Key Issues in Running Your Business
It is easy to lose track of the bigger picture when running a business. Here we have put together key wider issues you should be focusing on
As an entrepreneur, it is easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks at the expense of the bigger picture, and whilst good management is essential in order to drive growth and increase your company’s overall performance you need to see the bigger picture.
This article is intended to help the ultra-busy business owner step back from those immediate problems and take a vital wider view; identifying the areas in your business that could mean the difference between success and failure.
What should my permanent business priorities be?
Aside from everyday issues, there are five key areas you should constantly keep in mind if your business is to enjoy success.
First of, always make sure to watch your customers, they are the lifeblood of your business, your customer should always be your highest priority. Keep a close eye on your target market to identify changes and adapt accordingly. Another top propriety for any business owner is monitoring cashflow, this takes in all the money flowing in and out of your business such as turnover, overheads, costs, and profit. Planning ahead will enable you to deal with the inevitable peaks and troughs, and when you should concentrate your efforts on generating sales or calling in invoices.
You should also always keep an eye on your employees. Most successful business owners will tell you that your team is vital and they’re right. Recruit the right people, be a strong leader and motivator, and monitor your team’s performance through regular meetings and reviews.
Finally make sure to watch your sales and your cost control. Make sure a commitment to generating sales is imbued across all levels of your business, and ensure employees have the right skills and approach. Cost control is simply the best way of improving your bottom line straight away.
How do I keep on the right side of the law?
Legal issues and litigation can occupy you for months or years at a time, leaving your business exposed and neglected as a result. As a business owner, there are some areas you should tread particularly carefully around:
This is always relevant when you run a business with staff, but be particularly aware of the law when you hire or dismiss someone. For more help check our guide here.
Health and safety
It is your duty to provide a safe working environment for your employees, and if you have five or more members of staff you must also have a written health and safety policy. You should also make sure to carry out a health and safety assessment.
Your role as a director
If you are the director of a limited company, you need to be aware of the numerous duties this entails, and you must have directors’ and officers’ liability insurance. For more information, check out our piece on a director’s responsibilities here.
Accounts and Tax
Whether it is for tax, Companies House reporting requirements, or your own purposes, having a reliable accounting system is essential. Ensure you have procedures in place from the very start.
Website, software and email law
You might think everybody does it, but using unlicensed or pirated software is asking for trouble. Be aware of other risks, such as employees breaching copyright when using images or committing libel via email.
How can I minimise the risks facing my business?
As a business, there are a number of steps you can take to minimise the inevitable risks and pitfalls you face.
One of the top risks to watch is Insurance, it could be the thing that covers you with the rest. Take out the policies you need to account for common risks, as well as insurance you are legally required to have (such as directors’ and officers’ liability insurance).
Also make sure to build relationships with customers. Focus on retaining the business you already have, and make sure you have a wide range of accounts to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket. And it’s not just your customer relationships you have to focus on but also make sure to treat employees fairly – and legally. Not only does this keep morale and productivity high, you avoid the risk of expensive and lengthy court proceedings.
An obvious one but another important way to limit risk is to control your cashflow and if trouble looms, act straight away to address the problem. Furthermore make sure IT systems are secure and that you with the Data Protection Act. It’s not just for digital business; nearly every business has to bear data protection law in mind. Control access to sensitive information, install security software, and take regular back-ups in case of hardware failure.
Be aware of potential problems with your premises and learn how to spot court proceedings on the horizon – and how to avoid them. Be particularly aware when a fixed-term lease is due to expire and be ready to negotiate, otherwise you might be caught out by a steep hike in rent and rates. Whether it is suing or being sued, litigation can be an expensive and time-consuming distraction for a business owner.
Finally get specialist help if you plan to export. Visit UK Trade & Investment’s export website for expert advice.
How can I improve efficiency in my business?
Whilst this is only a broad overview, key areas you can invest in to drive efficiency in your business are through information technology, the internet, routines, policies and employee training.
Information tech and the internet can make a big difference to productivity especially in regards to monitoring important data such as cashflow and bring an untold wealth of efficiency and cost benefits to your business. Ignore it at your peril.
Routines and policies such as writing down company-wide practice and policy can avoid you having to micro-manage and solve the same issues over and over. And finally employee training can boost staff morale and improved employee skills can transform your business for a relatively modest cost.
How do I plan a long-term vision for your business?
Often, short-term issues can restrict your ability to look at the bigger picture. Keep these factors in mind when planning your wider strategic vision.
Start with making sure you have long-term goals in place. What are the factors and issues that will determine the long-term health of your business? Use techniques such as benchmarking to identify the processes that will improve the wider health of your business.
Having a business plan in place is another vital part of achieving your long-term goals. Enshrine your long-term vision in a business plan, which should set out exactly how you plan to achieve your objectives. Also make sure monitor external factors. Keep a close eye on the state of your marketplace, the wider economy in general, and your competitors’ activities.
Finally make sure to plan for your personal security. Don’t forget about your own wellbeing when focusing on your business. Have a plan in place to ensure you are covered in the event of business failure.
Where do I go for help with running my business?
National Enterprise Network
A good place to start is to find your local business support organisation – they can offer help, advice and training courses on almost any aspect of running a business. Sometimes advice is free, but often it is subsidised. To find the support organisation in your area, check out this link here.
Getting a professional like an accountant or lawyer to advise and assist you on a specific matter is rarely a bad option, as long as you choose well.
The Trade Association or Chamber of Commerce
In addition, your local trade association or chamber of commerce should be able to assist you with a wide range of issues. The Trade Association Forum has a comprehensive index of all trade associations in the UK, and you can search for your local chamber of commerce on the British Chamber of Commerce website.
Where there is a skills or expertise deficiency in your business, move to plug the gap by employing a skilled consultant in the area to deal with specific issues or projects. For more general and objective advice on the state of your business, consider bringing in an experienced non-executive director; they can provide a valuable outside view.