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Doing more with what you have

In this article, Matt Alabaster discusses how more value can always be found, whether it’s through more efficient ways of working, maximising the potential for cross selling, or encouraging greater innovation and collaboration.

We’ve been looking closely at the paths that businesses are taking in their pursuit of growth – and what makes each of these strategies successful. Of course every business has its own unique circumstances, but four broad strategies (which are not mutually exclusive) dominate: investing to grow, divesting and optimising, pivoting, and doing more with what you have.

Unlocked opportunities

When people think of growing a business their mind invariably turns first to a catalytic event – introducing a radical change to the business model, for example, or acquiring another business with the skills, technology or knowledge that will take you in one stride to the next level.

The truth is that for those with limited resources, catalytic value creation is impossible. But it’s also often unnecessary – and can be a huge distraction when there may be significant unlocked value opportunities lying dormant in the business. Doing more with what you already have might be the less flashy option, but it’s a potentially rich source of growth and value. Business leaders increasingly recognise this; our latest CEO survey shows that 82% of global business leaders are pursuing organic growth and 70% are looking for operational efficiencies.   

We’re seeing this first hand with clients, too. Businesses that take concerted steps to maximise every resource that they have are more efficient, productive and critically, more resilient.

“Businesses that take concerted steps to maximise every resource that they have are more efficient, productive and critically, more resilient.”

The basic groundwork is a regular health check – are we doing everything we should? Are we as commercially effective as we could be? Is our pricing strategy right? – but many go far beyond that. Here are some of the approaches we often see:

‘2+2=5’

When businesses are very complex it’s very rare to see true optimisation, where every opportunity is fully exploited. When you’re trying to increase cross selling and/or the share of wallet for existing customers, the real world can often get in the way – but not all hurdles are insurmountable. 

I’ve worked, for example, with an engineering consultancy that had acquired more than a dozen businesses worldwide over the space of a decade. The group, as a result, had a huge customer base and a vast array of capabilities. The potential for cross selling, and for winning new contracts based on the group’s combined capabilities, was huge – but the collective power of the company was considerably less than the sum of its parts. 

The challenge was part cultural, part practical. Each of the acquired businesses had its own culture and they were very different. How do you create a genuinely collaborative relationship between a small, close knit team in the UK, and a fast-growing dynamic team in Asia? The answer wasn’t integration – they just needed to know each other and talk to each other. They needed to be familiar with each other’s capabilities, and existing and target clients, and realise that none of them were operating in a vacuum. So we provided the communications infrastructure they needed to talk, collaborate and share thought leadership.

Hydroponic germination

In a multinational company, it’s not readily apparent what everyone is working on. Inevitably, in rooms across the world, bright people are working on nascent projects and ideas which have common ground. If these capabilities are brought together and given space, investment and encouragement – if they are shown the sunlight – they could grow into an important value-generating business. 

I’ve worked with an international urban development company based in South East Asia that recently bought a small specialist business that is a market leader in creating more sustainable buildings. The next step in building value for the group is to find everyone working on sustainability-related tasks within the company, and work out how those capabilities and ideas could be arranged (as a single service offering, for example) to better drive value.

Getting the most out of people

How do you get more out of the people you have? There are many levers to draw on here including recognition of what your people do and how they do it, with incentivisation to perform differently. One of the key drivers of cost reduction or increasing profitability is removing duplication by evaluating the existing operating model and processes. With remote working during the pandemic a reality in many sectors, it has never been more important to fully assess what employees are doing, where they might be overlapping and whether it’s a priority. 

The pandemic has also provided an opportunity to reset organisational purpose, vision and values in line with how businesses have responded. There is a wealth of data which reinforces the benefits of a clear corporate purpose on shareholder value. Setting out a clear, authentic, purpose to your employees can bring benefits in the form of greater engagement and discretionary effort, longer tenure and attracting key talent.  

The real driver of productivity, though, is energy and motivation – and keeping levels high is a constant challenge. I remember working with one new company that was run by a particularly visionary entrepreneur. He is someone who is constantly thinking of new ideas at top speed, but that’s not a working atmosphere that is comfortable for everyone. Whenever I sat in on meetings, though, it was clear that he had deliberately surrounded himself with people who were capable (of course), but critically, absolutely unphased if something seemingly impossible was added to their already endless to-do list. As a team they achieved great things, because care had been taken from the start to make sure that everyone was the right cultural fit.

Embracing accidental productivity boosters

The pandemic forced people and companies to innovate and change the way they work and while experiences have varied, we’ve also stumbled on processes and techniques that reduce costs and increase productivity. It’s important that we keep hold of the things that have worked. 

Our corporate finance team, for example, used drone technology out of necessity during the pandemic, which allowed potential buyers to ‘walk around’ a site. But it has worked so well that its use is becoming standard, and the team recently completed the sale of a UK-based biopharmaceutical business to a overseas buyer that had only viewed the location remotely.

A new agenda for trade

There was a time when international markets were a logical step in the search for growth but trade wars and pushback against globalisation led by populist politics has changed the landscape. With trade patterns and partnerships in constant flux, the best destinations for growth are more difficult to pin down. The pandemic also caused companies to think closely about the resilience of supply chains and to explore localisation as a Plan B. While we expect leaders generally to take a more selective, careful approach to new market entry in the future, that doesn’t mean that geographical reach is no longer an important option for value creation.

Whatever route you take to value creation, focusing on value creates a more resilient business that can respond quickly to external shocks and take advantage of opportunities when they appear.

“Whatever route you take to value creation, focusing on value creates a more resilient business that can respond quickly to external shocks and take advantage of opportunities when they appear.”

  

The value bridge

Knowing where to start when it comes to Value Creation can be difficult. We use a framework called the value bridge to help our clients visualise and work through the core foundations that will enable them to create value in their business, value that makes the difference, whatever their strategy or situation. Watch our value bridge animation to find out how, together we can help you create value.

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Value bridge

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Contact us

Matthew Alabaster

Matthew Alabaster

Partner, Strategy&, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7866 727124

Christopher Temple

Christopher Temple

UK Value Creation leader, PwC United Kingdom

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