Make time to plan – two hours each week

James Caan, CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw, on the importance of putting time aside to think about your business – and his very particular disciplined way of doing it.

“Very few business owners step back and plan; they spend all their time in the noise. Sometimes you can’t see the wood from the trees. It is so important to take the time to reflect, because you need to have the opportunity to know where you are going.

“I don’t think small businesses do plan long term. Planning can appear to be a luxury. The last five years have been very difficult; so for many businesses, it’s been a case of all hands to the deck.

“I am incredibly disciplined. I spend every Saturday between 10-12 looking at where my business is going, what it’s doing, whether we are making the right decisions, what we are trying to achieve. I have been doing this religiously for the past 30 years. I find those two hours, just on my own thinking about the challenges that the business faces, absolutely invaluable.

“There are nearly 40 businesses in my portfolio. My constant message to each chief executive is to ensure that they have a tried and trusted number two, because not having someone you can trust can be fatal.

“It is lonely, leading a business. If you don’t have a support structure, it’s not a great place to be. It is worth having a mentor – someone with whom you can identify and who can compensate for your areas of weakness. There are CEO forums that you can join. Take on a non-executive; it doesn’t matter if you know them already just as long as you can trust their objectivity.

“But have a support platform in place – as you will need help when something goes wrong, as it most surely will.”