The other day I spent an evening with about 250 business people, real business people – a pet shop owner, an insurance broker, a telecoms broker, a property developer and so on. During the evening we listened to a speech by the Chancellor. After the obligatory talk about the various tax changes, budget constraints and all the other initiatives introduced by the government he went on to explain his vision for growth. It was ever so simple. He referred to the emerging markets such as Asia and the East and that doing business with the emerging countries will be the solution. Somehow it felt as though the speech was addressed to another audience and that it had been given before. I totally agree that Asia offers fantastic opportunities – for large companies which have an export focus, but the audience catered for the UK market (in fact for most of them the focus was “local” rather than “national”). Was the Chancellor really suggesting, that a pet shop owner should try to sell hamster food to China or that the local insurance broker try to sell car insurance to Malaysia.?
Anyhow, rather than being just critical let me float some ideas which might help small businesses to grow. Find out what your clients really want by talking and speaking to your clients as often as you possibly can and then adjust your product and services accordingly. Engage in intelligent marketing in your local area, provide extra service like free delivery or increased opening hours. Seek help in those areas where you do not have expertise. Yes some of it involves costs and some of it involves more hard work. But after analysing many business plans for our clients we see that there is a real appetite for starting and building businesses. There are business people who see the opportunities and who are focussed on taking advantage of them. It could be a nail bar chain or a cookery school for African food, an on line print business or a smartphone application studio, a local cafe or a boutique hotel – there are innumerable success stories out there.