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Surviving and thriving in a fragile economy

Article provided by Eezipay Management Systems

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly intensified small business challenges around the country, regardless of size, location, or financial backing.  Whilst many of these enterprises have unfortunately had to close their doors, a number have found innovative ways to succeed.  From expanding into new markets to finding different ways to deliver their products, solutions, and services.

Here we provide you with 5 tips on how to effectively keep your business on track, whilst growing your operation in a tough economy.

1. Create a business toolkit

There are many tools which are specific to certain tasks and industries. But when it comes to HR, administration, support, sales, and marketing there are a few tools every small business should have to achieve business goals. They can help you manage information on customers and prospects, send invoices, collect funds, encourage your employees to collaborate and effectively market your concern. Here are a few key tools you need for your business tool kit:

A Business Plan

A clear and concise business plan is the blueprint of your operation.  The process of writing your business plan will highlight where your business has been, and where it is headed, ultimately giving it the best opportunity to triumph.  A business plan allows you to focus on the broad operational and financial objectives, as well as the smaller details such as budgeting and market planning.  Careful budgeting will allow you to identify opportunities for investments into your business, such as automation, where the application of technology is used to monitor and control the production and delivery of products and services.  Remember, viable businesses are constantly evolving.  As such your business plan needs to be revised, to align with your new goals.

A Marketing Plan

A marketing plan will give your company a presence in the marketplace and build a solid client base.  Marketing activities such as Facebook advertising, content marketing, direct marketing campaigns, webinars, collecting and publishing testimonials all go a long way in keeping your business top of mind with existing and prospective clients.  There is no magic marketing plan, however, to grow your business into the future you need to decide which activities to engage in and stick to them diligently.

A CRM System

A Customer Relationship Management system assists in organising existing client contacts and records of your business transactions with them. It allows for the input of contact information on a group of prospects and facilitates the process of qualifying them as eligible candidates for your products and services. Furthermore, a robust CRM system makes it possible to create a customised proposal for prospective clients, thus allowing you to close the deal.

Cloud Collaboration

The implementation of cloud tools for your business, including cloud-based accounting software packages and management systems such as access control and time & attendance are key to streamlining financial and staff management.  These cloud-based tools provide easy access to real-time, and customised reports and allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of your business.  Businesses are increasingly taking advantage of cloud-based collaboration.  The ‘anywhere-access’ of ingenious cloud technologies is increasingly offering great gain across all enterprises, big and small.

2. Know your customer

Understanding your customers, past and present, and their needs is a priority in growing your business.  And the best way to do this is just by asking!  Why do they use your services? Why did they leave and what should you do to bring them on board again?  How can you improve your service offering?  What is the most important aspect of your service – price, quality, or the user experience?  This need not be a formal procedure.  Just by listening to your customers and what they are feeding back to you and your team will give you all the information you need to meet and exceed their expectations.

Take yourself through the customer’s experience and use the information you’ve collected to WOW them.  Not only will this build long-term loyalty, but it is also an excellent way to procure new clients through positive word-of-mouth.  Think about it.  How often have you personally paid for a product, service, or solution, based on rave reviews from a colleague or friend? Your customers provide the gateway to creation and innovation and they are pivotal in keeping ahead of your competition.

3. Know your competition

Competition is a healthy and vital part of operating a business.  It should push you to stay on top of buying trends and gives you an opportunity to keep your unique selling propositions ahead of your competitor. Its what differentiates your solution from theirs in terms of service, price, quality, and product features.

The most important things you should know about your competitors are the kind of competition they are (direct or indirect), how they position themselves in the market, their pricing, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.  Learning about your business in relation to your competition will expand your understanding of your target audience and industry, allowing you to improve your business strategy.  Furthermore, it will help you to communicate with your target audience more effectively, distinguish your business from your competitors and refine your business activities.

4. Keep your eye on internal opportunities

When thinking about your company’s growth path, be sure to have the best staff in place. Ideally, they need to be people that share your company’s vision and mission, are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and knuckle down.  The words ‘that is not my job’ should not exist in their vocabulary and a team with a can-do attitude will go a long way in growing your business.

Create brainstorming opportunities for your team so they might offer their insights and ideas on how to nurture and grow your business.  Never underestimate the people sitting right under your nose, that might have valuable business ideas that could springboard your business into the future. 

5. Balancing growth and cashflow

Whilst striving for business growth, it typically increases business costs, frequently putting pressure on day-to-day business expenses.  Loaning money can relieve some of this pressure, but it can create risk too.

Be sure to manage every element of working capital meticulously to maximise free cashflow during growth periods.  Balance the timing and the amount of funds flowing into and out of your business with effective business practises, such as credit management, stock control and inventory management, as well as supply chain management.  Be prepared for shortfalls if possible and predict ebbs and flows in your cash balance by preparing practical cashflow forecasts.

It is advisable to manage your suppliers to reduce the frequency of delivery cycles and to accommodate just-in-time deliveries. 

Through careful planning, you are better able to anticipate the financial needs of your company and arrange suitable funding to grow your business, without high risk.

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