Cracker ways to kick-start 2013

BELINDA WILLIAMS
Last updated 15:52 12/12/2012
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A CRACKER START: Cutting your losses and broadening your appeal are among tips to make 2013 a great year for your business.

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Don't start 2013 playing catch-up. Here are 10 tips - from a broad range of experts - to help switch your focus from 'getting through Christmas' to 'getting ahead'.

1. Cut your losses

Closely examine your difficult clients to determine whether they're worth your time and money.

David Baumgarten, CEO of three Sydney-based business enterprise centres, says small businesses should be wary of clients who abuse credit terms.

"You are not a bank ... we need to be very conscious that a tight control is needed over debtors, as it will impact on the bottom line," Baumgarten says.

"Watch for the tell-tale signs of a business in trouble - delay in payment and stretching payment beyond your terms of trade.

"One bad debt, or having all your eggs in one basket, can virtually put you out of business."

2. Be picky, not complacent

Getting comfortable with long-term clients who provide a bulk of your income creates obvious pitfalls.

Build a "stable of clients - the number depending on your ability to service", says Baumgarten.

"Do not position yourself as a one or two-client business. Choose who you wish to do business (with) and who you enjoy working with."

He says the days of taking on just anyone a client are over.

"You will find that if you put your skills set out in the market, and set the criteria on how you operate your ethical business, you will attract the same."

3. Nurture existing relationships

You assume your clients are happy - but are they? Have they had better offers? Do some digging and show some appreciation.

Founder of The Good Manners Company, Anna Musson, says distinguishing yourself from competitors could simply come in the form of a handwritten thank-you note.

"What a wonderful way to be remembered, as someone who took the time and effort to pen a note which contains some wit and sincerity," Musson says.

"A handwritten note has a formula - thank or congratulate, refer to past, refer to future and sign off," she says.

4. Broaden your appeal

Michelle Gamble, 'chief angel' at Marketing Angels, says many small businesses focus on attracting new customers, rather than increasing value for those they already have.

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"With a slow-growth economy - and in some sectors negative or static growth - finding new, innovative ways to grow revenue (by) adding more products and services to offer current customers is a key opportunity," Gamble says.

"Do some customer research to find out what else your customers need ... perhaps run some trial offers to establish key opportunities for growth."

5. Build your brand

"Customer engagement and brand love is becoming increasingly important," says Gamble.

"Creating brand love, by delivering on your brand promise in the customer experience, is becoming increasingly important, with loving and engaged fans having the ability to build word-of-mouth for you via social media.

"Understanding your brand values - (and) how you'll bring these to life for customers - is time well spent going into 2013," she says.

6. Get engaged

"Content marketing is booming," Gamble says. "Simply offering a product is no longer enough - you need to also provide additional useful content to customers or potential customers."

She recommends creating interesting content that will entice customers to engage with your brand.

"It could be a 'how to' video, an e-guide, a free book or styling suggestions or tips. By offering useful content, you'll also grow your word-of-mouth and loyalty."

7. Review your business plan

Joe Kaleb, chartered accountant and CEO of small business portal www.australianbiz.com.au, says "developing a business plan that supports a vision of where the business is heading, and helps it get there, is a critical tool".

"All business decisions can then be made within the context of the plan, to ensure that resources are not wasted on areas that don't add to the overall direction of the business," he says.

"Note that business plans are never static and need to be constantly revised in light of new information and circumstances."

8. Plan for growth

"When planning for growth, businesses should anticipate the resources that growth will require," Kaleb says.

"This goes beyond budgeting for extra sales staff...other matters that should be considered include impact on working capital, premises requirements, management time required and systems capacity."

9. Review financing options

It sounds like extra work, but comparing financing options is time well-spent if you find a better deal.

"There are many different financing alternatives that are available," Kaleb says.

"Business owners should be regularly reviewing and comparing their financing to ensure that it is appropriate and that the current provider remains competitive."

10. Gain control by losing a little

It's common for small business owners to wear multiple hats. But consider delegating non-core activities so you can focus on running your business, rather than getting bogged down in busy work, says organisational psychologist and FBG Group director, Simon Brown-Greaves.

"The key role for a small business owner is to work on the business - not be completely immersed within it," Brown-Greaves says.

"If you find that all your time is spent on staff/administration, outsource it to someone whose core business is people or administration."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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