1. Use the internet, and your website, to their full potential. Why not try out some web deals to help manage stock, or share and promote expertise with some webinars relevant to your audience.
2. Consider introducing in-store wi-fi. Research shows that customers dwell time in shops increases when wi-fi is available.
3. Install a sturdy communications network. Those who employ a planned and strategic communications network will be able to reduce any soaring mobile costs significantly, while increasing efficiency within the business overall.
4. Have the most efficient resources. Back office admin can be a drain on time and cost when this could be spent looking after the customer. Anything that can save time and efficiency such as better communication and online resources at a reasonable cost would be a sound investment.
5. Remember why you are in business and how you give value. Everything you do is focused on giving the customer a premium bespoke service at a premium price. You must not compromise on any element of this as the service, training, staff and stock availability all form part of the package.
6. Keep to your promise. In very simple terms, successful companies are those that consistently deliver against their brand standards and values, and your suppliers have a huge influence on this. Having control over your supply base ensures consistency of supply whilst promoting innovation and cost reduction. As such, getting the supply side right will allow you to focus more time on wowing your customers and growing your brand!
7. Ensure you have a number of suppliers to choose from. Being able to influence your customer’s willingness to switch brand or product gives you more negotiating power with suppliers. Equally maintaining flexibility in choice of raw materials ensures that you can avoid being held to ransom.
8. Conduct regular reviews with your major suppliers on more than just price. Delivery, stock, and issue resolution KPIs provide leverage in commercial negotiations and maintain focus on quality and service.
9. Be aware of consumers’ concerns around social and ethical issues. Both raw material sourcing, and emerging market production regularly come under the spotlight and when issues arise, it is often the companies who ‘touch’ the consumer who are also at risk of being tarnished by negative publicity. To that end take time out to investigate your supply chain and ask suppliers about their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy.
10. Companies that stand still expose themselves to being copied and undercut. For small businesses, it is key to use suppliers as a source of innovation. They are likely to have much bigger budgets for innovation and will come to you first if you are an early adopter and open to innovative ideas.
The tips were drawn up based on an audit panel based hosted by BT. A panel of assessors was given a company to analyse, Pins & Ribbons Ltd, with the aim of giving small businesses tailored and relevant tips. The company has seven permanent employees and was founded in 2006.
With regards to the company audit, Graham Sutherland said, "It is interesting to note that their communications spend has doubled year on year yet they are still lacking in some vital services, so I would highlight this as an area that they look at seriously so they can manage and stabilise their costs. While they have an online sales channel they have limited use of email and are not able to communicate with their workshop.
“I would recommend that they have a robust communications systems and strategy in place which would allow them to reduce costs such as not having to rely on mobile calls. It would also help them to improve efficiency in their processes. An online storage facility would also be worth considering."
The panel also consisted of Mike Bourne, professor at Cranfield Business School, and Nigel Scorey, Owner of Procure4 Ltd.
Graham Sutherland is MD of BT Business