Over the weekend there has been a lot of press about Liam Fox’s comments that British business leaders are more interested in playing golf on a Friday afternoon than seeking international trade deals.
To my mind the comments from the Minister for International Trade demonstrates how out of touch politicians can be with the reality of running businesses both large and small. Long boozy lunches and taking Friday off to play golf with the chaps is a very old-fashioned view of the world of work.
However misguided I think he is, there may however be a small grain of truth in what he said about resting on our achievements of the past.
Last week Apple launched the iPhone 7 and it is hard to remember that prior to 2007 there were no smart phones or at least the smartest phone on the block was Blackberry. Hmm where are they now?
Apple have totally dominated, in financial terms, the smartphone market since its inception. But Apple wasn’t always very successful. In 2001 they lost US$25m and their net profit margin was 1.1% in both 2002 and 2003. Hardly results to boast about.Well everything changes and nothing stays the same. Apple’s iPhone sales have probably peaked and look like falling back by about 15% this financial year. This isn’t a surprise. After all you can’t continue to sell 230m phones a year and expect that market to continue forever. Everyone who wants an iPhone pretty much already owns one. So the desperate search for new revenue sources is on, hence Apple’s move into music, TV, watches and perhaps even cars.
This process equally applies to all businesses both large and small.
Look at Marks & Spencer’s inability to compete in clothing now or Tesco’s problems with their out of town stores (and their alleged £326m accounting fraud to cover it up). I used to buy clothes in River Island many years ago and then their clothes, well became a bit rubbish (for me anyway). Recently I have gone back to buying clothes from them because the quality is right, the price point spot on and the style is perfect for me. Who has changed – River Island or me? It doesn’t really matter. Change is all around us and companies need to change and adapt as their customers change.
The world moves on, clients want different things, products and services become out of date.
If you don’t change then someone else will seize your opportunity.
Following the vote to leave the EU in June, you might have thought that Armageddon was just around the corner. We are doomed, the economy will crash, it will take years to negotiate an exit, EU countries will punish us with high tariffs….
But Britain’s small business owners, in my experience, have pretty much ignored the background noise. In fact they have been …
chasing up leads & identifying new potential customers
keeping an eye on costs
monitoring profit margins
training staff to develop their skills
increasing value to clients with new products and services
building relationships with other organisations
looking for new suppliers
providing excellent customer service
checking out competitors
looking at export markets now that sterling has fallen
adjusting prices to reflect input costs from overseas suppliers
doing their accounts
paying bills and salaries
dealing with issues
answering the phone
…and working hard to provide an income for them and their families.
In fact small business owners know the only person they can rely on is themselves and their staff. They don’t wait around for governments to make decisions or for EU negotiations to start…
They just get on with the job
P.S. My business is a small business and I have been getting on with the job too. I have done pretty much all of the above AND wrote this blog entry.
It is only 2 weeks into 2015 and this year will see some great new businesses launched if StartUp 2015 at Somerset House in London is anything to go by. As an experienced entrepreneur myself and a government accredited SME business coach, I was invited to be one of the resident ‘meet an advisor’ on the day.
I can only say I was amazed by the huge crowds, the incredible enthusiasm and some of the great ideas I heard about. Confidentiality means I can’t share these ideas but I am really pleased that people are not only developing digital services, but also planning to manufacture and retail products.
Here are the three pieces of key advice I gave to new entrepreneurs during the day.
Who are your clients? Make sure you know who is going to be a paying client. This is a vital first step in understanding the type of people who will pay for your product or service. Before setting up your company it is really important to invest time in researching this.
How will you make money? Having paying clients is great, but you must also make sure that you can trade profitably, if not immediately then at some time in the future.
How much money do you need to get started? Often people think they need £100K or even £500k to get their business started but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most businesses can get up and running with little or no investment. This is a good thing as you want to prove your idea is viable before making any major investments of your time, your money or someone else’s money.
…and finally I advised them to get help from the government’s Growth Voucher scheme, where they will cover 50% of the costs (up to £2,000) for strategic advice. You can use these vouchers for getting strategic business advice from me.
Contact me today to get a fresh perspective on your business.