What are the top three issues in your business?

(Copyright © 2015 by Chesney Bradshaw, all rights reserved)
(Copyright © 2015 by Chesney Bradshaw, all rights reserved)

An economy like this one we have puts start-up founders and entrepreneurs to the test. When the economy is good fast sales tend to mask underlying problems in your business that may not be getting the attention they deserve. Suddenly problems start surfacing and you can very quickly get yourself into trouble and even end up shutting your doors for good.

The other day I heard a business coach being questioned by a radio journalist about the type of problems that most businesses are facing. The coach mentioned that one of the biggest issues is cash flow. This comes as no surprise because in this hard economy customers who have credit with small businesses are paying later and suppliers want to be paid sooner and are more reluctant to dish out discounts. But the real issue is sales. When sales are slowing because customers are postponing purchases, making do with what they’ve got, sales tend to take a nosedive. Continue reading “What are the top three issues in your business?”

What would you choose? Investment finance or small business advice?

Marinus van Reymerswaele (Follower of) (Zeeland, The Netherlands, 1490 - Goes, Zeeland, The Netherlands, 1546)
Marinus van Reymerswaele (Follower of) (Zeeland, The Netherlands, 1490 – Goes, Zeeland, The Netherlands, 1546)

Sometimes we can meet the right person at the right time and it seems like luck. But is it luck? Perhaps it’s at times when we are most down that we open ourselves up and let strangers into our lives who can help us.

When I was going through a difficult period I met an old-school sales person and financial adviser who gave me so much help that I could never really pay him back. He shared his business methods, dug out his old sales training material from years back and took me door to door on “knock, knock” sales calls. I learned to live skills from him that you won’t find at high school, in your university studies or even sometimes in families, no matter how well meaning they are. Continue reading “What would you choose? Investment finance or small business advice?”

Insurance policies just don’t provide the cover they used to

1024px-Liverpool_Riots_2011_damaged_carIn this economy even the short-term insurance policies that you thought covered your assets adequately may not be doing so at all.

The problem is that it’s become harder for insurance companies to get new business in this economy and with each fighting more fiercely for market share, more pressure has been put on their revenues. On the claims aside, insurers have adjusted for the cost increases of labour and materials and are now hitting you hard when it comes to claims. Continue reading “Insurance policies just don’t provide the cover they used to”

If your competitor keeps you awake at night, you must read this now

Noordhoek
Noordhoek (Photo credit: Paul Watson)

I’ve just woken up in a strange place, tossing and turning in the dark with the autumn wind howling against the mountain side. I’m staying for a few days in a cottage high up mountain, next to a vineyard, with a view down below of the Atlantic Ocean.

In the night with the cottage creaking from the wind all the primeval fears come out. Winter is coming and there could be trouble the way the global economy is going. Business is down in this coastal town where I’m staying. Walk through the malls and main road and you see windows plastered in paper – several businesses shut down.

A business-owner I was talking to yesterday mentioned that a competitor was setting up shop nearby. Although some business owners simply brush off competition with “there’s room for us all”, it’s never a simple matter to decide whether competitive threats will make an impact or not.

It’s easier to explain what’s happened than to predict. When a business fails people want to know why. Was it the competition, the owner, the bank, customers, technology? One of the reasons or a combination makes sense. But it’s a lot harder to forecast, estimate, predict, divine what can and will happen in the future.

If you look at the advice small business owners themselves give to fellow business owners, you’ll find three main themes:

1 Ignore your competition and get on with obsessing about your business and customers.
2 Analyse your strengths and weaknesses. Identify opportunities and minimise threats. Differentiate with personalised service.
3 Make friends with your competitors, love them, unite with them, help each other.

Two main distinct groups here: the aggressive warriors and the relationship builders.

For me who has had “don’t just stand there, do something!” drilled into my early survival and witnessed many businesses successes and failures, I would keep an eye on them but keep stepping up my value for customers.

Did you know that the McDonald’s brothers started out in the drive-in food business? Stiff competition and their increasingly high-cost, labour-intensive format made them decide to sell their drive-in business and open a new hamburger restaurant in one of the new strip shopping centres. That’s where they began to develop the concept of speed, lower prices and volume. The system they were about to build and innovate would be the beginning of a revolution in food service.

Competition is good because it keeps you on your toes. But what’s far better is innovation – finding ways to look after your customers and attracting new ones even if it means a step-change in your entire business model.

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