Coming out of Lockdown What next?

How have we supported business during lockdown? 

Lockdown was always going to be a severe business interruption, and whilst the Stay Home, Save Lives and Protect the NHS was the focus for the Government, it was clear our focus needed to be on supporting our community, preparing for the future and saving businesses.  That is exactly what we set out to do.  We started by moving all clients to weekly sessions on Zoom (with more support as needed).  Created a ‘hub’ of knowledge for emerging stages built around the information provided via various media, clients ‘on the ground’ in various locations around the world, and our international ActionCOACH network.  We added 2 webinars per week.  Tuesday at 8.30 to provide motivation, ideas, and support from the very best, Paul Dunn, Philip Hesketh, Jim Lawless, Steve Judge and our local celeb Alison Edgar to name just a few.   Friday at 9 to provide expert information on subjects relevant to businesses right now, from the HR Department to the British Business Bank.  With a team capable of giving solid business guidance for most situations we have, and continue to offer, gifted advise sessions to any business looking to drive their business through the coming weeks and months.

How has this crisis affected our business?

Well to start with we have become crazy busy with dealing with what is now ‘normal’ (I don’t believe there is a ‘new normal’… rather normal is just what we need to adapt to and work with… and the normal we have this week is likely to be different again next week).  Our revenues, along with those of many clients, have taken a massive hit, and we are grateful to the clients who have been able to help us through the last few months, as indeed we hope all our clients appreciate the support we offer (their feedback would suggest so which is incredible).  There were tears when we left our office, The Progress Shed, to work from home and splitting our team has been hard on us all.  Exciting times though as we are currently building offices within our event space to create our ‘socially (together) distanced’ offices.

How are businesses coping?

Businesses are in various stages coming through this time.  Initially, we modeled the emotional journey against that of the 7 stages of grief, working through the shock and denial to anger and depression before progressing to the hope and rebuild – this has been surprisingly accurate.  Few businesses have been unaffected, some have gained, the vast majority have been pushed into an enforced state of paralysis.  Many have stayed there.  More and more are waking up and driving forward.  As small businesses there is a strength and resilience that needs to be recognised.  Businesses can and will cope… if they don’t they will struggle to recover or even survive.  So, if we refer to Steve Judge’s model, the wave or resilience.  Businesses started in a state of shock and denial, for most this has now passed.  Many are now waking up to a degree of anger (the news is fuelling this at the moment, hindsight gives them an amazing ability to point out the failings of decisions made).  Frustratingly many are colluding in the ‘doom and gloom’ approach, the “there’s nothing we can do about it”, the “we’ll just have to see where it goes” approach, to my mind this isn’t coping, it is staying firmly back in denial!  So, at this point, coping = action.  It is getting things moving to sell your way forward, to find a route and create a plan, flexible, and clear enough to follow.

How Businesses are adapting

Well, that depends on the business.  All our clients are adapting and changing to the current situation, I say current because things are moving so fast at the moment.  For some the primary job is to survive, for others to transform and for others to perform.  This has involved some running deliberate strategies to create new contacts, others to completely re-invent the business to reach different and new markets and for others to reposition themselves, their marketing, systems and teams to give themselves the opportunity to not only bounce back but to bounce higher!

Biggest Challenges?

Wow, well the challenges are rolling.  Cash flow was an initial fear for many, working from home, how to market, what to sell, when to sell, how to move forward.  Then, how to manage the team, how to lead the team, how to keep motivation and how to move forward.  Now, when to get back to the office / workplace, whether to remain at work, who to un-furlough, when to un-furlough, how to get the marketing working, timing of anything.  And in the background, probably the biggest challenge is the ‘what if’ scenarios that keep running round our heads, our businesses, the news all of which lead to the question of ‘what should I do next’… indecision, uncertainty and paralysis will damage businesses is almost certainly be one of the most significant challenges for businesses finding their feet in the next few weeks / months.

Key areas to work on with businesses now

Initially, the core elements for survival and recovery… I have 12 of them… Communication, Outlook, Change, Cuts, Credit, Team, Work away from Work, On-line, Customer Service, Marketing, Selling and Common Sense.  Ensuring survival is step 1.  Stepping up to drive and sell your way forward is step 2.  Positioning your business to thrive is step 3.
Right now… I am working on stage 2 and 3 with all my clients.  This is really around creating relevant plans (accounting for variances and risk), measuring the tone of communication-based on the current state of your market, challenging your plans every day, reviewing the team (cuts, recruitment and resources), strategy for existing & new clients and what and how you are selling right now.

We’ve busy with lots of supportive online events so future plans in  June/ July/ August?

We are keeping our webinar series running (we have some incredible speakers lined up over the coming weeks).  Following requests from clients, we will be introducing our first Get the Edge online progression course from July, these are interactive, fun, educational coaching sessions to get the drive into any small, emerging or developing business.  Added to this Jo and Nigel are running regular sessions to help businesses understand how to support their teams (and to make them more productive) in the current state of normal.  In addition to this we are recording a variety of new 30 minute (or less) ‘what to do next’ sessions which we will be sharing soon.  Beyond this, any business that needs help to create a strategy around their team, sales and growth moving forward is welcome to take us up on a comp session (we allow 6 hours for these each week, so just ask and we will book you in).Book Now

What about teams on Furlough ?

 Jo is working with teams on furlough keeping them connected with the business and excited about returning to work.  It’s a great program that takes the pressure off the Business Owners as the background support is external.  We have several furloughed team members who have joined our webinars and it is great to see them pushing their education forward.

Advice as we move out of lockdown.

I have already said there is no ‘new normal’ it is just normal… and that will be new pretty much every day, certainly every week and definitely every month!  Coming out of lockdown will be an interesting state of normal… we will need to be prepared:  Prepared for the different approaches of different people; prepared for the new legislation and H&S requirements; prepared to market; prepared to sell; prepared to take risks; prepared to step forward and prepared to look for the opportunities that will inevitably be presented (this does not mean look to take advantage, rather look for where your business can move forward).  Overall, create your plans, manage your risks, support your team, find the opportunities and absolutely, work with a coach!  (It doesn’t have to be me… but… a good business coach will help EVERY business to move forward with purpose and is an investment that will give you an amazing ROI).

2.5 Billion People to Choose From?

In the last week, I have had more than one person tell me that their customers are not on LinkedIn or Facebook and that they don’t see the point of maintaining a Strong Social Media presence.

I mean seriously who exactly are their customers and where the hell are they hiding, 2.5 billion is pretty much everyone in the developed world.

You know how he told me this?

On LinkedIn messages, yep on Social Media I was told that Social Media doesn’t work for this person, and I am they type of person who might buy his services.

Of course it doesn’t work if you have no interpersonal skills, if you can’t talk to people then do the rest of us a favour and get out of business right now or employ someone who can interact with people.

5 days a week I write these tips and ideas that are aimed at helping people grow their business, these are given freely and without expectation of anything in return, I simply offer to talk to people who feel they would like to achieve more and understand they need a different perspective to move forward.

For the most part analysts agree that a 5-7% churn rate is good so even if you are performing at the top of your game you need to replace 5- 7% of your customers every year just to maintain current sales levels, on top of that the average increase in costs for a business is currently 2 – 3% so just to stay safe you need 10% growth every year to maintain your level of performance.

If your customers aren’t on Social Media where exactly are they?

For those of you that like your numbers, 63% of the UK population are on Social Media, (ONS) the makeup of the UK population by age shows that 64.6% are in the ages between 16 and 69 that’s pretty much everyone.

If you don’t want to move forward, if you don’t want any new customers if you are just waiting for your existing ones to leave and quietly close the doors of your business why the hell are you reading this?

If you do want to grow your business then start taking Social Media Seriously.

If you want to talk please

Book a 10 minute call here

Nothing to sell on this call just seeing if I can help


What Makes You Different?

So why would someone buy from you? What makes you different from your competitors that will get your potential customers buying from you this is just as relevant for those looking to improve their career as it is for running a business think you instead of business why would someone buy you?

You need a Niche

There are basically three generic strategies you can follow to gain a competitive advantage within your chosen market and start to create your niche.

You can sell whatever it is you are offering for less than everyone else, you can sell it in a different way such as specialising with higher levels of service or you can sell something that no one else can offer like something you hold the patent for or only you can do.

Each strategy has its pro’s and con’s and some are more difficult to implement or stay on top of than others but they are all valid.

The most obvious and most commonly used by a new business yet not necessarily the most effective especially for a new business is to try and gain market share or compete on price or using what is known as a cost led strategy.

Basically here you are trying to attract customers by being cheaper than everyone else thus gaining market share from those customers who are price sensitive. In order for this to work you need to have close to the lowest prices in your target market. To succeed this way while still achieving a profit you must be able to operate with lower costs than your competitors.

There are three main parts to operate at lower costs the first is a higher asset turnover than your competitors, for example a restaurant that turns tables around for new customers very quickly or an Airline like Easy Jet who turn their planes around within 20 minutes when the normal time is about 45 minutes to an hour.

In a manufacturing business it would involve production with high volumes of output, meaning fixed costs are spread over a larger number of units of the product or service, resulting in a lower unit cost to take advantage of economies of scale. It can also be in mass production or in bulk buying materials or end products. Higher levels of output both require and result in a high market share, and create an entry barrier to potential competitors, who may be unable to achieve the scale necessary to match the low costs and prices. It is worth keeping in mind all these approaches can be costly to introduce and can require very high levels of investment

The second part is to competing on price is by having low direct and indirect operating costs such as offering high volumes of standard products, basic no frills products or services and limiting the amount of customisation you offer. You will also have to keep production costs low by using standard or low cost components or services. You would have to pay low wages and locating your premises in low cost areas, think of companies that have their production facilitates in the Far East or Africa.

The third part is to have control over your supply chain encompassing all the functional groups that make this up. If you control the raw ingredients of your supply chain all the way to the finished product you can probably compete here, this is however really costly and usually smaller businesses just don’t have the financial clout to achieve this. The other way of controlling your supply chain is to have a distribution network that your suppliers just cannot afford to ignore. The big supermarkets are famous for squeezing their supply chain to compete on price and they successfully use just in time deliveries to keep their costs low.

Competing on price is usually referred to as a cost leadership strategy. Cost leadership strategies are really only viable for large companies who can enjoy the economies of scale with large production volumes or buying power and a large market share. Small businesses can be cost focused if they can enjoy some advantages that help with lower costs for example being below the VAT threshold allows a 20% reduction in costs yet limits growth but they are rarely cost leaders, likewise a small local restaurant in a low rent location can attract price sensitive customers and compete if they turn tables quickly enough and pay minimum wage.

Innovation of products or services may also allow a small company or start up to offer a cheaper product or service where the competitions processes and costs have become high.

Another major disadvantage of a cost leadership strategy is that your customers loyalty lies with the price and not with you and they will switch as soon as someone else offers a lower price and of course low prices often equate in customers heads as low quality which will damage your brand.

Differentiating yourself from your competition by doing things differently is another way to compete successfully while not focusing on price. Take the BMW group for example, they sell cars just the same as Ford and yet people the world over see them as different they are perceived to be higher quality more reliable and in some way just better than other non prestige cars, this is also true of Apple Computers, Coca Cola or Mercedes-Benz.

In order to use this kind of strategy you need to ensure you have a target market that is not price sensitive it also works when your market is saturated or competitive. If you can discover needs that are under served or you have some unique resources available.

This could be a patent or Intellectual Property (IP) or a new type of process. Typically you can charge higher prices if this is the case due to your competitive advantage being something other than price, as a rule it also comes with higher levels of customer loyalty.

This is not all about actual differences it can be as much about perceived differences even if your physical product is the same as your competitors. This way, Starbucks could brand coffee, and Nike could brand sports clothing. Fashion brands rely heavily on this form of perceived differentiation.

Take a look at Google, they are at their core a search engine and they started like other search engines but they wanted to be different. These days Google is arguably one of the most widely used and recognised brands on the planet. From innovative marketing strategies to being an insanely popular search engine, Google has essentially embedded itself into pop and business cultures. The company has also been noteworthy for its working environment, pioneering a model that allows employees to have flexible workdays. It creates an environment that fosters responsibility and creativity. This forward-thinking company attracts some of the world’s brightest and most creative minds, and love it or hate it you have to admit it is different to other search engines and that goes some way to explaining its incredible success.

Apple will go down in history as one of the most dazzling and innovative companies in history (Forbes notes that Boston Consulting Group has named it the most innovative company in the world every year since 2005). Apple do things differently whether you love them or hate them their success is founded on it.

Focusing is definitely an appropriate strategy for small-sized companies especially for those who want to avoid competition with big ones.

In adopting a narrow focus, you ideally focus on one or a few target markets this is also referred to as a niche strategy. You are looking for distinct groups of potential customers with specific needs you can then tailor the offering so that you can better meet the needs of that target market. You would typically look to gain an advantage through product innovation and or brand marketing rather than efficiency. A niche strategy should target market segments that are less vulnerable to substitutes or low cost alternatives.

A niche strategy can be a very successful strategy no matter what size your company is, in order to be successful in business of any type you have to find something that people need and then fulfil that need, there are lots and lots of needs out there all you have to do is pick the one you are going to fill. This is in effect what a niche is, what is the need you satisfy and importantly what makes you different to everyone else?

If you are starting a new business no matter if it’s producing a product or providing a service you have to be doing something that distinguishes you from what’s already available, if you’re working in a business that already exists you must think how you can distinguish yourself. Look for a void that is not currently being filled or serviced in the market place and how is this going to define or how does this define what you do. Your success will be relevant to how you, or your company’s is different unique or better.

How will you do this? How can you differentiate yourself in making a product or providing a service and that will become your edge or your niche. If you can’t enter a market with that difference then think of something else, simply put how are you going to be able to succeed if you don’t know what you are going to do to succeed?

Be Better

Steven Covey asked in his book “the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” if you there was one thing you could do that you are not already doing that if done well and consistently would have a massive positive impact on your business or your life what is it?

Marshall Goldsmith asks, “pick one thing you could be better at”

If you struggle to pick one here are some suggestions

1. Be Willing to Change

To get better, you have to be willing to change. Change is the only way for you to grow be more open to change.

2. Stop Making Excuses

Take accountability for your own mistakes and stop making excuses.

3. Stop Being Angry

Being angry doesn’t help you or solve any problems, it only creates more of them.

4. Be A Role Model

No matter what you choose to do, always make decisions that the person looking up to you will respect.

5. Forgive Someone

Humans are prone to making mistakes. Instead of holding mistakes against them, try to forgive.

6. Listen to People

Being a good listener will improve every other skill you have.

7. Be Honest

Truly honest people are hard to come by nowadays.

8. Do Something You Don’t Want To

Keeping an open mind and try things that you wouldn’t normally do

9. Practice The above at home

Who is more important your work colleagues, boss or employees or your partner or significant other?

If it’s important to grow and be better as a business owner, leader or manager it’s even more important at home .