Business musings

Articles and thoughts about opportunity

Posted by Matt Stocker, stored in: Internationalisation & Exporting  Our News  

I recently went to the Baltics on behalf of a client, exploring the potential of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian markets. The trip was very well organised by UKTI; the visits were hugely useful both in understanding the market dynamics and also in finding out the level of potential opportunity in each country.

Having enjoyed the trip immensely, I just thought I’d give you a taster of it here, starting with the stats!

The numbers…

  • 6 day trip
  • 4 countries (if you include a transfer in Frankfurt airport!)
  • 2 days of traveling
  • 6 flights
  • 3 hotels
  • -1° Celsius average temperature
  • 2 days of snow
  • 4 days of meetings
  • 3 Embassies
  • 3 UKTI local teams
  • 2 evening events
  • 2 ambassadors met
  • 2 government ministers spoken with
  • 15 one-to-one meetings with interested parties
  • 21 companies met with in total

The commercial opportunity…

Well now, that would be commercially sensitive information! Sorry to disappoint.

And a few pictures…

Click on the images to enlarge them

Posted by Matt Stocker, stored in: Strategic Planning  

A recession could be an opportunity for your business

It might sound like a strange statement but could it be true? I am not saying that a recession is something to look forward to, nor am I saying that it is not without its considerable uncertainties or risks. However, there may be opportunities available that would normally be out-of-reach in a stable marketplace.

Here are some opportunities to look out for…

  1. Increase your market share. If you keep marketing and working on building your business when everyone else is running scared, you could capture a much larger share of the market than would otherwise have been possible.
  2. Use the external pressure to develop a highly efficient and effective business. Use the economic pressure as an incentive to re-assess processes and systems thereby cutting out wastage and inefficiencies; this will enable you to cut costs and deliver a more efficient and effective business. However, ensure you continue to build strong customer service into your processes and don’t cut down at the cost of your product or service quality.
  3. Look for opportunities to diversify into new markets thereby spreading your risk and increasing your revenue. This doesn’t necessarily mean expensive new product development. Could your product be sold in new markets you haven’t tried before with a little bit of re-positioning? Maybe you have the skills to offer new services with very little effort? It may just add a little stability to your business. Be careful about the more risky moves. I’m not saying they’re not worth considering but don’t jeopardise your existing business for the sake of a riskier alternative.
  4. Buy your competitor’s assets if they go into liquidation. Select your competitors carefully, but making an offer for selected assets, such as their customer list or any intellectual property they may own, could be an opportunity that only comes up once in a lifetime. Think about this in advance: pick them now, then keep an eye on them. Companies House offers a monitoring service for £0.50 a year per company so you will get an email about any documents are filed by your competitors. You could also set up Google Alerts.

As businesses are starting to report a slowdown in sales and a weakening in their financial position, there has been a lot in the news about a serious recession pending for the UK, especially after the report from the British Chambers of Commerce.

So, how should you respond? Do you know how you can make your business stronger and more competitive and therefore better able to deal with a recession? Markets shrink in a recession so where there were lots of people wanting and willing/able to pay for your product or service before, there are now less people able to purchase what you have to offer. That means you are going to have to change your strategy to win the remaining customers and fight off your competitors.

Here are 5 steps to prepare your business for a recession…

  1. Plan for the future
    Don’t just meander along hoping for the best – plan! Your business will work best if you know where you are trying to go and what you are trying to achieve in the next 3-5 years. It doesn’t have to be a long, detailed or ‘impressive’ strategy, but it does require thought!
  2. Draw up an action plan on how to get there
    You will need decide on short, medium and long term actions out of the strategy you drew up. These are specific actionable things that you can start working on, starting immediately. There will be both big things that you can do to improve (break these down into manageable parts) and also lots of little things. Don’t forget to prioritise.
  3. Forecast your money
    Prepare a 3-year financial forecast or get someone to do it for you (like your accountant). Add in your costs and expected benefits from the action plan above. Even with a positive economy businesses often over-estimate sales, so be careful. Try cutting your revenue in half and see what it looks like; how would respond if that actually happened? Try cutting it in half again. Keep updating it monthly so you can see where you are against your plan. This will give you early warning of when you might run into problems. If things get really tight, then move from a monthly cashflow forecast to a weekly one, and watch your money like a hawk. When you see a problem do something about it in advance – don’t just wait for it to hit you!
  4. Spend time working on your business not in it
    In order to implement your plan you will need to starting working on your business. It’s the difference between say, restoring and renovating a house and just cleaning it. It can be hard work and uncomfortable knocking walls out, getting a plasterer in etc. but you end up with a much better house at the end of it. Don’t fall into the trap of just doing continual maintenance work when  actually there is significant change that needs to happen. Don’t get me wrong, maintenance is important but it won’t significantly push your business forward. Your business needs to be the best it can be in every area. If you don’t have time to do this, then you either need to make time or find someone to work with you to implement the action plan.
  5. Don’t stop marketing, just do it better
    As things start looking tight many companies start to reduce their marketing budgets. Proceed with caution on this one. You should do a separate 12-month marketing plan that links into both your strategy and your general business action plan. You might not know how effective your current marketing actually is; measuring its effectiveness can be hard but certainly not impossible. Marketing shouldn’t just be seen as a cost – it should bring in more business in monetary terms over the year than you spend on it. It is worth noting there are no silver bullets when it comes to marketing; it is about a consistent, focused approach in line with your branding and strategy (hence the plan!). By all means, put your marketing effort under the microscope and work to make it more effective, but don’t just cut it to cut costs; there is a real danger that you’ll end up cutting yourself off from your life blood – your customers!

Though it would seem that there are difficult times ahead, don’t panic and don’t give up. Times like these can actually be a real opportunity. Whilst you might worry about what is just around the corner, the fact that you are looking at what you can do about it now puts you in a much stronger position than most. This could be your opportunity to build a stronger, more resilient organisation and to outshine and outperform your competitors.