A-Head for Success

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A-Z of Business: K – Knowledge – Your Competitive Edge?

It is estimated that 15% of success is from your technical skills whereas 85% is through gaining trust and respect.  So, what has knowledge to do with this?  Plenty, as it happens.  Knowledge covers the whole spectrum.  Good technical skills are, of course, important.  But not if the knowledge is out of date.  Technology is changing all the time – as are trends – and it is essential to keep abreast of what’s going on in your market place and in your profession.

Solicitors and doctors go through years of training in their profession before they are able to practice.  Yet, how much training have you had to run your own department, or your own business?  How much knowledge have you acquired to help you be successful?  Whether you are running a department or a business of your own, the knowledge you need to be effective is extremely broad and most people simply muddle through.  In the meantime, what happens to the trust and respect essential to 85% of your success?

The following table helps you to understand some of the fundamentals for trust and respect and the kind of knowledge you need for them:

TRUST AND RESPECT KNOW-HOW
Good people and rapport skills Influencing and leadership
Doing what you say you will do Planning and organising
Doing an excellent job Technical and delegation
Managing complaints effectively Problem solving and conflict management
Meeting your obligations Business acumen and resource management
Emotional intelligence Understanding of people and yourself and how to manage yourself and your relationships in times of stress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business knowledge – such as sales, marketing, finance, operations –  is important whether you run your own business or manage a department as you need to see how everything fits together.  These will help you to exploit strengths, minimise weaknesses, seize opportunities and handle threats from a point of strength.

So, how can you increase your knowledge?  Through coaching, training, reflective learning and study.  Often, you don’t know what you don’t know (in the case of business, ignorance is not bliss) and it is helpful to have someone there who can help you see your blind-spot. Having your own coach and mentor is an excellent step to take to help you stay on top of your game.  For more information call 0845 130 0854 for a no obligation chat.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: F – Finance – 5 Tips to Help Your Business Succeed

 

1.  Cash is King

Cash flow is the main reason for business succeeding or failing.  An apparently successful business may have a full order book, and even good levels of projected profit, but if funds cannot be collected from customers in a reasonable timescale the business will fail.  You should ensure your customers are aware of your payment terms before carrying out tasks and where possible advanced payments, should be requested.

Tip – Get paid on time by ensuring you have regular communication with your customer and that you have an effective credit control procedure.

 

2.  Overtrading

This is where a business has a full order book but struggles to convert turnover (sales) into profit.  This situation usually develops when tasks are taken on at a cheaper rate when compared to competitors in order to secure orders.  Subsequently, the business becomes very busy but the income generated is not sufficient in order make a profit, and so the business fails.  This strategy can be used carefully in order to try and build a reputation but for small businesses it should not be used in the long-term.  Remember “turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity”.

Tip – You are usually in business to make money so ensure you do not under-sell your products or services unless you have a clearly defined plan.

3.  Control the Controllable

Fixed costs – these costs do not vary regardless of the business activity undertaken, i.e. rent and rates.

Variable costs – these are dependant on the level of activity, i.e. heat and light or staff overtime.

Tight control and effective monitoring of these costs is essential.  Whilst fixed costs by their very nature are easier to control, effective negotiation with suppliers is an important step.  Variable costs can often get out of control if not properly managed, i.e. buying stock recklessly can tie up cash and may lead to unforeseen losses.

Tip – Ensure there is an efficient method of recording  and managing costs.  Monitor them on a regular basis.

4.  Supplier Relationships

Negotiating with your suppliers is important in order to gain value for money but when evaluating a potential supplier do not focus solely on the costs.  You should try and build a close working relationship with your suppliers and also consider the following:

  1. Product efficiency – do they have a good reputation for supplying reliable products?
  2. Delivery – can delivery be made in a timely manner?
  3. Payment Terms – extended terms can often ease your own cash flow concerns.

Tip – Ensure you question potential suppliers to ensure they meet your key criteria.

5.  Initial Funding

Many small businesses often underestimate the amount of necessary funding needed to commence trading or start a new product line or service.  This lack of funding will immediately restrict any business capacity and will greatly threaten the potential growth and stability of your business.  Always identify and try to properly estimate the amount of money needed to launch your business and to cover the costs for at least the first year which should include both running expenses and capital investment.

Tip – Take time to plan the financial implications of your business plans.

With thanks to:

Colin Bentall FCCA
Ford Bentall LLP
www.fordbentall.co.uk

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A-Z of Business: C – Customer

Customers are the lifeblood of any business.  It doesn’t matter how good your product or service, if you don’t have customers willing to buy, you have nothing.  In such challenging times, and considering the cost of attracting just one customer (have you ever done the maths on this?), customer retention is a stronger strategy than customer attraction could ever be.

Yet, it seems that customer care has taken a back seat to profit.  A short-term tactic with long-term consequences.  And yet, effective customer care does not have to be costly.  Not only that, you can expect to see your profits increase as your customers stay longer, buy more and refer more.  And the benefits don’t end there – your employees will be happier.  I am always struck by the check out staff at supermarkets who don’t acknowledge you – how unhappy they look.  I pay extra where the staff are happier – it makes such a difference to the buying experience.

Below are my top ten tips for customer retention.

All customers:

  1. Acknowledge them by name if known, and a warm smile – a genuine smile even comes across over the phone.
  2. Tell them you’ll be with them in a moment if you are busy with someone else.  If it will be more than a moment – let them know in advance.  Set realistic expectations.
  3. Ask yourself how your processes and actions serve customer needs and affects their experience .
  4. Make sure your staff are knowledgeable and find answers to questions if in doubt.  Saying “I don’t know” is just not acceptable.
  5. Under-promise and over-deliver – essential for trust.  Do keep them updated if delays are foreseen.
  6. Hire and train staff who have a strong customer service orientation – be uncompromising about this.  Any apathy or negativity affects profit and morale of other staff members.
  7. Treat your customers how you want to be treated yourself.  You know how it feels when you are respected and when you are treated well.  I am reminded of a friend of mine who recently reported that she closed her bank account as her bank was offering new customers a better interest rate, despite the fact she had been a loyal customer for years.

The biggest risk factor in terms of customers is how you deal with them when there’s a problem.  Here are my top tips to deal with unhappy customers:

  1. Respond positively and empathetically:
    • Thank them – their feedback is a gift and helps you improve your business.
    • Be quick to apologise authentically.
  2. Inform them of what you will do with their feedback – and then make sure you do what you say you will do– it will help build your business in all kinds of positive ways.
  3. Resolve problems quickly and thoroughly.  Be sure to give a little extra to make up for the inconvenience.

Responding well to complaints can not only redeem you in the eyes of the customers but make a complainant into an ambassador for your company, bringing in new business.

Finally, one last thought – do make it easy for people to do business with you – don’t let apathy be your only weapon for customer retention.  Delight them and make raving fans.

To your success!

Tricia Woolfrey

PS  Customer attraction and retention are a very complex area – to book a consultation to find out how you can gain more business through customers new and existing, call 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey

Tricia Woolfrey is a business, performance and productivity coach, helping people to succeed in their business, and for their business to succeed. She has extensive experience with clients across several business sectors, including IT, telecoms, event management, entertainment, recruitment, finance, PR, coaching and therapy, support services, legal and more, ranging from large corporates to start-ups and the solo-preneurs. 

Prior to running her own consultancy, she was Group HR Director for a multi-national organisation and is a member of the Chartered Institute for Professional Development. Her integrative approach to change has had profound results for individuals and organisations alike.

“The results there were nothing short of fantastic”- Guy Apple, VP Marketing & Sales, NVT, UK

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A-Z of Business: B – Brand

We normally think of brand in terms of  company name, tag-line or logo and it’s an important part of your marketing.  Personally, I view brand as much more than this.  Let’s say your company name is  “Precision Accountancy Partners”, there is a promise implied in that name which suggests a level of accuracy and professionalism.

This message can be undermined unless you make sure that the following supports this message:

  • The quality and design of your business card and website
  • Your personal image – how you dress and how well you are groomed
  • Your voice
  • The words and language you use
  • Your body language
  • The behaviours you choose
  • The decisions you make
  • The quality of your work
  • Whether you deliver on promises
  • Whether you turn up on time
  • How organised you are

Whether you mean to or not, you are constantly communicating your brand.  I wonder what message you are sending out?  How does this compare with how you want to be perceived?  If there is a mismatch, what can you do to get back on track?  Sending out the right message can make all the difference for you and your business or career.

As Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney said “A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”  If you want to know more, why not book a session so you give your business the best chance of ongoing success?  Call me on 0845 130 0854 to find out more.

To your success!

Tricia Woolfrey

PS  Have you recently had a psychometric profile?  This can really help you to understand your strengths and blindspots so you can work at your very best.  Call me on 0845 130 0854 to find out more.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey

Tricia Woolfrey is a business, performance and productivity coach, helping people to succeed in their business, and for their business to succeed. She has extensive experience with clients across several business sectors, including IT, telecoms, event management, entertainment, recruitment, finance, PR, coaching and therapy, support services, legal and more, ranging from large corporates to start-ups and the solo-preneurs.

Prior to running her own consultancy, she was Group HR Director for a multi-national organisation and is a member of the Chartered Institute for Professional Development. Her integrative approach to change has had profound results for individuals and organisations alike.

“The results there were nothing short of fantastic”- Guy Apple, VP Marketing & Sales, NVT, UK

Continue reading...