Necessity is the mother of reinvention

by David Buchler

by David Buchler

BRADLEY Cooper’s latest version of A Star is Born - the movie’s third remake - is already tipped to win Oscars in his directorial debut and co-star Lady Gaga’s first outing as a film star. In Hollywood speak, Cooper ‘reimagined’ the 1976 version starring Barbara Streisand, which was itself a new version of previous films of the same title in 1954 and 1937.

Reinvention is a natural and often necessary stage of a business career or a company’s development. While Cooper and Gaga might have been widening their already sunny horizons and extending their skill-sets, sometimes a change of direction is needed to deal with inevitable circumstances. Even Usain Bolt, after enjoying one of the most successful athletics careers of all time, has turned to football.

One of the world’s largest and most cash generative consumer industries is presently attempting to pivot its revenue model, prompted by structural decline. Global tobacco giants Philip Morris, BAT and Imperial Brands are fighting hard to battle the slump in cigarette sales with a switch to apparently less dangerous ‘vaping’, or e-cigarettes.

 For the Managing Director of a stricken SME in the UK, it probably feels just as hard to reinvent a business as it does to turn around a tanker such as BAT. Yet reimagining and pivoting is vital if these smaller companies are to survive an extremely challenging business climate. An overwhelming majority of their MDs continue to reference a widespread lack of business confidence which they attribute to Brexit uncertainty. This theme has been prevalent for more than two years, but still less than 20% of managers say they have taken action to protect their businesses against a hard, or no-deal departure from the EU.

It is usually never too late to do things differently for a better outcome. This is not the forum for prescriptive recommendations to fit every business; however, whether managers are trying to stay ahead of the competition or merely to extend survival in a tough environment, the first basic steps towards change are common to many everyday companies. They can also be the hardest steps to take, probably explaining the reluctance of so many bosses.

·       Accept that at least a degree of reinvention is needed, while also accepting the factors and influences that can’t be changed

·       Look to reporting and cash control to provide real insight and tangible measurement of an existing strategy and unnecessary costs - a rush to discounts and more marketing is not a panacea

·       Re-evaluate - honestly and in a timely way - products, services and target markets. Once a team has agreed a new strategy, then it’s time to step up marketing

None of this is brain surgery, yet such basics are too often ignored by managers more than capable of saving or improving their businesses. Only if they at least begin to reinvent will they know if a star can be reborn.

David Buchler is chairman of restructuring and turnaround advisers Buchler Phillips