Ask Fleximize: Creative Challenges

Ask Fleximize: Creative Challenges

The three burning questions on the lips of business owners

By Daniel Kidd

What important challenges may face a company this year?

Attracting new business is always a challenge, but the continued economic uncertainty and stagnating wages are making this task particularly difficult at the moment. The economic climate is also affecting financing opportunities, with many business still struggling to access capital. This also causes difficulties in forward planning.

Keeping up with new technology is a big challenge for businesses. Whether it’s the latest social media platform or faster IT systems, it’s getting increasingly difficult to keep up with the pace of change.

Similarly, finding effective marketing channels is a key challenge in a changing media environment. This is particularly challenging for businesses targeting younger demographics, who are getting less and less likely to consume traditional press and broadcast media.

What strategies will keep my employees engaged, motivated and enjoying their jobs?

First, make sure you’re getting the basics right. Pay your employees a fair wage, ensure they have well defined roles and responsibilities, and provide a pleasant, clean and comfortable working environment.

To keep employees motivated and engaged, thank them for their hard work and publicly acknowledge success. Incentives or bonuses are great, but praise and a handshake can be just as effective. Ensure any reward scheme is transparent and fair. Avoid favouritism.

To maintain employees’ enjoyment of their jobs, don’t let them get bored. Encourage creativity and new ideas. Set targets and present challenges to be solved.

Listen to your employees and respond to their concerns. Offer them a path for training, development and promotion, and support their career goals.

Do we need to reinvent our business model?

Possibly – but it’s not step one to rescuing a failing business.

Many businesses look to examples such as Apple’s revolution in digital music and think that tearing up their business model and starting again will be great for their business too.

However, this will only work if you’ve analysed your customer’s needs, priorities and motivations carefully. Talk to your customers, assess your competitors and review the direction of travel of your industry. You might find that your current business model is a dead end and a revolution is required. Alternatively, you may decide that your business model is sound but your difficulties lie in innovation, customer service or delivery.

In all cases, rushing to reinvent your business model before you’ve established your needs and objectives is unlikely to be successful.

Bonus: How can we distinguish ourselves from our competitors and outperform them?

You can distinguish yourself from your competitors in two main ways: innovation and diversification. In each case, you need to start by undertaking a detailed analysis of your competitors so that you understand what they’re doing, what they’re offering to customers, what their strengths are and where their weaknesses lie. It’s also important to carry out thorough market research, so you understand your own customers. You need to identify what customers value — what’s important to them, and what’s not so important.

Outperforming your competitors through innovation means finding better ways of doing what they do. If you can take a product and add better features and a higher specification, you can distinguish yourself from them in terms of the quality you provide to customers. Alternatively, if your innovation helps you to find a more cost efficient way of making a product or delivering a service, this will enable you to distinguish yourself by offering an equivalent quality at a lower cost.

Innovation can also help your ancillary services, such as shipping. If you can offer the same great product as your competitor but with free next day delivery, that’s another way of setting yourself apart.

The other main way of distinguishing yourself from the competition is by diversification. This means finding new and different things to offer your customers. If you can’t see a way of beating your rivals on quality or price, diversification can help you to beat them on range, or even to target a completely different subset of customers.

In all these scenarios, capitalising on what you know about your customers’ needs and desires will help you to outperform the competition.