Tag Archives for " Business "

Why Every Product-Based Business Should Have a Business Plan

If your business is focused on making or manufacturing products, most days your to-do list will be filled with tasks to make sure that process runs smoothly.

Apart from that, you will be focused on anything and everything that contributes towards getting your products in front of as wide an audience as possible. So marketing, advertising and promotions.

And then as the sales come rolling in (ker-ching!) so do your fulfilment and delivery processes, and you have to make sure they work as efficiently as possible. Day in, day out.

So yes, I know you have a lot going on!

However, it’s easy to think that, because things are ticking along, writing (or updating) your Business Plan is for the birds.

But it’s not a redundant task; quite the opposite. Let me explain why product-based businesses should use Business Plans as a matter of course:

Business Plans help you Set and Clarify your Goals

A Business Plan will help you set goals and targets that are realistic yet challenging for a certain time period.

Now, whether that time period is a year, a half-year (6 months) or a quarter (3 months) is up to you. What’s important is that you set goals and targets that make sense for where you are and crucially, that help you get where you want to go.

Business Plans help you Measure Performance

“Measuring performance” sounds serious!

But let’s face it, how will you know what’s working and what needs improvement if you don’t?

And by measure performance, I mean things like looking your revenue this month and seeing how that compares to last month’s.

If it’s at the same level or even higher – great! I’d suggest taking some time to understand why that increased occurred, and if you can replicate that going forward to ensure you consistently generate that higher revenue number.

And if lower, then you’ll want to work through the causes to mitigate and prevent them having such an effect again.

But these are things you can only take a closer look at when you track and measure.

Business Plans Make You Think about the Medium & Long-Term

It’s easy to focus on the here and now, and there are many reasons why it’s important to be present.

But one of the great things about a Business Plan is it makes you give some serious thought to where you want your business to get to in the medium to long-term.

So while it’s important to fulfil customer orders today, it’s crucial to have an understanding of what you’re aiming for after that – as well as what needs to happen to get there.

Business Plans Encourage you to Focus on the Finances

Most people shy away from keeping a close eye on the money side of things.

But the last time I checked you were running a business, not a charity?

And you can be sure that even charities and non-profits are on top of their finances, as they will not be able to continue operating if their expenses exceed donations!

A well written Business Plan will ensure you are aware of what your running costs are and by extension, your cash flow. And from that point, you can develop a good understanding of how much sales you need to make – and how much revenue you need to generate – on a regular basis, to remain a going concern and to be profitable.

How I can Help

Not sure where to start?

If you need help with your Business Planning, I have designed some tools that can help:

The first is a One Page Business Plan Template.

It’s short and concise, while containing all the essential elements you need in a Business Plan.

And in addition, it contains helpful prompts which will guide you along the process.

You can buy and download your copy of the One Page Business Plan Template here.

The second is a comprehensive Business Plan Template, which contains all the sections and details you would find in a typical Business Plan such as the Product & Service Range, Target Audience, Market Analysis, Milestones & Metrics, and Financials.

Similar to the first template above, it also has helpful prompts to guide you as you complete it and produce your Business Plan. You can buy and download your copy of the Business Plan Template here.

And finally, I provide a Business Planning Service. If you would like to produce your Business Plan but can’t commit the time to do it yourself, you don’t have to worry! Contact me about my Business Planning Service, and we can arrange to get started on yours as soon as possible.

  • March 7, 2021

Why You’re Struggling To Grow Your Product-Based Business (and How To Fix It)

Did you start your product-based business as a hobby?

You’ve always been creative; you have a knack for making beautiful things with your hands.

You come up with concepts that are incredibly artistic; that’s your talent.

You set up a website to sell your products recently, and the feeling you had when you made that first sale to someone who wasn’t a supportive friend or family member?

Unmitigated joy. Not to mention relief!

You have run your product-based business since then, but you’re at a point where you’re stuck. (It’s a good problem, I might add!)

Customers love your product, you’re gaining loyal advocates and followers online and may even have won an award or two.

However deep down, you know you want more.

Not only that; you know that the current state of play isn’t sustainable is you’re to take this business to the next level…

…so here’s why you’re struggling to to grow your product-based business (and how to fix it).

You Don’t Have a Vision or a Plan

It’s one thing to make the decision to monetise your creativity or idea.

Having a vision of where you want your new business to be in 2, 5 or 10 years is quite another.

“Calm down”, I hear you say. “I’ve only just started!”

That may be true, but having a picture of where you want to be gives you a clear purpose, and sets the scene when it comes to your goals and planning for the future.

There Is a Lack of Clear Goals & Objectives

While vision is a broad statement of where you want to be, your goals and objectives are more specific and go into detail about what you want to achieve, and when.

I’ll give you an example.

If you produce mugs which you customise with quirky quotes and are based in Edinburgh, your vision might be: “To be the go-to provider of branded gift mugs to corporate organisations in Scotland”.

The goals and objectives to achieve that could include: “To sign up 50 new corporate clients by the end of Q2 (in anticipation of the Christmas season in Q4)”.

That level of details is what’s needed so you and your team (if you have one) can focus on what needs to be done.

There Is No Mechanism To Measure or Track Progress

 

There’s a popular saying: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”.

To begin with, you need to track and measure to know what the current state of play is in your business, where you really stand.

For example, how much do you make from sales every month? Is it usually quite consistent, within a certain range, or does it fluctuate wildly from one month to the next?

Once you understand that you can use the current status as a benchmark going forward, as it will be clear whether your performance in different areas and metrics is improving or deteriorating.

To continue with the sales example, you can track your sales monthly, quarterly and so on. And from that, you will begin to track trends and maybe even some seasonal factors that have a positive or negative impact on your performance.

All of which only become clear when you track and measure.

There Are Too Many Distractions

In our social media age, it’s almost impossible not to be bombarded with distractions.

You see what your peers and competitors are up to, and before you know it?

Comparison-itis.

It’s so easy to get distracted by following this trend or that, and it’s not uncommon for several of these kinds of distractions to occur.

Before long, you’re spending your time, energy and maybe even money on tasks and initiatives that are irrelevant and completely immaterial to your goals.

It’s a tough one, but it pays to stay in your lane.

Just because something is right for that other business, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for yours. And even if it is, this may not be the right time for it.

There Is No Focus on Income and Expenses

This is one I see happen often:

You love what you do, and you have a loyal and enthusiastic following on social media.

You get caught up in creating your product, responding to comments and queries online, selling, doing giveaways, offering discounts to family and friends…

……there’s always so much activity. But you haven’t stopped to assess how much you make and spend in any given month.

Is your income at least the same as your expenses?

Because if it’s not, you’re running at a loss, and you aren’t even breaking even.

Now, sometimes it’s acceptable for a new business to run at a loss in the initial stages, but by focusing on income, expenses and the financials as a whole you’ll know what your monthly run rate is, and can plan to get to a position which is more sustainable.

There Is No Foundation For a Grown-Up Conversation About Funding

Following on from the last point about income, expenses and financials. Without those in place, how can you even begin to look for investment and funding?

There are standard questions you must be prepared to answer when looking to scale with external funding, and having the answers ensures you can have a grown-up conversation about raising funds.

And even you intend to fund your growth plans yourself? I would suggest treating your bank account with the same respect and seriousness you would an external investor.

What’s Next?

You’re struggling because you haven’t got a vision or a Plan, you haven’t set your goals and objectives, you aren’t measuring or tracking your progress, there are too many distractions, you aren’t focused on your income and expenses, and you aren’t prepared to have a grown-up conversation about funding and scaling.

In short, the reason why you’re struggling to grow your product-based business is because you don’t have a Business Plan.

A Business Plan that is well-written and goes into the right amount of detail will cover your vision, explain how those translate into bite-size goals and objectives, help focus your mind and efforts on tasks and activities that deliver a return, and force you to look into the nitty-gritty of your business finances.

A Business Plan is what you need to fix these struggles.

How I Can Help

Not sure where to start?

If you need help with your Business Planning, I have designed some tools to help.

The first is a One Page Business Plan Template.

It’s short and concise, while containing all the essential elements you need in a Business Plan.

And in addition, it contains helpful prompts which will guide you along the process.

You can buy and download your copy of the One Page Business Plan Template here.

The second is a comprehensive Business Plan Template, which contains all the sections and details you would find in a typical Business Plan such as the Product & Service Range, Target Audience, Market Analysis, Milestones & Metrics, and Financials.

Similar to the first template above, it also has helpful prompts to guide you as you complete it and produce your Business Plan. You can buy and download your copy of the Business Plan Template here.

And finally, I provide a Business Planning Service.

If you would like to produce your Business Plan but can’t commit the time to do it yourself, you don’t have to worry! Contact me about my Business Planning Service, and we can arrange to get started on yours as soon as possible.

Should I Start a Business During the Pandemic?

When the coronavirus pandemic first broke out and initial restrictions on movement, business and social interactions were imposed back in March 2020, the hope was that it would all be over within a few months, at the most.

When such expectations were shown to be fanciful at best, the impact on the economy became clear as business after business – and sector after sector – started to feel the effect on sales and revenue as they haemorrhaged customers.

For some staff the effect was almost immediate, with record numbers losing their main source of livelihood.

Various schemes were announced by the government and while the support has been lauded as one of the most generous and wide-ranging in the world, it hasn’t enough to stem the tide of closures and job losses.

It’s not all bad news though. As unemployment figures increased there has been a trend which, while fascinating, is just as surprising:

A record number of new businesses were incorporated in 2020. (Incorporation is the process by which a new or existing business registers as a legal entity such as a limited liability company, that is separate from the people who own or run it. This is a good guide to incorporating a company).

When you consider that this does not take into account micro-businesses such as the myriad of new creative ventures on platforms such as Etsy and Shopify, and sole entrepreneurships in areas as varied as consulting, coaching and wellness, it’s safe to say that an unprecedented (sorry, that word again!) number of people have taken the decision to launch out into the deep.

Do you have a brilliant idea, but are discouraged by all the bad news?

Have you spotted a gap in the market, for which demand could be met by an idea that keeps you awake at night?

Perhaps you’ve been put off by the gloomy economic outlook?

Don’t be deterred. I know it doesn’t look like it, but this is a brilliant time to get going with your idea and start a business. Here’s why: 

There is a Wealth of Opportunities:

Without question this is a difficult time, the most challenging of our lifetime. Finances, relationships and even our health is being tested.

But in the midst of it all, there are opportunities to meet customer needs.

An example is the rise in food delivery businesses. With restrictions putting a halt to our culture of dining out and children at home round the clock, takeaways are a saviour for parents who are exhausted with homeschooling during the day, who need some respite at the end of the day.

There are stories of companies that have started or pivoted manufacturing items we previously never gave a second thought, but which are now essential such as personal protective equipment, masks and hand sanitiser.

The drive to provide goods and services online is also a huge opportunity for niches such as web design and development, copywriting, software sales and cybersecurity.

What opportunities could you harness and turn into a going concern? 

There are Significant Gaps in the Market:

Such gaps may have existed before the pandemic, or could have been created as a consequence of it.

Either way, it’s worth taking note and assessing how you could fill one of more of those gaps.

One example is that with the explosion in home working, many have realised they don’t have the best set-up when it comes to furniture. There has been huge demand for items like desks and ergonomic chairs, not to mention devices such as laptops, tablets and monitors which are needed for families to work and do their schoolwork at the same time.

Another is that because we are all more sedentary there has been an increase in demand for the services of professionals such as osteopaths and physiotherapists.

Perhaps you’re mourning the loss of a permanent job in a large healthcare practice or are on furlough. Could this be the best time to set up on your own?

Best Time to Innovate:

Historically, many businesses were borne in the midst of economic adversity.

Household names such as Microsoft, Airbnb, Groupon, WhatsApp and Uber all started when others thought they should have waited till the environment was more favourable.

But their founders knew they had something new and different to offer; something innovative which would make a dent in the marketplace, be of use, and make a positive contribution to communities.

Are you holding back on releasing your very good idea to the world?

It might be big or small, helpful in the fight against the virus or something that provides entertainment and light relief.

Whatever it is, don’t sit on it. Now, more than ever, is the best time to start a business.

What You Need To Start a Business:

One of the first things you need to kickstart your idea and bring it to life is a Business Plan.

It clarifies your intentions and prompts you to carefully consider what your customers need, and that’s just the beginning. Here are the reasons why you need a Business Plan, which I strongly recommend you start off with.

And your size or sector doesn’t matter; a Business Plan is a crucial part of your success.

Some tend to think they don’t need one if they are a sole entrepreneur running a micro-business, for example.

But nothing could be further from the truth! Here are 4 myths about Business Planning and why they are not true.

And finally, I have produced some Business Plan Templates which will make the process of writing yours so much easier.

They are available to purchase; find out everything you need to know about my Business Plan Templates here.

Why Black History Month Matters

(Source: getstencil)

This month of October is Black History Month in the United Kingdom (different to the United States, where it is marked in February instead).

Perhaps you have read about it in the media or seen it pop up in your feed online, and are baffled as to why a Black History Month is necessary in the first place?

This blog summarises what Black History Month is and explains why it’s important to commemorate it in the twenty-first century.

What Is Black History Month?

Black History Month is a time to remember, acknowledge and celebrate the
contributions Black women and men have made to the life and fibre of the
country. Consciously and intentionally.

Not that one month out of twelve is sufficient to do this by any means, but
it’s certainly a time to focus on issues relating to race and race relations.

What has become an annual celebration began in the United States to
celebrate the role Black people played in the country’s history.

Historian Carter G. Woodson and clergyman Jesse E. Moorland started a group which researched and promoted the achievements of Black people, and the group sponsored what was referred to as the first National Negro Week in 1926.

Over time, what began as local events spread around the country and became a month-long affair, and Gerald Ford was the first president to officially recognise Black History Month in 1976.

In the United Kingdom, the month was first celebrated in 1987.

And it’s never been more relevant. Following the events of this summer
around the world, Black History Month in 2020 is more significant than ever.

Can I Confess Something?

(Source: getstencil)

I’ve never really paid attention to Black History Month before.

Yes, even as a Black woman I didn’t quite understand why it was needed, and what the big deal was.

Perhaps I’ve developed a greater appreciation over the years. That, coupled
with the murder of George Floyd this May and the subsequent protests and
awakenings in many individuals, groups and organisations, have meant that I’m looking at Black History Month through a new lens.

So, if you’ve been wondering why it needs to be marked at all, here’s why
Black History Month matters:

To re-focus on racial inequality.

It’s crucial that the awareness raised earlier in the year at all levels in
business and society is not left as a moment in time, reduced to a hashtag. As difficult as it is, this is a conversation that must continue, accompanied by lasting change.

Black History Month is a time to take stock.

(Source: getstencil)

Black History Month is an opportune moment to evaluate where your
organisation is in terms of hitting its diversity and inclusion targets.

What statements and declarations did you make just a few short months ago?

It’s easy for things to slip – we all know that life happens.

But what happened on the back of those promises your organisation made? Was an action plan put together to implement those noble intentions you announced?

Who owns that plan, and who is responsible at a senior level for making it
happen?

If your organisation is serious about addressing racial inequality, Black History Month is a good time to reflect on these questions and ensure that action is being taken.

Black History Month is an opportunity to track progress.

Especially as many organisations publicly announced steps they would take to address racial inequality, Black History Month is an opportunity for their
customers, target audience and external stakeholders to be reminded and gently prod, challenge and ask what progress has been made.

Back in June I wrote this article on how to support Black professionals, and it gained a lot of support. While it was good that many people read
and agreed with it, there is so much more that must happen over and above
showing solidarity online!

None of the specific tips I laid out is a quick fix. It’s important to hold organisations in both the private and public sectors, charities, law enforcement agencies, and politicians accountable for moving the needle forward when it comes to eradicating the scourge of racial inequality.

A call to move beyond the performative

(Source: getstencil)

I’m hoping that Black History Month is a prompt – another reminder – for organisations and allies to move beyond performative allyship and online activism, which is hardly altruistic in nature.

There are stories of companies that sell facial recognition technology known to contain biases against Black subjects to police forces.

Businesses which don’t offer their staff sick pay – a particularly dangerous practice during a pandemic, and striking when the majority of those who desperately need it are low income earners who belong to Black and other ethnic minority groups.

Businesses who do not pay their casual staff minimum wage, again many of whom are Black.

Organisations need to move beyond mere rhetoric and ensure that their policies and actions match those carefully worded press releases and social media posts. It is my hope that Black History Month provides an opportunity for such considerations to again come to the fore.

3 Small Business Grants You Can Apply For Right Now

(Source: getstencil)

You may not know it, but if you are based in the United Kingdom there are several funding options available for businesses, many of which were made available as a direct result of the pandemic.

While many are loan facilities such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS), there are three grants you should know about.

What Are Grants?

(Source: getstencil)

Grants are sums of money given by the government or a public body for a particular purpose and unlike loans, are not liabilities to be repaid.

There are eligibility criteria to meet, and bodies which provide funding through grants will usually specify what the money should be spent on.

Are There Problems Accessing Grants?

Especially for small and medium-sized enterprises there is a surprising amount of this kind of funding support available, but the challenge with gaining access is two-fold:

  • There is limited knowledge about their existence. They either tend not to be widely publicised, or there is a lack of adequate explanation about the nature of the funding and how it works. This is unfortunate, as businesses which desperately need the lifeline don’t get the opportunity to apply for it, as has been the case since the end of August . Schemes such as the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) were announced to provide relief to businesses as a result of the pandemic, but were ended a few months later without an estimated 2 in 5 eligible businesses applying.
  • When researching available grants, it is rare to find relevant information that is up-to-date and collated in one location in a way that is easy to read and assess.

What Small Business Grants Can You Apply For?

That being the case, here are 3 Small Business grants you can apply for right now:

1. THE EUROPEAN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUND (ERDF) PROGRAMME

This was announced by the Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government in July, and consists of £20 million of new government funding to help smaller businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic.

Who Is It For?

Grants from this fund are for small and medium-sized businesses.

What Is The Grant Amount?

It is a one-off cash amount of between £1,000 and £5,000.

Who Distributes The Grant?

The grant is distributed by Growth Hubs, which bring together the best of public and private sector partners to promote, co-ordinate and deliver business support based on local needs. They are embedded in local areas across England.

Who Is Eligible?

Your business qualifies for this grant if it is based in England.

How Can You Make a Claim?

Locate and contact your local area Growth Hub.

2. THE KICKSTART SCHEME

(Source: getstencil)

This was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in July, and consists of £2 billion in funding to create more jobs for young people between the ages of 16 and 24.

Who Is It For?

Grants from this fund are available to businesses of any size to create new job placements and support young people on Universal Credit or at risk of long-term unemployment.

What Is The Grant Amount?

Funding is available for the National Minimum Wage for each role, and there is also £1,500 available for each job placement to set up support and training.

Who Distributes The Grant?

The grant is distributed by central government.

Who Is Eligible?

Your business qualifies for this grant if:

  • It is based in England.
  • The job placements are for new roles.
  • The roles are for a minimum of 25 hours a week and will last a minimum duration of 6 months.
  • At the very least, successful candidates will be paid the Minimum Wage for their age group.

How Can You Make a Claim?

  • If your application is for 30 or more job placements, complete your application online.
  • If your application is for less than 30 job placements, you’ll have to partner with other organisations to have a minimum of 30 placements. You can either find a representative to help you do this by getting in touch with your local Kickstart Scheme employer contact, or become a representative of a group of employers yourself.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

You’ll need the following details to complete your application:

  • The Companies House reference number.
  • The business address and contact details.
  • Details of the Kickstart scheme job placements and their location.
  • Supporting information to confirm the placements meet the criteria of the scheme.
  • Details of how the business can develop the employability skills of young people.

Once your submitted application is checked to make sure it meets the criteria, it will be reviewed by a panel. Current government estimates are that applications should be responded to within one month.

3. LOCAL LOCKDOWN GRANTS

(Source: getstencil)

To avoid a second wave and the need for another national lockdown, the government strategy to contain the spread of coronavirus now involves implementing restrictions on a local and regional basis.

Since many businesses caught up in these local lockdowns will see their revenue-generating activities halted, the Treasury has announced new funding to support and protect them.

Who Is It For?

Grants from this fund are for businesses forced to close as a result of local lockdowns or targeted restrictions.

What Is The Grant Amount?

Larger businesses will receive £1,500 every three weeks for the duration of any such closure. Smaller businesses will receive £1,000.

Who Distributes The Grant?

The grant is distributed by local authorities.

Who Is Eligible?

Your business qualifies for this grant if:

  • It is based in England.
  • Occupies a property or part pf a with a rateable value, annual rent or mortgage less than £51,000 (this qualifies for the £1,000 payment).
  • Occupies a property or part pf a property with a rateable value, annual rent or mortgage of £51,000 or more (this qualifies for the £1,500 payment).
  • Local authorities will also receive an additional 5% top up amount to enable them to help other businesses affected by closures which may not be on the business rates list. Payments made to businesses from this discretionary fund can be any amount up to £,1500, and may be less than £1,000 in some cases.

How Can You Make a Claim?

Contact your local authority.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

If you make a profit, you will be liable to pay tax on it.

What Are Your Next Steps?

If you think your business qualifies for one of these grants, speak to your accountant in the first instance to clarify details such as tax implications before completing and submitting an application.

How To Support Black Professionals

Mural of George Floyd (Source: knowtechie.com)

The days since George Floyd’s murder on 25th May by a policeman in the United States have gone by in a flash.

His senseless killing captured on video exposed the reality of racial injustice to a global audience, and has forced us all as individuals, communities and countries to examine our bias and confront our complacency.

People were shocked and appalled. But organisations and some public figures were tentative in their initial reactions.

That soon changed and slowly businesses started to declare their abhorrence of racism and support for Black employees, customers and the community as a whole.

From multinationals like Apple, Nike, adidas, Visa and MasterCard, to organisations in the arts like the Barbican and Shakespeare’s Globe, and fashion publications like Vogue and Vanity Fair, businesses of all sizes and in various sectors have spoken out.

The overwhelming show of support culminated in #BlackoutTuesday on 2nd June, where people refrained from posting anything other than a black square on their social media accounts.

As a Black woman while I think it has taken far too long for racism and racial injustice to capture the attention of the general public, the universal condemnation of Mr. Floyd’s murder and subsequent declarations of allyship are heartening.

However, it’s important that the support was not just a performance that occurred on social media.

It’s crucial that tackling racism does not fall off the agenda once the news cycle moves on, and that all the declarations of allyship and support actually translate from the intangible into catalysts for real, practical change.

So, if your organisation really wants to ally with Black people, here is some food for thought.

Economic Power

(Source: getstencil)

The importance of money and economic power cannot be overemphasised. In the here and now, an income helps pay for life’s necessities. In the medium to long-term it allows us to make choices, many of which can have lifelong implications.

Internships & Recruitment

As income and subsequently economic power stem from jobs and careers, the first step is to examine your hiring practices and how opportunities are afforded to people. Is this done equitably?

For example, internships often appear to be the preserve of the privileged. And they are – because they are mainly unpaid.

Question: Who can afford to take up an unpaid summer internship at a law firm?

Answer: Young people whose parents are well off. Who, in reality, don’t need the leg-up that an internship provides anyway.

Another example: What happens when your recruiting partners and HR department come across a name they are culturally unfamiliar with? Is that CV automatically discarded? Are you more likely to invite a “Sarah” or “Andrew” in for an interview, and not bother with an “Adanna” or a “Kweku”?

Do you only hire people from your alma mater or certain schools?

Also, how do people hear about vacancies? Where are they advertised? Is information about vacancies made available to a wide-ranging audience, or does it stay privy to subscribers to the Financial Times and The Economist only?

Not that there is anything wrong with these publications, but advertising in them alone facilitates and entrenches the exclusion of certain demographics.

Then take a look at your teams. How are they constituted; what is the make up?

As you seek to support Black professionals it is important to make sure they are in the room and feel confident that they can speak, and have their voices heard when they do.

Career Progression

And once they are in your organisation there must be a progression route that is clear and transparent, not one that is opaque and dependent on whether they go for drinks after work. Review the career paths in your organisation, which open the doors to economic power.

Suppliers & Vendors

Another useful exercise is to review who you give your business to. Which suppliers and vendors do you work with? Whose products do you sell and showcase to your audience?

Create A Culture and Environment that Is Safe, Nurturing and Enabling

The culture in an organisation is often taken for granted.

We assume it just happens, but in truth it is a function of what is we create or allow.

From the perspective of a Black professional in the United Kingdom, my experience has been that racism is never overt. However, it can be subtle, insidious, carefully planned and executed, to debilitating effect.

It is not uncommon for people who do not “fit in” to be managed out of organisations. While nothing is ever explicitly expressed, things can be made so unbearable for the individual that they resign out of frustration or are asked to leave after a campaign that portrays them as incompetent.

At first glance, this scenario may seem like an exaggeration. But it is more common than you realise, and often thrives in toxic environments created or allowed by Senior Management.

Bringing Black professionals through the doors of your organisation is not the end of your obligations. The work to ensure a positive and enabling culture and working environment is continuous and must be prioritised at the highest levels.

Provide a Platform

(Source: getstencil)

Every organisation has a platform and uses it every time it organises or participates in industry conferences, events, and panel discussions.

It is worth considering the following: Who do you invite onstage to speak at your events? Who participates in the panel discussions you organise? If you have a podcast, what is the demographic of the guests you choose to interview and showcase? And, which members of your team do you send to represent your organisation at conferences?

Another thing that is common is that once a Black man or woman is located, he or she can often become the “go-to” expert from a diverse background who is always given a platform. It makes life easier, but having one person who is always invited does not do much for diversity.

Apart from the fact that it prevents others having access to opportunities, it is important to remember that there is not one homogenous Black view of the world. We vote Labour and Conservative, voted both to leave and remain in the European Union, are vegan and meat eaters, are students, employees, business owners, currently unemployed, homeowners, tenants and everything in between. There are a myriad of perspectives and opinions which you cannot access if you only give a platform to one “go-to” person.

So, challenge your events and production teams, your researchers to look further afield. Insist that they provide you with a different list of names the next time you want an expert, speaker, panellist, or podcast guest.

Leadership & Decision Making

(Source: getstencil)

It is one thing to have Black men and women in your organisation and have their voices in the room.

It is also imperative that some of those voices are empowered and have the ability to influence and effect change from positions of seniority, so they have the authority and freedom to propose and chart a different course in the organisation if need be.

This is because it is easy to overrule junior members of staff, even middle management. Their input and views can easily be discounted.

But making sure Black men and women have the ability to influence, shape and make key decisions makes it hard to ignore their input and perspectives. Tackling that power dynamic and ensuring there is a better balance means usual viewpoints can be challenged by someone who is less concerned about the consequences of speaking up or having a different view.

Look at your Senior Management or Leadership teams. Who is in them, and what can you do to address any imbalance that exists?

Are you actively working to develop and coach the next generation of Black men and women to step into positions of leadership?

I cannot pretend that these alone will resolve all race-related issues in businesses and organisations, but if acted upon they are practical steps in the right direction which will go a long way to making a significant difference.

It is important that this moment in time acts as a trigger for real and lasting change, and does not end up just being a hashtag. But that will not happen on its own; action is required now.

So, I challenge you not just to say that Black lives matter.

Go further and put your money where your mouth is. Because your actions going forward – as a leader, as a business or organisation – will speak much louder than your words.

Coronavirus Pandemic: Business Winners & Losers

There are always winners and losers.

With redundancies and bankruptcies announced by companies that are household names every day, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all doom and gloom out there.

But as sure as there are businesses which have been hit hard by the pandemic, others have found a niche, quickly adapted their business models, taken advantage of the opportunities, met customer demand, and thrived.

Some businesses and sectors are busier than ever right now, and I’m excited and fascinated by their success. Here are a few of the success stories.

Some of the Winners

Board Games & Jigsaw Puzzle manufacturers

(Source: getstencil)

Maybe unforeseen, but as families spent more time together, they entertained themselves with games and puzzles which resulted in sales of the likes of Monopoly, Cluedo and Scrabble rising by 240% in the first week of lockdown.

Collaboration Tools

Tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have risen in popularity.

As people around the world were forced to work and socialise remotely, their need for technology to help them do so increased exponentially. My mother is in her seventies, and even she has now downloaded one of these apps onto her phone!

And she’s not the only one: apparently Zoom has been downloaded over 2 million times and its founder’s net worth has risen by $4bn since March. Microsoft Teams also saw usage grow to 44 million daily active users in the first week of March, so up by 12 million in just a week.

Food Subscription Boxes

The likes of HelloFresh and Mindful Chef have experienced rapid growth as the restrictions stopped us eating out, and forced us to stay in and spend more time in the kitchen.

Demand grew for fresh, healthy ingredients and customers were attracted by organic items suited to a range of diets and tastes. They have seen sales soar by as much as 300% since the outbreak.

Groceries

(Source: getstencil)

One of the first places society was seriously impacted was with availability of food and the ease with which we could buy it.

Supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s couldn’t get rid of their stock fast enough! They adapted by hiring as many as 40,000 staff and implementing social distancing measures as they saw sales increase by 30%.

Items ranging from canned foods and alcohol to flour and yeast flew off the shelves.

Home Improvement Stores

As we stayed at home, we suddenly noticed all those jobs that needed doing! After an initial drop in sales, people flocked back as soon as shops like B&Q started to reopen in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

Loo Roll manufacturers

(Source: getstencil)

Who would have foreseen this basic household item being stockpiled?

No one, and companies like Who Gives A Crap saw their sales multiply by as much as a factor of 12 in one day.

Payment & Money Transfer Apps

The use of apps such as TransferWise, Paypal, Cash App, Venmo & Xoom have risen by 11% since the beginning of March. And it makes sense: as well as doing all our shopping online, it quickly became apparent that cash is neither suitable nor hygienic at the current time.

Fitness Trainers

(Source: getstencil)

Exercise became a release, an outlet, and a way of keeping children occupied, and the industry adapted to the new normal accordingly by moving its business model online.

Joe Wicks quickly grabbed the nation’s attention. As did gyms, online yoga studios, fitness instructors and others in the sector.

Some of the Losers

Cinemas & Theatres

(Source: getstencil)

As cinemas and theatres became no-go areas, many streamed shows and performances to stay in touch with their audiences. However, in terms of revenue it’s not the same as people attending in person.

Manufacturing

Manufacturing activities ground to a halt, not just because of the restrictions but also because of supply chains that were severely disrupted.

Restaurants

(Source: getstencil)

Hospitality ground to a halt. However many quickly became delivery-only, which has hopefully helped.

Retail

High streets were already in dire straits, and the pandemic has only compounded issues.

Many moved operations online, but the lockdown has still had a devastating effect on the likes of Cath Kidston, Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia.

Travel & Tourism

(Source: getstencil)

Airlines, hotels, agents, tour operators – anyone connected to travel and tourism has seen their revenue dry up. Big hitters like Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are feeling the pain.

As restrictions start to ease this month, the hope is that this kicks off the recovery process.

Why It’s Time To Pay Attention To Business Continuity Planning

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I don’t know what you’ve experienced but in my working life I’ve noticed that Business Continuity Planning often features at the bottom of the pile, the last item on that list of business priorities.

And that’s if it even gets on the list to begin with! It’s rare to see this type pf planning being given the time and attention it deserves. But the coronavirus outbreak and its wide-ranging impact on economies and businesses has brought the benefits of good Business Continuity Planning into sharp focus.

So What Is Business Continuity Planning?

Business Continuity Planning is the creation of systems to deal with potential disasters and threats to a business.

It involves reviewing a number of hypothetical scenarios and planning how your business can continue to run, even if all hell breaks loose! For example: What would you do if there was a cybersecurity attack?

Or, if the City of London (and your office-based teams) had to be evacuated?

Or – as has happened this year – if the whole economy and your supply chain shuts down for a few months? Would you still be able to offer your products and services; could you afford to pay salaries to your team, your suppliers, and yourself?

It’s become evident that many plans were not worth the paper they were printed on, and are in desperate need of a complete overhaul.

That’s why I’m exploring Business Continuity Planning, and what a good plan should contain.

Preparing To Create Your Business Continuity Plan

Before you start on the actual plan, there are a number of steps to complete.

They may require some research and consultation with stakeholders, as the information is unlikely to be readily available:

  • Conduct a Business Impact Analysis. Identify the critical functions and processes which are core to your business’s existence, without which there wouldn’t be a business to run! What would the impact would be if they are interrupted? Pinpoint who’s responsible for each one and capture their contact details. Include alternative locations where these functions can operate from, and details of how people will be moved there (and by who).
  • The next step before the actual Business Continuity Plan is to identify the risk and impact on business functions. So, list the functions performed by each department, categorise them by order of importance, and describe what the impact would be if that function is suddenly lost. Would the department and wider business activities be crippled? Or could you easily adjust and continue operating?
  • The final piece before you start on your plan is to quantify what the losses would be if part (or all) of your business became unavailable. A simple way to do this is to estimate the revenue you would normally generate in a month, quarter or year, and use that figure as a baseline. You could get more sophisticated and include things like salaries and other contractual agreements which would potentially still need to be met.

What Are The Components of A Good Business Continuity Plan?

Recovery Strategy

The first thing to start with is your recovery strategy.

Include a list of team members who need to be available, their departments and contact details. You also have to think about how you will contact and communicate with people, and frequency. So, you will definitely send out communication at the start, but would you continue to do so at regular intervals? Every 30 minutes, or every hour, for example? Will the comms differ in content and frequency depending on people’s locations, where they are based and seniority?

What Resources Do You Need?

Next, work out who and what you need to keep the business going. Which members of your team, which departments and which equipment and systems are needed to perform business-critical functions?

Decide In Advance Who Will Participate In Making Decisions

Then, determine who should be part of the decision-making process. Beware though, as this can get political! There may be several people in the Senior Leadership Team, who think they should be all be involved. But try to stick to a core group; the last thing you want is a roundtable where people struggle to move things forward at what will be a crucial time.

A key point is that your Business Continuity Plan should focus on each department or area of your business. Particularly in a large organisation, you need to involve departmental heads who will naturally know more when it comes to pinpointing critical functions, people and resources.

Test & Maintain

Once completed, your Business Continuity Plan and the team whose focus it is to manage any disruption have to be tested at regular intervals to help identify any weaknesses and make sure they are robust and resilient.

On a final note…

Just to say that Business Continuity Planning isn’t just for large businesses! It applies to small, medium and even micro-businesses. The size of the plan and the level of detail may vary, but the apparent benefits of having one means this cannot be ignored and has to be priority.

If this isn’t something you have paid attention to before and creating a Business Continuity Plan is now a priority for you – which it should be – then contact me here and I can help you get started right away.

Bibliography:

Investopedia.com. Business Continuity Planning. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/business-continuity-planning.asp [Accessed 22 May 2020]

aig.co.uk. Building a Business Continuity Plan: Guidelines For Preparation of Your Plan. (2013). [online] Available at: https://www.aig.co.uk/content/dam/aig/emea/united-kingdom/documents/property-insights/business-continuity-planning-guidelines-for-preparation-of-your-plan.pdf [Accessed 22 May 2020]

Examining Your Business Strategy from an External Perspective

This article was first published in The Huffington Post on 12/09/2016

In my last article we started looking at the concept of strategy, and why having one is an essential part of running your business successfully.

I referred to two sets of factors which play a part in the development of that strategy and in today’s post, my focus is on those that exist externally.

By “external” I mean external to your business; these influences exist in the wider environment and can make a big difference to how a business – indeed, a whole industry! – operates.

 I'll go through each of these external factors in turn.

Political Factors



It would be foolhardy for any business or industry to ignore the prevailing mood in the political arena, since it often leads to policy changes.

It would be foolhardy for any business to ignore the prevailing mood in the political arena



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This includes political pressure brought about by petitions, lobby groups, activists and campaigners, and can be a good indicator of what is imminent from a legal perspective (more on legal factors later).

I’ll give you two examples.

The first is the referendum held in June 2016, when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. While it’s now the government’s duty to work out the finer details of Brexit, what is clear is that the outcome will have an impact on how businesses in many sectors operate.

Another example is the announcement in the last budget of a tax on soft drinks, based on their sugar content. While a number of media outlets declared the announcement a surprise, the pronouncement was probably not a bolt out of the blue to industry insiders.

An increasingly vocal anti-obesity lobby with high-profile advocates such as television chef Jamie Oliver, and growing concerns about the impact of diet and nutrition on the youth and National Health Service were signs of impending government action.

While soft drinks manufacturers were up in arms, the diversity of their product ranges assures me they were prepared for precisely this sort of outcome.

According to their website, Coca-Cola alone has more than 500 still and sparking brands (which includes the likes of Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero, Coca-Cola Life, Vanilla Coke and Evian), and I am willing to bet their strategy had already taken policy changes such as this into account .

Economic Factors



All businesses must consider underlying economic factors, since these have a direct impact on the ability of customers to purchase their goods and services, which in turn has an effect on revenue and profits.

The following questions are just a few worth mulling over with respect to the population as a whole, and your target market specifically:

  1. In terms of your business’s geographical location, where is that country positioned in the economic cycle? Is the economy buoyant, just emerging from a crash, or heading into one? Note that a subdued economy doesn’t necessarily equate to a lack of business opportunities, but understanding the state of the economy and how your ideal customers are affected by it will give you valuable insight as you shape your strategy.
  2. What is the prevailing interest rate, and how does it affect disposable income? This may not apply if your offerings cater to a global audience in the online space, but is worth reflecting on if your target market has a specific national focus.
  3. What is the prevailing rate of inflation, and how does this affect disposable income?

Sociological Factors



These factors are social and cultural in nature.

Examples are the increased acceptance and promotion of flexible working practices by employers, young people living at home longer, and increased awareness of the environment.

These could all determine how your business needs to respond. And, remember that being proactive about cultural shifts will place you ahead of your competitors and any legislation that may eventually arise.

Technological Factors



With the pace of change in the last decade alone, observing trends and planning adequately for technology is not optional.

An example of an area where you may have to make budgetary allocations is internet use on mobile devices.

With the pace of change in the last decade alone, observing trends and planning for advances in tech is not optional



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Assessing how much time your target market spends online each day, where exactly they spend the majority of their time online (is it Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Netflix, Snapchat or Spotify?), and how (is it using a smartphone, a tablet or via a desktop?) will determine where your business should develop a presence, how much effort you put into developing products for those platforms and how you advertise those products.

Legal Factors

Using financial services as an example, the Banking Reform Act of 2013 – which will ring-fence retail and deposit banking operations from investment banking – comes into force in 2019.

This has compelled banks to include implementation of this and other mandated regulatory reforms into their roadmap for a number of years leading up to that date.

Another example is the Consumer Contract Regulations (the replacement for the Distance Selling Regulations), which apply when a customer makes a purchase but is not physically present. So, online or over the phone.

The regulations protect consumer rights, and if you sell products or services and accept payment remotely, it stands to reason that compliance with these regulations must form a key part of your strategy.

Environmental Factors



These could mean you decide to introduce policies to reduce the impact your business has on the environment, such as printing hard copies of documents (e.g. do not print unless absolutely necessary, and recycling paper waste.

It’s been a long post, but I hope it has given you food for thought!

Reflecting on these factors will ensure that your business is primed to move in the right direction in the coming weeks and months.

In my next post I’ll delve into the internal factors that could shape your business’s strategy, so stay tuned! 

In the meantime, contact us today if you need help working on your own business strategy.

Why Having a Strategy is Essential for Your Business

This article was also published in The Huffington Post on 07/09/2016

Today, I’m explaining why having a strategy is essential for your business.

Strategy sets direction. To me, it implies having a clearly defined purpose, and a determination of the road ahead for the medium to long-term.

It involves working through:

  • WHAT needs to be achieved (i.e. determining goals)
  • HOW these goals will be met (agreeing the ways to use to meet these goals, and facilitating any resources needed to do so)
  • WHEN these goals need to be achieved (is that in the next two, five or ten years?)

This probably doesn’t sound unfamiliar.

New Year resolutions, Vision Boards and goal-setting are all means of strategising on the personal front



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Many of us do this in some form, and to varying degrees of detail, in our personal lives when we make New Year resolutions, produce Vision Boards and set goals as a result of the exercise, or purpose to work on a particular area of our lives (unused gym membership, anyone?!)

You may not have realised it, but these were all means of strategising: setting your direction, putting in place tactics and smaller actions to move you along in that direction, and finally, doing the work required to make the changes you need.

If having (and implementing) a strategy on the personal front is critical to prevent you drifting through life without a focus, imagine the value of having a defined strategy for your business! Yet, the owners and management of many businesses, big and small, make the classic mistake of focusing on day-to-day operations, projects, sales initiatives, social media campaigns and monthly targets, without taking a step back and making some time to work on a holistic approach.

How do you develop a strategy for your business, I hear you ask?

Well, never fear! The theme for the next two posts is “Business Strategy”, and in each of these I will walk through a specific aspect of strategy development.

Now, you might be a creative sole entrepreneur selling your products on Etsy, wondering if there is any point developing a business strategy. I would say it will be of immense benefit to your business. You’re not going to need one as elaborate as a larger company’s, which will be so extensive that it has to be broken down to exist at different levels of the organisation due to its sheer size. But, whether you’re in business on your own or a multinational company, having your strategy upfront sets a solid foundation, clarifies what you need to focus your resources on, and how.

It may interest you to hear that your business strategy is not just down to what YOU want to do



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It might interest you to hear that the strategy for your business isn’t simply a result of what YOU want to do, even though that’s certainly a big part of it. Your strategy will be shaped by a number of factors which are:

External to your business, and which you possibly have little or no control over; as well as

Factors within your business. You have it within your power to change these internal factors to ensure your business is competitive, and they must be carefully analysed and understood to ensure you plan appropriately for the future.

Next, I’ll take a closer look at the factors outside your business which can have an impact on your strategy.

In the meantime, if you need help with any aspect of working through or implementing your business strategy, do get in touch.