Most business owners have the luxury as some might say, or opportunity to shut the business doors before Christmas, and not return in any full-time capacity until the new year has arrived, and I would guarantee that first day back was full of trepidation and… here we go again, and what will the new year bring? Getting motivated and ready for the new year can be a tough task, but an important one for all businesses to start on the right footing, and create that momentum which will see the business experience that much desired successful years trading.
The adverse weather, dark mornings and evenings, and post festivity doldrums is common for us all, but as business owners we have no choice but to snap out of it, dismiss any negativity and hit the ground running. So, hopefully I can go some way to helping you get motivated, focused and ready for 2018.
So where to start?
If you have already set your plans in place for the new year, you are probably now implementing the strategies and improvements you have put in place, but if you haven’t managed to make plans, or are still fire-fighting from the aftermath of business in 2017, a good place to start is in fact to look at the performance of your business last year through hard data analysis: financials, KPI’s, operational and sales performances. The good and bad points, and look at the improvements you can make now for the year ahead.
As business owner’s we learn from our historical business activity continually. We look at refining our business model, so we either don’t make the same mistakes, or look at methods to create those all important marginal gains across the businesses operations, marketing, sales and finances. The success we desire essentially comes down to continually improving the business model. The following are a few pointers for you to consider, but as a business coach this also provides an overview of the areas I work on with my clients, but of course every business is different, so the strategies we adopt are purely bespoke to that business.
So, what improvements can you make in your current operations?
This is the time that recruitment consultants and agencies are hitting businesses hard. People tend to look for new opportunities so CV’s for agencies to market to new clients are a plenty. This is one of the busiest times for recruitment.
Looking at operations with considerations around expanding the team, that much overdue training for staff, and investment into the mechanics of how the business functions. If your business lacked in skills last year, it will need to invest this year to stay competitive and attractive to those new prospects that will come your way. Efficiency, effectiveness and being able to market something new around your operations for 2018 should be a key consideration for your plans this year. What can you do to improve your offering, and what infrastructure do you need in place to achieve this?
So, to recap:
- Look at the current skills and resource levels in your business, are they ready to cope with your high growth this year?
- Do you need to implement some extra training for your team, to improve your offering to your clients?
- Are the mechanics of your operations able to cope with anticipated growth? Do you need to invest to stay competitive and attract new clients?
- Do you have new ideas for products and services with something innovative you can deliver in 2018?
What about marketing?
Marketing is the life blood of any business, and reviewing your current marketing strategy is absolutely essential. Typically, the strategy should go through a major review before the start of a calendar or financial year, and if you work on a calendar year basis, you should really have your budgets and forecasts in place. If not, this will help to nurture some direction for 2018.
Marketing is a complex subject, and constantly evolving as technology changes and influences how you should market to your audience, so a good place to start is to look at the methods, messages and technologies you are utilising. The marketing agency I partner with regularly reviews the technology, methods and messages, with a view taken that nothing should be overlooked, and everything considered. It is common for businesses to maintain the status quo, i.e., advertising in the same location, keeping the same creative direction for your marketing collateral without looking at it on a campaign basis or the ROI’s. All too often taking the safe option. Making use of your time to explore diverse platforms and new creativity that will help to improve results is essential. Every day in the field of marketing brings new sophisticated tools for providing greater insight into your marketing activity, and teaching you how to evolve your marketing messages to increase results. Small gains for most businesses can mean exceptional results, so refining the tools, messages and methods of delivery should all be part of your overall marketing plan.
So, to recap:
- Do you need to freshen up your marketing collateral, or strengthen your messages and brand to attract more clients?
- Should you review how and where you deliver your marketing? Are you marketing in the right places?
- Are there new and innovative tools you can utilise that will save you time and make your marketing more effective?
- Does your database need expanding or improving to be more targeted with your marketing activity?
Indeed, with marketing there are numerous questions and answers to be had when reviewing a full strategy, and something all businesses should be doing regularly.
Is your sales team ready to perform?
If Marketing is the life blood of a business, then sales are the nutrients needed to make every business successful. To feed your business with the right nutrients it is important to first look at the past performance of your sales activity, and make a list of areas where improvements can be made. 2017 figures are of course a great place to start, and making comparisons to previous years. Looking at the reasons why you gained the business you did last year will nurture ideas on how you can improve your sales procedures to gain more. It can be something as simple as your level of competence in how quickly you followed up on prospective business, or how well you managed your sales management processes. I read recently that businesses can lose up to 20% of their potential sales by being inefficient with their internal communications. Sales management tools are essential for recording sales activity and opportunities, providing the means to remind us not to miss an opportunity through something as simple as automated reminders, or indeed a place to record that all important piece of potential business through the communications you have with clients. If your sales records are paper based, look at evolving to a digital cloud based alternative that you can access anywhere, and allows you to be more efficient and effective.
So, what to review with sales?
- Should you be looking at your current database and sales management process, and put in place improvements and tools that will help you to manage sales more effectively?
- What tools do your sales professionals need in place to be more effective in front of the prospective client. Do they require more expansive marketing materials?
- What performance based incentives can you put in place to induce a hungry sales force?
- Cross selling of products and services, are there gaps in your client base where existing clients could buy more from you?
What financial improvements can you make?
Whenever I visit a client for the first coaching session, finances are certainly the dominant subject in the conversation that entails. Hidden profits can be uncovered, selling too cheaply is common, and improvements in cash flow in most cases are there to be implemented. It’s a vast subject, and equally open to big improvements.
Cash flow is probably the most emotive aspect for most business owners, and there is no greater method of improving cash flow than increasing the level of profitable sales and indeed percentage of profit. However, the intracacies of the financial competence of any business can be quickly uncovered, which can be sometimes embarrassing for the business owner, but in my opinion extremely rewarding. Finding ways of improving cash-flow is exciting, and nothing more positive for a business owner to experience the rewards that come from a financial review of their business. It can be something as simple as overcoming the fear to ask for pro forma payments or the cost of materials in advance, which in turn has a major positive impact on cashflow
So, how are you going to improve your finances this year?
- Within your current spending, are there savings you can make?
- Could you increase your profit margins by reviewing your pricing? Could this unlock a few per cent that will have a hugely positive effect on your bottom line?
- Can you make improvements on how quickly you get paid? Could this be incentive based, or being more vociferous with chasing outstanding debts?
- Could you be a little too cautious about asking for pro forma payments, or staged payments that will improve your cash flow?
Having coached over fifty businesses, I can honestly say the financial aspects of running a business are pretty uncomfortable for most business owners. I would guarantee that most businesses that have fallen from grace more often than not is because they haven’t managed cash flow effectively. Some simple changes in how they managed finances could have seen them still be around today and proving very successful.
With the economic forecasters predicting slower growth in some areas of the economy in 2018, we will undoubtedly see some casualties. However, businesses who plan to succeed, set goals, and carry out those plans effectively will still be here and flourishing and ready for 2019. My role as a coach is to make sure that happens with my clients, and help owners put in place the infrastructure to be successful this year and beyond. We target a minimum of 20% year-on-year growth, and in many cases achieve a great deal more, and plan for an average of three years ahead.
If you would like me to help you plan for success this year, I provide an initial two-hour introduction to business coaching and how it works, and we will review your plans and what you want to achieve for 2018. Contact me today to find out more!