In less than 6 weeks 2015 will round off. Business wise, 2014 may have either been good, bad or average; average meaning same as in 2013 which is equally bad. Taking it one at a time, your business may have turned out great in 2014 due to some ingenuity, competencies or some extraneous factors. You may have exerted some discipline, shown quality leadership, tutored, encouraged teamwork and cooperation, motivated your staff, executed a well thought out marketing plan and so many other differentiating skills that positively separated your business from others. Or, your business may have benefited from government policies, a spontaneous crony patronage, sudden scarcity of competitions' product or subtle rejection of competitive brands due to price increases or quality reductions. It could also be due to inexplicable upsurge in the demand of your products. These may not be sustainable but they anyway, contributed to your success within the year. On the other hand, you may have neglected exerting influence in your business through effective supervision, monitoring and planning and more or paid lip service to them and your business turned out worse than the previous years in relative terms.
Finally, you may have done your "best" and the business remained the way it was, in which case you have actually regressed. You have retrogressed in the sense that the inflation rate has averaged 8 percent within the year. In simplistic terms, the prices of goods and services have risen by eight percent in the year and if yours did not, then it devalued by that same margin.
Now, this article is not about blame-apportioning but about laying out a clear roadmap for 2015 business growth plans.
It has long been made clear that the disposable income of the average South-Easterner has been on the rise since 2011 or so. Evidence abounds in the massive housing developments in new cities and propensity for pleasure car acquisitions which has been choking our roads. These are simple indicators of a rising middle class and evidence of new wealth owners. As said in another article, the returnees from the North due to the insurgency activities in that part of the country, the industrialization of this area through Intafact, Orange Drugs, Krisoral, Orient Refinery and Asaba Airport. Massive infrastructural development, through the shopping malls, four-star hotels, etc. And above all, the improved security and political situation which brought relative peace that has impacted the markets and businesses in this area. All these have increased the spendable income for residents. Research projects increase in same in the coming years. Businesses should therefore adopt the following steps to position to exploit the derivable benefits for next year.
- Budgeting: This is a critical planning activity that details the entire possible expenditure profile and accruable revenues from the business for next year. This is not only for big organizations but for small and medium enterprises. It is a very simple process since the activities of 2014 can be taken as a benchmark. As a guide, you can increase expenses by 20% and revenues by up to 50% depending on the business segment. It could be more or less. Imagine all the possible expenses and ensure inclusion. Resources needed to drive revenues must be budgeted for. The quantity of products to be sold to yield the budgeted revenues must be planned for. A budget must be ambitious but achievable. It guides operations when monitored on monthly or weekly basis. Efforts must be made to avoid extra budgetary expenditures. Every serious business must budget.
- Operational Efficiency: It is a trite saying that monies are made through cost reduction or revenues increment or both. Companies should control their expenditure profile for 2015. Efficiencies should be created in ensuring the best prices (and quality) in raw materials purchase, confirming the prices of all purchases (items as high as merchandise and as low as diesel or fuel) and putting off uncritical expenses. Machineries should be made to operate at cost efficient optimums through prompt maintenances and due parts replacements. An efficient control systems must be put in place. Recruitments should be planned for to avoid over or under-staffing.
- Sales: Blue chip organizations are sales-driven. Any company that desires spontaneous astronomical growth is sales focused. Coca cola, MTN, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, NB PLC, Guinness, Nestl are a few brands that ensure sales and effective product distribution. Drive your team to be sales, customer service and relationship management conscious. Scarcities should be exploited to the maximum and competition fought responsibly with quality arsenal. Distribution networks must be sealed. In some cases, the distribution strategy may be reviewed and if required, middlemen cut off or introduced so long as it helps the growth strategy. A clear marketing or sales strategy must be planned out and efforts made towards follow-through. A well articulated professional selling plan must be adopted. Existing customers must never be toyed with.
- Brand Management: Related to the above is measuring how the business and its products are perceived in the market. Brand perception facilitates patronage. Plans must be made to position the business as a quality brand and a serious business. Often times, business are handled based on perception. Branding buoys price differentiation. In the long run, it reduces overall marketing costs as loyalists aid advertisement. Branding is simply ensuring that your signages, corporate communication instruments like call cards, letter heads, envelopes, corporate staff dressing, business location or outlet, etc are distinguishing and appealing. Written communication and general organization must professional.
- People: Human resource is the most critical element and difficult to manage of all the factors of production. Plan to work with the most efficient, trainable and disciplined staff for 2015 must be put in place if you desire growth. Employments in this area are mostly sentimental-based which affects our actions or inactions and generally impacts the business. We must choose between business growth and death. Only staff who key into the new strategic growth focus will serve the purpose, else the business will count its days....