If you had to pick one technology that business needs above all others, it is probably email. The value of email grew exponentially when devices were invented that could enable people to receive emails while they were out of the office. (Remember, “push” email was an expression that people once used in the early days. It is now taken for granted).

The undoubted kings of business email on the move were Blackberry. They had great devices, a useable physical keyboard and great reliability. At the height of their powers, they had 50% of the smart phone market. This is now down to 1%.

So what happened to create such a dramatic fall in market share, almost to the point that their very existence is in jeopardy? One word – strategy!

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For more than thirty years the words “middle management” have been anathema to management commentators. With constant talk of “flat structures”, downsizing and the upsurge of technology, it would be easy to infer that all the problems in organisations were caused by a tier of middle management and that the people occupying these positions were somehow harmful to the organisation.

This has always looked to me like a gross over-simplification and misrepresentation of the facts because it ignores the history of why middle management evolved in the first place. Simply put, middle management evolved as companies became larger and there was a need to spread the management word and controls throughout the organisation, which could not be done by a small group of people at the top.

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Successful businesses invariably have a good business strategy. They understand their market and they work out the best way in which they can serve this market profitably. When they do that, everything else falls into place, including marketing, sales and profit.

Conversely, businesses that have yet to tap into their full potential invariably have no viable business strategy.

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A business strategy should be brief and to the point. The whole purpose of it is to give you the opportunity to set the overall direction of your business. This means that you need to be able to see the wood for the trees, so the last thing you need is a lot of detail.

A business plan, however, is a good place to think through some of the detail of your strategy and check that it is feasible. Although brevity is always the favoured option when it comes to managing a business you should not shy away from fleshing out some of the detail in your business plan.

A business plan is necessary whether you are a start-up business or an established business, although the reasons for producing them are different.

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Running a business is one of the most fulfilling and important jobs in the world. Your customers depend on you; your people and their families rely upon you and your suppliers look to you for more business.

If you get it right, you will generate profits which lead to personal wealth and job satisfaction. If you get it wrong, you risk losses or, at worst, the collapse of the business.

That is why it is so important to have a strategy. A strategy is a plan for the general direction of your business. You might think of it as the same way as planning a holiday; the first thing to decide is where you want to go. You then find out what dates are suitable, decide whether you can afford it and agree the finer details.

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In June 2013, approximately 30,000 people from businesses of all types and sizes gathered at the ExCeL centre in London to see up to the minute technology and services and quite simply to network with each other.

At our busy stay out front stand, we chatted with hundreds of business owners and managers and a substantial number of public sector managers. Here are the key lessons that we learnt from them:

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Whatever the level of performance of your organisation, it is always possible to make improvements. Our Top12 actions to improve every business are:

  1. Prepare a strategy and business plan. There is nothing more powerful in business than to decide where you are heading and plan how you are going to get there.
  2. Set up first class administration systems. Any business runs more efficiently if you know where everything is and have a system to run every business process.
  3. Review and plan finances meticulously. It is imperative that your business has sound financial information and that you use it to monitor and improve cash flow and profitability.

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When good news is in short supply in the world of politics and finance, it is easy to lose confidence. However, the fact is that all organisations are capable of taking action to reduce their exposure to events and plot a course to success

There are two things that really matter if you are to get ahead in business. The first is your attitude and the second is the action that you take. It is important to remember that management is all about taking action. During good times it is important that you allow your business to flourish and control your expansion. In tough times, you will want to protect your business against poor performance and falling revenue and profit

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