Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Particularly important in today economic climate, every business owner, whether in small, medium or large firms (and that includes one-man/woman-band operations) needs to regular ly take time-out to review the way their business is performing. Take time out of the shop/office.factory and get soem valuable thinking time done without any distractions.

When meeting clients invariably these are the top three FAQ's (frequently asked questions, for those who didn't know!) I'm asked

1/. How do I get more customers?
2/. Can I get a grant for my business?
3/. If I'm profitable, why haven't I got any cash?

1/. How do I get more customers?

To get more customers, you need to do THREE things....Marketing, Marketing and more Marketing!....... and I don't just mean putting an ad in the paper or get some nice pretty leaflets done.

Become an EVANAGELIST for your own business. Everywhere you go, everyone you talk to is likely to be a potential customer so tell them what you do, why you do it and why they need your services. Seek out sensible networking opportunities and "work the room"...don't just grab the free drinks and nibbles! Sit down and think about your business from a customers point of view, not just as an entrepreneur.

Are you delivering INCREDIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE, EVERYTIME? If not, why not? Don't be afraid to make changes and ask your customers what they want? If you're a shopkeeper, look at the shop from a customers you have last years collection of dead wasps still in the window? Could you give the walls a re-paint? Change some floor tiles?

If you've got a website, is it working for you? Is it just a boring brochure or can your clients interact with you? DO you use Facebook/Twitter/MySpace? Can you can get hold of a digital camcorder, to make your own promo video and put a link on your homepage to You Tube? The trick with any marketing materials is to keep it fresh - update prices, products, press releases and any other details your customers might need to know.

2/. Can I get a grant for my business?

Quite frankly, its not very likely! They tend to be specific and/or aimed at certain "themes" and at the moment. mostly environmental projects. The temptation for FREE MONEY is always great but the time taken up in writing up a pile of grant applications means its likely you'll take your eye off the ball of your core business and potentially lose other easier sales opportunities. The other thing to bear in mind is the low level of success rate you'll find if you do apply for a grant......its estimated that 1 in 20 grant applications are successful but all will take time, effort and resources.....BEWARE!

3/. If I'm profitable, why haven't I got any cash?

I know its a cliché but Cash IS King ! The only real reason we go into business is to move money from our customer’s bank accountant into our own bank accounts (whilst of course staying legal, decent, honest and truthful!) Cashflow management is exactly that ensuring that in the current climate, you’ll need to stay on top of your cash. Make sure you get paid on time and take on new customers only after you've assessed their risk to your business (use credit checks, proforma invoicing and take up references from others, if needs be).

Slash costs to the bare you need to have a new car? Are you overstaffed? Are your staff working on the right things for your business or could you shift the team around to make some efficiencies in both cash savings and customer service? Are you overstocked?

Make sure you price your goods properly. Cutting prices only cuts profit and make you work harder to cover your fixed costs. Consider what I've said in response to how do I get new customers? Could you add value to what you do by doing things better and giving your customers more bang for their bucks?

Lots of things to take in, here but who said being a business owner was easy! The best piece of advice I can give is don't be afraid to talk to someone. ASK your advisors, customers and friends and family for open, honest and independent advice.

As the other clichés says its good to talk, don't be an ostrich and bury your head in the sand and don't thing your problems will just go away. There's help out there for you so if it feels lonely and tough at the top, talk to friendly know it makes sense !

Good luck!

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