The complexities in running a business very often see business owners becoming expert jugglers, with the need to deal with numerous tasks and a diversity of issues, some of which may be ironing out problems that you and the business face on a day-to-day basis.
In my capacity as a business coach dealing with a diversity of businesses, I have identified nine real-time challenges and detailed some strategies to help you through those challenges.
Financial management is probably at the very top of the challenges list for many reasons. Our success is pinned, indeed firmly stapled and tied to this crucial area of our business. Many aspects of a company's actions and decisions directly impact on our financial situation. Cash flow, profit margins, overheads and funding requirements are all conundrums many of us deal with daily.
The best method for reducing the impact of this crucial subject is to look at creating tools and systems that help you to manage the business finances more efficiently: budget forecasts, comprehensive costing models, cashflow forecasts, labour models, efficiency calculators. Greater control and instant knowledge is essential for financial management; your fingers must be 'kept on the pulse' of the business at all times.
We are consciously and subconsciously consistently measuring a businesses performance. A trait of many business owners is to analyse continually, even micromanage, and worry about their performance, which becomes increasingly impossible to do as we grow.
However, measuring performance can be achieved with a comprehensive list of key performance indicators (KPIs). Creating this report and having the systems in place to provide accurate performance-based information in your business will increase efficiency and help you to concentrate on other areas of the company to make those essential marginal gains. The typical areas you feel you should be focusing on, but never seem to have the time to do so.
Regulation and compliance
Those regulatory requirements are fear-inducing and rather laborious administrative tasks we all have to consider and adhere to: Health and safety, GDPR, accreditations, employment legislation, and other regulations have made the task of a business owner ever more complicated in the modern age of business.
To reduce the challenge of regulatory compliance, I would strongly suggest it is time for delegation or outsourcing if you can. Either a competent, trained, member of staff or an external consultant is the correct answers to this challenge. Don't burden yourself or use your valuable time as the company compliance officer.
Uncertainty about the future
We will all recognise the challenges of recent times. Political turmoil and uncertainty have prevailed over the country for a few years. However, it has been something out of our control. Put that to one side. The other challenges are identifying future trends, the market and the economic climate.
I would suggest this is a crucial part of your business planning. Put aside any uncertainties and focus on the opportunities for your business. You can only work on the areas you can control, and look for innovative strategies you can implement with knowledge and confidence having conducted the associated research. Besides, remember that opportunities can be internal, not just external and are invariably cheaper.
We all take advantage of technology in one shape or other, and we realise that the very same technology brings a degree of complexity to our every day working practices. Technology is always a challenge when you are looking to invest. Making the right decisions around software and equipment is crucial to the degree of success we can achieve.
My advice would be to look at an independent expert to assess your systems to make analytical recommendations for consideration. An expert will be able to review and identify the best fit for your business, whether that is customer communications or internal systemisation. Look for independent consultants without allegiances to a particular product. They will give you an impartial view, as well as the expertise to deliver and the ROI.
You can pretty much align this area with technology. Practically every one of us in business in 2020 will be using at least one form of technology to help us manage our customers. Unfortunately, sometimes the very same technology is being used by disgruntled customers to share their displeasure with us. Often, unwarranted.
One of the tools I recommend is to map the customer journey in detail from the first contact to the provision of the service or product. It helps your teams to understand their role in that process but also identifies any loopholes or gaps where customers can fall through, further disappearing into the ether, never to be seen again.
Maintenance of that all-important reputation.
We should probably rename the word marketing to 'reputation management' or at the very least, add the word reputation to marketing. Everything now in business is about status: Reviews, testimonials, case studies and other numerous locations where feedback is collected, all impact on our business success.
Managing that feedback and ensuring you are dealing with the disgruntled customer as well as thanking the numerous happy customers is crucial to maintaining the business reputation and creating further sales.
The explosion of data
To discover how much data has influenced business is to appreciate this astounding figure. 90% of the world's data has been created in the past two years. Keeping it safe, adhering to regulations, learning from it, gaining insights and using it proactively will protect your businesses as well as enhance opportunities.
For managing our data, there is a vast choice of software tools we can use. CRM is the most accessible resource for holding data, and will also give you a platform you can use to share that data with your marketing team and service providers. Just make sure everyone has GDPR compliant systems in place to secure data that is shared.
I have written a great deal on this subject and investing to make improvements to your business model is very important; you should never maintain the status quo because they'll always be more agile competitors in the market place who could take advantage of early opportunities.
Change is inevitable, but in this day and age, it is constant and vociferous. Sometimes it is tough to keep abreast of, and we are continually researching to identify what the commercial opportunities are. In the food industry, for instance, vegetarianism and veganism are currently making headlines, and the industry has reacted accordingly. Always allocate time every week or month to review the market place and explore new commercial opportunities. It should be a regular diarised item and empower your team to be creative; the strategy does not have to be 'top-down.'
My philosophy around the challenges we face today is very positive; we can become stale as individuals. Our businesses require constant analysis, and that is why every business owner needs to have the resources in place to allow them to face the 'headwinds' that come in our direction. Delegation is a necessity, not a luxury in today's business world. The more we can delegate to our team or outsourced professional resources, the more focused we are to grow our businesses.