Prices are going up everywhere, whether its ingredients, logistics, people. Companies have little choice but to raise their prices, while consumers will become more selective in their purchases. Which items are necessities and which are simply luxury goods?
Working from home has been an issue too. The older employees – especially those with families – are happy to spend more time working from their own homes, while younger members prefer the cut and thrust of the office environment. Perhaps they also enjoy the end-of-day beer with colleagues, rather than being based in the bedroom.
The contrasts couldn’t be more different. The younger workforce seeks community, camaraderie and a visit to the pub, while the experienced sales person prefers less time on the road or travelling on London’s hot sweaty tube system?
We are certainly experiencing turbulent times. Company bosses need to find a way of educating and growing new talent, without risking their health, nutrition and mental wellbeing. And to achieve this they need to be around more experienced colleagues. Getting the balance right is difficult, as companies still need to make a profit. Meanwhile, sales are dropping and survival hopes are being greatly reduced – everywhere you look. Companies need a back-up plan.
So should I replace a young person, who has opted to seek a new life elsewhere, with another student graduate? Or should I rely on a tried and tested mother who does not want to continue paying the increasingly higher costs of childcare and prefers to work from the comfort of her own home?
When I look at the bigger picture, global growth is down and this is largely because of the rise in oil prices. We have further tough times ahead, so the misery will continue. As for the UK right now we are in trouble. Demand is decreasing, liquidity tightening, and investors are extremely nervous. Everything is slowing down.
The British Chambers of Commerce has downgraded its expectations for UK growth (GDP) during 2022 from 3.6% to 3.5%. They expect the UK inflation rate to reach 10% by the fourth quarter, and this will comfortably outpace any growth in average earnings.
However, companies should never cease trying to keep their current customer base happy, while finding out if and why they are struggling. It is imperative to continue providing a world class customer service, as well as improving methods of communication and keeping your own costs under control?
You must remain the go-to supplier which continues to make a profit and thrive? You need to analyse everything from every supplier, to every item of purchased stock. Every overhead expense needs reviewing. Are you paying out for any software licence which the company no longer requires? Can you improve packaging and should your advertising or marketing campaigns be updated. No stone should be left unturned.
Only when your company’s current income base is as stable as it can be, can you start focussing on growth. The good news is that there are always new marketplaces to investigate. If the UK appears to be limited right now, then start selling abroad. Pack your bags and select countries where you believe you have a reasonable chance of finding new business. It’s time to search for new customers.
Yet for every new potential customer, there are also new competitors. But if you feel your products will meet the needs of those in other countries, and feel confident that you can deliver with a comfortable profit margin, then you will have every chance of riding out the current financial storm.
Export benefits are vast. Your team will develop new skills, your assets will acquire greater value and you will have fun selling. Travelling won’t always be a blast, but you certainly won’t regret it. British companies have one great advantage over other nations, in that the world speaks our language – even if our reputation has been tarnished slightly since Brexit.
You won’t need a tourist advisor, just common sense and some guts. Why not extend a family holiday by a couple of days and spend that time seeking new customers or clients. Learn more about the country you are in, especially when it comes to business culture. I did it recently in France and it paid dividends.
I have sold to more than 100 countries. Check out Government support on logistics and you’ll need to be 100% rigorous when it comes to payment – if you’re trading with foreign markets. Keep a watchful eye on cash flow which is the killer of most small companies, while not letting your guard down when it comes to stock management control.
At the end of the day, it’s your sales engine that drives business. Therefore, the training of your sales’ team remains vitally important and will always require constant attention and updating.
Generally, companies are not good at investing in training. Many simply think that reading some pamphlet or a book will suffice, but this only goes part of the way. Good training is the route to strong sales and should never be downplayed. More on this topic next month ….