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Useful tools, tips and strategies to help your business learn, develop and expand.

5 Growth Strategies The Most Successful London Businesses Use

Of the 4.8 million private sector businesses in England, 1 million of them have their head offices located in London. (Department of National Statistics 2016) Since 2010, the number of businesses in London has increased by 41% and it has the highest number of businesses per adult (1,464 per 10,000 adults). There can be no doubt that London is the UK’s most vibrant business hub, with new products, services and markets emerging on a daily basis. It is also home to a pool of bright young professionals, which businesses can tap into to create diverse, talented workforces.

However, what that also means is that competition is rife in London – and so achieving growth here is no walk in the park. While London’s huge population spells opportunity, there is also greater necessity to cut through the noise in order to be heard.

Coaching businesses in London for the last 9 years, specifically with the purpose of growing and expanding those businesses, means we have a bit of insight into this. Here are five strategies that we have found to work most successfully for businesses in London who have their eyes on greater gains.

1. Increase profit margins

Conducting a price review is often one of the simplest ways for businesses to improve their profits, and one of the first things we consider with new clients.

In London, services and products are instantly more valuable than they would be elsewhere in the UK because the demand for them is so high. This city automatically lends prestige to your work simply by virtue of continuing to practice here.

You would be amazed at how many businesses in London could easily increase their margins, without having a negative impact on their number of customers or clients. It enables the growth of profits while also demanding that the business continues to provide exceptional value to their customers.

2. Implement a recruitment strategy

Businesses in London have the luxury of being picky when it comes to hiring new staff, and this is something you should take advantage of – especially if you are hiring your number 2, but even if you are just hiring your next executive.

There are professionals in London (and beyond) that have the exact skills your company needs to achieve growth, and you can find them without pulling your hair out as long as you use a recruitment strategy suited to this city.

We put together the 4-hour recruitment process for our clients because it works so well in this city. It shows you how to scoop wide first, and then sift out for that perfect candidate. It has worked time and again and placed some really fantastic people into ideal jobs both in The London Coaching Group and with our clients.

3. Focus on conversion rate

When operating in a city like London, with such a massive population of potential consumers, it can be tempting to invest majority of efforts into lead generation.

However, what you should more understand is that with a city that has a large population, lead generation is the easy part. Focusing on improving it will give you only marginal overall growth.

What is usually more difficult in this city, full of sceptics that have plenty of choice, is conversion. How are you communicating with new leads and building trust? How are you showing them that your solution is the solution they should buy?

When you compare the effort required against the ultimate gain, you’ll find that for most London businesses, conversion strategy improvement outstrips lead generation.

4. Get creative with your referral process

We all know that word of mouth is one of the most effective ways to build loyalty among consumers – we trust recommendations our friends make and value the opinions of online influencers.

While word of mouth is typically not very easy to control, there are strategies that you can employ to encourage referrals. London is an incredibly social city, and businesses should make the most of that.

Simple promotions like ‘recommend us to a friend and you will both receive a free item’ or ‘bring your friend along for free’ are great ways to tell your consumers that you value their loyalty and that you want to uphold a two-way relationship with them. These examples are especially valuable in a city like London where people are eager to socialise through offering friends new opportunities and offers that they have discovered.

5. Bring in an outside perspective

There is so much going on in London that it is easy to get caught up in the excitement, forgetting to step back and look at the bigger picture. You might miss an opportunity simply because you have been focusing so intently on what is directly around you.

Hiring a business coach in London (or a mentor or business management consultant – whatever arrangement works for you) is becoming more and more valuable for not only getting a fresh perspective but also a trained and expert eye on your company. This enables you to combine your intricate knowledge of the business with an expert’s wider view of the market and the kinds of systems that can be leveraged on for greater growth.

In the end, London is currently the top city of opportunity. There is enough abundance here to go around. These are just 5 of the strategies that London-based businesses can use to leverage the ample opportunities available and achieve significant growth in this sprawling metropolis.

Considering a business coach in London?

London Business Coaching Strategy SessionGrowth in London can be difficult, for sure. And just like playing football can be tough, the best players succeed by having a coach watch their plays.

If you think your business could be achieving more, book a free review of your business and find out for yourself if business coaching could benefit your business.

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The Powerful Opening Gambit in Power Negotiation

During the first quarter of the year especially, as a business owner you may find yourself positioning and negotiating prices with suppliers and clients.

The ones who are going to be most successful are those who have learned the gambits of power negotiation. Not just negotiation, but power negotiation.

Let me explain what power negotiation means, and share with you the powerful opening gambit that savvy business owners are using on the negotiating table…

This strategy is just one of the many power negotiation techniques that I have been teaching to my clients. These strategies are usually extremely simple, but many business owners just haven’t been told yet that they exist.

A few simple changes and you could be picking up money that’s being left on the negotiating table.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi, this is Shweta from London Coaching Group. What I’m going to talk about today is Power Negotiation. In fact, just this week, I had a very interesting workshop with my clients where we discussed how to go about negotiating with suppliers with clients, because as you can imagine being the start of the year, there are suppliers who are positioning price increases to clients or vice versa. So one needs to be comfortable with the whole negotiation, understand the strategies, the gambits, the moves.

Difference between Negotiation and Power Negotiation

So the workshop was pretty cool, I wish I could cover all the strategies that we talked about, but I do want to talk about one core, fundamental, in fact opening gambit that you need to be aware of. And again, it’s very simple, very common sense scope, but many people miss out on this. So first things first, the difference between negotiation and power negotiation is, basically, in both you have to win at the negotiating table, that is the objective. But in power negotiation, you make the other person feel that they have actually won. So it’s the feeling that you leave the other person with, right? So they should want to actually come back and negotiate more with you, though you’re the one who has actually met his or her objectives. So that’s the first thing.

Now in power negotiation, the first bidders that always ask for more than expected, that’s the first thing. That’s the first thing, and I’m sure you’ll be like “Yeah, that’s how it should be.” Now, the question really is, how much more? Right? Now for that to happen, you need to understand something called “Bracketing”.

What is Bracketing?

Now for Bracketing to come into function, again, another rule in power negotiation is that you have to ensure that it’s the other person who is stating his or her position to you first. That’s really important, because if that’s not happening, then pretty much you will lose out in the negotiation process. So for example, there is a buyer who is willing to pay, say, twenty thousand for your service. Ok? Just as an example. Wherein in your mind you knew that you should be looking at around twenty four thousand and now you have made the buyer state his or her position, and the person has told you that he or she is willing to pay twenty thousand pounds for your services, but you want to be at twenty four thousand. So that’s the first step.

Then you need to bracket your position. What that means is, that now what you state, your opening position should be equally distant, in the direction where you want to be, right? So in this case the difference between where you want to be and the price that’s been offered by the buyer is four thousand, so you go in the other direction, four more thousand, which is twenty eight thousand, right? So your opening position becomes twenty eight thousand and now the negotiation range is from twenty thousand to twenty eight thousand. If you are following the gambits, and the right moves, and the right strategies, then most probably you’ll land somewhere very close to twenty four thousand, hopefully on a higher side.

So I hope that makes sense. That why it’s important to make the other person state his or her position first, because if that doesn’t happen you cannot bracket. And how you need to bracket your own objective, and then let the game begin.

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How To Settle Unpaid Invoices In 4 Weeks

Many of the businesses I have worked with in the last 9 years business coaching in London, especially those in service industries, have come to me with a bank of uncollected invoices. Some of them have even had debtors owing them for work that was done months, sometimes years, ago.

Chasing up invoices is probably one of the most tiresome, time-consuming and immensely frustrating parts of running a business. And it’s almost definitely not what you got into business for, is it?

After months of unanswered phone calls, voicemail messages and emails, you might get to a point where you decide it’s easier to give up and write it off rather than persist. This leaves you out of pocket for work that you completed – this leaves you without money your business actually earned. Alternatively, you could keep chipping away and trying to contact the client, but if that is not systemised, it usually means you are wasting time and resources that could be used on more important matters. Clearly, this is not the most effective way of managing your team and makes the entire process more stressful than it needs to be.

So, with this in mind, here is a simple four-week plan that we give our clients to ensure that the process of following up on unpaid invoices is organised to decrease the number that drop off, and increase the cash being paid back to you, without any unnecessary wastage of resources.

Week one

An invoice that is one week late could be due to a genuine oversight by the client, so it is important to just give a gentle nudge at this stage. The majority of clients will appreciate the reminder and pay it immediately.

A friendly yet firm email is sufficient, informing the client that their payment is now overdue, and asking them to arrange payment as soon as possible.

Week two

It is fair to assume that, if the client was going to read your email, they would have done so within a week. If they have not paid at this stage, they have either not seen your email, or have decided to ignore it.

The best thing to do is call the client (this can be done by a junior member of staff, as it is not yet an urgent matter) and ask them why the invoice has not been paid. Offer to help them with any issues that they might be experiencing.

Week three

If the invoice has still not been paid after you have spoken to the client directly, then the issue should be passed to a senior member of staff. The client may be disputing the invoice, or might simply need a more forceful push to encourage them to pay the debt.

You should send the client another email advising them that the matter will be escalated if the invoice is not paid within a week and that they can get in touch if they have any issues.

Week four

A senior member of staff should call the client directly if the invoice has not been paid by week four, providing the client has not contacted you to discuss any payment difficulties.

Note: if they have contacted you, you might decide to offer the client an extended deadline, or set up some sort of payment plan.

The senior staff member should make it clear that the matter is now serious and that, if the invoice remains unpaid, legal action will be taken.

It is rare that after this stage, a client will not pay the invoice. If they still do not pay, then you are likely in the realm of having to decide whether legal action will be worth it at this stage or not.

However, implementing this simple four-week follow-up process, or investing in business consultancy services to help you introduce the system, will mean that your business can streamline its approach to unpaid invoices. When we have seen our clients introduce this system, it has invariably saved them time, money and stress.

If you are struggling with even figuring out who has lapsed in payments – or you have so many that you need to figure out who to prioritise – check out this video on following up with aged debtors, where I go into more detail about how to set your Terms of Trade, map out your debtors, set targets, and decide who to chase first.

Need more strategies like this in your business?

Business coaches are here to help point out strategies that will be useful specifically to your business – like this one for following up on invoices.

Book a free strategy session with us and find out whether our strategies could be the ones that take your business to the next level.

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When Planning, Remember This Step

As a switched-on business owner, I am sure that near the beginning of the year, or the beginning of the quarter, you are in planning mode. You are crafting the strategies and tactics, and forming an action plan, to take your business forward in the coming months.

Most people when doing an exercise like this generally go in with a mindset of wanting a “clean start” or focus on setting resolutions. However, I think you need a slightly different way of thinking, which I explain in this video.

Prefer to read rather than watch and listen? No problem – here’s everything I said in the video as text:

Hi, this is Shweta from London Coaching Group, I hope you’ve had a great start to 2017 and you’re absolutely looking forward to the year. Now, just last week actually, our clients and my team and I, we were in a full day workshop. And the whole idea was, actually this was the workbook, so the whole idea was to spend time thinking strategically and also then planning the execution and detail for 2017.

The Importance of the Rear View Mirror in Strategic Planning

Now, there’s a very interesting section in this book, which is called “Rear View Mirror”, which is all about actually analysing 2016. You know, what went well? What what did not go so well, and so on and so forth. Now, we had to give some very important reminders to our clients when they were doing that exercise and I wanted to share that with you because I’m hoping that you are spending time thinking about 2017 and actually making plans around your strategy and tactics.

Now when you are doing that, people are generally in a mindset where they want to have a clean start, a new start, right? So let’s focus on 2017. But then my viewpoint is that we need to take some time to reflect about 2016 and that rush should not be there, at least for that reflection time. There are two main reasons why you need to go back in your past.

The Two Reasons for Reviewing the Past During Strategic Planning

The first reason, let’s talk about that, so the first reason that you need to go back to 2016 is for the learnings. You’ve had learnings in 2016. Both from your wins and from your failures, and it’s really important for you to identify those learnings so we can actually take them forward in 2017 in a positive way. So that’s the first reason.

The second reason that you need to go back to your past or 2016, is for the self-belief. And why that is important is because… think about it: again in 2017 you will have those moments of high demands, of pressure, you know the moments where you will have to excel, and when you look at the moments in 2016, when you’ve done the same. That gives you the self-belief, that gives you the confidence that yes, you can take on things and you can come out of it stronger and better.

So two reasons, remember. Only two reasons that you look back and you go back in your past. The first, to get learnings, and the second is to get self-belief.

So I really hope you will have a really good 2017 and you will have a great plan of action and good execution and in fact, on that note, if I may say that… Look, if you are open-minded to letting someone help you with your business, becoming even better, even stronger, even more efficient, then please feel free to reach out and just have a chat to explore how we might be able to help you. To help you actually make 2017 your best ever year yet.

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Reminders to reflect on your past is one of the ways we help our business coaching clients (and other business owners who choose to join us) at the Strategic Growth Intensive.

Join us at the beginning of an upcoming quarter and find out how our tools and systems could be helping you achieve double-digit growth in the next 90 days!

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How to Recognise if Your Business is Approaching Insolvency

Many business owners easily miss the tell-tale signs of insolvency. Whether you look after the finances yourself or employ someone else to do it, the chances are that you’ve got many more pressing issues to deal with than a missed payment or two, to your suppliers.

However, relationships between businesses can make or break business success in many industries.  So when your suppliers begin cancelling your credit agreements, it might make you sit up and take a look at your accounts.  At this point, how do you recognise that you’ve gone from having poor cash flow to being on the edge of insolvency?

In fact, what does insolvency really mean?

When a business is insolvent it means that it doesn’t have the funds available to cover its outgoings and debts.  If your business is insolvent, it means that you owe more than you are able to pay for.

Giveaway signs of insolvency

  1. You are not able to pay your suppliers on time

If you start missing payments to suppliers, it will only be a matter of time before they start chasing you for payment or changing your payment terms; including taking away any credit arrangements.

  1. You can’t pay yourself or your staff

If you simply don’t have the money for wages, a pay freeze for Directors might seem like it’s not a big deal if it’s promised that it will only happen that one time, but for your business’ financial position to have become bad enough for non-payment or a freeze on wages, you need to recognise it as the big red warning sign that it is.

  1. You can’t borrow any more money

Your business accounts will be maxed out and any credit or borrowing arrangements at their maximum. It’s at this point that it becomes difficult to bury your head in the sand, as without any inwards cash flow it becomes difficult to do anything except fall deeper into debt.

  1. You have received final demands for payment or have been threatened with legal action

Often a wake-up call, when your business is threatened with eviction, loss of utilities or loss of supplies, the answer is not to cut ties and build a new business relationship with someone else.  If it reaches the point where a legal claim is made against your business, it can often result in involuntary liquidation, as paying the legal costs to counter the claim can be far more expensive than it would have been to pay your business’ outstanding debts.

How do businesses become insolvent?

One of the most common reasons for business insolvency is when a business is regularly not being paid on time for the products or services that it supplies.  Cash flow relies on money coming in for money to be able to be paid out, so a few missed payments from customers or clients may not seem like a big issue at the time, but non-payment is unpredictable and when one non-payment becomes five, it can have a huge impact when you still have committed outgoings. 

If you are aware that your customers or clients are continually not paying on time, your business needs an action plan in place to retrieve the money it is owed.  If you don’t know where to start with this, ask for help – it’s important.

Another common reason for insolvency is when businesses have poor management account information.  Without accurate cash flow forecasts, bank reconciliations and debtor reports there is no effective way for you to actually know what is coming in and going out, regardless of whether it’s coming in and out on time or not.  Similarly, if your accounts aren’t being filed on time, it’s a key indicator that something is going wrong.

What can you do if you recognise these signs in your business?

If you recognise one or more of these signs in your business, hopefully it will be at a stage where system driven processes and re-education will be the answer to preventing insolvency.  Ideally, you should lead by example so that if you are relying on other members of staff to drive your accounting function and to process payments, they will understand the importance of this function whilst being bought in to focusing on the long-term future of the business.

If your business is approaching insolvency, the best thing to do is often to enter into a Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation (CVL) which is usually the easiest way to arrange for your business’ debts to be paid in the shortest amount of time, leaving you and any other Directors able to move on to greener pastures.  The Liquidation Advice Centre demonstrates what happens in a Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation in a useful infographic.

How can you prevent this happening to your business?

The simple answer to this is to involve the right people to support you with your business as soon as you become too busy to stay on top of every little detail yourself.  An accountant, for example, will be able to help you plan the best way for your accounts to work for you. Remember, as a business owner you do not need to know how to actually do everything, but you should know the right questions to ask – like being able to ask your accountant whether you are cash or accrual based.

In the end, to prevent your business eventually becoming insolvent, you should ensure that systems are in place so that your business can exist without your constant intervention. You guide, it runs. You shouldn’t be working 24/7 in your business, and it shouldn’t collapse around you as soon as you take a break.

I’m definitely headed for insolvency. Who can help me?

If you are facing insolvency, The Liquidation Advice Centre aims to provide expert business liquidation advice for directors facing financial difficulty.  Their offering states that they will handle insolvency issues properly and with sensitivity so that clients are able to put a stop to situations becoming worse, which in turn enables them to regain control.

 

This article was contributed by Hannah Wellings from The Liquidation Advice Centre, who provide business advice about insolvency for directors of businesses facing financial difficulty.

Do you understand your business's finance?

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