Key events have happened against all the odds in business, politics, sport, and much more besides.
If there is one thing that we can all take away from the past nine months it is that change is now firmly on the table.
Since the start of the year, several members have come up to me and confirmed that they are looking at and for change. From the Government downwards, there are signs of a ‘willingness to shake things up’. Some businesses are carrying out reviews into their future, including what the economic and business landscapes will look like during 2017; and further ahead.
Amongst Chamber members, whilst there is probably already a minority looking at change, for many continuity remains important. For these companies, communicating with their customers and clients is a high priority. Consistency in sending out messages and information to their audiences that continues to build positive perceptions is one of the keys.
Your Chamber is well-placed to assist in that activity. Many businesses are expecting to face tougher, challenging times in the coming months. SME’s and smaller businesses have one big advantage. Compared to their larger publicly-listed cousins – big businesses and multinational corporations – smaller businesses are viewed in a far more positive light, (according to a survey carried out by Populus).
Family-owned firms and SMEs are consistently regarded as performing considerably better. One reason given is that there is far less distance between the top decision-maker and the customer. This enables the smaller business to be much closer; and, in touch with those who are placing orders and making purchases. Our smaller company members are known to take this closer hands-on approach. They can play that singular advantage to continuing good effect.
‘We get significant and regular feedback from our customers’, one member recently confided in me. The company uses that information to help it to continue to develop its business. In particular to introduce new products, and also services; whilst simultaneously correcting any issues that had been identified. ‘Correcting and making adjustments is no bad thing; it shows you have your eye on the ball’, she concluded.
In fact in the current situation, where change is likely and some outcomes are moderately uncertain, this approach could well be positively adopted by many businesses and to good effect.
Finding out what customers actually think about your business, and then avoiding falling into the trap of using rose-tinted spectacles has several advantages that I can immediately appreciate. Your customers can be highly perceptive in many areas and so provide you with a competitive edge.
At your Chamber, we continue to provide opportunities for members to gauge opinions and collect information at our networking events and presentations. These are opportunities to meet like-minded businesses, amongst which will be others who are facing similar issues; and also looking to develop effective solutions. Sharing and exchanging views is a tried and tested means of improvement that has been applied throughout history.
Just consider the Industrial Revolution, for a moment. The Iron Masters of Birmingham weren’t afraid to share. Likewise, brewers came from London and set up in Burton to find out more about the advantageous water in the town that contributed to the leading beers that received worldwide acclaim.
Playing to your strengths has to be one of the targets for any small business. Your Chamber is here to assist you in that process. Take a look at our Event Calendar on the Greater Birmingham Chamber website. Of course, we will be delighted if your plans for 2017 include participation in Let’s Do Business ‘17 in June at Uttoxeter Race Course.
From news that is filtering through, we hear that the event is now the centrepiece in the annual plans for many members. Participation and involvement in an event of this scale can rub off onto your business in several directions.
Putting your company and its products and services in front of a wider audience has got to be one of them. And that can neatly serve to provide you with information and feedback on just how well you are doing in the changing situation that we in business are all now facing.
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