Take advantage of 2014 business optimism

Rachel Clacher

January 02, 2014

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Rachel Clacher

Late last year something extraordinary happened: there were positive headlines about small businesses. Start-Up Britain announced that there were more than half a million start-ups in 2013 and an FSB survey of more than 2,000 businesses showed that a third were running at full capacity, while one in four expected to invest in 2014. And what is key here is that this isn’t just a London phenomenon: this optimism has increased in every UK region.

Representing 95% of all UK companies, and employing more than seven million people in the UK, small and micro businesses are increasingly important in getting our beleaguered economy back on track…and slowly, people out there are beginning to realise. Moneypenny has run through the nefarious business categorisations: an ambitious micro business in 2000, we think we became a small business in 2001 and now are officially classed as a medium-sized business. While we don’t quite understand how these categories are arrived at, or what they mean in reality, we do know that we have managed that growth through sticking to some simple principles. And as we plan for the year ahead, and put everything on order for the year just gone, it’s good to remind ourselves of some simple ideas that could make business better for someone else, and help make 2014 one to remember for all the right reasons.

Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself: whether it’s giving feedback to a fledgling business, choosing to buy from the local farm shop rather than Tesco, or paying suppliers on time, asking yourself ‘Am I treating this business/individual as I would like to be treated myself’ in all our business dealings reveals powerful and illuminating answers…

Share knowledge, experience and information: if your business is great at social media but the one down the hall is not, go and offer a free tutorial – you might get a free finance tutorial or insight into an IT problem in return. If your competitor is covertly trying to discover how you do business, pick up the phone and have a chat (you don’t have to give away your competitive secrets, but you will learn something – and will totally disarm and embarrass that competitor into always phoning you direct in future!); get to know what government schemes are out there – like Growth Accelerator and Lord Young’s latest initiative Growth Britain – whether it’s for your use or just to share; talk to your neighbour about what challenges you are both facing or about something that has worked for you and you might, just might, gain some small nugget of information in return that makes a positive change.

Research how the world of work is changing, and how you might change with it. Businesses can be as virtual as they like, all while maintaining vital customer service. And with that comes increased flexibility, lower fixed costs and therefore new opportunities. What is going to be added to such fabulous businesses/apps as FreeAgent, Receipt Bank, Penelope, Constant Contact that gives more flexibility in 2014? Who knows right now, but what we do know is that it’s vital to be one of the first to know.

Give a damn. Go get involved in the local sixth form college’s career day; contact Business In The Arts and go sit on the board of some wonderful charitable organisation that will open your mind to a different way of doing business (and meet some great people along the way); go the extra mile to fix a problem and enjoy all that comes back to you.

Say ‘thank you’.  All too often we take the people that we work with on a day to day basis for granted, and expect them to fully understand the journey that we’re on and the pressures involved in that. That’s not fair. If someone is giving their all for your business, whether as an employee or a supplier, then they deserve recognition. And it doesn’t have to be a grand and ostentatious display: a simple note, a surprise bunch of flowers, a public acknowledgment of someone’s efforts will be meaningful and remembered, and very much appreciated.

Know what you are good at, and go be good at it. For example: so often a business owner will feel duty bound to manage all the finance detail. Those precious hours each week could/should be spent  generating or delivering new business. Get in a professional. Outsource it. A couple of hours now finding the right solution for your business will yield dividends as you will have more time doing the things that you are best at. And if you see someone else spending disproportionate time on things that isn’t their forte, say something. They’ll thank you for it in the end.

So here’s to, in 2014, doing some things for the sheer hell of doing them, for doing other things that make a difference, and for supporting our vital micro and small businesses so that they can do better business every day.

Author: Rachel Clacher is the co-founder of Moneypenny, the UK’s leading telephone answering service. In 2000, Rachel and her brother Ed Reeves pooled their convictions about customer service and teamwork – and Moneypenny began. More