It’s time for a new start

It’s a new year and with that comes the opportunity to start afresh. Do you want your business to be more profitable? Then now is the time to reflect on your current goals, to see which ones you have met and decide if your old business plan is working? If it’s not, then tear it up, forget about the mistakes of 2013 and start with a clear mind and a new business plan. Think of it as your Business New Year’s Resolutions.

Learn from your mistakes

The very first thing you need to do is review; look at the past year and see what worked, what didn’t, what had the most success and what was a waste of resources. The benefit in trying something that doesn’t work is you can learn from it, and never repeat the same mistakes again. Once you have an idea of what plans yielded profit in 2013, table them for your 2014 business plan.

A business plan is crucial

What does every successful business have? A great business plan! Owen Holland, regional general manager of Property Investments at Business Partners, says, “Evaluate your business plan and processes objectively and add marketing initiatives which can bring about more business utilising the existing infrastructure. An evaluation should also be conducted on the business processes to identify where efficiencies can be improved, resulting in more output from the same infrastructure.”

Do your homework

In order to have a working business plan, you need to know your field of business inside and out. Research everything you can about your field, which means read everything about your industry and talk to the leaders and members of this industry. Once this is done, you need to decide what your vision for your company is. Where do you ultimately want to end up? Thinking about your goals in 2014 will force you to think about what you would like to achieve in 2014. Once you have decided on your goals, you can look at how to achieve them.

Your business plan

Take charge of your finances – a carefully controlled financial plan will ensure you are spending money where you need to and saving money where you can. A quick way to make sure your finances are working for you is to use accounting software – something like QuickBooks is easy to use and will help you with budgeting and forecasting. You can also plan ahead for financing; if you need help funding future growth, now is the best time to investigate your options.

Assess your HR needs now.

What staff are you missing that could be a key component to your business plans? Jonathan Smith of strategists Courtwell Consulting remarks that it is mission-critical to have a well-structured and comprehensive business plan in order to ensure the sustainability of your business. He says that while he has worked with businesses during the past few years in order to assist them in optimising their profits and building wealth, he has noticed the marked difference between organisations with no coherent business plan and ones where a carefully thought out business plan (covering strategy, marketing and sales, operations, human resources and business support services) is documented and adhered to.  “A simple aspect such as measuring the number of staff that is required to meet the (hopefully growing) demands of customers and clients is often neglected and the requirement for optimal internal structures is either ignored or changed at the last minute to respond to client needs, says Smith, and this leads to both external (client) and internal confusion. The solution lies in formulating business plans and processing models which provide both stability and a manner of assessing future needs if trading conditions change. Only then, says Smith, will companies be able to monitor and benchmark current and future profitability.

Write a digital strategy

You need to have staff for marketing and for putting a digital action plan in place. It’s all well and good to have a great company, but if people can’t find you on the Internet or don’t know about your product, then you have lost a potential customer. This is where marketing and a digital strategy come into play.

Look into additional training of staff

Also, look at your existing staff; do they need additional training or can they serve more than one function in the company? Your employees are the face of the company to your clients. Good employees who feel well treated and appreciated will be more productive; they will be more willing to go the extra mile for you and the company. When you look at this in terms of a return on an investment, a happy employee equals satisfied customers and avoids sloppy mistakes that could cost you money. Richard Branson, the man who created the Virgin brand, says, “It was the people I surrounded myself with who made the difference: If you treat your employees right, they will treat your customers right, and sustained profits will follow.” There is a direct link between how your employee feels and how productive they are. Your employees might also be able to give you valuable insight into new ways to drive the business forward. Georgina Barrick of Humanity Search and Select says, “Leaders may find value in meeting with new agents/employees to hear about ideas or innovations that they might have. With an open and courageous conversation ideas are born.”

Be consistently passionate about customer service

Along with staff, you need to also be consistent, deliver the same service every time and your customers will rave about you. Consistency says you can be trusted. Be organised; a well-organised business will succeed because you know what needs to be done and who is doing it. “Having the right business plan alone does not necessarily translate into success, now or in the future. It takes commitment, drive, the right attitude and hard work to see a business plan properly implemented throughout an organisation, as well as inspired leadership and confidence in everyone within it. It also requires a practical approach and a ‘buy-in’ from everyone at all levels and a clear understanding of the company’s mission and its vision, and to take responsibility for delivering – whether this be from a product quality or client service perspective,” says Marna van der Walt, CEO of Excellerate Property Services.

Know your competition

It might seem like an obvious point, but do you know what your direct competition is doing? A great yardstick for measuring your business is by comparing it with your competitors. What are their strengths and weaknesses versus yours, what have they implemented that you could possibly benefit from? Study your competition and learn from them.

Owen Holland identifies the following as key for your business success:

* Set goals effectively

* Identify opportunities

* Take only calculated risks

* Be a problem solver

* Develop your people skills

* Enjoy challenges

* Implement a good business plan and be resourceful

* Show integrity/credibility to earn respect in the marketplace

* Enjoy the business you are involved in (you must have a passion for the product and service being offered)

* Seek support when you require it, either from your peers or a mentor.

 

Your mindset

“To be successful in the 21st century, business owners and leaders need to have developed a new set of behaviours to thrive in this fast-paced business environment. Since 2008 it has been business unusual and I am sure that property professionals could attest to this. Leaders who are agile, resilient and responsive to change with high levels of optimism and positivity are more likely to be successful than those with the converse behaviours,” explains Barrick. The power of positive thinking is not just a gimmicky novel; the idea behind this book is very valid. People who are geared towards positive thoughts are more open to new ideas and change, and in the unpredictable financial times South Africa finds itself in, you need to be willing to change and adapt.   Justin Clarke, CEO of Private Property, says, “I went out the other night with an old friend who spent the evening explaining all the reasons why the world was failing, the country was failing, his business was failing because the system is unfair favouring other businesses because of race, corruption and a few that I might have forgotten. I could not help wonder how he would ever win any business with such a negative aura hanging over him and the fact is he was just not able to win any new business. The fact is if you want to win, you need to know what winning looks like, and then you have to believe in it. If you have a clear vision and the passion and determination to get there, you will make it. Imagine failure and you will almost always achieve exactly that.”

Start with small, easily-achievable goals

It might seem like a long list, but if you break each component of your business plan down and delegate what you can to trusted employees, your business plan will look a lot more manageable. “Direction and milestones will assist SME owners to achieve their business objectives as it breaks the total plan up into smaller hurdles which are easier to achieve. Weekly lists should be created for each day or week, and as items are dealt with a sense of achievement will motivate one to move onto the next challenge,” says Holland. By setting your plan as a long-term goal and then setting weekly and monthly goals along with action lists, you can see where your plan is working and the areas that you can improve on. The best time to take action is right now; change your mindset, change your business plan and make 2014 your year for success.

 

By Coleen May