Along with fellow Chamber members, I am looking forward to 2016 and the opportunities both inside and outside of business.
So, I am delighted to open this edition of my Column by wishing you all a successful year.
In East Staffordshire, like much of the country, a significantly high proportion of businesses are small and medium sized enterprises, SMEs. The work and energy of these smaller businesses is frequently commended by politicians and leaders of industry. They are increasingly the lifeblood of our economy and are set up by people who plan to take risk and build better opportunities for themselves, for their families, and for those whom they employ.
But, what I find surprising is that according to a recent survey only 22% of the West Midlands’ 379,000 SMEs seek out advice on how to gear up to grow their business. Of course, I would like to suggest that your Chamber is a great place to start looking to obtain some of the necessary advice that will assist you to grow your business and make it a resounding success.
The Birmingham Chamber Group, of which Burton and District Chamber is a constituent member, organise events throughout the year for SMEs. I suggest that searching their website should be an early action for 2016, if you haven’t done so already.
That approach got me thinking about what actions make sense for SMEs and their business owners to take in the early part of 2016.
Looking at your existing partnerships and seeing if there are any others that are worthy of development is a proven successful route to expanding a business.
It is worth pointing out however that building the right partnerships, as I know, takes time, effort, and requires multiple conversations. So why not use the first quarter of this year to begin developing three partnerships that can help you throughout the rest of 2016 and into the future?
In this arena, mentoring is increasingly seen as a positive encouragement for business owners; and if you have time available, there are growing opportunities to act as a mentor yourself to young business groups, new employees and through various institutes and professional bodies.
The old adage of ‘giving something back’ applies perfectly in this context; and many find mentoring an excellent route for sharing their experience and advice gained over a lifetime of working in business and commerce.
In business small is still beautiful. It is easy to forget that small businesses have advantages over large companies when it comes to business innovation. Being closer to your customers, you really do understand their needs and can respond much faster. That process can assist you to keep any larger competitors at arms’ reach.
Moving onto planning, which I know many SMEs find difficult to achieve, there are many reputable websites, (and others that don’t fall into that category, I would quickly add) that will provide advice on writing a business plan, if you don’t already have one prepared.
Likewise, the New Year is a good time to take a look at your Business Strategy; and particularly at what I would call ‘the few things you can do that would really make a difference’. This could range from launching a new product to managing your most profitable set of clients to make them more profitable still.
As you know the Yee Group sponsored the Customer Service category in the Burton Mail Business Awards back last October. Effectively serving customers is close to my heart and central to the operations of the Group.
When setting up my first business, I quickly understood that for every small business owners delivering great customer service was the key thing to that can set it apart from the competition. As I was to discover, ‘The best products in the world won’t get you nearly as far as prioritizing relationships with those who buy them’.
Just one final point about consistently delivering great customer service. It is important to remember that your staff are ‘the true ambassadors for your business’. They have an important role in delivering outstanding customer service and maintaining those standards. From personal experience, I know that great customer service begins with a recruiting strategy that attracts and then retains great people.
With the space limitations of this column, this cannot be an entirely exhaustive list of actions but it does set out some priorities that you might like to consider for 2016 and further ahead that will contribute to the continuing success of your business.
I welcome feedback and comment on this column and the work and activities of the Chamber. You can contact me at [email protected]
President of Burton and District Chamber of Commerce
Managing Director, Yee Group Limited