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Question Time

Your starter for 10 – Can you describe your business in one sentence?

1.  As a business owner, do you understand what your defining DNA is?

2.  Do your customers or clients understand it?

 

If you can’t describe your business in one short sentence, neither can your customers. If customers can’t understand the message that is your business, it all stops there;  your concept of your business won’t be communicated onwards.

 

3. When did you last look from the outside in? – We’re all so familiar with our businesses, taking a step back and looking from a different perspective is worthwhile and usually overlooked.

4.  Are your customers able to gain a sense of what you offer? – Focus on your customer’s satisfaction but don’t neglect the business needs a core model.

5.  Is your business defined by itself or by only one part of it? – Consider if your business is interpreted for what it offers or only a part of what it does.

 

If you offer something unique it should be linked to your core model; consider all elements of the business. You may be able to offer more at very little cost. The value that makes you exceptional needs to be cost effective for you and apparent to your customer.

 

6.  Would your self-descriptive sentence fully support everything that is offered in the business? – Or are you describing the obvious, I’m a Florist, we’re a Boutique Hotel, It’s a Sweet Shop etc….

7.  Is clarity avoided in favour of cliché – Either by skirting around your core business and not stating the obvious or only stating the obvious and ignoring the core business.

8.  Is your business model clear? – Obviously you don’t want to confuse customers but equally so it’s important not to confuse the business model’s sustainability.

9.  Have you said everything you really want to say? –  Doubtful in one sentence.

 

If you started your business with the same model you’re operating now, stability is likely to be under strain and growth non-existent. The challenge is to balance what your customers want with additional value to clarify the business take on `who are you?’

 

10. Are you able to follow through? – Talking the Talk and Walking the Walk at the same time.

The most basic business model necessitates some ‘assumed’ metrics which make allowance for adjustment of prices or anomalies, therefore regular checks assist in identifying estimates from actual. Regular checks not only give an opportunity to adjust any over or under volume/price forecasts, confront anomalies and consider margins but, as small businesses often don’t have the marketing budget of similar large companies, the difference in value can be measured. The combination of checks will ensure the business model remains current and sustainable.

Turning 20 questions on its head might assist in identifying not only what your business is, but what it isn’t.

(Image credit: Leo Reynolds   Article credit: Copyright SUF)

 

 

 

 

 

April Brings a Shower of Changes.

Most small businesses look out for the perpetual barrier to their growth, tax and red tape, amongst the Budget. Amongst this years’ was a reduction in corporation tax,  measures to scrap large amounts of legislation, a three year freeze on new regulations for small businesses, a further year for small business rate relief and…  21 enterprise zones were announced. New business regulations usually come into place twice a year on 6 April and 1 October therefore amongst the first implementations, Corporation Tax – from Financial Year  April will drop from 28% to 26%, with returns being compulsory electronically, and Small Companies Rate falls from 21% to 20%. More information can be found on the Business Link  site  and, as for Enterprise Zones, what are they? Direct Gov  will explain in further detail.

Keeping costs down can go some way as an attempt to balance out rising inflation that businesses are experiencing. Re-visit terms or deals with suppliers, think about best value with regard to insurances or consider potential energy savings that might have been overlooked.

More or Less Change?

Good to hear that the number of insolvencies  across UK PLC dropped, however, many businesses are still facing tough times for all sorts of reasons. Although quarterly figures such as the  GDP showed a slight increase in economic growth to that previously given businesses need to be vigilant and have good insight into their own position, especially relating to cash flow. Late payments beyond trading terms appear to be on the increase for some businesses which only increases cash flow control problems;  a vicious circle ensues to which even the most successful business can fall victim. Small to medium size businesses have always been impacted by late payments but this seems to be increasing.

A timely reminder that when any credit is applied for its worthwhile checking through your records first rather than being turned down and effecting your credit footprint. The cost of credit continues to rise  and fees on existing borrowing are moving upwards. Lenders facing an increasing amount of expenses due to changing regulations and lack of liquidity, in turn will mean an increased cost for consumers; there is no doubt that lenders are stricter in the aftermath of the financial blowout.

Sum Change.

The FSA (Financial Services Authority) has approved collecting money from dormant Bank Accounts for the Reclaim Fund  at the Big Society Bank which will support good causes and to is to be run by Co-op Financial Services.  It is estimated that the fund will receive around £400 million from current dormant accounts for which part of the money will be held in reserve for customers who reclaim money from accounts they have forgotten about.

Web advertising topped £4bn spend  in a record high and eCommerce is showing no signs of flagging as the fastest growing retail sector. Entry barriers are so low that its essential for anyone in business to have even a rudimentary online presence as a marketing tool; without wanting to make online sales available, although selling online is a model which can be adapted to many existing businesses. Although we have come across some that don’t give out contact numbers, the obvious additional exposure to a what a business has to offer is immediate with a website as all types of services and products are sourced online and include trying to find business hours, availability of products or that contact number.

(Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF)

Drop the Dead Donkey – Plan, Strategy, Review

You’re born, you live and then you die. Allowing for the bits in between blowing it all apart, a simple narrative many of us can understand. It’s the bits in between that can get as complicated as a chemical equation. Whether choosing what to have for breakfast, how to get a rein on the economy or any of the things that come up as quoted by Underworld; job, family, tv, car, DIY, what to do on Sunday morning, there are pros, cons and perspectives everywhere. And, as soon as one problem goes away another turns up.

Not just in the financial industry do numbers pour out every day with another statistic to make another headline. There are astonishing analytics blogs overflowing with information, great economists  blogging their understanding and opinion can be heard from every type of news media available, however, often they don’t immediately relate to some businesses.

When the smaller business person is battling hits from up, down, and all around, inflation is devaluing assets, liabilities aren’t always matched. A business can be caught in a whirlwind, attempting to reduce its debts during traumatised times and trying to weather the storms of the current economy with a resulting bewilderment interpreted as complacency. Treading storm water can only be maintained for so long before becoming exhausted trying to minimise debt as a priority to maximising profit; a challenging U-turn, especially when lenders are risk-averse and have high charges and fees. For any whose foundations have been maximise profits to minimise debt, expecting to maintain and invest in themselves at the same time as protecting employees and themselves, all at a time of being extensively hit from supporting capital stresses, the situation can quickly turn to sink.

We’ve met many businesses who’ve taken a wrong decision at some time or other but that doesn’t, necessarily, make that business bad. We have also, on occasion, come across a business which, with all the will in the world, won’t ever be run efficiently and leaves plenty of room for improvement, which is disheartening for those whose business is desperate to be innovative and seeks out improvement.

Using our mantra, Plan, Strategy, Review – here are 5 ways that micro and small business could be enabled to gain some traction.

  • Value:  Value your business by valuing how it translates to others –  Plan, Strategy, Review
  • Prioritise: Life’s constant is that everything changes –  Plan, Strategy, Review
  • Adapt: Be aware of changes – Plan, Strategy, Review
  • Maximise: Potential –  Plan, Strategy, Review
  • Communicate:  With and about the business – Plan, Strategy, Review

 

A recent story told to us examples how this works, (not how businesses work generally, it should be read with tongue firmly in cheek).

Plan, Strategy, Review – A decision is taken to buy a donkey for £100.

  1. When it’s delivered the seller apologises that there is some bad news the donkey has `ceased to be`, `its dead’.  Plan, Strategy, Review the Value.
  2. The person asks for their money back and the seller says they can’t make a refund because they’ve spent the money. Plan, Strategy, Review the Priorities.
  3. The person decides to take the dead donkey and hold a raffle. Plan, Strategy, Review  how to Adapt.
  4. They sell 500 tickets at £2 each, making a profit of £898. Plan, Strategy, Review any Potential.
  5. £898?  Yes, the original £100 repaid, less £2 returned to the winning ticket who complained the donkey was dead. Plan, Strategy, Review effective Communication.

Not so massively complicated……..

 

(Image and  Article credit: Copyright SUF)

Charting Rise and Fall

March roars in as the UK economy shrank more than previously thought during the last three months of 2010. Gross Domestic Product slipped by 0.6% to minus 0.1%  amongst the slipping, sliding and freezing numbers for household spending, business investment, construction, finances and house price measuring. With calls going out from the CBI  for infrastructure investment, the BRC  asking for cost-easing for those in, or starting, a business, and small businesses  according to Sage’s International Business Index, saying they’re unimpressed in general with business support, March might just go out with a roar before spring and a Budget, with billions to be axed, arrives.

The Charts.

A rise was to be glimpsed in complaints to the Ombudsman, about financial services, by 15% in the second half of 2010 compared to the first half of the year, with Lloyds Banking Group topping the charts on a list that is made up from complaints about banks, insurance and investment firms and from which the FSA will publish its findings this month. Another chart topper and rise glimpsed amongst the headline making  is bankers bonuses with the aptly name Mr Diamond at the top.

Moving away from buildings, it would seem that farmland prices reached a new high  in the last half of 2010, with indications that commercial farmers are keen to expand production and capitalise on rising commodity prices. According to the Rural Land Market Survey commercial farmland demand outperformed residential.

A New Homes Bonus  scheme is possibly, according to National Housing Federation, to make the north-south divide rise when it creates more executive homes in the south, whilst halting construction of social housing in the north – because reward is linked to potential property value.

And….. Roll-Royce rolled into the charts via The Centre for Brand Analysis  as Britain’s No.1 Business Superbrand, toppling Microsoft, as the most respected brand in the UK index since 2007.  Judged by professionals from marketing, manufacturing and finance sectors it was rated against criteria of quality, distinction and reliability.

(Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF)

6 Steps to Expose Business

Fresh starts and positive attitude echoed around for the start of this year.

Again, full of gusto and mostly refreshed, with the chink of glasses being raised to new beginnings still ringing in ears….. until routine takes over.

No problem, there is the next fresh start of springtime around the corner, a time to dust off any long winter, until the distractions of the oncoming summer take over.

No matter.  Sunshine, holidays and any absence of mind can be repaid in the autumn with a back-to-school approach, that is, until routines slides in along with the darker nights.

No hassles, it’s almost the end of the year and there is a fresh start opportunity waiting around the corner…

In some form or another, we all do it, it’s part of the human condition. But how does this human condition affect the condition of a business? Which 6 risky practices do we hear from business guardians that have the potential to expose a business to the start of bad practices?

Exposure #1

I’m too busy.

  • Delegate or organise but don’t ignore. The potential pitfalls when the responsibilities of running a business are tucked under a mat means at least one almighty fall will be experienced.  By reviewing the roles and responsibilities of the business into different categories, in the zippy fast days of digital, the overwhelming nature of business can be readily assisted.

Exposure #2

I’m going to, later.

  • There’s no point in doing things now, it’s all too unsettled. Meanwhile the rest of the world keeps turning. Customers turn away, looking for better value. Effective staff move on, often feeling undervalued. Businesses move in and on, leaving little of value.

Exposure #3

I’ve tried things before and they never work.

  • An abstract concept that doesn’t fully explain what had been looked at, why it had been looked identified, how it was approached, and so on. Whatever had been considered necessary to try to assist the business could be revisited, for anything that might have been missed the first time.

Exposure #4

My business is running along just fine. I know it doesn’t need tweaking.

  • Great, if areas of the business have had a review, and not so great if they haven’t.  Delusion displaces and makes for a fragile state throughout the entire business, firm footings need facts.

Exposure #5

Everything is okay.

  • That’s a start, because otherwise the business might not be enabled to move forward if it can’t invest in itself by paying its way in terms of b2b relationships, development opportunities and the responsibilities towards members that make up the business team.There may, for example, be leakage which the assistance of a commercial Accountant, specialising in that business area, would identify immediately or by using an Agent a Landlord is ensured that Landlord and Tenant both  profit from being suitably matched.

Exposure #6

I don’t ever need to consider looking at how I’m running my business. I’m so incredible at running it that nothing will ever effect it. I am considerably successful.

  • We’ve actually met this person – several times – and, in our experience, it’s usually been someone who has lost interest in business and their business. Unless the  business is to close with all its assets taken into account, it’s a short-sighted attitude. Exit strategies are as susceptible to the unexpected as anything else in a business. Whether retail, leisure, service or property based, business needs monitoring.

Setting out with too big an idea which isn’t going to give immediate results and isn’t specific to your business is the certain way of blowing up any idea of ensuring that your business is monitored for self-gain.

It’s likely that the business is already overwhelmed  – therefore plan, strategy, review any approach with the objective of making a start that will become part of the business plan, the way it runs, the way it always runs…….Step by Step.

(Image credits: flattop341 and SUF.    Article credit: Copyright SUF )

Weathering the Economy

Contraction of the economy was, according to The Chancellor, `due to it’.  Supermarkets have blamed their flat sales on it , Ryanair claims some of its losses are due to it  and Greene King Sales were down because of it. The bad weather seems to be the reason many are citing recent decline in business, however, looking at GK’s  January upturn  it would appear from their indicator that we’ve all had enough of being inside, and are heading out.  The upturn will be interesting to watch for offsets in other areas of business. Meanwhile, Tesco-nopoly continue munching onwards  –  They’re trying out a cash for gold service  and have launched a tyre fitting service too.

Landlord Business

Speaking with Residential Landlords it would seem that an area of concern following that highlighted towards capital gains, at the start of the year, is tenant arrears and its effect.  When tenants are struggling to maintain their payments the effect for the landlord, in terms of annual returns, is for their long term profits and consequent re-investment. Astute Landlords having prepared themselves in anticipation of the see-saw economics and challenges, and have laid down plans. This collective of professional landlords, have throughout, introduced new business models to assist them through any changing times and ensured continued success within their business. There are however less experienced landlords who may not have the ability, or facilities, to cope through the ongoing changes. This will, in turn, have longer term effects for both landlord and tenant as the laws of supply-and-demand continue to play out. Whether minor or major issues, the responsibilities of being a Landlord require planning ahead for both the sake of both tenant and Landlord. For example, it would appear that some landlords haven’t yet prepared for the digital switchover process.  Fiscal challenges might likely seem that everything is going backwards but the likely consequences of stalling a tenant’s access to their TV might, by comparison, make such difficulties a walk in the park on a summer’s day.

Commercial Landlords  are facing extra bills as from April when the Empty Rate Relief is to be rescinded. It was the previous Government’s belief that by scrapping the 50%  relief from business rates, for owners of empty retail and office space, and the 100%  relief for warehouse and factory owners, they would encourage regeneration in towns and cities, because as tenants moved out, redevelopment would occur to attract new business, and avoid paying rates on empty property.  However, soon after empty rates were imposed, the recession struck and demand from businesses for new commercial space collapsed, landlords were left with both loss of rent and empty rates bills.  It is the then Government’s response of making an exemption for those with rental income of below £18,000 which is to be rescinded by the current Government.  April also sees a rates supplement in Scotland.  A Large Retailer Levy  is the Scottish Government’s proposed rates supplement for retailers with a rateable value of £750,000 or more. The tax increase, dubbed Tesco Tax, has incensed those affected and has yet to be voted on.

The End… 

Meanwhile, following the withdrawal of public funding, founders the CBI, along with the Institute of Directors, the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and chair Peter Jones have voted that the charity Enterprise UK is to close from April.

(Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF)

X  Marks the Spot: The NeXt Big Thing

Whoaaa!  A Dragon circled the world twice in three hours in December and, before doubt creeps in, this wasn’t after a wee dram or three.  Space X   launched and returned to earth its spacecraft.  This private company has recognised the potential for a commercial space station supply-run when NASA retires the space shuttle this year, maybe even an astronaut taxi service.  Constantly making refreshing news,  there are lots of big numbers  associated with this project  yet, in terms of inspiration, this X Factor doesn’t spark in the same space as X Factor for interest in The Next Big Thing - Which is ironic, considering entrepreneurs look for it, successful business has it and wannabees live for it.  So who, or what, sets the standards, gives the breaks or makes The Next Big Thing?

Publicity ensures any red carpet is rolled out for TNBT (The Next Big Thing) only when there is guaranteed payback. Whilst taking off on a space flight and flying around in a rocket is a dream for many, few have the potential to make it reality in their lifetime. Visionaries need finance and finance needs visionaries because these people understand what they want, and have the drive to achieve it.  The deep pocket’s chicken-and-egg scenario for which the ideas person has to consistently believe in themselves, and understand that their idea has to be profitable to inspire interest, otherwise there’s no going into orbit. The public have shown their interest in empathising with a person who goes from superior shower-singing, to recording artist, in a few weeks on X Factor and the X Prize  also illustrates that those who believe in themselves can get public support.  Money follows the scent of success and gets the ball rolling for TNBT which in turn inspires those still working with their hopes…..but how often is TNBT passed by, unnoticed and undiscovered?

To Infinity and Beyond isn’t light years away and, as a philosophy, nurtures TNBTs. However, back to gravity, meteoric rising isn’t always necessary. Devoting their lives to whatever they believe in, visionaries are the terriers of their space  as many a business will understand especially when it comes to having the ability but the lack of finance to support ideas. Anything should be possible, especially when combined with the advantage of enabling technology.  Just as the purchaser has turnaround power it’s important that small business believes, then understands, it too has turnaround power.

There is no doubt that businesses, business and people will be looking at not only their money for strategy and solutions, but increasingly, all areas of commercial interaction will be looking at The Next Big Thing; To Infinity and Beyond the Next Decade.

(Image credits: Jared and FreePX   Article credit: Copyright SUF)

 

There’s no doubt there’ll be plenty of news over the coming months but as the classic lyrics remind us `I read the news today, Oh boy…’   Sometimes it’s good to have a rest from the news, especially as it’s often a deep look at shallow news, only  learning such things as ` … how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall’.  Instead we thought we’d reflect on and muse about things a bit closer to  `Come on, come on, let’s work together’.

Besides the tedious links to classic songs, much to the embarrassment of one of us, during a high day and holiday request over the counter for a `Lucky Dip’,  the assistant responded with a look which might have been followed by `Sawdust is Aisle 10, left hand side, pet bedding’  but instead said `Which one?’ only to be responded to with: `The Classic!’  ….From which we now understand,  `It could be YOU’  but , for fairly obvious reasons, is unlikely to be us.  We tend to overlook the opportunity of a Lottery win and try not to ponder on what might have been.

Missed or lost opportunity becomes a vortex when reflected on for too long but, as another classic put it  `… all the things that you’ve seen will slowly fade away’.  Which is just the reason, as in the words of another classic  `…it’s just the simple things, pure incidentals, it’s like you wouldn’t even notice’  that are often worth giving a backward glance to before starting something new. Checking that nothing has been overlooked or if anything can be gathered amongst any debris from the past; and you might not ‘look back in anger’ in the future.

So what is it that we’ve learnt in the past year?  One of the things that we’ve noted is how quickly after a new idea is born, it spreads; which can be irritating when something is blatantly copied. However, it is said the best form of flattery is imitation, we’ll let it rest at that. We’ve learnt that the need to move quickly, especially with new ideas, is even more necessary.  Having spoken with some brilliant people over the past year, those  who genuinely know their product or service inside out, borne from knowledge and experience, shine out  as much as those who genuinely want to learn. Both being great to work with as they use and recognise their skills, abilities or specialism  for best advantage.  Lessons about the necessity of communication, at all levels, continues, and will, no doubt, continue to teach as technology evolves. Whilst the two lessons that shine out, in the immortal words of a great classic will `always and forever…  be together, forever …’ 

The necessity in business for Trust and Value ….. `that won’t ever change’

(Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF)

 

 


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