Growing a business when the economy is flat-lining
It would appear that we are in unchartered economic times with what seemingly is a double-dip recession or flat-line economy. For those running a business the challenge of growth is as great as ever.
While over the past few years it may have been acceptable to tread water and wait for the upturn, this outcome looks less likely than ever.
What is growth? Growth can be measured in many ways but conventionally, and for most, it is an increase in overall sales or turnover over a 12-month period.
In the good times, with markets growing, it may have been possible to achieve double-digit growth. It seems now, though, attaining single-digit growth has a become a real challenge.
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Unless you are fortunate enough to operate in what might be classed as an emerging market, then attaining growth invariably centres on winning more spend from your existing customers or more customers from your competitors.
Focus on the cherries not the pond scum: If you were to profile your customer base, you will have mix of customers you like doing business with and those you don't.
The trick is to find more of those you like – your cherries and then to manage or divest your relationship with those you don't – your pond scum. Typically, your cherries are those that are good payers, value what you do and ultimately become your brand advocates. The trick then is to find more potential customers that fit your cherry profile.
Spend time talking to your customers and prospects: It must, though, be worth taking time to revisit your business offering. It is often amazing how by reacquainting yourself with customers, new or additional business opportunities prevail.
More left-brain than right-brain thinking: It is said that right-brained people tend to be more analytical than those with a bias to more left-brain thinking, which tends towards creativity and innovation.
While right-brained thinking may be good at looking at financial control, encouraging left-brained thinking for creative ideas to grow and develop business needs be high on the agenda.
Be the best you can: With pressure on the purse, consumers and businesses seek more than ever value for money, not only are they looking for a good price but most with time to shop around are looking for the best they can get in terms of product and service. Excelling at your business is one of the best ways of retaining and gaining new customers.
Value your staff: For most staff a pay rise or bonus are key recognition of value or performance, with pay pressure and freezes; and increased pressure to perform the sense of value can be for some a sense of being less worthy or valued.
Simply recognise these issues can go a long way, as too can simply recognition of efforts along the way.
For some, showing an appreciation of the challenges they face, even helping them with improvements in their work environment can have a positive up lift.
Shake that tree: Most people feel better doing something about their circumstances than those who don't. Whether you approach is to spring-clean your business, or to have a go at something you've never done before or a combination of the two, with a drive for business most will gain a sense of positivity by working towards business success.
Do something different: How often have you asked yourself, 'why do we do that?' How often have you found out it is for no particular commercial benefit, you have just always done it? It must be time to look at all areas of your business.
Look at productivity: It's surprising how many businesses could benefit from more staff but can't afford them.
Surely, by looking at working practices, training and skills, there must be opportunity to improve productivity and financial performance in your business. It is not all about getting people to work longer hours.
Seek out positive people to help your business: Undoubtedly, there is a wealth of business advice and knowledge out there, seeking out someone you have empathy with and commercial sense you value can be great in guiding you through the seas of change. Most of us tend to perform better if we have someone coaching or mentoring us.
In summary, perhaps the worst thing a business can do is to do nothing.
In the words of Victor Kiam, "procrastination is opportunity's natural assassin".