely to face.
4. Be the line manager you would like to have had.
The demands on managers now is immense. To be successful you need to be a subject matter expert, a psychologist and a coach. It’s important to remember when driving performance that data and targets are important, however empathy and emotional intelligence play a key role in understanding the intrinsic motivation of people and how this relates to performance. I heard of several scenarios last year where good people had felt demotivated due to a lack of encouragement and acknowledgement of their progress.
Make sure you book one-to-one meetings in for the year and remember to ask simple questions like ‘What one thing could I do that would make the biggest difference to you?’ Be prepared to listen and take action. Losing good people can be a bitter blow and take you by surprise which can be costly.
6. Have a diverse advisory board
No matter how large or small your business, the decision makers – whether executive or non-executive – need to have diverse skills so that creative ideas, challenge and support contribute to effective decision making.
I have been impressed with the calibre of members on some of the smaller business advisory boards. These ambitious CEOs have the backing of an accomplished board with serious experience behind them. They fill the knowledge gaps in areas such as operations, finance or marketing, so they can focus on what they are good at which is often acquisitions, design, planning and a clear vision of the business, and team they wish to build. The combination of the founders’ passion to drive the business forward with the board’s expertise is a winning formula for growth.
There is little doubt that in 2024 the property sector is going to need to adapt to changes that are beyond its control, and there are going to be plenty of opportunities for growth. By putting the structures in place early on to address the questions that need answering around how you grow, will help your business stay agile and continue on an upwards trajectory.