Review your cash-flow processes
In the September 2014 MYOB Business Monitor Report, 30 per cent of Australian SMEs cited cash flow as a key pressure. If you have a growing business and are being affected by billing-cycle delays, you might want to consider using an alternative solution such as debtor finance. Other solutions include improving your management of stock, suppliers and debt recovery, and doing regular cash-flow forecasts.
Look beyond sales to relationships
In an environment of budget cuts and uncertainty stemming from international tensions, getting more sales was a stay-awake issue for many SMEs last year. Rather than focusing solely on getting new customers, plan to spend more time listening to the needs and concerns of your existing ones. The general rule is that it costs around five times more, on average, to acquire a new customer than it does to retain one.
Don't disregard social media
Will signing up for a social networking site help your business grow? In the new age of ‘digital disruption’, the way businesses share their marketing messages has changed dramatically. For instance, LinkedIn can help you build brand awareness with a niche audience through the promotion of targeted content. Likewise, its social features can help generate leads and sales.
Leverage data for performance benchmarking
There is a growing trend towards data analytics as a way to measure business performance in real time. Which of your customer segments are buying, and which buying channels are they using? Which areas of your business are most profitable, and which are not? What are your competitors doing? Mobile devices and cloud computing are making the viewing and processing of such data much easier.
Is it time to step outside your comfort zone and look for opportunities further afield? Although it isn’t without risks, going international can improve operational efficiency, open up new markets and help create economies of scale. Deloitte’s report, Australian Business Trends 2014, predicts the next wave of growth will come from emerging Asian markets. This is likely to be further bolstered by the free trade deal Australia signed with China late last year.
Take the long view
According to Crowe Horwath’s SME Directions Survey 2014, 69 per cent of SME owners are not planning to leave their business in the near future. If this describes you, make sure you are strategically planning for the long term. Where would you like to be two, five and 10 years from now? Getting your staff involved in creating a long-term vision will help ensure they embrace the changes that result from it.
Plan for innovation
Consumer tastes and demands are always changing. To remain competitive, it’s vital your long-term plans include the research, testing and development of ideas for new products and services. Various programs offer financial assistance in this area, including the government’s Research & Development Tax Incentive, grants and other funding programs.
You can also benefit by applying innovation to your own processes and practices. For instance, Crowe Horwath found that 59 per cent of businesses surveyed had adopted cloud software for services such as data storage, customer relationship management and document filing systems.
The next 12 months look set to bring uncertainties as well as opportunities. Embracing change and maintaining a positive outlook are sure to be winning strategies.