Action plan for business success in 2017

Business success is built by teams

The start of a New Year is always a good time to review your business - what you want to achieve, what's working and what's not working, and how you're going to make change happen. With renewed enthusiasm and passion, you're already one step closer to business success. But how do you review your business objectively and sustain your enthusiasm throughout the year?

Our advice is to create an action plan and get yourself a good support team. Whether you're a one-man-band, a start-up or an established business, all business owners and managers need support - successful people and businesses build teams to achieve goals that an individual working alone cannot.

For all business owners and managers, looking to take their business to the next level in 2017, we give you are our team's top tips for business success:

1. Stay focused on your business goals, your strategy and making it happen

Don’t get bogged down in day-to-day details. Find a way to delegate or outsource so that you spend your time on what will make your company successful. Work on your business and not in your business. Be clear about your goals, your market, your value proposition and your strategy. A business plan, however basic, is better than none because:

  1. it forces you to review your business and you will be less likely to overlook critical factors, and
  2. it will help you to communicate your plan to your team be they in-house or external people.

Use a business plan template or canvas – there are plenty on the internet e.g. https://strategyzer.com/canvas/business-model-canvas. Then make it happen!

Keep measuring, evaluating and looking for ways to improve what you are doing, and you will be on the path to achieving your goals.

 Delia Porter, MD & Founder

2. Don’t give up. Sales is not a one-click process.

Whether you sell products or services to businesses or to consumers, the sales process is never a one-click event. There is always a customer journey and your job is to make sure that the journey is memorable - for all the right reasons!

Sales rarely occur at the first meeting. More often it takes five follow up conversations or points of contact before a final purchasing decision is made. If you still feel you’re not getting it right, review your value proposition and marketing message.

Nicolle Anderson, Business Development Director

3. Quality not quantity

Too often we see companies publishing repetitive, vague and unfocused content on social media, and doing this on a daily basis. Sure: keeping brand and name positioned at the forefront of people’s minds is vital, but it won’t necessarily be achieved by a steady drizzle of beige. Social media users are a savvy and demanding crowd. They want to be entertained, they are looking for the next idea, they are looking for the next opportunity to re-tweet.

Our advice is to:

  • plan narrative arcs for your posts and plan a couple of months’ worth in advance
  • be topical and relevant
  • use video and other visuals as much as possible
  • be ready to engage and be responsive
  • above all do your research CONSTANTLY.

If you are endlessly getting no engagement from posts there is a reason for this. Check your analytics and revise or, if need be, devise a new strategy. What works today, might not work tomorrow.

Annabel Moore, Marketing Consultant

4. Put Instagram high on your social media priorities

Current stats from 2016 show that Instagram hosts 500 million active users per month and a staggering 70 million pictures are shared per day, excluding video content! It is predicted that by 2017, 51.8% of social media users will be on Instagram, surpassing all other platforms in terms of engagement and followers. (Source: www.tweetfavy.com).

Instagram already has more monthly users than Twitter and offers 4% engagement rates for followers, compared to 0.1% on Facebook (Source: Why You Need an Instagram Account in 2017). And the best bit - Instagram recognises that there are a lot of businesses out there who want to harness its power.

Consequently there are a whole host of business tools at your disposal including new business profiles, analytics, the ability to create ads from posts directly within the Instagram app and promoted posts (like Facebook boosted posts). And don’t worry, it’s easier than you think!

Leeza Morley,  Marketing Consultant

5. Use technology to enable productivity, keep it simple and be vigilant

Love it or hate it, everyone is using IT! From websites, social media and pay per click advertising through to accountancy packages, customer relationship management (CRM) systems and smart phones.

Our advice is to keep things simple. Make sure you know what technology is going to cost you - not just to set up but the on-going costs associated with support and maintenance. Make sure you, and your team, know how to use it including how to log in, where your data is, who owns it, how to back it up and how to restore it.

Lastly, be vigilant. Cyber-crime affects all businesses - when receiving emails watch out for phishing and be sure you and your staff know what to do. (If you don't know what phishing is or what to do about it, then read the first two notes appended to our blog: Accelerating growth in the digital age). A reminder to be vigilant does no one any harm but could save your business a lot of grief.

Lucy Lyle, IT & Web Consultant

6. Managing cash flow is like treading water. Stop and you will go under.

Cash flow is King. As Robert Kiyosaki, American businessman and author, said, “Making more money will not solve your problems if cash flow management is your problem.”

Many small businesses do not make it past their first year of trading, not because they are not profitable but because their cash flow management is inadequate. In short, cash flow is the amount of money coming into your business less the money flowing out. The more positive your cash flow the more money there is to make new investments to help grow your business.

To help you manage your cash flow, follow our 7-step approach:

  1. Set up a cash flow forecast. When planning your cash flow make sure you get accurate estimates for both projected sales and expenses and be as accurate and objective as possible.  Once set up, monitor and update the forecast regularly to keep control over the cash flow.
  2. Invoice customers promptly and follow up payments regularly.
  3. Stipulate clear payment terms on your invoices and ensure customers adhere to these terms.
  4. Make paying easy for your customers. Online payments or direct debits will ensure swift payments
  5. Credit control. Make sure someone is responsible for the monitoring of overdue accounts. This should be done on a regular basis.
  6. Pay your bills wisely, either negotiate discounts for early payments or use the payment terms to their fullest.
  7. Build up cash reserves if possible to get through lean times.

Tanya Bennett, Accountant (ACA)

7. It's never too early to create a robust and proactive HR plan for your business

Investing in HR upfront is a sensible business decision. Whether you have one employee or one hundred, establishing sound HR policies and practices early on creates a clear framework around which to build your team and manage their performance and development. Aside from that, a proactive approach to HR will also prevent claims from arising, by ensuring a fair and legally compliant approach to your employee relations.

Business success is intrinsically linked to team performance, so you’d be foolish not to invest in HR. If you're looking to create a robust and proactive HR plan for your business this year but don't know where to start, then read our blog: HR for start-ups and small businesses. Alternatively, give us a call or get in touch. It's not as daunting as you might think.

Naomi Scoffham, HR and Recruitment Consultant

8. Success demands that you never stop learning

Many people have quoted that “you are only as good as your last piece of work” and this is true whatever your profession or business.

To remain top of your league and ahead of your competition, you need to continue learning. In business this means:

  • keep asking questions about what’s working, what’s not working and why – ask your stakeholders (your customers, employees, suppliers etc)
  • research and study your market place (including your competitors) – benchmark success against different metrics to work out where and how you can improve
  • stay informed to make sure you are compliant with legal, professional and industry specific regulations
  • keep up-to-date with technological advances (applications, software and materials you work with) to improve productivity, quality and efficiency

In summary, ASK (Always Seek Knowledge). Only by seeking opportunities to learn and improve, will you maximise your full potential for success.

Trine Lyngby-Trow, Digital Designer

Get your action plan ready for business success in 2017

If any or all of the above leaves you feeling overwhelmed, then our team is here to help you. We'll identify and prioritise what's most important for your business to succeed and help you implement your action plan too. Just give us a call or get in touch.

From all the Business Clan team, we wish you a successful 2017!

P.S. We will be practising what we preach, so watch out for Business Clan's first foray into Instagram in 2017.