As part of Business News Wales’ ongoing series of interviews with some of Wales’ leading figures in business, we had the opportunity to interview Allan Griffiths, Regional Director for SME Banking in Wales and the Borders with Lloyds Bank.
1) Tell us a bit about your role at Lloyds Bank?
As regional director for SME Banking in Wales and the borders, I head a team of 67 area directors, relationship directors and relationship managers, who support businesses across Wales, Shropshire, Worcester and Herefordshire.
My team works with businesses across all sectors that have turnovers between £1 million and £25 million, and provide the tailored guidance and support needed to help firms with both day-to-day challenges and with making the most of opportunities to grow.
2) What is the best thing about your role?
It’s great to see the benefits that our support can bring both to businesses and the local communities that they operate in.
Whether it’s helping a first-time business owner establish themselves or providing the support needed for a firm to hire more staff, it’s good to see the tangible impact that the team has across the region on a daily basis.
3) What are the biggest challenges facing small businesses in Wales at the moment?
The result of the EU referendum has caused uncertainty for many businesses, and, according to our latest PMI research, the weak pound caused input costs to rise by the largest amount in five years in August.
In a period of uncertainty, it’s vital that companies reach out to trusted mentors, business advisors and funding partners for support, using them as an impartial sounding board to talk through any new decisions or plans.
A long term challenge that companies face is to remain innovative. The business landscape is constantly changing, with new technologies and increased accessibility to new markets creating a wealth of opportunities for firms across the country.
Small-to-medium-sized companies are often ideally placed to drive innovation, as they have the advantage of being closer to their customers and more flexible, which means they can listen to feedback and adapt products and services more quickly.
4) What three top tips would you give to company owners looking to expand their business?
Do your research – Before a firm even thinks about drawing up a growth strategy, it’s vital that they research their marketplace and their place in it.
It’s important to take an objective look at where the business is going and analyse the opportunities and threats that exist.
Have a plan – It’s often tricky for smaller firms to devote time to devising a strategy because owners are consumed with the day-to-day running of the business, but taking the time to formulate a robust plan will pay dividends in the long term.
There is no single approach that can be applied across the board, but a solid growth strategy should involve everyone in the business, setting clear and specific goals with a time schedule for each objective.
Decide what needs to be done to achieve them by setting out challenging but achievable targets and making individuals accountable for them.
Make it happen – When the plan for growth is complete, it can be used as the basis for running the business. The management team now knows what to do, how they’re going to go about it, and what results they’re looking for.
By communicating this to everyone in the business, each employee knows the part they have to play and can work towards the same goals.
It’s also important to regularly review the firm’s performance against plan to keep on track or help develop alternative strategies to overcome any problems.
5) What do you think the most important qualities for success in business are?
Ambition and a drive to succeed are obviously high on the list, but I think the ability to listen to advice is key.
Whether it’s from a trusted colleague within their firm or from an external mentor or business partner, it's important that company managers can accept guidance to ensure that all decisions are well thought through and realistic.