Business musings

Articles and thoughts about recession

Posted by Debbie Stocker, stored in: Our News  

Photo of Matt sitting in front of a radio microphone and wearing headphonesEarlier this summer, one of our good friends, Adair Richards, invited Matt to appear on Radio Plus.

On Monday evenings, Adair presents a drive time show, in which he invites local and global stars to the studio for some honest chat.

In a short interview, Matt and Adair chatted all things business. Highlights included the motivation behind setting up a business, what it’s like to work with a business partner who also happens to be your wife, thoughts on consultancy, and ideas about how to solve the England football team’s crisis in the World Cup!

Listen to the full interview below (approximately 12.5 minutes). You can also check out Adair’s show every Monday between 5pm to 7pm on Radio Plus, 101.5FM.

Continue reading for the full interview transcript

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.

There has been a lot of talk recently about businesses having to fight to survive, but is this really the right approach in this current economic climate? Is it ever the right approach whatever the economic climate?

Fighting to survive

Often ‘fighting to survive’ is understood as working in the same way as usual, only harder. Working harder, selling more, but without fundamental change to the way in which this is done. And, in the current economic climate, whilst trying to do all this on a cost-cutting budget.

Sadly for many businesses this doesn’t work and the approach actually damages the business rather than helping it. Fighting to survive, without change, releases very little, if any, untapped potential within the business.

The Darwinian Approach explains why this is the case.

The weakest businesses in a marketplace struggle to survive
Even without a changing environment, we still see natural selection in action: the weakest businesses die or are killed by predators/competitors.

An unchanging business in a changing environment dies
Businesses operate in an always changing environment. Most of the time businesses can get away with slow evolution, or in a strong market, not evolving at all. However, when a market changes rapidly it often isn’t enough to do that. Nor is it enough to just fight by doing the same things as the business has always done.

How can we use the Darwinian approach to create a new strategy for survival?

  1. Survival of the fittest: building a strong business. A business is the sum of its parts: its people; its processes; its product/services; its culture; its financial position; its marketing; its customers etc.. The business needs to be strong to survive. Some are already strong; but all can be stronger.
  2. Design your business for evolution and change. A strong business is always growing, always developing and always moving forwards – in every area. If a business isn’t doing this, it’s going backwards. This is often about the culture of the corporation, and about the leadership who drives the movement. There does need to be someone in the centre who has the authority and ability to sponsor change – without that there is no permission for the organisation to change. It is about designing and building an organisation with the cabability to change. If this isn’t happening already, change is possible: it won’t be an easy journey but it is vital for survival.
  3. Understand the changing environment. Awareness of what is going on around you and enough distance and awareness to make intelligent decisions about how it will effect your business is critical. It requires looking ahead and around, then taking space to think, consider and understand. Only then can you respond.
  4. Respond: strategy and implementation. Strategy can be developed only from taking a holistic view internally and externally and deciding on a waypoint (it’s not a destination as you never actually stop journeying). Implementation comes from understanding the implications of that strategy and planning your journey, being ready to react and revise along the way. Without effective implementation there is no movement or change.

In the present economic climate, as markets change in unprecedented ways, adaptation of businesses to the environment is vital. Without adaptation, re-positioning, understanding the changing environment and reacting accordingly, businesses will struggle to survive. Business evolution is paramount.


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.