Top tips on how you can manage major change in your business

Trio of experts speak at at Liverpool seminar organised by accountancy firm BWMacfarlane and banking giant NatWest and we have boiled down their presentations to these nine key pieces of advice.

Andrea Law, Enthuse Communications
Andrea Law, Enthuse Communications

Most companies will have to undergo change at some point – it could be a buyout, a merger, a restructure or an expansion.

However, firms undergoing major changes can end up in a mess if they don’t properly manage the process and communicate with everyone in their organisation.

That was the clear message from a breakfast seminar in Liverpool organised by accountancy firm BWMacfarlane and banking giant NatWest.

‘Managing Change & Transformation’ took place in the city’s Pullman Hotel and featured three expert speakers – Andrea Law of Enthuse Communications, Peter Taaffe, managing partner of BWMacfarlane, and Will Clark from private equity investor, Enterprise Ventures.

Here are nine tips offered by the trio at the event to help your business manage change as painlessly as possible.

Andrea Law, Enthuse Communications, says:

  1. There are four key drivers of engaging teams with your change:
  • A strong and clear narrative about the objectives of the change;
  • Effective leaders and managers who can communicate and lead;
  • Two-way communication between managers and staff;
  • Giving all the employees a voice in the process and listening to their ideas.

Andrea said: “You have to respect people in order to earn their respect back. 

2. Create excitement around the change – explain clearly to everyone involved the possibilities it brings.

She added: “You have to explain ‘why’ something is going to happen and utilise every possible channel of communication.

3. “Walk in the shoes” of other people in the organisation.

Andrea explained: “There is never just one perspective to the change – there will be several and they could affect your implementation.”

She told of one executive who found putting himself in the shoes of an employee was a revelatory experience, quoting him as saying: “I totally get it – this is going to be bloody difficult.”

Peter Taaffe, managing partner at BWMacfarlane says:

4. Offer reassurance to everyone involved.

Mr Taaffe merged his own firm, Bresnan Walsh, merging with Macfarlane + Co to create BWMacfarlane back in 2011. He said: “Accountancy is a people business. You have clients who need reassurance, but you also have staff who need reassurance.  There were undoubtedly times when I could have communicated better with my own team.”

Peter Taaffe, managing partner at BWMacfarlane
Peter Taaffe, managing partner at BWMacfarlane

5. Be open-minded and avoid assumptions.

Explained Peter: “I made assumptions that our way of doing things would suit both organisations. We were doubling the size of some departments and in fact we had to come up with brand new ways of working.”

6. Be ready to learn new skills

“Everybody in the firm, from myself to the receptionist, has learned new skillsets,” he said.

Will Clark, venture capital investor at Enterprise Ventures, part of Mercia Technologies PLC talked about the role of non-executive directors, saying.

7. Non-executive directors (NEDs) can play an important role in a business. 

He said a good NED was prepared to “constructively challenge” the other directors when necessary. He added: “The good NED has to be prepared to be the one who will talk about the elephant in the room.

8. Having the t-shirt is more than just an old adage.

Mr Clark explained: “I am a big fan of NEDs having sector experience and also what I call ‘having the t-shirt’. If you have a start-up, but all the NED has known is the rather different environment of a plc, you might find that they don’t have the required experience or insight to be able to help you.

Will Clark, venture capital investor at Enterprise Ventures
Will Clark, venture capital investor at Enterprise Ventures

“However, if you have someone who has started their own business, grown it and known when to sell it then that is likely to be far more helpful as you look to scale your own business.”

9. Some honest advice.

Mr Clark put it simply when he offered his final piece of advice, saying: “Have the right resources, the right strategy – and work hard.”

The seminar was hosted by BWMacfarlane in association with the Nat West Corporate & Commercial banking team represented by Ruth Kirby and Ian McGee on Tuesday, 20th September at The Pullman Hotel. The event was attended by more than 30 leading representatives from Liverpool’s professional business community.

BWMacfarlane host a regular programme of events offering business support and advice for clients and peers. For more information contact Vicki Harper, Director of client services on 0151 236 1494 or email vicki.h@bwm.co.uk

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