Feature
Marcelino Castrillo

Planning for success

The Christmas and new year break is the traditional time to start planning the next move for your business. However, as Marcelino Castrillo, Managing Director of SME Banking at Santander UK, explains, reviewing your long-term strategy should not be just a seasonal consideration.

The end of the year is a time when businesses look back with pride on their recent successes, and look forward to surpassing them in the months ahead. With this in mind, this month we are focusing on what it takes to develop a successful long-term strategy and why it should always be front-of-mind. Strategy should be reviewed not just once or twice a year but all year round.
 
Losing sight of your business plans can be disastrous, as Polaroid learned to their cost before filing for bankruptcy in 2001. Polaroid executives had failed to heed warnings about the potential impact of digital cameras on the instant picture business. Focusing too closely on day-to-day business matters left the company unable to see the wood for the trees, as former CEO Gary T. DiCamillo explained in a Yale interview in 2008, “We knew we needed to change the fan belt, but we couldn’t stop the engine. And the reason we couldn’t stop the engine was that instant film was the core of the financial model of this company. It drove all the economics.”
 
Strategy in action
 
Putting time aside to create a long-term strategy is important, but putting it into action even more so. Take Apple, for example. The company's key strength over the years has been their willingness to adapt to market trends and seize opportunities when found. The company could have coasted through the 1990s and run a comfortably profitable computer business, but instead they ventured into the music market with the iPod. Then they stormed the phone market with the iPhone and created an entirely new market with the iPad. As Apple have proved repeatedly, strategy without action is worthless.
 
Fortunately, the coming year looks set to provide enterprising UK companies with plenty of opportunity to take action. “Business activity is up, more people are being employed, and optimism is rising fast,” says Stephen Gifford, CBI Director of Economics, responding to the CBI’s quarterly Service Sector Survey in November 2013. “Both consumer and business-facing service firms finally seem to be feeling the benefit of growing confidence and spending within the UK and globally.”
 
The funding’s the limit
  
However, as any CFO will tell you, your plans are only as big as your budget. This is why Santander Corporate and Commercial remains committed to doing all it can to help fund the strategies of ambitious UK businesses. The agriculture sector in particular requires more support than most in maintaining business plans amid hostile conditions, whether that’s seasonal fluctuations in cashflow or erratic weather patterns.
 
We recently renewed our commitment to support this sector by recruiting seven new Relationship Directors stationed around the UK, all of whom are agriculture experts with years of experience in their field. Meanwhile, our commitment to small and medium-sized businesses in general continues via our Breakthrough programme, a suite of funding and support initiatives aimed at fast-growth UK enterprises. The programme’s Breakthrough Growth Capital fund continues to grant businesses the funding and flexibility they need to enable their growth plans. You can read about how Breakthrough funding has supported the long-term strategies of several UK businesses, including veterinary practice YourVets, independent telecoms provider Southern Communications and healthy food takeaway Tossed. To find out more, contact your local Relationship Director and ask them what the Breakthrough programme can do to support your long-term business plans in 2014.
 
Here’s to a well-planned and prosperous new year!

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