With New Years' resolutions long forgotten, 2022 already feels quite a stall. From a Business angle, the bad news keeps on coming - higher energy costs, scarcity of resources, record inflation levels, difficult trading conditions post-Covid - the gloomy list is endless. Yet, a New Year heralds a time for innovation and already the ‘smog’ of Covid seems to be lifting, with the distant dawn of a brighter economic outlook. Ironically, the time to start or invest in a business is often during a financial ‘downturn’ and is the reason why JCommerce are re-doubling their efforts this year to provide business support services for the community. One of the most effective forms of business assistance is mentoring; it allows ‘newbies’ to gain the inside track and vital knowledge from industry veterans. So here are 22 tips from business mentors we work with, to help your business this year.
Be prepared – Take a good look at your business. How well are you handling the different strands? Operationally, are things running as they should? Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that some tasks are best done with professional help.
New Beginnings – If you are starting a new business, your business plan is vital to strategise different aspects of the business and set goals. It’s that old saying about life “if you don’t know where you’re going how will you know when you get there.”
Working from home – Hailed as the new way of working, it can certainly lead to increased productivity, but the biggest upside is that allows you to start almost anything from home, with minimum overheads.
Be curious – If you are developing a new product, do your research, be prepared for plenty of experimentation and try to get hands-on experience. Thomas Edison, the prolific inventor, most notably of the light bulb fame said, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Be present – multi-tasking is so overrated! Practice mindfulness and be in the moment by prioritising tasks that need to be done; others can wait, or be delegated.
Try before you buy – If you are looking at a new version of a current product, think seriously about what improvements you would make and how would you make it better.
Turn uncertainty into a safe bet – Although we are still in unchartered waters in terms of post-Covid economics, on your own ‘macro’ level, know what you are getting into; identify the needs and then the solutions.
Cut costs – spiralling costs are the nemesis of any business and can often catch people unawares. This is especially true against the current backdrop of raw material costs, production AND transportation leading to increasing prices. So be lean in the areas you can without cutting important corners.
Build relationships – Networking is defined as the “Exchange of information and ideas amongst those with a common interest, usually in an informal setting”. Follow up on leads, go to events and speak to people. You never know which connection will get you to the next step.
Know your competitors – Research and be familiar with their business model and what you would do differently. Conversely, you can also build bridges, not walls by collaborating with someone else in the same field. Sometimes your expertise can complement or you will find opportunities to pass on business to each other.
-----As well as your target audience – Trying to be all things to all people means you could spread yourself too thinly and end up not pleasing anyone. Know who your end-user is and engage with them endlessly.
Stand out – find your unique angle that sets your business apart. Think Coke's secret ingredient or Amazons’ same-day delivery. If you don’t have something unique - let's face it, you cant always re-invent the wheel - then make a [true] claim before your competitors do and you will ‘own’ it [Tesco: Every little helps].
Listen to the customer – The most fundamental question to any business is, “Is this what customers really want?” Ask customers for their feedback and use this to your benefit. If you are starting out, look for opinions on similar products or organise a focus group or survey.
Ask Questions – And ask again – Pitch yourself to professionals and carry out market research….and use your mentor!
Finance and funding – Probably the toughest part for new businesses, however if you are committed, passionate and have a good business plan, don’t be afraid to approach family, the banks and numerous business loan providers to raise capital.
Create a brand – Clever branding establishing who you are, allows you to create a unique and lasting image that molds customers’ perception to believing in your product.
Marketing – Build awareness through consistent messaging and constant promotion of your service or product to remind people that they need what you have. Use satisfied customer testimonials and recommendations as well as word of mouth to create traction.
People are your best asset – As people re-adjust their priorities for a post-Covid work/life balance, many talented individuals are looking for new opportunities; use their well-honed skills to shore up any gaps in your knowledge and surround themselves with the right people.
Be prepared for growth – Whilst things seem sluggish now, be well-positioned to take advantage so that you don’t miss the boat when the market ticks upwards, which it will eventually.
Go digital – Using technology in the various different business operations, can in the longer term provide better value to your customers and be more economic for you.
Website development – Having an online presence is your calling card and provides credibility. It can also be a sales tool allowing you to ‘boast’ about what you do well, or even have an online selling facility.
Clear financial records – A must for any business start-up or small-medium enterprise; failure to do so can quickly lead to disaster and unravel what otherwise would be a good going conc