Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Is now the right time to develop and grow your business?


Is now the right time to develop your business?

Introduction


We have been in the grips of economic recession for longer than most people care to remember; it feels like we have known nothing else.  Although key economic indicators have previously suggested that the crisis situation we find ourselves in would soon improve, so far there is no end in sight.

Although it has been a difficult time for many businesses, it is worth asking the question; is now the time to reflect on what might have been, or instead to seize the opportunities presenting themselves?  Is your business prepared for growth and success?

In this article we will examine why now is a great time to develop your business, and give you five things that you can do right now to kick-start your business growth programme.

Thinking about the thinking


If you are thinking about embarking upon any business development activity, you should probably ask yourself the following questions:

·         What do I want to achieve from this activity?

·         How do I go about reaching my goal?

·         How do I measure the success of any business development?

·         Good business and bad business – what is the difference?

·         What will happen if I do not develop my business?

·         Is this the moment to invest time in looking for new business?

So, let’s consider each of these questions.

With business development, as with business itself, it is essential to have a roadmap or plan to establish

a.       Where you are now

b.      Where you want to be (and how long you want to spend getting there)

c.       How you are going to get there

Without this plan, how will you be able to identify what it is that you want to achieve, and how will you measure how successful each of the methods that you have used has been?

Start by writing down what you want to achieve (for example; “I want to win one new customer in my chosen sector every week this year”).  Once you have committed this target to paper, consider HOW you will go about achieving this goal (for example, you might say “in order to win a new customer every week I will need to undertake a television advertising campaign”).

Using this example, if you were to undertake an advertising campaign you would undoubtedly want to know how your investment would be repaid and in what timeframe.  In order to understand this you will need some measurement of the success of your campaign; but what do you use? How many calls you receive after the advert has been aired? How many enquiries were converted into sales? How social media sentiment toward your business has changed since airing?

Always remember that when deciding to undertake a business development campaign you should make your objectives SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely)

Before you leap into a new campaign it would be wise to first understand your ‘cost to serve’.  A common mistake businesses make is to accept all of the work that is offered to them without calculating the AMOUNT that each piece of work will make them, but only when you understand this can you make a decision as to whether the piece of work is likely to be profitable or not. 

There are many reasons why businesses take work that is unprofitable, and there are often good arguments for doing so; but the difference between knowing that a piece of work is unprofitable before you start it, as opposed to starting it without understanding the margin implications is considerable. Making this distinction will help you to distinguish between good business and bad business without learning the hard way.

Many businesses abandoned business development when the current financial situation started to take hold, in the belief that if the business ‘tightened its belt’ it would be able to ride out the storm.  We know that whilst this has been a successful strategy for some companies (generally those with huge cash reserves) it has been the undoing of many others.

All businesses have to develop to survive and all companies need to assess their customer base to ensure that the risk of losing any one customer is mitigated and will not have a devastating effect upon the business as a whole.

In our opinion there is no time like the present to start developing your business and to start gaining an advantage over your competitors for the following reasons:

·         Many companies are ceasing trading; their customers will be looking for new suppliers

·         There is a wealth of experienced staff available on either permanent or interim contracts; it is an employers’ market!

·         Although funding is scarce, development funding is still available for businesses with high growth potential

·         You need (and want) to be in the best possible shape to move forward as the recession ends

Remember; if you don’t win new customers, your competitors will.

So, be encouraged by what we have said above. Take heart in the fact that now is the time to move forward. To get you started, here are 5 things that you should do right now to start your business development.

1.       Don’t be caught snoozing


Act now while you are still motivated to do something! Be a company that does, not thinks, and become one that not only survives, but thrives in the recession!  Start by writing down what you are going to do and by when.  Share it with your team and get them to buy in to your plans.  Understand what your unique selling points are and why they are attractive, identify your customer base, and develop a strategy for winning new customers.

Sooner or later we are going to come out of this economic crisis. Where do you want your business to be? At the front of the pack and ready to go, or still snoozing?

2.        Snap up a bargain


Businesses are not the only casualties of the recession – people are too.  Many fantastically talented people have found themselves unexpectedly out of work.  Now is a great time to bag yourself one of these great talents before someone else does.  Many senior executives are looking for opportunities on either a part time or interim basis, so think about taking on a non-executive Director who has the skills that you are looking for.  If you are a sole trader, why not think about taking a partner; someone who has skills that will complement your own (and someone to cover for you when you’re on holiday!).

3.       Failing to plan is planning to fail


Have a business plan and develop it into a clear strategy.  Without a business plan you will never know where you are going or even where you have been.  Will you know why and whether your business has grown, or whether your efforts have been a success?  You don’t have to be a slave to your plan, but you do need one.  Your business plan should take a 5 year view, with the most detail and emphasis being placed on the first 12 months.  And don’t think it ends there; review your plan and strategic goals at least every 12 months and refresh it for the coming year. In this way you can ensure that you have a long-term view out but without commitment to the detail beyond 12 months.

4.       Get your house in order


Most businesses are not successful by accident, but because they do the right things, they do them first, and they do them right.  In simple terms successful businesses develop themselves (doing the right things), get ahead of their competitors (doing them first) and have the processes and procedures in place to ensure that they can replicate their success over and over again (doing things right).  As a starting point, try reviewing your business processes from the point of view of your customers to see how easy you are to do business with.  Sometimes something as simple as this can be quite revealing (obviously doing the review is only the first part of this work – changing and adapting your processes comes next!).  Be ready for success!

5.       Don’t be shy


There is no room for modesty in business. As we say in the North East, ‘shy bairns get nowt’!  If you don’t tell your customers and potential customers about your products and services then who will? (clue: probably no-one).  Don’t be afraid of some self-publicity – use your website to tell people about the successful piece of work that you have just finished, use social media like Twitter and Facebook to promote your company, and ask your customers to endorse the work that you have done .

Use all of the resources at your disposal to tell the world about your business; tell the world just why your product is better than the rest, or even just “why we are awesome”.  Create a social media strategy, to understand which channels are right for your business and your customers, and don’t be afraid to try something new.  Once you have embarked on the use of social media you must keep it up (like any marketing or PR, you only start to see benefits when you use it well!).

Conclusion


Businesses that fail to develop will ultimately fail.  Businesses that don’t just survive but thrive in difficult economic climates are those that constantly develop and win new, profitable work. 

These are the businesses that will be ready for when the economic climate changes.

So do whatever you can to be a business that thrives. And if you need a bit of help, never be afraid to ask.



About Blue Box;

We are a team of Management Consultants and Business Advisors who specialise in helping business of all sizes, across all sectors to become and remain more profitable, to find and win more work and to delight and retain more customers.
Learn more about Blue Box and meet our team at www.blueboxconsultancy.com

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