How to manage businesses through choppy waters


How to manage businesses through choppy waters. In this episode Judith Germain speaks to David Taylor Smith on managing businesses through choppy waters. David also provides an overview of his career, which has spanned public service, the charitable sector, and the business world. He is currently writing a book about the meaning of Britishness and the role of the landscape in shaping national identity.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the market deeply to prioritise and identify opportunities
  • Focus on what you can control – productivity, efficiency, customer service
  • Maintain pricing discipline – discounting often stems from lack of confidence, not market forces
  • Adopt an offensive strategy by actively pursuing competitors’ customers
  • Leverage digital tools and an agile mindset to experiment quickly and fail fast
  • Ensure you have the right organisation structure, people, systems, data and culture to execute


Socialised Maverick Leadership Style

  • Independently thinking for the greater good, externally focused
  • Willing to break rules if they don’t make sense, passion for serving
  • Providing certainty in uncertain times by grasping and defining situations

Not Being a Denier

  • Validate data showing the situation has changed
  • Act swiftly instead of plowing towards the iceberg
  • Create a culture of openness to surface issues

Cash is Key

  • Rigorously focus on cash flow and getting paid, especially in downturns
  • Don’t let receivables pile up while doing work

Focus on What You Can Control

  • Don’t dwell on uncontrollable market factors
  • Control customer delivery, productivity, efficiency
  • Make the business lean and efficient

Maintain Service Levels

  • Don’t cut into service quality during tough times
  • Prioritise service to retain customers and avoid complaints
  • Invest in development to enable strong service delivery

Attack the Competitors

  • Pursue competitors’ top customers aggressively
  • Understand competitors to learn from them
  • An offensive strategy ties up competitors defending

Pricing Discipline

  • Discounting often stems from sales team’s lack of confidence, not market forces
  • Scrutinise pricing decisions, consider value-based pricing
  • Avoid a race to the bottom on pricing

Identify Growth Opportunities

  • Look for new markets, revenue streams to offset declines
  • Understand your essential value and where else it can be deployed

Digital Transformation

  • Leverage digital tools for intense data analytics and creativity
  • Enable rapid experimentation and failing fast at low cost
  • Adopt an agile mindset to deal with ambiguity

In this conversation David discusses the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation, highlighting the ability to experiment and fail quickly, as well as the need for an agile mindset rather than just following processes.

He outlines three key elements for executive teams to navigate uncertainty: understanding the market, having an effective organisation, and addressing any gaps before facing choppy waters.

David Taylor-Smith served in the British Army and is a former Private Equity CEO and FTSE 100 Board Director. He has run businesses in more than 70 countries. He now chairs two Private Equity businesses and a family owned company. He is a Senior Advisor to a Swiss Bank and a German Industrial Group. He is a charitable trustee and recently walked 3,000 km covering the length of the UK in aid of charity. He is widely regarded as a corporate turnaround and growth specialist.

Maverick leadership is all about thinking outside the box and challenging the status quo. It’s about having the courage to take risks and the confidence to lead in a way that is authentic and genuine.

But amplifying your influence as a leader isn’t just about having a strong vision or a big personality. It’s also about having the right leadership capability and being able to execute on your ideas and plans.

The consequences of not having the right level of influence as a leader can be significant. Without the ability to inspire and motivate others, you may struggle to achieve your goals and make a real impact.

How Influential Are you? Take the scorecard at and see. 

David Taylor-Smith can be found on LinkedIn here.

You can listen to Episode 436 on any of the popular podcast platforms or apps (including Spotify, and Audible). If you prefer to listen to your browser you can do that below. Enjoy!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here