Ten top tips for business growth in 2011

BUSINESS Link in the East of England has revealed its ten top tips for successful business growth in 2011 to help Cambridgeshire’s SMEs get the new year off to a flying start.

Malcolm Williamson, head of information at Business Link in the East of England, told Peterborough Business, “Looking back at the aims and achievements of your business over the past year can help identify areas for improvement and growth. As we all make plans to embark on a new year, Business Link is here to provide local businesses with the support they need to start 2011 as they mean to go on.”

These top tips from Business Link will help entrepreneurs in Cambridgeshire make the right resolutions to shape up their business for 2011:

1. Update and use your business plan

Your business plan should be a road map showing what you’re aiming to achieve, with clear targets for the coming year. Take the time to read through and update your plan, or write one now if you haven’t got one. The Business Link website has advice on writing a business plan and sample templates for you to download. Then, once you have written your plan, give Business Link a call to discuss how best to put it into action.

2. Assess your finances

If you understand exactly what your last year’s finances are telling you, you’ll be better placed to plan for 2011. Reassess your current costs, including charges for utilities and professional services. If you can, renegotiate these costs, or change suppliers if you can get a better deal elsewhere. Don’t forget that the rate of VAT rises to 20 per cent on January 4, so make sure all your price lists reflect the changes, otherwise you could be losing money on every transaction. Business Link’s information team is just a phone call away with advice on cash flow, pricing and other financial issues.

3. Train your staff and update your own skills

Training is essential for the personal development of your staff and yourself, as well as for the productivity of your business. Take time to research the opportunities available: make the most of free Business Link workshops and check what other organisations, such as your local Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and council have on offer. Visit www.bookevents.org for details of events in your area.

4. Keep up to date

Don’t miss out on the latest information on business regulations and opportunities, such as business grants offered by councils or support organisations. Sign up to The Loop, Business Link’s e-newsletter, by visiting www.businesslink.gov.uk/east and clicking on the link on the home page.

5. Explore new markets

You may have been supplying the same customers for years, but it pays to be aware of new opportunities. Research helps you understand your competitors, different sectors, and even the possibility of exploring new markets overseas.

If you’re thinking of trading overseas for the first time, Business Link can help with factsheets, statistics, market synopses and local area profiles.

6. Have policies in place to cover the unexpected

We can all be caught out by unusual or unexpected conditions, such as snow. Prepare your business by writing a policy on whether staff will be paid if they can’t make it to work, whether they can work from home or take holiday and who they should notify if they can’t get in. Also think about how you will let people know if you are forced to close your premises. For guidance on writing a policy, visit www.businesslink.gov.uk/east

7. Consider apprenticeships or graduate internships

If you’re looking to expand then explore the options offered by apprenticeships and graduate internships. Apprenticeships combine a job with training – both on the job and at college. Internships can provide short-term support to identify opportunities or to get a new project up and running. So call us to discuss which solution is best for you.

8. Start networking

It’s surprising how much new business comes through word of mouth and personal contact – so start networking to spread the word about your business. Local business clubs, networking events (such as those run by your local Chamber of Commerce or the Federation of Small Businesses), keeping in touch with other local businesses and relevant business exhibitions all provide networking opportunities. You could also take a look at online forums or networks. Business Link can provide a detailed list of networking organisations and business clubs in your county, and discuss your needs to help identify the ones that are most suitable.

9. Provide outstanding customer service

Consumers appreciate businesses that give them more for their money, especially when times are tough. Efficient service, fast delivery, flexible payment terms and so on can persuade people to spend their money with you rather than your competitors. Business Link’s experienced information advisers can help you develop an effective marketing strategy to keep you ahead of the game.

10. Take advantage of free help

Running a small business is demanding and being your own boss can be tough. It’s easy to feel isolated if you have no one to talk to about your business, but that is where Business Link can help. Our expert, impartial advice can clarify your thinking, support you in making difficult decisions, or simply help you talk through new business ideas. We can also point you in the right direction for further specialist support if that’s what you need.

For more information on the support available from Business Link for start up and established businesses, call the information team (see photo above) on 08457 17 16 15 or email questions@businesslinkeast.org.uk.