Do You Join The Dots?
An American guy called Steve Blank who runs courses for entrepreneurs says that no business plan ever survived an outing into the real world. He may well be right. In our experience, carefully crafted plans drawn up at the launch of a business often sit gathering dust on shelves while the team cracks on with the manual labour that is constructing and running the business.
But for all the demands on your time, it makes good sense to keep hold of that strategic thinking discipline. Keeping your eye on the bigger picture will help you stay ahead. At Dot Dot Consultancy we like to call it ‘joined-up business thinking’. The most successful businesses find a way of connecting the dots between their longer-term goals and the actual day to day running of the business.
Ambitious and growing SME owners find this hard because they are often multi-tasking across different functions and find themselves very thinly spread indeed. One way of easing the burden is by buying expertise in the shape of a finance director – if the business doesn’t already have one of course!
A good finance director (FD) is much more than an accountant. They are a major contributor to the growing business – supercharging the team and helping the business to achieve its goals in a sustainable manner. The best FDs will help you to see the bigger picture of how your resources (cash, people, assets) can best be deployed to get you where you want to go. And by the way…you don’t have to have a full-time post – FD support can be flexible – even one day a week, can make a huge difference.
If you haven’t got an FD, make sure you take time out every couple of months to do a bit of joined-up business thinking. All it takes is a pen and paper, a quiet room and a bit of cool thinking.
1) Think about why you are great at what you do. You may need to think beyond products or services here – what problems or needs do you solve for customers? Have you got a compelling vision of how your business will continue to meet those all-important needs over the coming months/years. What’s on the horizon that could bite you?
2) Work out how well you are serving your customers’ needs. Do you differentiate between customer groups well enough? Are you building lasting relationships with current and future customers? How much effort goes into finding out how well you meet your customer’s needs and tell them about it?
3) Ask yourself which are your most profitable products or services and why? Do your efforts result in a steady and sustainable income? What’s working and what’s not? What are your cash-flow needs over the next 6 months and beyond?
4) What are your key activities? Are all those activities geared towards the creation of value for your customers? What activities add the most value to what your business does? Do you have skills or information gaps that could hold you back?
5) Do you understand your cost structures? What are the most costly activities? Are you investing in the future, or burning costs from day to day? How sustainable is your cash flow position? If circumstances change, how agile is the business to vary its cost structures in response?
If you don’t know the answers or feel sure of where you are now and where you are heading, you may need invest more time working on the business, rather than in it.
If you need help with this, or you would like to talk about how flexible finance director services could help you to grow, contact Estelle Rowe (Managing Director) at Dot Dot Consultancy. Tel 07830217612 www.dotdotco.co.uk email: Estelle@dotdotco.co.uk
The best part of being in business is all the other people you get to work alongside and the relationships that you can build up to help each other
I have been meeting up with Howard Jackson of Open Door Multimedia ( www.opendoormultimedia.com ) on a regular basis – I am very impressed with the variety of projects he is taking on and particularly with the quality of the film he produced for Ian Tomlinson of Fix It UK Ltd.
If you need to feed your You Tube channel or want to showcase how fantastic your business is, need live footage of your venue or want to share your story for all to hear then Howard is your man
Give Howard a call on 07795 252797
Streamlining your business costs and preventing future expense
Businesses are always looking for new ways to minimise costs so that they can maximise their profit margins. As we all know, with the increase in costs of fuel this has a knock on effect to the supply chain.
So what other measures can be put into place to make your business streamlined and strategic?
Cost containment ideas
Firstly examine your core costs – telecoms, mobile, virtualisation, staffing for cost prevention and making the use of current business applications
This would span the areas of:
Cloud based software
Prevention of future expenses
Did you know that implementing a green IT strategy can result in real cost savings?
For example installing a programmable thermostat
Setting up PCs to auto awake and sleep can save up to 64% in electronic hot air in the office
Investing in rack cooling that ports hot air out of the room can provide free heating into another room
Perhaps encourage staff to work from home
Any back ups that need doing should be scheduled during down time
Instead of huge outlays for expensive software, try using Open Source Software such as:
Phone – Asterisk
Exchange server – Zimber Hyperoffice
Shared docs – Dropbox
Google Apps - Skydrive
Autocad - Freecad
Automated workflows - CRM can automate your sales cycle try Microsoft CRM
Don’t buy new PCs try Dell Optiplex with a solid state drive and Core 2 Duo processor minimum
Substitute laptops with tablets better battery life, more portable and powerful
Look at the service contracts for things you rent such as photocopiers - negotiate a lower rent in exchange for an extended contract
Is your IT department fully streamlined?
Have you thought about cloud software or cloud storage? This can keep costs down
Cloud systems have excellent security, there would be less IT staff needed and less software licensing required
Don’t understaff your IT department, it is not sustainable in the long term.
It is more effective to hire one specialist who can then train less qualified staff, so use Graduates or apprentices or several part timers
Train selected members of staff in each dept on certain aspects of IT to reduce calls to help desks
The above are solutions for reducing costs, what about preventing future costs?
Disaster recovery – have you a plan in place to ensure your equipment and data is protected if disaster should strike?
Be mindful of where data is stored – possible events to plan for are
Key employee death
Phone and network failure
Mass parts and pc theft
If you would like further help with any of these measures, please contact John Betton on 0844 801 3464
Have you considered using your phone number to increase sales?
Today’s technology opens up new marketing tools
75% of businesses claimed Freephone numbers increased their business enquiries
Much more than just a number
We know how important inbound calls are to your business. Making it easy for customers to call you and routing calls through to the right department are critical factors for good customer service and closing sales quickly.
Memorable numbers can maximise the return on investment of your advertising and marketing campaigns.
Non geographical (o8) numbers are simply routed to the landline or mobile of your choice; these can be easily changed – giving your business full control and flexibility.
The benefits of getting an 0800/0844/0845/087 prefix are:
- It points to existing number, so no additional line rental to pay
- It is more flexible than a fixed line number, simply take your number with you if you move premises.
- Quickly change where your calls are forwarded to at any time
- Improve your customer experience by attaching Call Management services to your number such as call queuing, voice-mail or fax to email.
With 087 numbers you can even earn revenue from calls coming in to your business
Many people don’t recognise the versatility of these services and just see inconvenience and expense where there is none.
Thinking more strategically about this option can see an upturn in calls and conversions to sales, also it does not limit you to an area if you want to appeal Nationally. Never miss opportunities to take calls with the flexibility these options provide.
If you would like to learn more about the various 08 prefixes, what they can do and the difference between them give John a call he will be happy to have an informal chat – 0844 801 3464
Fax to Email
Do you still find yourself being asked ‘do you have a Fax machine?’ Or do you frequently ask this. With email and faster internet speeds the Fax is becoming redundant as a machine. However, the need to scan and send documents has not. So if you still have a sorry looking machine in the corner covered in dust and you haven’t yet got to grips with a scanner then what are the other options?
Fax to email – this service allows any Inbound number to be converted in to a fax receiving telephone number in seconds, allowing end-users to receive faxes by email wherever they choose or maybe, without the need for a fax machine or dedicated landline.
This is a dynamic solution available with no installation or pre-ordering, allowing for fast connection of service.
End-users can have each document delivered to multiple email address at the same time, with the service able to receive virtually unlimited faxes simultaneously, meaning no engaged tones for the fax sender.
To find out more about how this works in practice and how this can make your life easier…
call John for an informal chat 0844 801 3464
Alternatively email us your contact details, specify which service you are interested in and we will give you a callback
How long is it since you installed your fixed line telephone system at your office? Chances are it was a few years’ ago. If you still have a circular dial or a faded picture of Buzby on your equipment – then you are back in fashion!
The advent of Broadband servicing the Internet has changed the face of telecoms and has brought more products and services to the market, as well as helped drive down line rentals and call charges.
Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP is a growth industry for those who are happy to route their calls via their internet connection. For those that still want to stick to traditional landlines there are many new deals that have come to the market that could see significant savings to your business.
If you carry out any telesales activity then it is vital that you have someone to keep in contact with regularly to ensure you are on the most cost effective tariffs and that the hardware you are using is fit for purpose. Updating your phone systems does not have to be expensive.
Making hundreds of calls every week on the wrong tariff will be costing your business dear
Similarly, if you are the type of business that wants the phone to be ringing with prospective customers, you may want to consider getting a Freephone number to make it free for them to call you. Or conversely you could install an 0844 number to remain non geographic and to generate revenue on calls that you receive. 08 numbers also come with a lot of diversity in terms of re-routing calls.
Quite often businesses are using phone systems that are way too complicated for their needs or making do with a simple handset that is hindering their growth.
Telephones are still very integral to whether a business succeeds or fails. Yes we have the Internet and Social Media, but in terms of converting customers – personal contact always well exceeds any other method. Therefore the number one preferred way of winning business is to meet your prospects in person, but if this is not possible your telephone is the next best thing.
So don’t neglect your phone system or look at it as being outmoded or demote it. Recognise it for the true asset it really is.
John can advise you on handsets, functionality, negotiate you the best rates with your supplier to get a wholesale deal. If you are currently billed by BT John can probably save you between 20 to 40 percent on your current bills. Have a chat with him – 0844 801 3464
Also, if you wish to change supplier for a better tariff don’t worry about losing contact as the lines stay with BT wholesale so there is no disruption to the service.
The only risk is a serious dent in your bills. If this is more than you can bear then stop reading now!
Visit www.jbconsultancyuk.co.uk to register your interest, or if you want to see if you can be quids in email a copy of your bill to firstname.lastname@example.org