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Application of The Argenti System of Strategic Planning in Pickersgill Ltd

by Glen Ford, Argenti Planning Facilitator, UK

Peter Murphy, Managing Director and owner of Joseph Kaye Holdings Ltd, is no stranger to the Argenti System of strategic planning. He first came across Argenti in the early 1980s when it was first introduced into the business. It came into its own when he led a Management–Buy–Out of the business in 1998.

Peter Murphy: “Strategy was key for putting together the MBO. We used the tools we had learnt from Argenti. We had to re–do the plan due to shifts in the market and we were able to use these tools to adjust and then monitor the plan. Argenti contributed to my ability to lead the business through the buy–out and beyond.

Joseph Kaye Holdings Ltd is a typical small, owner–managed business. Based in Leeds, it has two operating companies, Pickersgill–Kaye Ltd and Pickersgill Electroplating Ltd. It employs around 100 employees specialising in high security locking systems and metal finishing. The business was able to pay back its vendor loans 4 years ahead of plan and was completely debt free by the end of 2007. There is no doubt in Peter’s mind that strategy has played a central part in this success.

Peter: “We have a resilient business model and this comes from the ability to act. We're good at planning, we can tweak our financial model and we know the impact upon our business. Having a clear strategy means we can implement very quickly. All the decisions we make are always with an eye on the longer–term. We know what is core in the business. There is a strong level of embedded working in the business. We have a good and well developed senior management team. We work well as team and this comes from having a shared view of our strategy. We talk about it in the car and over coffee, Argenti has helped us to think and act strategically. It’s more than a tool, it enables you to embed strategy as part of normal business life. The bottom line is it works.

SMALL BUSINESSES WANT PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS

Peter: “Most things on strategy are too woolly, too much about pie in the sky. Small business owners are practical people and want practical solutions. I’m always looking for things that are faster, easier and simpler.”

The business first came into contact with Argenti when they tried to develop a marketing plan in the early 1980s. They had formed a teaching company, known today as Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, with Leeds Metropolitan University. Part of the work was to create a marketing plan. However, they soon discovered this was impossible because they had no clear idea of their strategy.

Argenti provided a practical and down–to–earth means to develop a strategic plan. More importantly, it was well received and worked. However, the major benefit was this started the process of embedding strategic thinking into their normal working life.

Peter: “Every business should have a clear idea of its direction. Getting our strategy right means we can select the right priorities based on how they fit with our objectives. It also means we can communicate clearly to our staff and customers our plans and direction for the future. It may not always be good news but at least we can be clear about the future and that gives everyone confidence.”

Peter gives a recent example. They had always undertaken a major new product launch within their existing markets as part of their strategy. This helped keep them ahead of their competition but these projects had never delivered the full expectations. With this is mind they changed their product development tack to other markets and the initial results are encouraging.

Peter: “One of the important aspects of strategic development is the ability to get buy–in from the senior management team. If they have been involved and part of the process then ownership is greater.”

EXTERNAL FACILITATION

There is no doubt in Peter’s mind that the first time any business does strategy then they need someone to guide them through the process. It is not just about developing a strategic plan, is also about teaching managers how to do strategy so the next time around they can do it themselves. The Argenti System requires a planning facilitator, whose role it is to manage the process and ensure that everything keeps on track. It is a vital role as the managers will be spending most of their time managing day–to–day issues. You need someone who has presence around the Boardroom and who has a good grasp of business strategy already.

Peter: “The hardest part in any plan is implementation. Having an external facilitator means you stick to the plan and you do things quicker. Perseverance is key and that in part comes from having someone outside the business that keeps you on track.”

Peter does not have much time for management consultants that write him a report, only to recommend they hire more consultant time.

Peter: “I’m looking for people that can embed things in our company, such as training and knowledge transfer. Argenti is a means of training and embedding strategic thinking within the business so that managers are self–sufficient in the future.

“I’d say best of luck to anyone who wants to do this on their own – you’ll never stick to it and you need someone to guide you the first time.”

“I would encourage all businesses to have clear understanding of the direction for their business, especially in the current market. I think that is fundamental to the success of the business.”

Peter Murphy, MD, Joseph Kaye Holdings Ltd