In last week’s Sunday Times, Waitrose managing director Mark Price gave an insight into his strategy for safeguarding sales against an impending price war led by the German discounters.

Giving customers a free coffee and newspaper is cheaper than taking 1% off their bills, he said, and gives shoppers far better value than the £220 or £350 they would need to spend in Tesco to earn the equivalent amount in Clubcard points.

This got me thinking about how an independent retailer would go about making change in their business, altering their plan or preparing it for the future.

I experienced one possible strategy four days earlier when meeting with a business networking group I am a part of. It involved asking just three simple questions: what do you want, what’s missing from your life and what are you going to do about it?

Truly understanding what makes your partners, your staff and yourself tick is a good starting point

Clive, who I partnered with, runs a high-end interior design company. After going through the exercise, we established the thing he wanted most was more time back to spend with his son and ride his bike. What’s preventing this is the fact that, by and large, he is the business. When he’s not there, everything stops.

He needed to spend more time working on the business and less time in the business, we agreed. His first action is to write down all his tasks and check what he needs to do, what he should delegate to others and what resource he would need to bring in to support this.

Whatever your strategy for preparing your business for the future, truly understanding what makes your partners, your staff and yourself tick is a good starting point. And it may only need three questions.

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