Together we’re stronger
John Spencer, CEO of MWB Business Exchange talks up the benefits of collaboration in a tough trading environment
John Spencer, CEO of MWB Business Exchange on the benefits of collaboration in a tough trading environment.
With unemployment rising, salaries being cut and companies issuing worrying financial results, it’s more important than ever that the small business community work together so that whatever the economic storm throws at them, they have as strong a network of support available as possible.
Many small businesses are feeling isolated at the moment, trying to cope with problems such as cashflow, losing clients and the reluctance of banks to lend money. But they are not alone.
Hunkering down and trying to cope without any support may sound admirable but this actually means that small businesses are isolating themselves from the very people that could help: potential advisers, sources of new business leads, new suppliers or even clients.
Companies across the country are dealing with the same issues, and by working together as a small business community they can help each other.
Talk is cheap…
All small businesses benefit from talking to each other, gaining advice and perhaps just reassurance that other firms are in the same boat. For those lucky companies who are not suffering, now is the time for them to support their fellow entrepreneurs, whether with pro bono work, by allowing delayed payments or offering to share costs.
In the long run, everyone will benefit from this as every company that is saved from going out of business now is another potential client or client’s client.
Location, location, location…
Despite finances being tight, small businesses need to think about where they are based and whether this is helping them to meet and interact with other businesses.
If you work from home, and spend most days without contact with other small businesses, now might be the time to think about moving into an office. The community it gives you access to could save your business and enliven your attitude.
If you feel isolated in your current office, move to one that will give you a network of contacts. Chatting to fellow business owners over a coffee in the office kitchen could result in anything from an agreement to reduce stationary costs by doing joint bulk orders, to an offer of new business or advice on improving cashflow.
You never know who you might meet, which is why, even in this age of ‘virtual communities’, offices and face to face meetings are still where most people chose to interact.
Keeping positive is vital. People are naturally attracted to those who are positive rather than doom and gloom-mongers, so being proactive, forward-looking and positive will not only make life more pleasant but could lead to more business.
Clients are looking to work with people who can offer them solutions to their problems, not a dire prognosis for the future that neither party can do anything about. Look at what you can offer that will provide solutions to your clients’ problems and then talk to them about these things.
Squeeze the lemon…
In tough times, even more than good times, it is crucial that small businesses make the most of their current clients. Gerard Burke, founder of the Your Business Your Future programme, coined the phrase “squeezing the lemon” to explain that most entrepreneurs and business owners fail to get all they can from their customers, much like a lemon used in a recipe.
As well as talking to other small businesses and doing their best to develop new business, entrepreneurs need to talk broadly to current clients about their business find out what they have planned. Only by doing this will they be able to exploit every opportunity that might be available to them.
The small business community is crucial to the UK economy, and it’s robust enough to make it through these difficult times. Small and medium-sized businesses are in a unique position to offer advice, support and positive thinking to each other, and by making the most of the opportunities that come along, small businesses willl weather the storm.