Monthly Archives: April 2015

Sowing the seed of a solution

Sow the seed of an idea to your staff
Humans are funny creatures. You can present a person with all sorts of perfectly logical, suitable solutions to their problems but you can’t guarantee that they will buy into any of them.

Maybe they don’t understand the solution, maybe they don’t like the changes that you suggest or maybe it’s just that it’s your idea not theirs. But whatever the cause the cliche “you can take a horse to water, but not make it drink” is very true.

I have come across this problem more often in a work setting (although it definitely comes up a lot with children, or my children at least). I guess part of the resistance is due to lack of understanding, part a simple resistance to change and part vanity (the “its not my idea” part).

You can’t usually force people to take your advice, so how can you get around these barriers?

It’s important always to focus on what’s right for the business or people concerned. That means leaving your EGO out of it!

My preferred tactic is to try to “sow a seed” of my idea:- introduce the idea, but then stand back and wait for the idea to grow in the other person.

The idea needs the right conditions to grow – more information about why the problem occurs, what the effect is, reasons why the solution you have proposed is right.

It also needs time to germinate…

But in the end the plan is to work with the other person to help them recognise the value of the solution, and feel that they have an equal part in coming up with it so that the problem is solved one way or another.

Note to my clients: This is not inspired by any client past or present, it’s a musing from helping someone else solve an issue with their colleagues!

Seasonal Greetings?

It’s Easter this weekend – the weather is great and the school holidays are in full swing.

Good Weather draws people to North DevonIn North Devon a large section of the local economy is dependent on holidays and tourism and therefore reliant on good weather to drive sales… and over the last few years the weather has delivered.

Other businesses, particularly in the food industry find that Christmas is the busiest time of year; in reality most businesses experience some sort of seasonality, but the effect is usually the same – seasonal variations lead to business complications.

Business that experience big seasonal fluctuations are faced with a number of challenges:

Make hay while the sun shines?

Instinctively it is difficult to turn away sales, even when you’re overwhelmed with orders already. However trying to satisfy every order or customer may reduce the quality of the service that you can offer and lead to complaints and unhappy customers. Happy customers are likely to return, but unhappy customers may cause more harm than good.

Peaks and troughs

Accommodating sales peaks at busy times usually means recruiting more staff but will this lead to problems in the quieter months? There may also be other facilities (machinery, equipment, vehicles) that are essential during busy times but are almost redundant during the quieter times.

Cash flow

One of the biggest problems that small businesses in seasonal trades face is variation in their cash flow – during the busy periods there is lots of cash coming in, and no time to spend it! And then when business is quieter….

Uncertainty

Relying on one time of year to deliver the majority of sales or profits is a risky strategy – what happens if the weather is bad over the summer, or if a competitor has a more eye catching Christmas offer?

Rainy summer can be a disaster for a seasonal business

So if you’re a seasonal business what can be done to turn these challenges into opportunities?

Diversify

The most obvious solution is to find a way to make your business less seasonal. That may mean finding new markets for your product all year round – ice cream is no longer solely for children in the summer – or it may mean finding a new product – selling soups as well as ice cream?

Information

The next key thing to do is to understand exactly what’s happening with your sales. Do different customer groups behave differently? For example holidays for families are a very different market from holidays for couples without children.

Is there marketing in place to target each of the customer groups at the right time? Can you extend your season by targeting different customers?

Planning

I feel strongly that the only way to manage cash flow is to plan ahead.

If your business is seasonal it is essential to know how much cash is required in the quieter times to cover all the expenses. This gives you a benchmark for what “good enough” in the busy times is.

You may be able to negotiate payment terms with suppliers to enable you to reduce your outgoings when the business is quiet, or indeed keep your overhead payments to quiet times to reduce pressure when wages costs are higher.

Retail businesses, taking cash or credit cards payments, face a particular challenge when it comes to cash management. If all of your income comes in immediately but you have 30 days (or more) to pay for your supplies it is essential to make sure you have the funds available to pay the bills when required.

Prioritise

Most crucially, is there a point where you need to say “No”? Where you will have run out of the scope to supply? There is no need to be afraid of telling potential customers that your product or service is sought after and you’ve run out – it’s a sign that it’s worth having.

Do you have seasonal business? How do you cope with the variations? I’m always interested in finding out so leave me a comment below!

What makes a successful seasonal business?