Category Archives: Tips & Resources

Navigating Economic Storms as a Resilient Business Owner

In today’s volatile and ever-changing economic landscape, the ability to adapt and thrive amidst uncertainty is paramount. Navigating through economic downturns requires a combination of foresight, strategic planning, and resilience. Join us as we explore practical strategies and tips to help you steer your business through turbulent times and emerge stronger on the other side.

Increase your marketing

Investing in your marketing efforts might seem counterintuitive. However, it’s during downturns that maintaining a strong presence can truly set your business apart. While competitors may opt for cutbacks, staying proactive with your marketing ensures that you remain top-of-mind for your customers. By seizing this opportunity to shine when others are quiet, you not only maintain visibility but also build lasting relationships that can weather any storm. Remember, it’s not just about surviving, but thriving even in challenging times.

Customer service is key

The timeless adage “the customer is always right” remains a cornerstone of success. In times of adversity, customers are naturally drawn to businesses that place a premium on treating their clientele with esteem and recognizing their worth.

The significance of nurturing enduring client relationships cannot be overstated. It’s widely acknowledged that the cost associated with acquiring new clients far exceeds that of retaining existing ones. Therefore, prioritizing quality customer service is not merely a luxury but rather a strategic imperative. Each client serves as a crucial link in our business ecosystem, and it is important that their perception of our organization remains consistently exceptional to ensure sustained loyalty.

Watch your competition

Keeping a watchful eye on competitors and diligently tracking their pricing and marketing endeavors provides invaluable insights into how others are navigating challenging times. For instance, a savvy hotel manager consistently monitors local room rates to adjust their own prices effectively, ensuring a competitive edge in the market.

Investing time in acquiring this knowledge not only informs decisions but also empowers the formulation of good competitive strategies. Stay informed, stay adaptable, and emerge resilient in the face of adversity.

Know your customer

This is a great starting point as we tend to assume that other people are like us and have the same buying behaviour. Looking at a few of your customers on at an individual level will show that you have a variety of behaviours that you can learn from and strategise around.

Some customers become tentative during an economic crisis and they’ll tighten the purse strings, while at the other end of the scale you’ll see the courageous optimist who feels comfortable enough to continue to spend in the same way they always have. Understanding your core customer segments and how they view what you offer is key. Start by asking yourself whether they perceive your business to be of value to them, or whether you are a luxury that they will consider supplementary.

Stay positive

In the dynamic landscape of business, it’s essential to recognize that ups and downs are inevitable. Just as the seasons change, so do the fortunes of companies. Yet, it’s not the fluctuations themselves that define success, but rather how you respond to them. When challenges arise and the winds of uncertainty blow, projecting anxiety and fear can be tempting. However, history has shown time and again that this approach only serves to exacerbate the situation.

Instead, adopt a mindset of resilience and positivity, regardless of the circumstances. By maintaining a steady demeanour and restating expectations and goals clearly, you can provide a sense of stability amid the storm. Open communication with teams is really important as it prevents the spread of gossip and unfounded worries that can derail collective efforts. Remember that confidence is infectious. When leaders exude belief in their ability to weather the storm and emerge stronger on the other side, it inspires a similar attitude in those around them. Together, you can navigate the rough patches with teamwork and determination, knowing that brighter days lie ahead.

Be brave

In moments of market disruption, there’s always a silver lining of opportunity waiting to be seized. Those with a keen eye for spotting these openings can turn adversity into advantage. Embracing change and viewing disruption as an opportunity rather than a setback can pave the way for remarkable growth and innovation.

Remember, it’s during these challenging times that true entrepreneurial spirit shines brightest. Dare to think outside the box, seize the moment, and turn adversity into advantage. Be brave and navigate through the downturns to emerge stronger on the other side.

As we conclude our exploration of navigating economic storms as a resilient business owner, it’s crucial to remember that amidst uncertainty lies opportunity.

Embrace change, seize opportunities, and dare to be brave in the face of adversity. With determination and innovation, you have the power to turn challenges into triumphs and write your own success story in the dynamic landscape of business.

Creating and Keeping Customer Loyalty – Your Key to Business Success!

Owning a business entails a myriad of obstacles to navigate. Whether it’s keeping up with inflation, building up your brand or making sure the finances are on track – it can be a lot! However, among all these important aspects, there’s one magical ingredient that really makes a difference – customer loyalty. It’s like the secret sauce that fuels your business’s growth and success.

Building up and keeping a loyal following is no walk in the park. So, let’s dive into some proven methods you can use to make sure those familiar faces keep coming back for more.

Deliver amazing customer service

It seems like an obvious thing to say, but the foundations of creating customer loyalty start with customer service and making it the best it can be. Half measures won’t do here, so set the standard high and train your people to deliver the best service they can. Set out some rules about problem solving so your staff have autonomy to nip any problems in the bud early before they escalate into bigger issues, and create an ethos that has excellent customer care at it’s core.

Go above and beyond expectations

Customers are loyal to businesses that give them extra value, so go above the industry standard and way above what your competitor is doing. For example offer free delivery or have a lower minimum order. If your competitor delivers goods to their customers front door, you could deliver to the threshold then offer to go inside and unpack the goods for them. It’s a simple comparison, but it’s true that going the extra step to please your customer will pay you back with repeat business and positive recommendations.

If you are a very small business it’s worth giving your time for free on occasion. If a customer calls a plumber to fix a dripping tap, and they only get charged for the price of a new washer, they will be far more likely to call that plumber in the future, and recommend them to friends and family. Giving your time may feel like you are selling your services too cheaply, but this is good groundwork for building relationships with customers.

Think about your own experiences with trades folk and businesses like your own. What would make you notice them and use them again? Essentially people respond when they feel cared about, so going beyond what is expected of you will create strong bonds.

Loyalty schemes

The big supermarkets have loyalty schemes down to a fine art and they definitely work. It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have a favourite supermarket. As humans we naturally return to a place of comfort and our buying behaviour is no different. The coffee shops have cottoned on to loyalty schemes too and instead of supermarket points they will often give a free coffee after a set amount of purchases.

The basic point of these schemes is to encourage repeat purchases, but the route to this end could come from any number of ideas. An alternative way to offer value is via a membership scheme. This is best done on a website where you collect customer email information in exchange for a discount voucher. Usually this is done with a pop up box when someone looks at your website. The idea being that an email has ongoing value to you. Once you have a list of customer emails you now have an audience for a newsletter!

You should definitely call it a newsletter, but this doesn’t mean you are sending them ‘news’. You are going to be sending them discounts and voucher codes that they can use because they are on your ‘exclusive’ membership list. The offers could be simple:

“10% discount off your next order”

Or you could put some conditions on the offers; for example:

“Save £10 when you spend over £50”

“free delivery when you spend over £40” (a common supermarket offer)

The customer perception is that they are getting great value from you but in reality the cost to you is minimal because the loyalty that you gain is well worth it.

Communication

Sending regular newsletters can be a great way to give extra value too. Why not send customers a link to something of value that is industry related, for example a furniture shop could include a link to a video about interior design, or a wool shop could send links to free knitting patterns and images on Pinterest and Ravelry. It doesn’t have to be a close link to your business, just something that’s industry adjacent and that your customer will not have found on their own. What you are doing is building rapport and providing extra value.

If you know your customers birthday (which could be gathered as an option when they provide their email address), send them an e-card with a discount voucher or a free gift. Imagine how special this will make them feel. If you have ever found a Google doodle wishing you happy birthday, you’ll know the thrill this brings, and the effort is very low here. There is no discount or saving from Google, so imagine the joy if you send a ‘£5 off your next order’ voucher!

Brand values

Be clear on your company’s ethics and what you stand for. As business folk we get very focussed on financial gain and success, but your customer is an emotional being and will make informed decisions based on the values that you project. If you can harness the current trend towards eco-friendliness this will win you lots of loyalty points. If you recycle or buy recycled materials within any part of your business this is worth talking about. If you can go the extra step of getting your customers involved with recycling this is even better. Encouraging them to return their packaging to you for recycling will make you stand out.

Your values don’t have to save the planet though, just providing excellent service can be what your brand is about. If you know that your service goes way beyond what is expected within your industry this is of enormous value too and you should advertise your business as outstanding in this area.

Ask yourself what you do best and shout it from the rooftops – or on social media!

Respond to feedback

Make it your policy to respond to all the feedback you receive. Even if you just ‘like’ a comment on your social media, it will be appreciated by the contributor. Getting good reviews is a great way to show what a good job you do, so display the positive ones on your website that reflect your values and emphasise your brand message.

If you do happen to get a bad review or a complaint you should always deal with these promptly and professionally. Don’t take criticism to heart, instead use it as a way to show improvement and growth.

Never respond to a complaint when you are angry. Compose your response then sleep on it, you’ll be much calmer when you re-read it after a night of contemplation and you can edit it accordingly. The goal here is to show that you are listening and willing to change for the better. Customers will appreciate being heard, and if you can solve their problems quickly they will feel understood and remain loyal.

Build a community

The majority of businesses maintain an active presence on social media, and Facebook stands out by offering a wonderful feature for forming interest groups. Make your group the place where you offer discounts, referral rewards, and exclusive offers. Create a sense of exclusivity so that members feel special, but don’t put any barriers to joining. Your goal is to gain members and give them great value, in return they will buy from you and recommend you and your group. If you have a business that relies heavily on repeat business like a barber shop or a gym this is a great way to build a community that is loyal to you.

You don’t have to do it on Facebook of course. The world of technological innovation means that anyone can build an app now! Why not employ a software expert to build an app just for your business that offers useful tips, discounts, a news sharing forum, and something specific to your business. For example a pub could put free quizzes on the app as an addition to their weekly in house quiz, or a gardener could offer seasonal advice and tips on getting rid of slugs! As long as you are offering value and inclusiveness, creating a community within your business will encourage repeat business.

Incorporating one or all these strategies can be a game-changer for your small business’s customer loyalty.

Take a moment to step back and see your business through the eyes of a potential customer. Imagine being in their shoes. Now, think about what could make their experience even better and remember those times when you yourself were wowed by outstanding customer service. Car dealerships surprise customers with a big bunch of flowers when they pick up their new car! It’s not just about saying thanks – those flowers create a lasting impression. The dealerships get it – we don’t buy cars only once, and just like we prefer to visit the same supermarket, we’re drawn to businesses that make us feel special.

From exclusive discounts that show appreciation, fostering a community around your brand to delivering exceptional customer service — these steps create a powerful recipe for lasting success. So, let’s find that something special your business can offer. Something that’ll give your customers that warm, fuzzy feeling that keeps them coming back with a smile.

Mastering the Clock: Essential Time Management Tips for Busy Business Owners

Let’s talk about something that can truly boost your work happiness – feeling in control of your day! Life can get pretty hectic, but with a little planning, you can turn the chaos into a smooth sailing journey.

Investing some time in planning your day properly will not only slash your stress levels, but will also fire up your motivation to be great at your job and the master of your work life balance.

Embrace the Interruptions

If you work from home or have a solitary job then you are lucky enough to be the master of all your working time. However, for those who are part of a busy workplace the interactions with colleagues can eat away at your time. Work out how many interruptions you experience during a typical working week and calculate the average time you spend dealing with other people. If you have an open door policy then you may spend a huge portion of your time putting out other peoples fires, so it’s vital to know how much time you actually have for your own work.

In doing this analysis you may discover that you spend much more time than you expected dealing with interruptions. For example if you find that your time with colleagues is 60% of your working day, this is powerful knowledge. You now know that you only have 40% of your time to complete your own work. There is nothing more disheartening than making a ‘to-do’ list and only ticking off the first one or two things. If you know that you only have a few hours available to yourself in a working day you can actually plan effectively and deal with other peoples problems better without the pressure of knowing your ‘to-do’ list is calling.

Be single minded

The word “multi-tasking” has been around since the 1960s and it’s now a very common skill requirement in job adverts. Everyone expects us to be multitasking pros in our busy work lives. But surprisingly, there are studies that show when we try to do two things at once, our reaction times and focus go downhill. So, make it your mission to do each task during your workday without taking on anything extra or trying to do two things together. We humans are not built to handle that stuff well.

Remember to recharge

In some businesses overtime is a virus that spreads and becomes part of the culture, but the truth is that staying late is overwhelmingly bad for your stress levels and mental well-being. This is especially true if you are looking at a computer screen for most of the day. Getting enough down time and switching off from the worries of the working day will rejuvenate and refresh your enthusiasm and make you a better, more efficient worker.

Learning when to say no

Do you often find yourself trapped in pointless meetings that could easily be handled via email? Perhaps you’re juggling too many projects, leaving you buried under a pile of paperwork. Learning to say no is undoubtedly challenging. Society places great emphasis on politeness, making it difficult to defy this convention. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to ask yourself why you find it hard to say no. Is it due to a desire to be helpful, a tendency to please others, or a struggle with delegating and wanting to maintain control?

To master the art of saying no, consider taking gradual steps if the idea seems stressful, but remain resolute in your decision. If others perceive you as a pushover, the problem will persist. Keep in mind that saying no doesn’t mean rejecting everything; it’s about declining the extra tasks that could overwhelm you.

Break it down

Tackling a big project can be overwhelming, leaving you feeling daunted and prone to procrastination. However, there’s a simpler approach to help large tasks feel achievable: divide the project into manageable chunks.

Imagine confronting an overgrown garden filled with tangled weeds and no clear starting point. Now, consider breaking it down into smaller tasks: clearing the pathways, trimming the trees, pulling out the big weeds, and mowing the lawn. By treating each job as an isolated task, the project immediately becomes more approachable. The same principle applies to work projects. Create a list, breaking it into bite-sized portions, and suddenly you’ll regain a sense of control. Additionally, you might even discover opportunities to delegate some tasks, making the entire endeavour feel even more feasible.

Create time for emails

The constant interruptions that email creates can easily sabotage your concentration. It is not designed as an instant messaging service. It’s predecessor was the postal system, so don’t feel that you need to be on high alert to answer queries the second they fall into your inbox.

Turn off notifications and give yourself a portion of the day where you deal with emails. If you feel better doing them first thing in the morning, give yourself a cut off time and leave them alone until the start of the next day, or give yourself two timeslots for emails. It may be tempting to immediately respond to messages that elicit a reaction, but doing so can give your colleagues the impression that you’re always available.

Instead, keep your responses within your own schedule and pace. If someone requires urgent assistance, they can always reach out via phone. Over time, as your colleagues become accustomed to waiting for your response, it will become the new normal, fostering a healthier work environment where interruptions are minimized.

Time management is the cornerstone of success, and by investing in these practices, you can strike a balance between work and personal life while achieving your goals with greater ease.

Remember, time is a finite resource, but with the right approach, you can make every moment count. Embrace the power of great time management, and you’ll see how work satisfaction and happiness are within your reach.

Creating a Positive Company Culture

Employees who work in a business that has a positive company culture are likely to be much more creative, productive and loyal, so it stands to reason that fostering positivity in your business is going to be beneficial all round.

Getting it wrong can mean your business gets a bad reputation; and in a world where we are being rated on job recruitment websites, and consumer review websites it’s better to be among the high achievers.

Let’s explore the key elements that play a vital role in nurturing a positive and welcoming company culture!

Start with your core values and beliefs

This comes from inside and you will feel intuitively what your own core values for your business should be.  Writing these values down and defining how you achieve them is a good exercise. 

For example you may run a call centre who need to give amazing customer service.  If they feel happy, trusted and appreciated your team will provide top value to your customers, so choose core values that will resonate with them, like integrity, clarity and collaboration.  If you run a construction company you may feel that empathy is important to you.  In an industry that isn’t famous for honesty, you could make a big impact by establishing a company policy to pass on savings to your customers.  So when a project costs less than originally quoted you can greatly enhance your reputation for fairness.  You will soon find that your staff is motivated to identify ways to generate savings and actively contribute to your company’s overall reputation. 

Other core values to consider could be things like authenticity, communication, creativity, determination, flexibility, honesty, optimism, reliability, teamwork, tenacity. 

You know your business inside out and will instinctively sense which core values motivate your people, so pick the ones that feel right and make them a part of your working days.

Communicate your core values

If you have regular meetings, keep these values at the fore by projecting them on a screen throughout the session or incorporating them into the meeting minutes. Another impactful idea is to have note pads printed for employees, featuring your core values on them, encouraging constant reinforcement.

When producing a company handbook, a great approach is to include your core values either as an introduction or place them on the cover. This sets the tone and emphasizes their significance right from the start.

However, the most powerful way to communicate and instil these values is through open discussions. Make them a natural part of your everyday language, and soon they will become the guiding mantra for everyone in the organization.

Recognise good work

Whatever core values you decide upon reward the employees who use them.  In fact reward employees whenever they do good work.  The road to success is solving problems and moving forward in a positive way.  Don’t be tempted to fall into a blame culture, this will catch fire and spread quickly.  Emphasise that mistakes will always happen, but they can’t be undone and the right thing to do is look for a way to learn from them and work towards success.

If you have a sales team, then rewarding them is easy and you probably have a scheme in place already, but think about rewarding all your staff.  Having a regular Christmas celebration is lovely, so have a summer one too.  Maybe a family barbecue or a day trip to a local landmark, or a shopping day with vouchers.  Some companies give an extra day off for birthday’s which is such a small concession, but is much appreciated.

If your employee achieves a personal milestone, such as passing a career-enhancing exam, it becomes a cause for celebration, and publicly acknowledging it will help foster positive feelings.

Encourage social activities

This can be a wonderful opportunity to foster strong team bonds. Friendships often naturally develop in the workplace, and providing chances to socialize without work-related pressures can significantly enhance team spirit. To make these gatherings more organized and enjoyable, consider appointing a social event manager who can arrange nice events, perhaps on a monthly basis. Options for activities can range from active outings like a trip to the local bowling alley or laser tag, to more relaxed experiences like dining at a nearby restaurant or attending a theatre performance. Remember, these events don’t necessarily have to be financed by the company; a token payment, like covering the drinks could be a nice gesture to show support and appreciation for employees.

Alternatively if your company supports a charity you could do some fundraising.  Most big charities nominate a special day or week of the year to concentrate on fundraising and organise special events, so make the most of these or organise your own. If you have employees that will make cakes have a cake sale.  If nobody likes baking then a jumble sale could work or have a mufti day (pay to come in jeans etc.).

Flexible working

We are moving into an age where remote working has become much more commonplace.  The pandemic helped us to realise that with a good internet connection, working at home is a perfectly viable option and it has been shown than hybrid working can contribute to employee mental well-being as well as promoting an increase in productivity.  The benefits here are obvious, so if you are not already embracing this system, consider how it could work for you and canvas your workforce to see if they would welcome a flexible system.

Similarly, you may find that you have staff who would welcome working part time.  People with families, might want school friendly shifts, or just slightly reduced hours to accommodate another commitment.  There are many reasons why people might want reduced hours or maybe they need extra hours and you can balance the workload between those who are willing to do more and those who prefer to be part time.

Consider being more flexible when you are recruiting.  A role that offers a choice of full time / part time and hybrid working options will attract more interest.

The more you can work to create a good work life balance for employees the more they will give back.  Being appreciated and listened to is fundamental to good mental health and creating a positive environment will pay you back in loyalty and employee retention.

Be Inclusive

Embracing the richness of diversity in people’s backgrounds and cultures can truly elevate your business to new heights! By supporting and valuing individuals from all walks of life, you create a warm atmosphere of tolerance and collaboration. Being open-minded, flexible, and free from biases allows everyone to contribute their unique perspectives, making your journey together even more enjoyable and successful!

For example Timpsons (a high street shoe repair outlet) make it their policy to hire ex-offenders.  By making use of this untapped resource and giving a second chance to people who would not be first choice for other employers, they have gone from strength to strength.  The vast majority of these employees are loyal, hard working, make a valuable contribution to the company, and do not re-offend.

Mark the milestones

Embrace and celebrate your business milestones with joy and enthusiasm! When that significant anniversary comes around, it’s time to let the world know and make it a memorable occasion. Don’t forget to involve your staff and create a fantastic party on the actual day! We’re talking about cakes for all, party hats, and loads of laughter. As a nice keepsake, how about gifting everyone t-shirts displaying the number of years your incredible business has been thriving?

Be approachable

Encouraging an open-door policy is a powerful way to make people feel included and foster loyalty. Letting your door remain open sends a message that you are approachable and available for discussions and support. Encourage other managers to adopt this practice as well, promoting a culture of accessibility throughout the organization.

Remember, transparency is key. Avoid alienating your team members by keeping secrets from them. Instead, strive to be open, honest, and approachable. When you show your genuine interest in their opinions and concerns, they will appreciate your authenticity and reciprocate with loyalty and dedication. By cultivating such an atmosphere, you’ll create a strong and cohesive team that works together towards shared success.

Create a fun environment

Spice up your team building activities with a touch of humour and excitement! Come up with creative and fun ideas that will leave everyone smiling and building stronger bonds.  Start with something as simple and heart-warming as a “Bring Your Dog to Work Day” – who can resist the charm of adorable canine co-workers? Not only will it add some laughter to the office, but it will also give you a chance to bond over your love for pets.

And why stop there? Take it up a notch with a fantastic themed party! Picture this:  “Superhero Day,” where you all dress up as your favourite heroes and heroines. Not only will you get a good laugh out of each other’s costumes, but it’ll also be a great opportunity to showcase your creativity and imagination.

Now, to sweeten the deal, you could organize a charity raffle with some quirky prizes. How about a chance to win delicious cream cakes or a massive bag of sweeties? Just imagine the excitement and friendly competition as you all try your luck for these delectable treats!

By infusing humour into your team-building activities, you can create an environment that fosters camaraderie, breaks down barriers, and leaves you with fond memories. So unleash your creativity and make your team stronger, one laugh at a time!

Reap your rewards

Embracing positivity will undoubtedly bring numerous benefits! There’s absolutely no downside to fostering a positive company culture. By doing so, you’ll experience a significant reduction in employee absences and a remarkable increase in productivity, collaboration, and commitment. Your team will become passionate advocates for your business, thereby enhancing your reputation. Imagine being that sought-after employer everyone dreams of working for… with a few positive changes, your company can become the desirable destination.