Challenges Businesses Face and How to Work Through Them

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As much as you might like for it to be, running a business isn’t always smooth sailing. Several challenges are likely to arise at some point during the lifespan of your company. How you respond to those challenges or how prepared you are to face them can mean the difference between making it to the next quarter or folding. Although things can get rocky from time to time, if you have a plan in place, your company will be able to weather even the toughest of challenges.

Underperforming Products

A product idea might seem perfect on paper. But, when you actually release that product to the public, it might not perform as well as you had expected. There are several reasons why a product might not do as well as you hoped and a number of ways to handle it.

First, it can help to look at your expectations for that product. It might be that what you wanted from it was more than your customer base was willing or able to give. For example, if you’ve launched a new service that is $50 per month and people aren’t signing up for it, it could be because the people you are marketing to just aren’t sure of the value of the new service. What will they get for $50 each month and will it be worth $600 per year? One way to increase use of the service is to offer a free trial. For 30 days, let people test drive the new service. During that time, make sure the product or service really provides value to them, so that at the end of the trial, they want to sign up for more.

In some cases, a product might not do well because it just isn’t a good fit for your company. Working with a virtual CFO can help you avoid introducing products that don’t mesh with your company’s mission or goals or help you best determine what new offerings make the most sense for your business. If the product is already on the market and not doing so well, in some instances, it’s in your best interests to accept that it’s not working for your business and to discontinue it. Giving up on a service or product can be difficult, but it can be the best option for your company in the long run.

Poor Fit Employees

Finding and hiring the right employees is another common business challenge. Hiring the wrong employees, or people who just aren’t a good match for the company, can be a huge obstacle in the way of your business’ growth and success. Taking your time during the interview and hiring process can really help you avoid hiring people who just won’t work well with your company. There’s no need to rush and put the first person you come across in a position.

When you are interviewing, look for someone who is engaged and who seems genuinely interested in the work your company is doing. In many cases, a candidate with less experience than other, but who is very interested in your business and seems committed to helping it thrive is a better pick than the more experienced, but disengaged candidate.

Money Issues

Money challenges can crop up at various stages of your company’s growth. In the early phase, it can be challenging finding enough capital to get the company off of the ground. As you start expanding and hiring people, spending more money than you can comfortably afford or making sure there is enough cash on handle to get through an increase in business are two common issues. Having a strategic business plan in place and researching ways to increase capital can help your company cope with any money issues it might face.

The team at New Direction Capital can help your company work through any challenges it might face and help it avoid future obstacles or issues. To learn more about how our CFO services can help your business, get in touch with us today.

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Scheduling Hacks to Increase ProductivityHave you ever gotten to the end of a busy work day, only to look back over the past eight or so hours and wonder what it was you actually accomplished? In business, there can be a temptation to pack your days full of meetings, conferences and projects. While having a busy schedule might make it look as though you’re getting a lot done, the opposite can actually be true. Scheduling hacks can actually increase your productivity and allow you to make the most of your work days.

Leave Space

Leaving space in your schedule to increase productivity can seem counterintuitive. After all, if you are leaving hours of time free, aren’t you effectively wasting that time? Not necessarily. Scheduling a free day once a week or so gives you time to tackle those tasks that you are usually unable to get to when meeting after meeting is scheduled or when you are running from one client’s office to the next.

To make the most of your free day, actually include it on your calendar or schedule. Make sure anyone who handles your schedule knows about the day, so that they don’t inadvertently schedule a phone call or other meeting for the middle of your day. Remember that the day isn’t a day off, either. Use the time you’ve blocked off to answer lingering emails, follow up with customers you haven’t heard from in a while, or to start brainstorming ideas for your company’s next steps.

Set Time Limits

Meetings can drag on and take up more time than anyone anticipated. One way to make them more productive is to set a firm time limit for them. Give your sales team 30 minutes for a meeting and actually set a timer for that many minutes. Ideally, the team will be able to get through what they need to get through in that amount of time. Otherwise, it will have to wait until the next meeting. Putting time restrictions on meetings and other activities that tend to meander can help you and your team focus on what’s really important during the meeting and avoid going off on tangents.

Schedule the Little Things

Sometimes, the seemingly small tasks can end up eating up a large portion of the day. For example, many people have told themselves that they would just take a peek at their email, only to an hour or longer sorting through messages. Or, constant pings and notifications from email, social media, and other accounts throughout the day can pull you away from the tasks you’re trying to focus on. To keep the small tasks from reducing your daily productivity,  block off time to focus on them. Give yourself 15 to 20 minutes to read, delete and respond to email at the beginning of the day,  midday and at the end of the day. Schedule some time for social media and resist the urge to check your accounts outside of that block of time. Turn off any notifications from your phone or computer, so that you aren’t distracted any time a new message pops up.

Break Big Projects into Pieces

Large projects can often seem overwhelming, leading you to put off getting started on them. Dividing a larger project into several smaller, more manageable components can help you complete it in good time. One option is to use Pomodoro Technique, named for the tomato-shaped egg timer its creator, Francesco Cirillo, used to track his time when working. Using the technique, you set the timer for 25 minutes, work continuously for that time, then take a five minute break. After four 25 minute working and 5 minute break cycles, you can take a longer, 15 minute break. To make the most of the technique, it helps to choose tasks that you can complete in 25 minutes, such as reading a new article, emailing people involved in your project, or crunching the numbers on your budget.

At New Direction Capital, our goal is to help your business succeed and grow by helping you reach your goals. To learn more about how we can help you increase productivity and take your business to the next stage, contact us today.

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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5 Resolutions to Help Grow Your BusinessAs the new year gets underway, it’s hard not to think about ways you can improve. While plenty of people make personal resolutions to lose weight, save more money or pay off debt, it’s not unheard of for companies to make resolutions, too. If your goal is to grow your business in 2016, here are a few resolutions that can help you achieve that growth.

Resolve to Put Together a Strategic Plan

Ideally, your company will have a concrete plan for growth already in place. If not, 2016 is the perfect time for putting one together. If you don’t have a plan or strategy, there is no way to know how to take the next step or even what those next steps should be. With a strategic plan, you not only lay out your company’s plans for the future, you also put together a roadmap for how it will achieve those plans. Your company’s strategic plan allows you to prioritize any goals for your business as well as correct any areas that have been an issue. With a plan in place, your business will stay on course and able to avoid any distractions or disruptions that will prevent its growth.

Develop More Personal Relationships with Customers

Running a successful business is about more than just making the sale. It’s also about establishing long-term relationships with your customers. Tailored marketing is the wave of the future, especially as email and social media marketing become more and more commonplace. It’s not just about making sure the mailing software you use puts a customer’s first name in the message anymore. It’s also about making sure the messages you send clients and customers are actually messages they want or need to receive. Look back on the products or services specific customers have purchased from you in the past, then tailor any new messages to them based on that information.

Giving your customers more ways to get in touch with your company can also help you build deeper relationships with them. Instead of a phone-based customer service line, which requires customers to move though a number a menus or push a lot of buttons before they reach a human, consider also offering customer service chat on your website, which allows a customer to communicate with someone from your company quickly and easily.

Help Your Employees Be Their Best

Hiring the right employees from the start is key to your business’ ongoing growth and development. Keeping those employees happy is also key to your company’s success. This new year, resolve to offer more employee perks or growth programs. They don’t have to be expensive programs. For example, committing to stocking the company break room with healthier snacks or encouraging people to actually take the day off when they are sick can have a positive effect on morale and increase productivity.

Streamline Company Communications

Email might not be going anywhere anytime soon, but it can be a very inefficient way to communicate with your team. Just think of all the reply-all emails you’ve received that simply say things such as “Ok” or “Thanks, will do!” They clutter up your inbox and can keep you from seeing the emails that are actually relevant. If communication is flagging at your company and keeping it from reaching the next stage of growth, it might be time to try something new, such as Slack or Facebook at Work.

Reassess Your Equipment

Is your company’s equipment still meeting your needs? If the copier breaks down on a regular basis or people’s laptops no longer connect to the Internet as quickly as they once did, it might be time to invest in new equipment. It’s difficult to move to the next phase of growth if your company’s gear keeps breaking down.

Making new year’s resolutions is the easy part. It’s sticking to them that’s a challenge. If you’ve got plenty of resolutions, but need help accomplishing them, the team at New Direction Capital is there for you. Our virtual chief financial officer services can help your company achieve the next phase of growth. Contact us today for more details.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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How to Stay Productive During the Holiday SeasonFor some companies, staying productive during the holiday season comes naturally. Shipping and logistics firms can’t drop the ball from November until January 1 and retailers typically see their busiest seasons during the last few months of the year. But, if  you run a company that doesn’t see a spike in business during the holiday season, you might find that there’s an increased temptation to slack off a bit or to decrease productivity. After all, the work will still be there in January.

While taking it easy might seem to make sense during the holiday season, committing to be as productive as possible might be the better move for your business. You’ll return at the start of the new year without last year’s projects hanging over your head. If holiday parties are calling you name, but you’d like to stay focused on your business, here are a few things worth trying.

Cut Back

It can be all too easy to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way during the holiday season. Whether it’s agreeing to work with a new client because your workload seems a little light or RSVPing yes to every party your company is invited to, you run the risk of over-burdening yourself and your team. Review your calendar and schedule from now until the new year. Pick the projects that absolutely need to be completed before January 1 and set the other ones on the back burner.

When it comes to the social demands on your company during the holidays, you’ll need to pick and choose wisely. If you are invited to a number of parties, try to attend just one or two a week and politely decline invitations to the others. Choose which parties to attend based on your schedule, their location, and the strength of your relationship to the people or business hosting the party.

Set Deadlines and Limits

Giving yourself and your team firm deadlines during the holidays can help you stay on track and reach your end of the year goals. Even if you’re usually lax about deadlines, the month of December is an ideal to implement them, especially if you and your team will be taking the last week of the month off. For example, you might require your employees to submit time sheets by December 23 and hold them to that deadline.

Adjust Your Schedule

Another way to keep productivity up during the end of the year slump is to make some adjustments to your company’s schedule. Although a weekly team meeting might make sense during the rest of the year, during the holidays, it can be a source of distraction and derail people’s ability to complete the projects assigned to them by their due date. Instead of just having a meeting because it’s a regularly scheduled thing, make sure there is a clear goal for the meeting. Otherwise, you might consider rescheduling it next year and let your employees use that time to work on the things they need to finish.

Get Help Where Needed

The holiday season can be the perfect to outsource some projects and to bring in outside assistance, such as a virtual chief financial officer. You might not have the time or inclination to tackle your business’ strategy during the holidays or you might need some extra help making sure your business’ plan is on target for the end of the year or that you  have a strategic plan in place for next year.

Whether you might need, from help with end of the year financing to help mapping out your company’s next move in the year to come, a virtual CFO can provide guidance and an outside opinion. The team at New Direction Capital can provide solutions that will help your company stay productive at the year’s end and increase its productivity during the upcoming year. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you through the holidays and in the months to come.

Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Value of Repeat CustomersThe numbers are clear: it costs a business much less to try to get the same customers to come back again and again than it does for that business to try and gain new customers. In the book “Leading on the Edge of Chaos,” Mark A. Murphy and Emmet C. Murphy reveal that it costs five times as much to get a new customer as it does to retain a current customer. Increasing customer retention by 2% can have the same impact as cutting costs by 10%.  If you’d like to shift your company’s focus from constantly chasing new clients to getting repeat customers, there are a few things you can do to build loyalty.

Reach Out 

Your interaction with your customer shouldn’t end because he or she has handed over the payment, gotten the product or service he or she came for, and walked out the door. There are a number of ways you can reach out to your customers after the transaction is over, to see what they thought of it and to let them know you are there to meet any needs they might have. If your company does business primarily online, you can send emails to new customers after their first purchase, asking them what they thought and letting them know you are there for them. Follow up an in-person meeting with a phone call.

You can also start to offer personal recommendations to customers based on the products or services they have already purchased from you.  Doing so shows that you have an interest in their wants and needs and increases the chance that they will buy from you again.

Change Your Tone

If you shift your focus from highlighting what your company offers to highlighting the ways in which your business can help your customers, you’re likely to see an increase in loyalty. Think of it this way — would you rather a company present itself with “here is what we have” or with “this is the way our products can help you”?

Another way to help your company change its tone and the way it interacts with customers is to find out what it is that they want from you. Customer surveys can really help shine on light on what your company is getting right and where it has room to improve. As an incentive for completing the survey, you can offer customers a percentage off their next purchase.

Improve Customer Service

To keep your customers coming back, adopt a policy that really puts the customer first. As your company grows, you might want to consider implementing a written customer service policy, so that employees know exactly how to handle situations where a customer might be a little upset or where there might be an issue with the service or product provided.

If a customer has an issue with your company, you have a small window of opportunity to make it right and retain the customer. Companies that ignore customer problems or that are slow to correct issues are likely to lose not only the unhappy customer, but any he or she shares the experience with.

Add Perks

Customer loyalty perks encourage people to return again and again. They don’t have to be particularly expensive for your company, either. For example, one perk might be a special line for customers who sign up for your company’s loyalty program, so that they don’t have to wait long for assistance. Another simple, inexpensive perk is to offer customers a discount or free gift on their their birthday or during their birthday month.

Hanging on to the customers you’ve already got will not only save your company time and money in the long run. It can also help you gain new customers, as happy clients are likely to tell others about their experience.

If you are looking for ways to grow your business and keep customers coming back, the team at New Direction Capital can help. Contact us today to learn more about how our virtual CFO can help your company.

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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