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Your Top 5 business tips for 2020

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It’s not only a new year, it’s a new decade. Here are our top five suggestions for building value in your business for 2020 and beyond.

From going vegan to running a marathon, many personal New Year’s Resolutions tend to be big ones. When it comes to your business, though, the trick is to do a lot of little things better, rather than set a monumental new challenge, and beat yourself up if you fall short.

We’re hearing daily from business owners in the UK that the General Election result – and with it, hopefully some much-needed certainty over Brexit - is generating more confidence. What better time to fine tune your company, play to your existing strengths, and make small strategic improvements on the way? You never know where it might take you…

Tip 1: Set a theme, not a goal

It is tempting to create a single major goal for the year and rip up your own business rulebook to achieve it. For a food manufacturer, this could be to win bumper contracts with a major supermarket retailer or two. For an IT business, it could be to acquire 1,200 new customers by the end of the year. While both may be achievable on paper, defining a theme to help achieve these goals can be the key to success.

For a food sector business, rather than pursuing a hard sell to the supermarkets, why not work on your brand? Creating an offering that stands apart from your closest competitors is likely to result in more success than pitching up at expensive trade shows. Our former client Cake Craft World, acquired by Dr Oetker in 2019, is a great example of how building brand awareness – and connecting with customers through multiple channels – creates a genuine differentiator.

Conversely, for the tech company, an ongoing programme to understand changing customer needs and providing a product or service to meet them is vital. Surely that’s more likely to create more customer wins than taking out adverts over the course of the year?

As a specialist tech business, you’re already likely to be extremely good at what you do. But tailoring your offering to the changing needs of the market and making yourself indispensable to your clients is the next step. As the BCMS-led sale of KeeResources to Auto Trader demonstrated, if you can become the go-to supplier in your niche – and with it a business critical service for your customers – then that will give you a huge competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Tip 2: Short-term wins = long-term plan

Winning 1,200 new customers over the course of a year might be the ultimate target. But you could set “mini goals” throughout the year that can provide a short-term boost to staff. This might be to acquire new customers in the first quarter based purely from referrals from other satisfied customers. Alternatively, at the end of Q1, you could look at renegotiating supplier contracts (in your favour, of course!)

Don’t underestimate the importance of your current clients. If you’re not in possession of a 150-strong sales and marketing team, your satisfied customers can be a useful auxiliary salesforce. Approach clients directly for recommendation, to help you build a library of case studies and testimonials, which can really make the difference when pitching for new business. And don’t forget: understanding clearly how your clients see you can help you develop and refine your offering, whatever sector you’re in.

Tip 3: Get buy-in from your staff

Take time to review your team and make sure you have the best people in the right positions to deliver your goals. Do your staff have the right resources to deliver? Do they have the relevant expertise, or is additional training required?

Perhaps new talent is needed in specific areas, or can existing staff be moved or reskilled to newer, fast-growth areas. The right answer isn’t always buying in new expertise and hiring new people. Keep your current team engaged, help them develop, and ensure staff feel they have a tangible part in delivering wider business goals. Assigning existing staff to help deliver the “mini goals” is a good way to help people feel involved, and take them on the growth journey with you.

Tip 4: Be transparent

The sooner everyone knows about business plans, the better. This doesn’t just mean keeping staff up to date, but also advisors. Telling recruiters, for example, that you are looking to expand within certain areas over the course of the year means they could give you an early “heads up” if they become aware of new talent.

Your accountant, meanwhile, may be able to advise on how you can organise your finances to take advantages of tax credits or business grants. Some may even be able to offer advice on how to tweak a strategy to make it even more successful. Your lawyer could potentially offer tips on getting your house in order, ensuring there are no business skeletons in the company closet.

Tip 5: Be prepared to win

A new strategy is designed to succeed. So, if all the correct planning is in place, don’t be surprised if it does! Resourcing new business can be more difficult than winning it in the first place, so do take steps to ensure you have the infrastructure in place to cope when those new orders come in.

Your plans may even deliver sooner than intended or your business might grow faster than anticipated. It could even be that “now” suddenly becomes the right time to sell your business. Being able to manage this success and having plans in place to grow off the back of it is crucial.

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Posted Dec 2019
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