Posted: Mon 27th Jul 2020
In times of uncertainty, careful planning and preparation for both the expected and unexpected will go some way in helping your business to survive and grow. In other words, when it comes to business planning, always have a plan B. Carolene Thompson, innovation adviser at Newable, shares advice.
The need to become leaner and greener is high on the agenda for many businesses looking to bounce back and start building resilience, where willingness to implement change, flexibility, and cost savings are also key requirements.
Typically, when looking to improve resilience, it is commonplace to first explore any potential opportunities to reduce costs.
Sometimes this involves reducing larger more substantial fixed costs all in one go (by changing location, adopting more agile working practices and/or reducing headcount for example). In other instances, it may mean taking a more gradual approach, reducing lower, variable costs, which when accumulated over the year can result in significant savings.
Ideally through producing a clear cashflow forecast or budget depicting how and where costs can be reduced, it will also become clearer as to how best any cost savings identified can be utilised to promote better resilience and growth.
By creating savings in one area, you may be able to consider a small increase in spending in other areas such as marketing for example, which in turn, helps to fuel demand.
Remember in times of need you also need some cash to fall back on so spend in moderation and keep something in reserve for a rainy day.
Staying flexible can be attributed to many different scenarios in business. From purchasing digital tools and resources that enable your workforce to work effectively from home, to the ability to adapt and change products and services in accordance with changing or newer demands.
One of the key advantages of having a small business is being able to respond fairly quickly to change.
Keep abreast of industry insights via trusted sources. Don't be a 'one trip (trick?) pony', explore new avenues and/or opportunities to deliver products and services. Are there any routes to market that you haven't tested previously? Can your product or service be tweaked to accommodate new demand? Is your geographic reach far and wide enough? Are there any alternative suppliers who can provide a better, faster or more cost-effective service?
Talk to your workforce and identify ways that you can make improvements. Remember that the UK government has set targets to become Net Zero by the year 2050, this means that that your carbon footprint will also need to change somewhat in the coming years. Focus on identifying ways to both improve your bottom line, and become leaner and greener for the future.
Nowadays in order to stay competitive, businesses must be willing and able to predict and respond to changing consumer behaviour, ethics and values.
Research shows businesses that adopt a digital and analytics driven approach to managing productivity, fare better than those that resist changes in technological advancement.
Using customer insights such as website analytics, CRM databases, sales receipts, social media interactions/engagements and customer feedback, helps provide a deeper understanding as to the needs and wants of your key customer segments. Highlighting the 'pain' customers would like solved, and how best to pre-empt and accommodate changing demand.
Invest time and effort into analysing your day-to-day data insights, on a weekly or monthly basis. You should already have a good idea of which products/services are in high demand. With this in mind, take a look at your past performance, identify marketing messages that resonate well with your target audience and make them count. Repurpose, reuse, recycle.
Remember simply having a website is not enough to guarantee sales. A lot of time and effort is required to start driving traffic to various products and pages. Make use of your experience and expertise in demonstrating why customers should choose you. Promote thought leadership in your chosen field or industry to boost credibility via your website, social media pages, blog posts and industry publications. Where possible collaborate with peers and other local businesses and/or charities to gain increased exposure.
Create a marketing plan that incorporates marketing activities throughout the year, taking into account any seasonal factors that affect your business. Prepare well in advance, whether that's to create videos, rebrand your website or simply schedule social media posts. Get together with your team and thrash out marketing messages in line with your plans for the future. While there may be some amendments or additions along the way, thorough planning and preparation will save you time in the long run.
Even the most seasoned entrepreneur needs a little help from time to time. If you are in doubt about where to get started or how best to bounce-back, there are numerous sources of free advice and support.
Whether you are looking to internationalise your business, looking for new ways to market your business, seeking a grant to make your premises greener or looking for other sources of finance, there is a lot of support available. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, help is always at hand.
_If your business needs advice and support, book a consultation by connecting with Carolene Thompson via her Enterprise Nation profile.
Cashflow and how to deal with delayed payments_