Business Focus

Critically so much business focus is drifting to a nonsense that affects very few UK companies.

Whatever Happens – Politically, Economically or Socially there is a decision we must make.

A cruise ship that ran aground is seen off the west coast of Italy at Giglio island January 14, 2012. At least three people were killed and rescuers were looking for other victims on Saturday after Costa Concordia, a large Italian cruise ship, carrying more than 4,000 people ran aground overnight, took on water and tipped over. REUTERS/Remo Casilli (ITALY – Tags: DISASTER MARITIME TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) – RTR2W9G2

Passengers, Spectators or Entreprenuers?

Napolean describe Britain as a nation of shop-keepers. Today he would describe the residents as nervous shoppers.

Britain imports more than it exports to Europe. That allows for greater local growth in business.

The last 40 years has seen the redundancy of heavy manufacturing, the development of a service economy and a pool of talent in new sectors.

Therefore, the decision has to be do the businesses of Britain exploit the opportunity or become a victim of change.

Focus and Guts

A fool and his money are easily parted. Billions is paid out every year to develop competitive companies in other EU Member States. As a Business Consultant the first thing I would advise a company is stop subsidising your competitors.

Understand the marketplace. Learn to create locally and generate opportunities. An economy that relies on external stimulation is an economy that can collapse overnight.

Debt Economics

The economic principle of a debt fueled economy is dangerous because everyone owes everyone else and eventually someone has to be paid. Then the dominos begin to fall.

Debt inflates the economy. If individuals are prepared to borrow more to buy what they want the price can contiue to rise. When more save and fewer people buy immediately prices fall. Hence all the high street sales.

A simple principle. If all your personal debts were called in tomorrow apart from a mortgage on a property would you be solvent? How long would it take to pay off the debt at your current income?

Debt fuels pay rises, the media and advertisers say people deserve better but the reality is it can’t be afforded.

Policy Failure is no excuse

All government policy – economic and social is bound to fail someone. There are so many reasons for reaching that conclusion, however, the issue for individuals remains who do I want to be able to blame?

Governments are there to carry the blame for things that fail.

Health and Social Care is failing because UK residents don’t want to pay for it. Countries that don’t have the NHS don’t pay as much in tax but that is because they don’t have the welfare state.

People need to realise that the choices made on tax affect the collective welfare, but the priority today is self interest.

Conclusion

Watch the government, wait for an outcome you can’t control and play on as the ship sicks without trace.

Or do something, anything to bring energy into the business, focus on quality, design, innovation and creativity. Win business because it isn’t looking for you, therefore sell, trade, grow and develop.

Looking for innovative solutions – pick up the phone and call us or contact us. The longer businesses wait the more difficult the pathway.

For example have you decided where you can import alternative product from? or Better where can you export your products and services to?

Don’t be niave the marketplace isn’t waiting for you if you are doing nothing now. Let the CBI, FSB, IoDs and other bodies argue the politics its about time to get up and do something positive.

Bidding Skills #1

This Bidding Skills series is an opportunity to share key tools with other bid writers. Enhancing the winning process underpins continued success.

The #1 Skill is Attitude – Keep Learning

The Bidding Structure

Notice
Opportunity
Expression of Interest
Bidding model 
Submission
Evaluation 
Outcome

This is a straightforward process – when complete we just move on to the next opportunity, don’t we?

Our Learning Opportunities

  •  Wins! – We need to understand how!
  • Unsuccessful – then understand Why?

Two valuable resources for the succfessful bid writer.

Your winning tender or bid response had something that resonated with the buyer. Identifying just what achieved that outcome ensures that it is used in the next opportunity. Also that you begin to compile more evidence supporting the evaluation.

So always ask for feedback on winning submissions. Analyse the best parts and then identify areas that you thought you would do well with, however the scores indicate that more is required. 

Winning example:

10 is excellence, 1 is failed to impress. 

On your customer service or experience you expect to score 8 however the evalation process scores it 6. Ask three questions:

  1. What did we leave out?
  2. Why was this average?
  3. What should we include?

A valuable session in the one day workshop focuses on Learning from Winning. These three questions require the delegates to look at the evaluation criteria with their business in view. The discussion highlights that many think what they do for the customer is excellent, however it is just the same as every competitor.

The reason is linked to sweeping generalised responses, so we encourage specific examples of postive customer experience. These experiences also have a limited shelf life. Over 6 months ago and these are historical, the events need to be hot of the press and contain specific statements from the customer. 

Unsuccessful analysis 

Blame isn’t the result of proper learning analysis, improvement follows. Looking at what a bid or tendered failed often highlights individual omissions, failures and errors. 

Attributing them to an individual creates an unnecessary pressure. Look for the learning points. 

The first is: Why didn’t these things get picked up before we submitted the bid? Where in the process was this missed? 

Now take a little time to follow up on who won. Research the company, did they outsource? Are you percieved as a natural competitor? 

Now look at your score thresholds: it is common to find that average is often mistaken for excellent. Achieving and industry standard is not excellence, however add value to that achievement by explaining the impact and score move upwards.

Learning New lessons

Every bid and tender manager goes through a lean patch because that is the nature of the creative approach, however we never go through a patch where we stop learning.

When the win ratio begins to drop improve a specific skill, use a new tool, start training new staff or audit the business systems. Remember learning in business is the primary tool that leads to success.

Conclusion 

Therefore, can we win everything we go for? Only if we are the only company buidding. Competition leads to both winning and losing. 

Learning from losing is important but learning from winning is equally important.

Need assistance in analysising Bids and Tenders then contact us

Fundraising Tips #2 – Credibility

Credibility requires openness, evidence and engagement.

The successful “Ask” needs supporting information. To “Ask” without credible evidence is high risk for low return.

Credibility Example

“Give me £10?”

“Who are you?” or “Why should I?” or “What do you want it for?” are reasonable questions when someone asks for money. The last question emphasises that even if I know you I can ask for more detail.

People ask this of friends, family and colleagues, so we rightly expect them to ask strangers and fundraisers. We should expect to provide:

  • A reason and objective
  • Logical evidence to support claims
  • justification of request
  • Impact and benefit

Reason and Objective

Giving is a personal action. Therefore it requires a good reason. Philanthropy is still an exercise in free will and choice, therefore, be specific (give a reason), direct attention to the need or cause (objective) and ask for financial support.

Evidence

Crossing the street when we see graphic images of cruelty or stravation remains a common reaction, people turn the sound down for the television appeals. This style of evidence immmediately sifts the potential donors. Understand how the evidence you use will impact your target donor.

The decision about what constitutes effective evidence is improtant. It needs to aid understanding, therefore stirring an emotional reflex that becomes a call to action.

Justification

Just because I think its a “Good Cause” isn’t justification.

Rational thinking underpins giving, so we need to isolate the specific reasons individuals will give to this appeal and then provide the justification. This needs to be set in context, local, regional, national, gender specific, sector of society or the international concern.

The closer to the individual the more likely they are to give.

For example:

A local park had an outline planning application for development. Local residents were outraged and a public meeting was called. Hundreds turned up.

Good for organisers because they wanted to mount a compaign to stop the development, however, only 10 local properties were affected, three of them businesses. The land in the park was not used and therefore the interest raised by the campaigners quickly wained. The reason, the campaigners had presented justification for the meeting but it didn’t stand up to scrutiny of the rational thinking residents. 

The evidence also failed although it appeared compelling when presented. Zero income became the outcome of the appeal.

   Justification should stand up to external scrutiny. Test your evidence and reasoning one random individuals before launching an appeal.

Impact and Benefit

“Your £10 achieves this!” This approach works because the donor understands that their funding makes a difference (impact) at a personal level. Also when they percieve the changes in individual circumstances this automatically builds the sense of legacy (benefit). That is why so many TV appeals use the approach. Remember in a couple of minutes a great deal can be conveyed.

Script the impact and benefit statements, support it with written information and ensure that it requires the potential donor to act immediately, (Yes or No).

Conclusion

Fundraisers know a successful credible well prepared and well presented appeal needs effective planning. Every successful fundraiser  presents a credible reason for asking.

Contact us for more Tips and support.

Fundraising Tips – #1

Funding Cloud Fundraising is the greatest challenge all not for profit, voluntary and charity organisations daily. We hear the stories of great projects and support programmes losing funding and closing their doors. The simple reason is there are so many good causes and not enough funds to go around. 

I began working on all types of fundraising activities in my teenage years. Quite by accident – I had an idea, the event organiser said “Yes – if you can find a sponsor”. Everyone said it would be difficult but it wasn’t, I just asked business owners to help. I ended up with more money than I needed and it went to the organiser.

From that point forward, I was hooked.

Tip #1 – Ask

Luke FitzHerbet (former Director DSC – deceased) frequently explained that the Ask is critical. 

Three points in creating the “Ask”:

  1. Make it clear you are asking
  2. Tell the whole truth – why the money is needed now!
  3. Explain how they will see the impact

Learning ask effectively is important. It is worth practicing! The Fundraising workshops we run focus on the practical elements of preparing to ask, asking and reptition. There aren’t specific rules in the face to face encounter, however, it is important that you know how the money is going to be used.

When approached in the street or at the door I always ask the fundraiser to explain how my donation is divided up. They are often paid, so how much of my donation goes to the company that is paying them? Who are the other recipients before the final beneficiary? This often presents a problem! Coming unprepared means they leave with nothing.

Fundraising Event – Asking  

The bucket gets passed around and everyone is expected to drop money in for the charitable cause. Consequently, guests are intimidated into giving. However, the cause may not be mentioned but it should be clear to everyone where the funds are going.

The Event Ask requires greater transparency. So again make it clear that you are asking not demanding, not looking to embarrass them into giving. Treat the donors with the dignity and respect you want the beneficiaries to be shown. 

Conclusion

Fundraising can be fun. Therefore, it should be productive and it must be fully accountable.

Getting the Ask right is a simple step to fundraising success. 

Bid and Trust  based fundraising requires the same approach to Asking. Contact the Tender Management team for more details of our training workshops, fundraising support and event management services.  

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Social Care the solution not the problem

The Social Care problems are not the cause of NHS bed blocking, these are the result of the failing Care Sector! The Media hype identifies Social Care as the pinch point for service strain. The problem is elsewhere.

Local Authorities point a lack of affordable Care and the quality of Care is their primary concern.

An article Published in the Guardian Newspaper last November pointed to the 380 Care Homes that had filed for bankruptcy since 2010.

Removing that capacity from the marketplace must have a real knock-on effect. If only 60% of those client spaces were occupied, we must ask where did they go? All existing capacity is absorbing the increased demand; so what happens when people are moved on? Who picks up the strain?

The Economics

Economic Theory presents the idea that if there are limited opportunities for a scarce product or resource the supplier can name the price.

Social Care doesn’t work like that. The local Authority sets the limits on what is paid for and the system then bids for the person. Have you ever been to a cattle market? Generally, it is the best value bid that wins but in the Social Care field we have the indignity of “how cheaply” can these services be provided?

Obviously, a flawed system because it attracts low quality services and keeps the CQC busy.

So, price comes before the person. How can this be acknowledge and adjustments made in a business to ensure service viability? 

The price pressure is known. The demand for person centred care is made clear and speed is critical. This structure of allows for innovation. The Care Provider in 2019 will have to change, so if that’s you drive the changes. 

We win contracts for Care providers, as part of the process we analyse as much of the business as a client wants us to see, however, the product of this process creates opportunities for innovation, collaboration and value for money improvements. Contact the Tender Management or Social Care links to find out more. 

The Social Care Provider

Is regulation and intimidation really the only solution? Should the sector let the CQC weed out poor providers and let the local authorities squeeze the prices as hard as they can? Who knows but it is clear that a Care provider can lead the way by demonstrating they are willing to blend their care package.

The ideal solution is the Care provider becomes the conduit to universal and bespoke support for the individual client. Rather than limiting the service this opens the opportunities for greater resource deployment. The notion that because a business is making a profit that it is unfit to provide care is bias. Social Care providers are a necessary product to meet the growth in an aging population. 

The accepted facts are that we will need more social care employees than teachers with an aging population.

Hourly rates rise due of labour costs and core business costs. To meet this progression the Care provider needs to increase the value for money.  This becomes an incentivised structure local funding bodies could pay rates linked to value for money and access to additional resources.

In Conclusion

The solution, be a gateway to extended services! Care needs to embrace change that includes the NHS

Employ an innovative approach to accessing more support for the client, develop a wider network in your local community.

Factoring and Tenders

Factoring affects the financial credibility of a small business.

What is Factoring?

Investopedia describes Factoring as:

What is a ‘Factor’

A factor is a financial intermediary that purchases receivables from a company. A factor is essentially a funding source that agrees to pay the company the value of the invoice less a discount for commission and fees. The factor advances most of the invoiced amount to the company immediately and the balance upon receipt of funds from the invoiced party.

Read more: Factor

Harsh measure
                    How it works

Businesses that need to resort to Factoring Agents immediately inform the buyer that cashflow is an issue. Isn’t it confidential? No! When a business collaborates with an agency the paperwork includes a “charge” against the business. So the first credit check or compliance audit shows the priority charge against the business.

Money for Invoices

Sounds great on the face of it. The Factoring Agent rates of payment of your invoice then the balance less fees when the account is settled, it can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Factoring as a first stop demonstrates a lack of confidence in customer relationships or satisfaction, it is also evidence of poor risk management, because too few Small Businesses understand how their marketplace works, they arrive with the invoice, its part paid but what impact does this have on the longterm cashflow?

I have an example for you to ponder on.

A Home Care Support provider has a contract for 300 hours a week. Great news!

The terms are non-negotiable; payment within 14 days of invoice – subject to authorisation and satisfaction.

To win the contract they looked at the competition, the common pricing structure and decided to undercut the hour rate by 10%.

They have the staff, care package and the start date.

Knowing the cost of an overdraft the decision to factor seems reasonable.

Invoice for 1st weeks hours is sent in knowing it will be paid in 14 days subject to satisfactory terms met; so they factor the invoice and receive 75% of the value immediately. They repeat this every week for 6 weeks. What is the cumilative impact on the business? Great they can pay staff wages but suddenly they are aware that the balance is critical and they are under pressure to meet increasing demands.

What if one invoice is challenged? How does that impact on the business?

Its not all negative, businesses survive and come through this but there is a valuable lesson in this for all business owners.

Playing catch-up on cashflow as a new business is a struggle because the gap is always widening is an unnecessary burden, Plan Strategically and work into the contract, no one wants to see the business struggle, so work with the goodwill.

Is Factoring wrong?  

Not at all but for a new start up with a limited customer base it is very dangerous. A single disputed invoice can break the bank.

Understanding the risk should create an awareness to exhaust all the other solutions.

The primary way to avoid the issue in the first place remains know the real costs of your operational activity, breakeven point, profit and investment calculations before you take on a contract, then  you know the impact of undercutting that price.

In the case to ponder above after three months a business was already losing 7%, it stripped out the profit, the Directors could not pay themselves, ending with another charge on the business for a mortgage..

1st Principle of Bidding

Understand how much you can afford to charge and what that unit cost or hourly rate covers.

Working with KKS Management clients we calculate three figures:

  1. The minimum you can afford to charge
  2. The clear contingency and reinvestment sum
  3. A real profit margin

Winning new business is difficult, invest well in the process and understand the financial needs of your business and factoring becomes a measured response to slow paying loyal clients that you can afford to carry.Essential Tender Quality mark

Grow carefully and sustainably! Looking to grab loads contracts at the lowest price is an unsustainable approach. Competitive Tendering requires more investment, knowledge and planning, this is the primary investment strategy every business needs.

Anyone can set up in Business but not everyone can make a success of it. Improve your odds by getting sound advice

Strategic Planning

The importance of strategic planning in small and medium sized businesses  is easily overlooked. The business owner or senior manager that fails to plan strategically is creating a recipe that inevitably leaves the business on the back foot. 

Plan the route to success.

Developing Strategically

Creating Success

“My target is to run faster than anyone has ever run before!” a simple statement, or how about “I want to own the best car sales business around”. Two great statements but they have one thing in common – both require and reality check.

Personally I’m 60 years old, overweight and have coronary problems – I couldn’t achieve the first but physically it is now impossible. Nor could I achieve the second because I have no interest in cars and my enthusiasm would soon wain. Is that what I mean by a reality check?

No. To achieve anything worthwhile, we all need a clear plan.

The “reality check” is the planning process. We have to ask the right questions and respond with honest answers.

When Usain Bolt decided he wanted to run faster than anyone before him he knew this, the same with every highly successful business. Many successful business owners don’t realise they have a plan but they implement the key components.

To be successful in business requires that we understand the importance of maximising the skills, talents and resources we have.

A clear overview of what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it is a basic form of strategic development.

A Strategy requires a Target outcome!

So, strategy creation follows a five-stage process:

  1. Analysis
  2. Opportunities and options
  3. Bench Test
  4. Evaluating 
  5. Selection and progress review

Many have heard of TOWS, SWOT, PEST, PESTO but experience demonstrates that you have all the tools and put them to use, however, it is critical that these are applied with a strong dose of realism.

Strategic Analysis

“Know thyself” is often thought to be the basis of this but again knowing your business isn’t enough, we must position the business. One tool seldom used now is analysis of local market share. If no one is buying locally why will that change if you suddenly decide to become international?

Leadership Capacity

The critical question must be am I skilled enough to create business growth? “I started the business – so of course I am” is a poor starting. Learning in business is the key to strategic and operational growth. Therefore, my next question is “what new skills have I gained and what skills do I need?”

Recently I was asked to calculate the hourly rate for company looking to grow. Straightforward enough but how had they set the figure before? Asked around to see what competitors were charging and priced themselves £2 an hour lower. This was ridiculous!

Isolate the capacity you require, either learn the skills or buy them in at a fixed price. Never fall prey to an open-ended consultancy, create a project based approach.

Business Capability and Capacity

We can all review our resources, liabilities, capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Explore the Core Competencies of key members of your team. It could be time to part company with some of the management team or staff. If you are buying in skills from consultants that senior staff should have then be honest with. Train them or replace them.

Understanding and working with the unique strengths of the business enables the team to consolidate, focus and develop.

This analysis can lead to painful outcomes but remember your teenage years – growing is painful. The greatest asset and liability of any business is the people who work in it and yet they remain critical when setting yourself apart from your competitors.

Once you have an understanding of your own capacity, capabilities and a realistic target for the business systems then apply the same rigorous approach to:

  • The business environment
  • the marketplace
  • existing customers
  • Target customers
  • competitors
  • direction

Introduce Strategic Planning 

                                                                                                                                  

I was always taught that plagiarism is a fools game in the education sector because if I found something of interest on a subject the likelihood is that my tutors will have already used it. So I am going to credit every other blog and newsletter writer I have ever read because I know that many of my ideas and comments are not unique, however, they do reflect those who influenced my business development approach. 

 

2019 Tender Writing

2019 the year of growth for small businesses.

Reshaping the trading arrangements for large international companies is going to be painful, especially for the Public Sector.

Challenge

The challenges include understanding the private sector, having been used to large multinationals controlled by EU Regulation. The new marketplace is an opportunity for local business owners to take back the contracts lost to EU based companies.

Winning business from a risk averse public sector requires strategic planning and development. Answer questions before the buyer realises what they should be asking.

Fear

The biggest fear is a skills drain, explain how your company is going to fill the gaps. Why your structure provides the openness and accountability required because you’re based in the local community.

2019 is a year of opportunity, more markets because the UK is a net importer therefore, the priority is replace the imported products and services. For example: retro fitting dual fuel (hybrid technology) reduces the need for improting vehicles. It costs less than buying new and offers the UK an innovation niche.

The application of technology is simple, cost of production lower than most engineering companies realise and the market is massive.

Politics doesn’t drive business interest or the marketplace unless business allow that to happen.

Options and Opportunities

Before investment and funding businesses need to have a clear plan, effective systems and baggage free market conditions. The Business Consultancy Network portal creates those bespoke solutions for companies looking forward to growth and expansion.

We focus on the needs of the small business, creating a competitive profile and developing simple win strategies that demonstrate the flexibility and cost effectiveness of the UK Small Business owners.

Contact us for early booking details and looking forward to seeing you there.

Exo-economics – the bigger picture

Exo-economics is the study of external pressures on the trading economics.

Development of the study of exo-economics is interesting. It focuses on the social, financial and political pressures that can be applied to a macro economy. However, the Internal and external pressures either stimulate enterprise or undermine it. 

Exo-economics – Manufacturing

The 20th century drift of manufacturing to South East Asia could be repeated by the faster developing nations in Africa and South America if only they weren’t fighting amongst themselves.

The key is a low economy, access to raw materials and 21st century infrastructure.

Fortunately for China, the USA and other manufacturing major players this current situation is going to extend for at least 50 years.

The impact on UK Manufacturing and EU companies is beginning to really bite. India is the service industry fast growth, China remains as the leader in manufacturing and we now need to look at where the science base is developing.

The global economy render many EU countries as the has beens.

Critical balance approach 

The Critical Balance point in any economy has to be linked with the spending power of the individual however it can include micro investment.

Arrest the trend of the globalisation of manufacturing in three ways:

  • Exclusivity
  • Quality
  • Innovation

At a micro economic level. “It may cost more but by spending my money on this I can see the added value” is a fantastic sound. Especially when a consumer is committed to buying.

Loyalty

Add loyalty to this group of three. Consequently this creates a mutual benefit.

Loyalty earns trust! Trust causes the consumer to spend! Spending keeps the business wheels turning.

Localism

National interests are fine but local interests are more important. Invest in local skills. Developing infrastructure and technology causes the economic growth. However buying imported materials stiffles growth leaving nothing.

Debt Free economics

The economy operating across Europe and USA is debt fuelled.

Governments work on the principle of manageable debt. Therefore,  consumers are encouraged to do the same.

If 80% of what I earn is paying off debt and the 20% remaining I live on then as earning falls or income ends the short term outcome is catastrophic.

Therefore, logical conclusion flip it around 80% living income and 20% variable levels of debt.

Better still, the debt free economy, spend what we have now.

Exo-economics – apply pressure from within

Therefore, look positively at the global market and take back the the local consumer.

Consequently, Change attitudes!

Adjust individual buying patterns!

Create positive economic foundations

Use clear strong language, dynamic marketing and be positive.

Conclude now that Economic Innovation requires person centred products.

 

Credit Ratings are important

Credit Ratings cause small businesses problems.

A poor credit rating is simply resolved! However, it is commonly ignored.

The solution? Action!

Credit Ratings

Act immediately! The credit rating is calculated using information your business has provided. Update information!

Three simple steps:

  1. Check the credit rating
  2. Examine the information
  3. Act – improve the information

Offer information!

Business credit ratings use reported performance.  The annual return to Companies House. All of that information is out of date!

For example if you have been approved for a business start up loan the information may take 12 months to appear in published accounts.

Those using micro accounts aren’t required to provide key financial data and therefore, the credit rating company is limited.

Offer information about the financial stability. This is the difference between high risk and acceptable risk for buyers.

Credit Ratings Matter

Credit Ratings are a reference point. Take control and act to reduce high risk rating.

Poor credit scores create business pressure. A limited cashflow reduces investment potential, therefore restricts growth. Thus creating difficult business relationships.

Consequently,  your credit rating matters.

Improve the credit rating!

  • Work with your bookkeeper or your accountant.
  • Keep accounts up to date
  • report quarterly and
  • celebrate success

Use a credit rating company to check your customers.

Improve your ratings, improve the visibility of your business.

Contact Us

Our new clients begin with a business health check.

The approach:

  • Build on the healthy parts
  • Act on areas for development
  • Gain confidence through process

This competitive approach to business development empowers owners and management teams. Move forwards with purpose and strategic direction.

Our services include:

  • Strategic planning
  • Change management
  • Sales and Market development
  • Business writing
  • Competitive tender management
  • Business development training

Inspiration, innovation, enthusiasm and the competitive skills create a fast paced action plan for business owners and their teams.

Contact information