We work with many business owners from many varied sectors. One thing they have in common is that they all ask us for ways to improve their businesses and gain that all-important competitive edge. Well, if we had the magic answer we’d be billionaires and much as we love our jobs, we’d be unlikely to still be running a financial planning business in Manchester! Nonetheless, we can offer our three top tips, which we know from experience do make a real difference.
Access capital while you can
After the financial crisis, it was notoriously difficult for small businesses to gain access to capital. The banks do have more money to lend now so it has become a little easier. Of course, you will still need to have a sound business plan and good credit, and it may be that you need to personally guarantee the loan but it is worth exploring for the following reasons:
- it enables you to expand your business by buying another company or to launch a new product or service
- you can refinance any old debt at today’s lower interest rates
- you can establish a line of credit for a rainy day when you may need it for payroll or some other temporary ‘cash crunch’ requirement.
Engage rather than employ
Make the most of the expertise all around you. There are a vast number of talented people working as consultants these days as more and more people opt to take early retirement but continue to work part-time. Rather than have to employ someone on a full-time basis with all that entails, you can avail yourself of their experience by engaging them as a consultant. This way you ensure your business benefits from their considerable expertise. Or often these consultants have left big companies to start businesses of their own. One major advantage is that they can ‘cross-pollinate’ as they have worked with a vast range of other businesses so can share best practice with you and give you a fresh perspective. As well as enhancing your own offering, it can also prevent you from making the costly mistakes of others.
Start small – have a lean start-up
You don’t have to launch your new product with all its bells and whistles right from the kick-off. You certainly don’t have to have a flash office at outset. Keep your overheads as low as possible. We encourage many businesses to start small and test the water, by developing their product and service and launching it on smaller markets first. The big boys like Starbucks and Proctor and Gamble do it all the time; testing new concepts on smaller markets before releasing their products globally – so why shouldn’t you too? It’s a great opportunity to gain valuable feedback from your target audience and make refinements.
There are lots of opportunities out there – grab them with both hands, use the top tips above and improve your chances of success!