Turning business challenges into opportunities

words: Anne Cowley, Director, Baines Jewitt

“Working closely with hundreds of small businesses across Teesside
and the wider North East, we see the challenges faced first-hand”

Although each business is unique, there are a number of challenges shared by business owners. Regardless of size and sector, these include cash flow, recruiting and retaining good employees, generating sales and business growth.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are steps to turn common business challenges into opportunities. The first step is to recognise the challenges faced.

Measuring progress

The preparation of annual accounts can be an opportunity to review progress, revisit a business plan and set goals. Many organisations recognise the benefit of independent support from a chartered accountant in showing good corporate governance to stakeholders, banks and tax authorities.

There are other methods to discover what’s working, and what’s not. For example, feedback – positive and negative – can be invited from employees, suppliers, clients and lapsed customers. If people are trading elsewhere, find out why.

Addressing cash flow

Discover the reasons behind cash flow problems. Are financial records up to date? Are there uncollected debts? Who chases late payments? Are invoices sent out as soon as work is complete? Is there a delay in sending out products? Have sales decreased? Has there been a seasonal dip? Is the price of materials impacting on profit margins?

Having a better understanding of finances is a good step to addressing cash flow issues. It provides the impetus to improve current systems, whether it’s computerised alerts and reminders for late payments, the negotiation of better deals from suppliers or the need to raise prices.

Retaining staff

Understanding how to retain the right people can also provide a valuable insight into attracting new talent. Do employees feel fairly paid? Do they desire flexible working? Are there opportunities for promotion and progression? What is the culture of the organisation? Do staff feel valued? Do people have the right skills to do their jobs effectively?

There might be other less obvious ‘perks’ valuable to existing and potential employees, including free parking, an attractive office, decent annual leave entitlement, a good work-life balance, annual performance bonuses or the opportunity for part-time working.

Generating sales

If an organisation wants to improve sales, listen to feedback on why customers buy particular products or services. What is unique or superior? Is the business reliable and responsive? How do customers rate the after sales service? Are prices competitive?

It’s also a chance to find out why people don’t buy. Do they know about your products or services? Do competitors offer a superior product or service for the same price, or the same product for cheaper?

Whether it’s upselling, generating repeat business or finding new clients, it is a chance to understand the market, identify growth potential and build trust in the products, service and brand.

Social media posts, which target ideal customers, can drive traffic towards a business. Other activities include networking and word-of-mouth recommendation; managing reputation through testimonials, reviews, case studies and press releases; and ensuring your marketing is up-to-date, informative and interesting.

Business growth

As long as there is the capacity and competitiveness to succeed, the right technology and systems, and the right team and skills to meet demand, challenges can become opportunities.

Finally, it’s worth recognising the importance of continuous, regular checks. After all, the challenges of this year might be different to the challenges of next!

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