12 Tips to protect your business against volatility in 2012

2011 was a tough year for many businesses, and even if there's a glimmer of hope that 2012 will be better, it might not all be plain sailing. Sue Hirst helps you prepare to cope with the ups and downs.

Most successful business people I’ve spoken with believe 2012 will be tough for some business sectors. Whatever sector you’re in, it pays to recognize and mitigate risks and capitalise on opportunities.

Across the ditch, a NAB Quarterly Business Survey stated “Business confidence deteriorated across all industries in the September quarter, with the largest deterioration in finance/business/property – likely reflecting recent volatility in equity markets – followed by manufacturing – probably reflecting continued strain caused by the relatively high AUD. Confidence was strongest (and positive) in mining, followed by construction, where it was neither expanding nor contracting. Particularly weak confidence was recorded in finance and manufacturing.”

Here are some tips for thriving in 2012:

1. Constant Business Model Improvement
It’s the way you operate e.g. how you deliver your product or service and how you fund business. Your business model can be a ‘fluid phenomenon’ i.e. constantly tweaked to achieve maximum efficiency and performance. It’s worthwhile engaging the help of an advisor who understands business models. Having the right model can make business life smooth whereas having the wrong model can result in constant struggle. Few business owners pay enough heed to their business model. We often hear “that’s the way it has always been done or that’s the way we do it and it works.” This may be so, but could you do it better? Could you fine tune, add, delete or maximise the higher profit producing areas and reduce the low profit ones? Could you find easier ways of distribution, assembly or delivery? What about staff, could some contribute better in other ways?

2. SWOT Analysis
Have a look at your strengths and how they help you compete in the marketplace and ask how you can build on them. Look at your weaknesses and consider what they’re costing and how you can improve them. Opportunities can be found in places you may not think of. e.g. in our business, ‘cloud commerce’ has shattered geographical barriers, so we’ve begun offering services to geographical areas previously impossible. Threats can be environmental and beyond your control, however, if you consider them and put in place appropriate risk management, you may be ahead of the competition when the proverbial hits the fan.

3. Constant Improvement
We can all find constant improvements that, when added together, make a huge difference to business efficiency and results. The key to constant improvement is listening to staff, customers, suppliers, shareholders and advisors. The best way to capitalise on constant improvements is to have good systems in place that enable absorption of improvements. That way when you come to sell your business you’ve built a solid asset that can be handed over to a buyer and odds are you’ll get a premium price. A systemized business is easier to sell to a new owner.

About the author

Sue Hirst's picture

Sue Hirst is director of CFO On Call. CFO On Call is a team of financial and business advisors who work with open-minded people, committed to business growth and achieving success. They have been helping business owners achieve their goals for over 20 years. For help call them on 0800 180 400 or visit CFO On Call or visit their LinkedIn page here

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