01 11 2011
Mixing Business Markets
An interested twist to understanding your customer was explained to us via a street market trader who, settled amongst the fruit and veg stalls, was laying out a display of woolly winter gloves, mittens and hats. He told of an extension to his product range during the past summer months; Fruit.
Seasonal clothing plus fresh fruit, how’s that work?
The brain rain started up to the microwave ‘ping’ sound. Of course! High price inflation has affected prices in this billion pound retail industry, combined with unseasonal weather, rise of supermarket share, high street turbulence, etc. The supply/demand balance became tricky. He USED to sell fruit. Seeking new market opportunities he’s now set up a winter stall with winter accessories.
Don’t make a simple idea complicated!
He went on to explain… In summer the woolly hats are caps, the gloves are traded for cotton bags, the earmuffs exchanged for headbands. Amongst fresh fruit stalls he’d decided to try out fake fruit as a stall decoration to add to the retail mix of the market.
When the marketing mix, for promotion, is balanced between product, price and place; with the ‘product’ offering what the customer wants, at the right price in the right market, the blend for marketing can be as sweet as a naturally sweet smoothie. The core to a business rarely changes; the difference is in the customer’s perception of what your product is, be it, apple seller to zookeeper and anything in between. Understanding the customer mix is the counter balance for the marketing mix. The frequency of a customer, what is purchased, when it’s purchased, applies to all businesses. To understand your business is to understand your customer.
Both this stall holder’s business mix and the street market retail mix might have benefited more if he’d invested in promoting the health benefits of fruit and vegetables and wearing a shade-giving cotton hat or cap through Summer or, the health benefits of fruit and vegetables and keeping warm with gloves and scarf in Winter instead of investing in the unsold plastic fruit he bought following a woman clearing him out of his original stall display. The clue to understanding your customer being her declaration, ‘that should stop them eating the real stuff!’
We can only assume his investment was aimed at the “don’t like brown marks or the supplementary protein known as fruit fly on the goodies in the fruit bowl” market.
(Image credit: markhillary Article credit: Copyright SUF)
01 11 2011
The average private sector pay award given to employees of 2.6% is half the most recent inflation figure, Income Data Services has shown, whilst a snapshot of FTSE 100 Directors showed a 42% rise as average rising to 49% when adding in other Directors.
Any spending bonuses on homes abroad should be aware of a 200-strong team of investigators and specialists, part of the ‘affluent unit’, who have been charged with identifying well-off individuals who are avoiding and evading taxes and duties as part of an HMRC clamp down on those who have earnings from homes abroad.
An N.I. holiday, exempting employers from contributions for around the first six months for any new member of staff they hire, has been called for in a help to target youth unemployment, as tax incentive at the same time as a Job Index has shown an 8 point rise during the last month which brought job opportunities back to levels at the start of the year.
Apparently the profits of British banks could be inflated by as much as £4bn due to a bizarre accounting rule that allows them to book a gain on the fall in the value of their debt although the Eurozone woes continue to distract from domestic challenges Barclays and RBS are set to announce £2bn profits and show they are on track to hit targets despite the eurozone crisis.
From November around six million children under 18, who are UK residents and do not have a Child Trust Fund (CTF), will be eligible for a Junior ISA. The limit for Junior ISAs will be set at £3,600, for those who are eligible and able to make the savings. To ensure that children with a CTF are not disadvantaged, the CTF savings limit will treble from £1,200 to £3,600, aligning it with the new Junior ISA limit. Funds in a Junior ISA will be locked-in until age 18 and roll over into an adult ISA on maturity. Children will be able to have one cash and one stocks and shares Junior ISA at any time, with an overarching annual contribution limit of £3,600. This is an increase from the previously proposed limit of £3,000.
Healthcare Estates 1-2 November Manchester Central
Cake International 4 – 6 November NEC Birmingham
World Travel Market 7 – 10 November Excel London
The Landlord and Letting Show 16 – 17 November NEC Birmingham
Business Start-Up 17 -18 November Earls Court London
(Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF)
10 10 2011
Don’t Make a Hassle of Redirecting Your Small Business to Big Business
Giving business any edge is a combination of methods, beginning with taking charge, resulting in relieving pressure points. Via the route of creating a business that your customers want as first choice; not something that is convenient until another comes along with a better offer.
There is a perverse excitement floating around challenging times which, reacted to by business, can engage customers. Turning the hassle, the continual irritations, frustrations and troublesome annoying inconveniences that effect and complicate every day, for your customer or your business, to mutual benefit. Business thinker Adrian Slywotzky uses the term hassle map for big business market gap identifying but there doesn’t seem any reason that small and micro business, who are interested enough to want to know about their customers’ or their own grizzles, can’t adapt the fundamentals of the hassle map for improvements.
Some businesses adopt an `all change is not growth and all movement is not forward’ philosophy because their model and customers appear to be content. The hairdresser, mechanic or dentist who never works outside 9-5 hours, the builder who gives a basic estimate without any guidance to other costs the customer might be facing, the landlord who cuts corners; the list is exhaustive in terms of what a business perceives as good value, exemplarily service or a positive experience. It might appear that customers’ needs are being met but what does your customer perceive as a frustrating element that they’d be willing to trade loyalty in a flash should a better offer come along? Or what has become a routine to your business that appears to work but is leaving the business exposed?
There is no denying that confronting the truth is hard, yet the risks paradoxically decline because anything becomes probable when the door to business is thrown open wider. Radical improvements are available to any business willing to get of its backside, take a look from the outside in, and seize the opportunity.
5 Opportunities for Small Business to Work with Customers, Reduce Costs and Increase Efficiency
- Waste comes in many guises for both business and customer; ineffective marketing, staff potential, misdirected advertising, overbuying or under buying, financial products. An exhaustive list which requires someone to take responsibility and organise for mutual benefit and cost /capital savings.
- Time also comes in many guises for both business and customer; mismanagement is the core challenge in all aspects of the business along with unimaginative ideas for customer and ultimately business benefit. Relieve the pressure points for mutual benefit. Lower disruption times, become accessible, increase efficiency and profit.
- Challenge your business and your customer; inspire and be inspired, seek out the problems that might not be obvious but are creating hassles, seek out budgets or cost cutting, be aware of value.
- Test yourself, be your own customer or staff and see if your ‘product’ is satisfactory from the outside looking in; pay close attention to detail or feedback, identify your business ‘message’ before the exercise and aim for clarification as post objective.
- Polish the Value; The business is your family silver, look after it and everyone benefits. Take out any scuffs and make it shine with a magnetic quality. Polish off the bits you or your customers don’t like.
There are many hidden obstacles between a business and its customers, protect yourself and think and work like big business. A business is identified when the answer to what drives a customer to purchase your ‘product’ is answered ……because what a customer buys and what they want all too often have a gap which is a part of the ongoing challenge for all businesses, not just those that appear to be in a hopeless situation.
(Image credit: Article credit: Copyright SUF)
10 10 2011
Showing no sign of noise reduction, the geo-political and economic headlines hold the same miserable vein of the sky is falling down, economic growth is stunted, economic growth it slow, economic growth shows signs of movement in the years ahead, the UK’s budget deficit could fall, UK household debt will probably rise, the EU is melting, Banks have been downgraded, and the UK economy is, according to Bank of England Governor, `the worst financial crisis since the thirties’ ; all we need now is the headline It’s the end of civilisation as we know it! Our Banks are facing a shakeup, they get stressed, the creaking can be heard and a shout of Timber goes out.
Slowdown in shopping centre development is likely in the UK and every customer counts for the supermarket share as customers are spending less on each trip, however, according to a small business survey by American Express, 93% of respondents believe it’s important to support local business with an average spending 1/3 of their disposable income at those stores.
The carrier bag police are out in Wales as a levy of 5p is being introduced for carrier bag usage, however, some traders have been left confused about the exemptions relating to up to £5,000 in fines if businesses don’t comply. Economic crime in the insurance sector will be targeted, from January, by a fraud crime unit with 35 specialist fraud detectives and financial investigators. The independent police unit will focus on crime valued at £2bn a year.
No more excuses for not being able to come into work for Co-Op employees as they are being offered free flu jabs. It is estimated that if 75% of the workforce take up the offer £1m a year could be made in savings with figures suggesting absenteeism costing UK businesses up to £1.1bn. A US drug store chain is promoting, ahead of any seasonal demand, You Vs. Flu. As an increasing number of Americans head to their local pharmacy for more than their flu vaccine; the growing national trend is to allow pharmacists to give different types of vaccinations as well as flu shots, this is an introductory platform to new customers,
Tenacity is an inspiring attitude to hear about, therefore reading of the three school friends, who decided to beat the books together after school, to gain scholarships, was encouraging. When the library closed at 6pm they turned to their local fast-food outlet and were able to stay until 10pm. The three are now applying to study medicine and the pizza shop owner has hopefully gained a potential growth gap. Although tenacity hasn’t paid off for the blogger who wrote about the sense of freedom, control and access …. (being) in charge of finances, independent, (and) in control all being taken away by the changes to their internet banking and the challenge that is the secure key.
(Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF)
06 09 2011
Take a Shot at Dysfunctional Business
Someone suggests it would be good for two people they know to get to know each other better, so a phone call is made.
Me: Hello, is Mr Someone available please?
Voice: Sorry, they’re busy.
Me: No problem, what is the best time to call?
Voice: Next week might be quieter.
Me: That is busy! He is expecting me to call. Is there another time or may I ask that you give me his email?
Voice: (with exhausted determined monotony). He’s only here on (states days), try again next week on those days.
Meh! No! Don’t think I’ll bother (…and didn’t). Why? Because it’s either a business which doesn’t care what frontline staff are giving out as an impression of the business, or that attitude is the instruction for the frontline to take up. I could have tried again, as per a great philosopher’s advice: “If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear” (Pooh Bear). If only. No, this is a small business with a frontline approach that affects their bottom line.
Business terrain is as it is, therefore any journey to destination anywhere that gives return is, with few exceptions, a rough one, needing, in an unstable economic climate, a reliable map which gives clear direction. Business seeking out improvement shouldn’t be prevented by misdirection; no matter what the economy. No amount of cost cutting or value will amount to anything, or go anywhere, whilst clarity preventing dead ends are being counterproductive. Facing up to decisions in business means no muffling the sound of singing or limiting dance moves by firmly covering the ostrich head with sand.
Abilene Paradox finds that organisations frequently take actions in contradiction to what they really want to do and therefore defeat the very purposes they are trying to achieve. More prevalent than businesses realise, roughly translated the paradox means that managing agreement is an inability which can be a major source of organisation dysfunction. Being clear prevents misperception, which in turn prevents counterproductive actions; actions which can lead to frustration, irritation or even anger and finally to blame - Tell tale signs of the cyclical paradox which continues unless it’s recognised and intervention made.
Turning back to the great philosopher out on a determined innovative journey, seeking honey with the aid of a blue balloon – Faced with the wrong sort of bees he realised a quick, safe descent was possible if the balloon could be deflated slowly.
Winnie: (to Christopher Robin) Have you got your gun?
CR: Of course I have, but if I do that, it will spoil the balloon.
Winnie: But if you don’t, I shall have to let go, and that would spoil me.
He couldn’t reach the honey, he got shot down and landed in a gorse bush ….but he survived to go on to more adventures. It goes without saying, bad news isn’t welcome, yet optimism with a bullish undercurrent is a positive slant that’s paradoxically as bad because it’s not clear if or what the positive message is. Confronting any ‘actual’ is hard because the ‘actual’ can seem a situation or something which is isolated and/or isolating. Yet, by facing ‘actual’, the risks paradoxically decline because anything else is probable.
Using the bottom line approach gives optimum benefits to businesses, cuts out waste and gives more to which the business will benefit from when seeking an effective reality check; forewarned is indeed forearmed. Don’t give out mixed messages.
(Image credit: Thales Article credit: Copyright SUF)
05 09 2011
Ah! September! Don’t you just love the smell of manure in the morning? As the not so good and not so great politicians and bankers return from their summer sojourns it’s no surprise that banks and politics once again dominate the headlines.
The Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) will report its findings this month; bankers are opposed to reform, the Business Secretary wants to separate the different functions of the banks and ring fence retail risk and it seems the PM and Chancellor are content to delay reform. The hints of postponement to recommendations being taken up are sometime after the 2015 General Election. The report may create conflict for the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) which had the Treasury Select Committee (TSC) announcing its inquiry into the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) before any takeover as part of the current FSA remit at the end of 2012 (or maybe later?).
Is it walking in it, or spreading muck, for an ex Chancellor, who once defended RBS bankers’ bonuses, now releasing a memoir, at a time when figures show the economy continues to struggle with economic growth entitled ‘Back from the Brink’. Containing derision for senior bankers at the 82% British taxpayer owned banks as being ‘arrogant and stupid’. These same directors are paid in shares of the bank that employs them, shares that have lost a quarter of their value this year, shares which rose when news came out that there might be a delay in reforms. Who was it who said “where there’s muck there’s brass”?
Mudslinging at men has a scientific basis in `Masters of Nothing’ with a subtext of `The Crash and how it will happen again unless we understand human nature‘. The authors, Matthew Hancock and Nadhim Zahawi conclude…. `the dominance by men does not exist because of the inherently masculine nature of finance. Rather, the masculine nature of finance exists because of its dominance by men’. What’s that phrase coming from some of you? …Does a bear **** in the woods?
Whilst some argue about banking reform and others about testosterone imbalance being the challenge, there could be mileage for debate rather than muckraking at the Bank of England’s recent considerations. Cheques being phased out had a U-turn, even though the cheque guarantee card had been abolished but plastic might be returning to your purses and wallets as The Bank of England is considering plastic fivers and a £50 note.
(Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF )
03 08 2011
Practice 1-2-3 : The Business Standard
All too often areas, even within the smallest of businesses, having potential for performance and growth are overlooked because standard good practice isn’t backed up with standard practice procedures.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the economy, or hours of sunshine giving out a dip, drop, decline or rise, managing a micro or small business is a grapple with the grind before any fun stuff. When additional pressures threaten the business environment, the full time challenge of mustering energy, motivating drive and maintaining standards becomes a greater undertaking. If you’re concerned about your business having the ability to continue, considering growth might seem like impossibility, especially when all your efforts are focused on that daily nitty-gritty. As for those in industries with full time engagement and obligation to standard practice responsibility, before they can even get to a customer, they’re unlikely to have either the inclination or ability to acknowledge potential growth in areas outside that standard practice.
Every business has its standard practices towards record keeping, managing incidents, undertaking staff training, maintaining premises and equipment. The landlord’s agent checked the property, was satisfied and sent out the deposit cheque immediately. When the landlord checked the property and was satisfied ….no cheque was sent out for 6 weeks, despite requests. The scaffolding company’s estimate arrived but with additional information to assist the customer. When the scaffolding company took down the scaffolding ….and broke the window… no liability was reported or acknowledged. Some Saturdays, 30 or 40 minutes before the shop closed, any remaining bread, cakes or pastries were given out to neighbouring shops and passing customers, in return, the newsagent gave out-of-date magazines and the greengrocer ripened fruits. At the end of the week any unsold bread was collected to feed the small-holders pigs. All business practices we’ve experienced from different businesses, during different eras and economies however, then, just as now, the relative management, leadership or responsibility behind the scenes of a small business, irrelevant of the economy, isn’t always apparent to its customers.
Dead wood amongst products, services, sometimes staff, and even customers can hover under the tough decision making pruning axe that controls expenses through budgeting and cost cutting. Arguably seen as the most effective long and short term benefit for a business under fiscal threat, expense chopping is often the standard practice strategy reaction. Contradicting any business’s responsibility in excluding elements that don’t contribute to its continuation isn’t disputed however, ensuring structures are in place to measure business performance is a good practice that should be a standard practice for making the right controls.
- Re-organise standard good practice with standard practices
- Include frameworks for mutual reference and guidance
- Use standard practices as a management tool for planning and direction
No matter what the economy, a businesses standard good practice is worthy of recognition and acknowledgment by its standard practice.
(Image credit: Irargerich Article credit: Copyright SUF)
03 08 2011
The Queen’s remark to her party guests that Banks need to ‘change their attitude’ might be deemed as been taken up by HSBC as they announced they are to lay off 30,000 workers, despite interim pretax profits of £6.8Bn, in order to focus on emerging markets whilst they’re set to hire up to 15,000 in other markets. Entrepreneur James Caan stated his belief that employment could be eradicated if each of the UK’s 4.9 million businesses each took on one employee while Capital’s SME Employment & Optimism Pulse revealing that UK SME’s plan to create 470,000 new jobs in the coming year.
August 10 the Bank of England releases its quarterly Inflation Report. Rates are anticipated to stay at 0.5% because of the subdued Q2 GDP growth figures of 0.2%, figures which seem to have been affected by data reading challenges; due to changing factors, such as winter weather, Japanese Tsunami and extra Bank Holidays. According to a study by Santander inflation hit out at children, with parent power maybe having to change as the study shows a 68% rise because of the cost of goods and services, typically bought by 10-16 year olds, rising by 14.3% against RPI 8.5%. The only change that doesn’t seem to be happening is stagflation.
With poor GDP data in the UK, the USA government having spats, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland throwing their rattles around, it seems the high days and holidays of the summer are in full swing.
(Image and Article credit: Copyright SUF)