Forget quitting smoking and joining the gym, what about your business?
In case you hadn’t noticed, today is the last day of January. And while that Christmas spare tyre is definitely not lost, there is still hope.
Because, broken resolutions aside, you’ve still time to detox, rejuvenate and kick start your business. And no we’re not suggesting you book yourself into three days of motivational coaching – we wouldn’t do that to you – instead, we’ve put together a handy little 10 point guide to help you and your staff get the best out of 2012.
Can you afford not to read it?
1. Know how much stuff costs
Ah. Seems obvious doesn’t it? Well with seven in ten businesses admitting to not knowing the going rate for basic overheads, apparently it’s not. Do you know if you’ve got a good deal? Are you being charged over 10p/unit for electricity or 3p/unit for gas? If the answer is yes, you’re paying too much.
If you don’t know the answer, find out now. And while you’re at it, read our feature on rollover traps: The rollover trap: are you paying too much for gas and electricity?, for the lowdown on how to get the best possible deal.
2. Stop meeting
Eh? We never said this would be easy. According to former dragon Doug Richard, “meetings are what people do when they don’t know how to do their jobs.” Now take five minutes to calculate how many meetings you have lined up over the next three to four weeks and ask yourself, honestly, how many do you really need to attend or hold?
Richard believes our meeting culture is inefficient and detrimental to the profitability to businesses. But don’t take our word for it, watch his short tutorial here.
3. If you don’t ask, you don’t get
A huge number of businesses never ask for a discount or loyalty bonus. How many businesses are on zero interest for cash reserves? A quarter they say!
4. Faster broadband
It’s not 1999 anymore – no matter what Prince might sing. If you’re waiting longer than a couple of seconds for web pages to load, you’re waiting too long. Fast broadband might not be the top of your priorities but it should be, if you really want to streamline your business in 2012 then there’s no better place to start. And your staff will love you for it too (especially those under 25 for whom waiting longer than two seconds for just about anything is torture).
5. Phone your phone company before you go abroad.
Nearly half of businesses (45 per cent) don’t bother contacting their mobile phone company ahead of a foreign trip to discuss roaming add-on packages. This, despite calls and data downloads costing considerably more abroad – e.g. up to £10/mb in some places (India) compared to between 10p and £1/mb if you were still in the UK. All it takes is one phone call to save you hundreds on your on your phone calls.
You know how’re going to make the office cheer by bringing in super-fast broadband? Well you’ll make them groan too when you start budgeting properly. By that we mean daily checking of your accounts in order to weed out all the unnecessary costs. Understand where every penny goes and you’re on the path to better things. And when the business starts to blossom, you’ll all be cheering again.
7. Make a Business Rate claim
Make It Cheaper say that half of businesses never review their business rates. Which, considering that those who do successfully claim rebates of up to 25%, we think is complete madness. Details of how to go about finding your valuation and appealing it are on the Valuation Office Agency website. If you don’t fancy going it alone then take on a no-win-no-fee surveyor.
8. Keep on top of your credit score
A low credit score means you pay more for certain things. Knowing what your score is and what moves it up and down can have a big impact, yet 54 per cent of businesses don’t. Take a free 30 day trial from Credit Expert (Experian) and regain control of a vital aspect of your business.
9. Get PR, baby
It’s Doug Richard again: “When done right PR is the most cost efficient way to achieve marketing that you can buy.” Now, (as far as we know), Richard wasn’t paid by the PR Council to say that and so it’s probably worth taking note of.
PR is about getting your business and its product into the media – be it magazines, local press, trade journals or even TV. But, as Richard points out in his two minute video tutorial, boring press releases announcing a new product won’t get you in the papers, trust us – journos need stories.
What stories do you have? Case studies that’s what. Speak to your customers; how did you solve their problems? Find out and, hey bingo, you’ve got yourself a story.
10. Don’t be put off anything that could be done in under a minute
Gretchen Rubin is the latest lifestyle guru to get those over the pond all excited. Now, don’t start retching just yet, because she actually has some very good points. But to save you trawling through her blog, we’ve got one for you right here.
Follow the ‘one-minute rule’. Don’t postpone any task that can be done in less than a minute. In other words, answer a quick email, open and toss a letter, hang your coat up, put those papers back in the right place, write down the phone number somewhere sensible. These tiny things, she says, will soon add up. We’ve tried them and they do.