After a year of aggressive interest rate hikes, inflation reaching 7.8%, and fuel rising to an all-time high, we’re now confronted with the risk of costs skyrocketing, and more loadshedding. For small businesses such as carpenters, electricians and other skilled artisan firms, this will mean thinking on your feet and keeping a tight rein on costs to stay ahead in a challenging year.
Here are some operational tips to help get your business started on the right foot, and ideally turn a tough year into a sustainable year:
Start the year right
Instead of getting back to work slowly and waiting for business to pick up weeks into the year, January is a great time to get your business ready and primed for growth.
It has never been more important for your team to be properly motivated and firing on all cylinders so your business can compete more effectively. Use the quiet time for team-building and brainstorming ways to become more efficient, cut costs and bring in more business.
Motivate your staff to identify where money and effort are wasted and contribute their suggestions to improve the situation.
Plan for continuity. Amid the uncertain economic and power situation, now is the time to consider strategies and investments that will keep your business running, no matter what. It’s also a good time to review your insurance to ensure that you are covered against all potential risks.
Tap into networks: join business referral networks and industry associations for partnership opportunities and to get better insight into trends and solutions in your sector.
If marketing has been on the backburner, now is the time to focus on it. You can’t grow your market if customers don’t know your business exists. Establish a professional online presence and start marketing your products and services on social media. Set up a Google Business profile and resolve any complaints on consumer review sites and social media. Take the time to scan your local social media and WhatsApp groups for people requesting services such as yours. Some insurers offer services to ease the burden on SMEs. You can find help with tax and financial advice; legal services; marketing; labour; office and medical assistance; an IT helpdesk; and even support for license disc renewals and paying traffic fines.
Ride on your qualifications and references. Whether you are a plumber, electrician, cabinetmaker, refrigeration expert, tiler or builder, you have invested in getting certified. Stand out from the competition by highlighting your qualifications and experience on your social media pages, your invoices, e-mails and other communications. Also, ask happy clients for testimonials and showcase these on social media as evidence of your good service and expertise. If possible, post photographs of successful projects and happy clients.
Don’t forget that every job is your entry into that client’s network of friends or business associates, so focus on good service. Work with your team to define what good service looks like in your business, and where you may be falling short.
Control your cash flow
Cashflow is king when it comes to resilient business, and many a micro or small enterprise has come undone thanks to their inability to manage it.
January is a good time to look more closely at costs and profit margins and make the difficult decisions. If your office space eats into your profits, consider moving to more affordable premises. If products or services deliver little to no profit, increase the prices or cut them from your portfolio. Identify and prioritise the high-value clients who pay timeously.
Review your financial commitments, including your insurance portfolio, and declutter your finances. While it remains crucial to be properly covered for all risks, you can lower your monthly insurance premiums simply by reducing your risk and by choosing products tailored for your specific business sector. Business owners in the plumbing, electrical, engineering or trade sector can benefit from MiWay’s offer of a 10% discount on commercial insurance bakkies for artisans, as well as 10% off Tools of Trade cover if these are bundled into the same policy. Discounted premiums on business vehicles, business property and business equipment will shave a few extra Rands off costs that will add up in the long run.
With more strategic planning, careful cost control and a revived commitment to service excellence, your business can get off on the right foot in 2023 and stay ahead throughout the year.
MiWay is a licensed non-life insurer and Financial Services Provider (FSP 33970).