And the answer is NOT Covid !!!!
Many, if not most companies work very hard to promote themselves in many ways, attending networking meetings, creating social media posts, employing a sales force even – all targeted at going out to get NEW BUSINESS.
They then ignore, or neglect their current customer base. Here are the top 5 reasons why:
- Er, um, I don’t know who my customers are. They come to my web-site, they buy and then they go somewhere else. There is no loyalty any more.
Answer: I’m not surprised, if you never follow up, never say thank you why would you expect anything else.
- My CRM isn’t up to date?
Answer: Well it should be!!! Your customers are one of your best assets. There are people out there that can automate this for you from your Accounts system BUT remember – the Accounts payable Clerk is most unlikely to be the BUYING person! So make sure you get the name(s) of the people that you would want to talk to again.
Another route is to delegate it to a member of staff, or a Virtual Assistant
- Hasn’t GDPR put a stop to all that?
Answer: Absolutely NOT. You can contact your customers at any time, to discuss things with them, but yes of course you have to respect and adhere to GDPR
- I haven’t got the time
Answer: I’m sorry, but stop doing other things and get in touch with your customers!! It doesn’t have to be every day, or even every week.
If you really have problems, get a VA (Vitrual Assistant) to do it in a structured way. (Yes I know some good VA’s who I am sure would be pleased to help).
- Buy “why?” do it, I just don’t get it? My customers come to me.
Answer: It’s good that customers come to you, and you should be congratulated on that, but how many of the ones that came last week (month, year) are still buying from you? Wouldn’t you just love it if you hade all of them still.
So do it – formulate a plan to
a) know who they are,
b) know how to contact them, and what a good frequency of contact is and
c) DO IT, NOW
I hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, please get intouch with your questions, or just comment directly. Thank you.
as of 26th March 2020
1 Who can claim?
Any UK organisation with employees can apply, including:
- recruitment agencies (including their agency workers paid through PAYE)
- public authorities
You must have created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 28 February 2020 and have a UK bank account.
2 Employees you can claim for
Furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including:
- full-time employees
- part-time employees
- employees on agency contracts
- employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant since 28 February 2020, if they are rehired by their employer.
To be eligible for the subsidy, when on furlough, an employee can not undertake work for or on behalf of the organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue.
While on furlough, the employee’s wage will be subject to usual income tax and other deductions.
This scheme is only for employees on agency contracts who are not working.
All normal employment law still applies, ie no discrimination, seeking agreement if this is a change to contract,
3 What you’ll need to make a claim
Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. Employers may need to seek legal advice on the process. If sufficient numbers of staff are involved, it may be necessary to engage collective consultation processes to procure agreement to changes to terms of employment.
To claim, you will need:
- your ePAYE reference number
- the number of employees being furloughed
- the claim period (start and end date)
- amount claimed (per the minimum length of furloughing of 3 weeks)
- your bank account number and sort code
- your contact name
- your phone number
You will need to calculate the amount you are claiming. HMRC will retain the right to retrospectively audit all aspects of your claim.
Employees hired after 28 February 2020 cannot be furloughed or claimed for in accordance with this scheme.
5 What you can claim
You can claim a grant from HMRC to cover wages for a furloughed employee, equal to the lower of 80% of an employee’s regular salary or £2,500 per month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on paying those wages.
6 Do I need to make the pay up from 80% to 100%?
No, you are not obliged to, providing any changes you make comply with employment law, ie are agreed to by the employee.
This from HMRC: You can choose to provide top-up salary in addition to the grant. Employer National Insurance Contributions and automatic enrolment contribution on any additional top-up salary will not be funded through this scheme.
7 Income tax and Employee National Insurance
Wages of furloughed employees will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance as usual. Employees will also pay automatic enrolment contributions on qualifying earnings, unless they have chosen to opt-out or to cease saving into a workplace pension scheme.
Employers will be liable to pay Employer National Insurance contributions on wages paid, as well as automatic enrolment contributions on qualifying earnings unless an employee has opted out or has ceased saving into a workplace pension scheme.
8 Tax Treatment of the Coronavirus Job Retention Grant
Payments received by a business under the scheme are made to offset these deductible revenue costs. They must therefore be included as income in the business’s calculation of its taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes, in accordance with normal principles.
Businesses can deduct employment costs as normal when calculating taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes.
Disclaimer: This is for guidance only. You should seek professional advice before changing your employees’ terms and conditions of employment.
Full details can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme
This comes from a very long government document that has lots of other potentially helpful items in it. I have save you the trouble of wading through pages and pages of “stuff”
The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years.
The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.
The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the government-owned British Business Bank.
There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks.
You are eligible for the scheme if:
- your business is UK based, with turnover of no more than £45 million per year
- your business meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria
How to access the scheme
The scheme is now open for applications. All major banks are offering this scheme.
To apply, you should talk to your bank or one of the 40 accredited finance providers (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible, to discuss your business plan. You can find out the latest on the best ways to contact them via their websites. Please note that branches may currently be shut down to enable social distancing.
The full rules of the scheme and the list of accredited lenders are available on the British Business Bank website.
Whats 2020 got in store for you?
So you’ve nearly made it to Christmas and the to-do list is longer than ever and even though it’s more than a week away, everyone seems to have mentally shut-down already. They are offering you 2020 appointments for those meetings that you wanted to have this year.
So what to do while you don’t have so many appointments?
- Plan to take some really good quality time off.
This is so important. You’ve been working flat-out, and you probably have family and friends that would like to see you. So get organised with dates in the diary – who to see when, including how you will get there and any accommodation involved.
- Review your performance for 2019. Makes sure it’s fact based, not anecdotal
Ok, now you know which days you are having off, you can look forward to them and days to rest and have fun. Until then go to you accounts package and pull out your costs for your raw materials now, and for the corresponding period last year (so if you deliver things, look at the cost of fuel. If you buy in wood, and make furniture, look at the costs). So supplier invoices for Nov 2018 vs 2019.
What else are you paying for? Rent/rates/heat/light/electricity.
How much have they gone up by?
Your accounting system – Xero, Quickbooks, SAGE and the others should be able to generate reports for you. Ask your accountant if you can’t do it yourself.
- Review your plans and targets for 2020, or if you don’t have any get some in place right now!
When you started this year, where did you want to be? What were your targets for turnover, profits, customer numbers or anything else?
How does the reality compare? If you “smashed it” then well done, but for everyone else out there don’t worry, there are lots of people out there that can help.
So enjoy Christmas and all the best, enjoy everything that 2020 will bring.
This might seem an odd question, especially if you have only just started it, but in my opinion, there is only one true answer: In order to sell it.
You might think a sale is a very long way off, and with no idea of when or much for, but it should be an investment that you can use to fund your retirement, or something equally useful.
Even if you are not ready for a sale yet, read to the end of the article: it will put you in the right place for simply growing your business and when the surpise buyer appears you will have done most of the groundwork way ahead of time.
Lets’ get the foundations right. Start with the end in sight, even if it’s a long way off. I have a saying: “If you Plan to succeed and follow The Plan, the results should be predictable.“
The role of a business (growth) plan
A business plan, or a growth plan is a valuable asset for every business, whether you are thinking of selling soon, or have no wish to sell for the foreseeabele future.
Having one forces you to work on the business rather than in it. You have evidenced your ability to create a strategy, so by “just following The Plan” you are very likely to improve the business simply by following the process. With the added bonus that if a selling opportunity for your business does arise in the future, you’ll be in a far better position to get a better price.
When you create a plan, get outside eyes to take a look and give you a hand, because so many plans that I see have been cobbled together when a business is doing great, is expanding already, and everybody is so busy “doing” that there’s not a lot of time left for strategic planning. Let’s take a look at a template:
A Business growth plan template
You should already have a lot of these things, written down ideally, but if not written down, then in your head. Now is a great time to get the recorded.
Vision, mission, culture, purpose
What’s the point? Why does the business exist? What is it trying to achieve? Why does it make the word a better place? Is it to provide you or others with financial independence or early retirement, or is that simply a happy outcome of the real purpose of your Company? Are you driven by a sense of purpose or a cause?
Very often we push these questions aside as being “too deep” but their answers should become the goal, the place the business is heading for. Once published your answers will keep you motivated and guide the business (towards profitability and eventual sale).
The answer here is not “to make lots of money”. However, if you quantify that with an amount and a date, it becomes a goal. So it could become “Sell the business when I’m 55 years old and make £1m clear profit for me to invest and retire on”
Be guided by your Vision and Mission when setting your Goal. Once you have your Goal, you need to check it is SMARTER, Specific, Significant, Stretching; Measurable, Meaningful, Motivational; Agreed, Attainable, Achievable (at the right price), Action-based; Realistic; Time-bound; Ethical; Recorded (written down).
Let’s start doing some checks
What is the size of the market? And what share of it do you currently control? Who is your ideal client? Why are they your ideal client? Do they spend more? Or is the process of doing business with them more productive/enjoyable? What are the pains, fears and desires of your ideal client?
Your SWOT analysis
Have you assessed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your business? You can use a SWOT analysis to concoct plans for tackling weaknesses and threats, for building on your strengths, and for exploiting opportunities.
Quick Wins vs Strategic ones
Quick wins are great, but they often fade away. What is going to take their place in 18 – 24 months? What will be fuelling the growth in couple of years time? New products, New markets? How will you accomplish this, and how much resource will you need?
The Org Chart
Most businesses organise their activities and job roles around personalities rather than accountabilities and responsibilities. Wrong! Start from scratch and ask “What does the business need. Then assign the roles you have just decided on to the people in the team, and hire as appropriate and necessary. Fortunately, a business growth plan is the perfect opportunity to review this. And while you are there – do you have key-man insurance?
Does you hierarchy scale to where you want to be in 5 years time: Will you be the MD at the top? Will you need expert team leaders around you? an Ops Director, Sales and Marketing Director, Finance Director?
Sales and Marketing strategy
Your marketing strategy should answer the question: “What must our business look like in the eyes of our prospects so that they to choose us over everyone else and become customers?” How does your plan maximise the conversion rate from interested prospect to valued client? How do you nurture them and keep them coming back year after year?
Something that is systematised “just works” and should use best practice too. It shows that you know: “Here’s how this works.” This is gold dust to you as the owner, but when shown to a potential investor is the Holy Grail. The investor will be able to continue to run the business as successfully as you have done.
Your SWOT analysis will have thrown up areas of the business that you will want to change. What are they, when will they be implemented and by who? It takes specific actions to you reach your goal.
Measure, monitor and compare
If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist!
A business without measurements isn’t managed; it’s guessed. That’s why great businesses understand and create milestones towards each activity, task and goal. Measure first, implement change, measure again. Was there the expected improvement? If yes, move on, of not, revert.
The really important measures are shared and referred to as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
By choosing your KPIs carefully, you will know exactly how your business is performing and, as a result, can adjust your Plan accordingly.
By starting with the end in mind you can work backward to “here” and you should find this relatively straight forwards. So, for a 5 year Plan, have The Result (yr 5), the Yr 4 targets, the Yr 3 targets, and so on, sub-dividing the Yr 1 target into monthly ones.
Know your numbers
It’s imperative to “know your numbers”: your costs, your profitability, your customers buying patterns and more. Personally, I’m a great fan of having an online recording system like Xero to put all the information into, and then use another tool like VFD-Pro to interrogate it and provide an insight for your Accountant to check and relay back to you. Of cousre we must remember that any subsequent reporting will only be as good as the data that gets put in. Once you have two years of date in the system you should be able to see trends and perform useful analysis such as client attrition (number of clients gained or lost), purchasing cycle (how many time they buy), average spend, and much more.
Once you have two years of data in the system you should be able to see trends and perform useful analysis such as client attrition (number of clients gained or lost), purchasing cycle (how many time they buy), average spend, and much more.
Motivate your staff to work better
People don’t work for money. Most humans like to over-perform if given the right appreciation, rewards and incentives. When your staff are motivated they are a joy to work with, your customers will love giving them orders, and you will love the results. Try giving some extra responsibility and remember to say “thank-you” and “Well done” sincerely and often, even if it feels strange at first!
Incentives can misfire, so beware of the law of unintended consequences, and think them through very well before you implement any, but get it right and productivity will soar and you become the “go-to” employer in your area.
So I’ve got my Plan, now what?
Stick to it, improving it where you can!
You should be constantly reviewing your growth plan, even if only for a few hours a month. It’s also important to review your KPIs each month, and to make any necessary adjustments to the Plan. Bear in mind that it’s perfectly normal to sometimes NOT hit a milestone or goal exactly on time, so don’t worry if that happens, just look into it and see if you need to allocate more resource, or give yourself a bit more time. A pigeon constantly corrects its course as required by strong winds, but it always gets home. Similarly, the process of following a Growth Plan means taking new twists and turns and adjusting it as you gather new intelligence because the new way is the right track to take to get your business where you want it to be.
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Giving your existing customers some recognition and “tlc” is remarkably important for any business, but more so for small businesses: these are customers that you have already spent time and effort winning, they are already engaged with your company and, if encouraged, will continue to spend more money with you because they already trust you as a known supplier. If they have a positive view of you, so much the better.
But do you even know who they are, and have you ever shown them gratitude? If you do, they will become you ambassadors, giving word of moth referrals that you can publish and further strengthen the relationship.
Know your customers:
Who are they, when did they last buy, what did they buy, did they pay full price? Do you love dealing with them, do you think they love you?
Invest in a quality CRM system. It will show all your interactions, act as a reminder for when you next need to be in touch, especially if you would like repeat business. It can also be used to automate newsletters and other marketing events.
Identify Each Customers’ Needs
Identify and address your ongoing customer needs via upselling and cross-sell offerings. You have established a relationship and built trust by getting them to make the initial purchase, so think about their business and what else they SHOULD buy from you (if only they know that you sold it). If you offer them a personalized experience, they will want to come to you as their one-stop-shop. When they do, remember to thank them for the additional business. Be enquiring – discuss additional opportunities that they may have that you could fulfil, either with existing product, or by bringing in something new.
Reward Your VIP Customers
The 80-20 rule will always apply, so make sure that you know who your top 20% are: who brings in the most revenue (and the most profit!) and ensure you allocate your time and resources accordingly. Create a list of your VIP customers and publish it. Make sure everyone on the company knows who they are, and always go that extra mile for them. Keep in touch, ring them on their birthday just to say “Hello” and make them feel special. Invite them to your events (golf days, seminars etc). By doing so, they continue to be your most profitable customers, and they will remain loyal to your company, and less likely to be lost to the competition.
Focus on Customer Service
This sounds obvious – but doing things well is what is expected. It’s the way that you recover from the time when something goes wrong, or when your customer is less than 100% happy that marks you out from the crowd. The goal has to be excellent customer service: every phone call answered, every outgoing call, every email and customer touchpoint is an opportunity to communicate with our clients – to listen as well as to talk, so have a system of asking if the customer is 100% happy with what you do.
Always Be Consistently Reliable – exceed expectations.
It’s simple: Do what you say and say what you do. People love consistency, they hate surprises. Your CRM system should guide you to be there just before they have a need that you can fulfil. Be the person that meets their need, at a good value price with an appropriate lead-time.
Engage with Customers Regularly
This is a bit like number 2 above, but for those outside the top 20%. You still need to nurture them and engage with them on a regular basis in an interesting and relevant way. If they see other clients purchasing from you, they will be more inclined to do so. If they see your best clients giving testimonials about you those genuine testimonials are worth their weight in gold and will sway more clients to buy from you.
Build a win-win Experience
It’s difficult to stand out in today’s world. To keep your customers engaged with you, multiple things need to happen. They need to feel appreciated, which is pretty unique these days and therefore is memorable, especially if that appreciation from you to them is published for all to see. This is where accepting testimonials, thanking your client for them and publishing them on your web-site creates that win-win experience.
If you’d like more detail on any of these aspects, please get in touch.
If you want to change your results, change your mindset.
Sometimes it’s called your “subconscious“, sometimes it’s called your “mindset” – but what ever it’s called, it’s what controls who you are, how you behave, and yes – how successful you are. It’s the thoughts that run around inside your head when you “aren’t thinking” but they are all-controlling.
Most business owners start their own business with little more than their passion for what it is they do. Little or no capital, but bags of enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, it takes much more than passion to build a successful business. You must have the specific vision to see want your business to accomplish (big picture) and the timescale that you want to achieve it in. That’s your goal, so if you know the direction to take to produce the results you want you are well on the way to having a plan.
But you need more. Your subconscious, your mindset, is the most powerful force in the universe.
Our thoughts are the controlling factor in what we are as people and what we create in our lives for ourselves and those around us. By constantly directing your thoughts positively to imagine and then create the specific vision for you will start doing it “automatically” In your business you will start applying the right strategies and tactics to grow and develop the business. You are planning for success, and following The Plan.
How to implement success…
Think about it. Literally. Creating a positive, wealthy mindset requires action from you. You must create a mindset that’s focused on performing your highest impact and highest income-producing activities every single day. Some Positive Mindset practitioners even suggest devoting 10 minutes per day to just “thinking wealthy” if that’s what you want to achieve.
If you’re not happy with your business’ current results, then ask yourself why in a number of different ways and be brutally honest as you answer it. And don’t take “I’ll do it later” as an answer!
The ultimate question is: WHY are you failing to generate the revenue and profits you expect from your business? Let’s break it down a little:
- WHY are you getting such poor results?
- WHY are you failing to attract wonderful clients?
- WHY are you attracting the wrong clients?
One of the things that I’ve seen over the years is that people who are broke, struggling or just getting by – don’t think the same way as people who are financially well-off. The people with the money simply don’t have the same mindset as financially challenged people do, and therefore they behave very differently. They expect to have money, they expect to be wealthy, they believe it to be true.
In short, they take different actions.
“So what has this got to do with me”
Most small business owners have been mentally conditioning themselves along certain lines: “I can’t afford that, it’ll have to wait”, “If I don’t do it myself, it won’t be done properly.”, “To make more money, I have to work harder”, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” And the really damaging part is that the longer they think, the truer it becomes because they believe it.
These beliefs lead to specific actions such as working more hours and working harder in a hopeless attempt to increase revenue and profits. That leads to predictably poor results such as feelings of being overwhelmed, anger, anxiety and frustration… and a deep-seated belief that even more effort is required, even though the results point elsewhere.
What are your current beliefs? What effect are they having on you and your business today and every day?
Do you procrastinate or succumb to other mental activities that may be sabotaging your success?
Are you aware of, and focused on, your highest profit-producing activities?
Are you ensuring that all of your non-profit generating, less productive tasks are delegated out to others (employees or contract help).
Do you know the specific steps you can take every day to immediately create a positive, wealth creating mindset?”
Would you like to know how you can learn to develop these critical skills?
If you want to see how you as a business owner can change the way you think about everything, then book an initial call with me.