10 ways to improve your business

Top tips on how to make your business more efficient and profitable over the next 12 months

You may think that once you have started up your business a lot of the hard work is over, but successful entrepreneurs are the ones who continually try to improve or expand their enterprise. Sitting on the sidelines twiddling your thumbs while competitors make progress could prove to be disastrous for your venture. To help, Startups.co.uk has compiled ten top tips to help you get ahead in 2007.

  1. Take on experienced staff  - Since October 2006 it has been illegal to discriminate against workers on the grounds of age, so incorporate this change into your thinking when recruiting. Older staff offer maturity and experience that could provide the keys to the success for your business. Don’t believe the nonsensical idea that old dogs cannot learn new tricks and remember that they might have a thing or two to show you.  
  2. Train up – Skills shortages are a big problem in UK workplaces. To help combat the problem, the government has extended Employer Training Pilots across England, following a successful trial period. The scheme allows you to train low-skilled staff towards a vocational qualification, with the associated costs met by the government. Get involved and see profits, as well as skills, rise in 2007. Click on http://etp.lsc.gov.uk for more information.
  3. Expansion: part one – With small business confidence rocketing this could well be the time to invest and expand. Maybe you could update your business plan if you are doing well and take on a few extra staff. If demand is great enough and you can budget carefully, new workers could drive your business onwards and upwards.
  4. Expansion: part two – Alternatively, how about branching into other areas? If there is a niche market being ignored in your local area and your business is doing well, why not exploit it? Do some market research on demand and how any potential expansion would fare – be careful not to over-stretch yourself. However, a targeted, well thought-out expansion into a closely related field could prove to be very profitable.
  5. Don’t just bank on banks – Research has shown that the majority of small firms go to their high street bank whenever they need new finance, despite the fact many are unhappy with the level of service and the charges that banks impose. If you are looking for more capital, why not consider other options such as venture capitalists, business angels, or, if you are struggling to make ends meet, factoring? Although not all kinds of businesses can gain such help, it is well worth a try if you need a cash injection.
  6. Go public? – The government has announced that red tape on securing public sector contracts will be cut and that work will be awarded on a regional, not national, basis. Both measures are good news for small firms, who can now compete against a reduced field at a fraction of the cost for government contracts. From pavement maintenance to IT work, there is around £13 billion worth of contracts out there – so what are you waiting for?
  7. Get your message across – If you have spent the last year relying on local newspaper adverts or the Yellow Pages, it may be worth widening your options slightly to help boost your business. Cinema advertising often proves effective, as does panels on the side of buses. You may want to put together a radio advert to reach out to local customers. If you come up with a targeted, attention-grabbing campaign at a reasonable cost, you should be able to boost takings significantly.
  8. Get supplied – Getting quality, affordable stock is essential in making your business profitable. If you feel that you aren’t getting the best deal from your wholesaler, do something about it. Most are happy to negotiate over prices and good wholesalers reward loyalty by offering money off or extra products to repeat customers. If they don’t, find another one. Do some research on suppliers in your local area – if all of them don’t offer good value then look further afield – the savings you make could be critical.
  9. Get paid on time – Late payment has been seen by many businesses as acceptable practice for many years, putting small firms in debt that they can little afford. With tardy payers being one of the biggest obstacles to profits and expansion, its important that you act to get what’s owed to you. The government has introduced legislation over the last year to tackle the problem, allowing firms to take clients to court for compensation. If all your chasing proves fruitless, consider using these laws.
  10. Keep the cash flowing – Debt is not necessarily a bad thing for small firms attempting to grow. However, it’s essential that you keep up with repayments or your whole business could be at risk. Make sure you operate a well-organised cash flow system – try to negotiate repayments so that you can pay in instalments when it suits you best, try to use a business debit or credit card to cut down on paperwork, make sure your records are well looked after and ensure that you are aware of all outstanding debts.

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