With all the uncertainties businesses are facing, how can we make our businesses more resilient?With all the uncertainties businesses are facing, how can we make our businesses more resilient?
I think the few years are going to be the least predictable, and most uncertain, since I started my business.
None of us know how Brexit will impact the environment in which we are running our businesses. Even if we do not trade directly with the other 27 EU countries we will be impacted by how the split with the EU effects the UK economy.
Also there is the increasingly urgent issue of climate change. I think we will have to (and should) increasingly consider the environmental impact of the business decisions we make on a day to day basis.
This may mean that we change: the way we travel; the resources we use and how we use them; and the scope of work and the spread of clients we serve.
And then there is the ever increasing speed of technological advances to keep up with.
I can see that each of these issues will cause the costs of running our businesses to rise and the speed of change in the business environment to increase.
So what can we do to make our businesses as resilient as possible given the challenges ahead?
I have often talked about business planning and I am a firm believer that businesses which have a plan are more resilient than businesses run on a more laissez faire basis.
There are several reasons for this. A business run by someone who is very clear on their personal goals will be more focused than one where the business owner is less clear about what they want to achieve. The process of business planning encourages a review of personal goals, which are then reflected in the goals of the business.
Once you have a distinct goal it is easier to decide on the best direction for your business and you are better able to make decisions quickly in response to the changing environment because you are confident about the path you want to take.
This means that you can properly assess the resources you will need to employ get you to where you need to go – whether that’s people, money or training.
In short business planning helps you to build a business that is fit for purpose.
It’s that time of year when we come up with fantastic ideas and resolutions for the year ahead. Unfortunately, these ideas and resolutions, which seemed so fantastic in 2019, will have been forgotten very early on in 2020 The reason for this is that we tend to come up with woolly, general thoughts rather than a real plan for change.
How about making this year different? If you really want to change your business, your work/life balance, your effectiveness or any other aspect of your life, you have to think through what you want to achieve.
What are your timescales? What are your specific goals? How will you measure change? What resources will you need? Who do you need to help you?
Once you have thought through all the aspects of your idea write them down so you have a point of reference – and then DO IT!
By taking the time to plan you will find it much more likely that you will keep your resolutions and move forward.
For many businesses the last few years have been really tough – and the next couple may be just as challenging with continuing uncertainty around the Brexit decision.
If you own a service business there are things you can do to make yourself as resilient as possible and I include my take on the most important ones below:
In a service company the level of customer spend can be quite high. For this reason it is vital that you review the level of credit you are prepared to give clients and stick to it. My payment terms require that clients pay either by monthly standing order or on date of invoice. Even if they don’t pay immediately at least I can chase from the earliest possible point.
Ensure you invoice promptly after work is completed, and, if the job spans several months, agree stage payments with your client so they don’t owe you more than 1 months worth of work.
Bear in mind that none of us really knows what is going on in another company. A seemingly sound company can be on the verge of collapse due to cash flow problems. Credit checking services can help you assess the credit worthiness of a business, but remember their information is out of date to some degree and they don’t pick up the full picture. The only way to ensure you don’t get caught out is to collect the money owed to you as quickly as possible.
Remember, even the banks are reluctant to be banks at the moment – so don’t fall into the trap of acting like one!
A key way to thrive is to provide the BEST service you can and be as close to your customers as possible. I see many service providers who think they can get away with average service and who assume clients will stick with them regardless. This is an arrogant assumption which will lead them, quite rightly, to lose good clients to much more customer orientated businesses.
For any business, but particularly for service companies, the relationship you have with your clients is king. A client who knows you well, and believes you are giving him the best, most focussed service available, is unlikely to shop elsewhere, even if he has the possibility of getting the service ‘cheaper’.
Build your referral network
We all know that people buy from people. You are much more likely to engage a supplier who has been recommended to you by a trusted advisor/contact than one you have met fleetingly at a networking event.
For this reason I think it is important to build up a network of people around you who:
– although they are not competitors to you, have the same types of customers as you do.
– understand exactly who an ideal client is for you so they can spot one when they meet them
– understand exactly what you do and the problems you solve for your clients
– are people you would be happy to refer to your contacts so the relationship is mutually rewarding
If you have a strong network you can be much more focused in your marketing and will be much more likely to get the type of new clients you need.
Clearly groups such as Met Walking are a great way to build a strong network of like minded people!
Last month my hubby and I went to the US on holiday. This entailed a 10 hour flight to Las Vegas by the end of which our bottoms thought our legs had been chopped of – you know the feeling! Anyway the flight was made so much better because of the little things that happened during the flight – even though we were just bog standard economy passengers.
Firstly, and most importantly, the Virgin staff were good humoured and did everything they could to deal with our little requests – such as getting a green tea bag for me from 1st class! They were cheerful with big smiles, polite and courteous even though they had a full Boeing 747 to cater to. I even had a chat with a couple of lovely stewards as we were waiting to go through immigration – they were so friendly despite being at the end of a long shift of dealing with us passengers and probably desparate to get to their hotels!
Secondly, the in-flight food was really nice and honestly the best I have had. Not only was it tasty but the hot food was piping hot! The peice de resistance was the Gu chocolate dessert which was always going to have me at “hello”!!
It’s great when you get something more than you bargain for and I think we should all try to find the small things we can do to make our clients happy. Of course we need to do the job we are paid to do in the best way we know how.
But, if we want to be recommended and for our clients to be really happy, we need to find those extras that may be unexpected but appreciated.
After all, Virgin’s job was to get us from A to B and there are some airlines who congratulate themselves on doing JUST that – and even give themselves a round of applause for being on time (what we are paying them to do)! But they forget that they are in the service sector – and that customers like to be treated well!
I was once surprised by a client who wrote this: “Fiona…has an incredible ability to collate, simplify and explain financial data that can then be understood and used by any non-finance manager, all delivered with patience, courtesy and, most importantly round here, a sense of humour!”
Who knew a sense of humour was an important attribute of an accountant!”
Is this story familiar to you? A business person who is successful in their field but starting to get bogged down in the day to day running of their business. In particular, administration and bookkeeping are starting to grind and take the shine out of their enjoyment of their businesses?
This is a common story but one that has a simple solution – DELEGATION.
We may have many ‘good’ reasons why delegation is hard and why we should do all the ‘easy’ jobs in our businesses:
– it can be expensive to pay someone else
– perhaps they will do the job wrongly or prove unreliable
– it will take time for them to settle in and the process will be distracting
However, you cannot escape the truth that however much you try to ‘create’ time by managing it better, there will only ever be 24 hours in a day! We cannot, like Superman, create extra time just by wishing for it.
So I would answer each of the objections above like this:
– You are much more valuable to your business than you may credit. Your time is likely to be worth much more to your business per hour than the £20-£25 per hour you might need to pay an administrator/bookkeeper.
Also there are jobs which only you can do in your business. These undelegatable jobs include creating business strategy, and leading and managing your business (even if you work alone your business needs to be managed!). If administration and bookkeeping are keeping you so occupied you do not have time for strategy, or management, then your business will suffer considerably.
– Are you really sure you are the best bookkeeper/administrator anyway? Surely you did not start your own business to play around with the books or to file!
– If you engage a trained bookkeeper they will settle in very quickly. Also, because they already know what to do as a bookkeeper you won’t have to spend time showing them what to do.
So do yourself a favour. If you have too little time to do the important things in your business – DELEGATE!
Last month I wrote about the conference I had recently spoken at and how great that was.
Well, since then I have had a variety of ‘wins’ I would like to share with you because they came about because I was able to just take ideas and run with them – surely one of the biggest advantages of running my own business.
Firstly, my second book that had been launched at conference started to sell. I had written it primarily to accompany my conference talk so I had 10 copies printed to sell there – without much expectation that any one would want one! I sold those copies quickly so I decided to promote the book’s availability on Amazon.
Since then I have steadily sold further copies and now there are 60 out there in the big wide world and apparently being read – a real success from my point of view given the very specialist nature of the subject matter.
So it got me thinking was there a lack of training out there – a gap I could fill?
Several of my contacts agreed with me and so I set about creating and then publicising a pilot workshop to be held in Bristol at the end of September.
I have had such a great response that I am not only running one workshop but two and I have a list of people who want to be kept informed of workshops I might be running in other parts of the UK.
Then, out of the blue I was contacted by company I had never heard of before that wanted to be involved in sponsoring the workshops. It turns out they work closely with a good contact of mine, which is how they came to hear about what I was doing.
It’s all been very exciting.
Finally, I have been so motivated by these successes that I became inspired into writing my third book. I woke up at 5.30 one morning with lots of ideas buzzing in my head. So I got up and just started writing!
I have not accomplished so many things, which would normally be right outside my comfort zone, so quickly, at any time in my career so far! I feel completely energised.
It just goes to show what can be accomplished if you just crack on!
This time last year I wrote about Groundhog day, the film in which Bill Murray finds himself stuck reliving the same day until he gets it ‘right’.
There is a similarly themed film called About Time where the men in the family can go back to any time in their lives they like and do things differently.The hero eventually discovers that, after going through a period of living every day twice, just by making the most of each day as it happens he can have a great life without having to go back at all.
It’s an intriguing idea.
After all who amongst us has never had a time we wish we could relive and change the way we behaved, or the irreversible decisions we may have made?
Most of us in business have at some point – or indeed most points – felt we are making things up a little as we go along. None of us have crystal balls so we cannot see the effects of our decisions before we make them.
All we can do is make the best choices we can given the information we have available at the time. We cannot go back and change decisions we have already taken. If it turns out a decision was wrong there is no point worrying about something we cannot change. We have to make the best of the circumstances we find ourselves in and learn from the mistakes we have made.
In fact most very successful business people have made huge errors in judgement at one time or another. What often differentiates them from the rest of us is that they don’t dwell on these errors.
In the words of Richard Branson, who has had his fair share of business failures: “Over the years, my team and I have not let mistakes, failures or mishaps get us down. Instead, even when a venture has failed, we try to look for opportunities, to see whether we can capitalise on another gap in the market…[after all] business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another coming along.”
I think taking this approach is the way for us to take the worry out of making the wrong decision. If it can work for multi-millionaires – why not for us!