It’s the Holiday Season again, but before we hang up our stockings and tuck into some figgy pudding, it is worth remembering that as the year comes to an end, it is a good time to put processes in place to ensure the next year is even more successful than the last. With this in mind and in honour of the festive spirit let’s celebrate with The Twelve Days of Business!

On the First Day of Christmas My True Love Gave To Me…

A Partridge In a Pear Tree

– Make Sure Your Processes Are Solid
A good business is built on good foundations, like a strong tree has firm roots. This is the ideal time to do a full review of your procedures and processes, to make sure that they are truly solid and still fulfilling your needs as a business. Many things may have changed over the last year and what may have worked a year ago might not be what you need now. Review things such as your customer management systems, ordering processes, financial systems, website, day plans and all the other things that keep your business grounded and make sure that you have everything in place to ensure your bird comes home to roost in the New Year.

Two Turtle Doves

– Keep The Peace In The Office
A happy office is a successful office. Make sure you make time to listen to your employees and try and resolve problems before they occur. Some individuals find it difficult to approach management on issues and a more confidential approach is often useful. Here’s an interesting thought: one idea is to set up a hotmail account, which doesn’t store outgoing messages and give the log in details to your employees, so they can anonymously raise complaints by emailing you from this account without fear of reprisal. This means that you can be aware of potential problems and be able to ensure a happier workforce and working environment.

Three French Hens

– The Importance Of International Business
Many people overlook the potential of overseas business. In the digital age, it is easier than ever to attract business from overseas and networks such as Xing and LinkedIn, can help you network with potential clients and suppliers from Europe and the world in general. Other solutions such as Skype, mean that you can call abroad for significantly less cost, again giving great potential to open up yourself and your business to new markets and opportunities.

Four Calling Birds

– The Importance Of Picking Up The Phone
In this day of social networking and email it is easy to forget the value of a good old-fashioned telephone call. People want to buy from people, not machines and a lot of communication is lost or misunderstood through emails. It is also harder to ignore a person who is talking to you on the phone. Make sure you set aside time to make those all-important sales calls each day – and stick to it, no excuses. If you do you will find that you improve relations with your current contacts, improve the quality of your database and bring in more fresh leads and customers.

Five Gold Rings

– Make And Stick To Your Targets
Having clear goals and targets is one of the real secrets of a successful business, especially if you are a freelancer or SME. This is the ideal time to take a look at your targets or create new ones, and ensure that they are achievable and that hitting them will actually move your business forward. These targets can be short or long term and can include daily KPI’s such as number of calls made, number of products produced, new clients contacted/added to your database etc and more long term targets such as quarterly billings and increasing your market presence. Having clear targets help you organise your time and ensures that you spend it in the most productive way possible, acting as an invaluable tool in helping you succeed.

Six Geese-a-Laying

– Don’t Forget Your Old/Existing Clients
It is easy to get caught up in the chase and focus on the excitement of generating new business and contacts. It is essential “not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg” by focusing on short-term wins and forgetting the longer game of really building your relationships with your exiting clients and suppliers. The holiday season is an ideal time to talk to your current customers and get feedback on your performance and let them know that they are as important to you now as they where when you first brought them on board.

Seven Swans-a-Swimming

– Managing Your Image
To your customers your process should seem effortless. One metaphor that is used is that you should appear to be “a swan gliding gracefully over a sparking pond”. In reality beneath the surface the swan’s feet are kicking furiously to keep it afloat, but this is invisible to the outside world. Always remember to keep things simple and professional for your clients. Manage their expectations and make sure you set deadlines you can actually deliver on. If there are problems that you have to overcome, or you have had problems with third parties, do not burden your customers with this information. They want to see you as an expert in your field, so however hard you have had to work to deliver, make sure that to your customer it is all smooth sailing and you will find they will respect and trust you more and bring you more business in the future.

Eight Maids-a-Milking

– Milk Your Leads
Too many businesses end up working harder than they should, as they do not maximise the leads and opportunities they already have. If you are talking to a client ask them who their competitors are; this is an easy way of finding out who else would benefit from your services. Once you are in a business, especially the larger corporations remember to network and really open it up. Ask what other teams might use similar resources, or if there are any other sister companies that might benefit from your services. By making sure you get as much information as possible when you are talking to your clients, or researching new business, you save yourself the time of having to start from scratch and often find an ideal way into new opportunities, backed by a recommendation from an existing contact.

Nine Ladies Dancing

– The Importance Of Downtime
There is no reason (except in total emergencies) to be working 24/7. Work-life balance is essential to keeping you sane, energised and motivated. Good time management should mean that you are not spending every waking hour manning the phone or buried in admin. Make sure you set a time when you finish work and actually finish. Turn on the answering machine, log out of your email and let your hair down. You will find that you are much happier and more productive as a result.

Ten Lords-a-Leaping

– Don’t Leap To Conclusions
The biggest mistake in business is to assume anything. This means that you may miss out on new opportunities or ruin relationships with existing ones. Never assume that an intended recipient has seen a text message or email unless you get a response. Make sure you pick up the phone and get confirmation so that your meetings, business deals and communications do not go awry. It is also important not to assume that just because a company has internal teams or processes, that they will not be open to using outsourced resources or that they will have no need for your services. Get in contact and although sometimes you will have assumed right, you may be surprised at how many new opportunities you generate by asking the right questions rather than second guessing your client.

Eleven Pipers Piping

– Keep Your Pipeline Hot
It is easy to rest on your laurels after having a good month or quarter. But it is your pipeline that will keep you going in the future. Even if you are really busy it is important to ensure you still get out there and generate new leads and new business / orders, as if you don’t you will find that things may suddenly go quiet and that you have to build everything up from scratch again. Make time everyday to keep your pipeline going and your will find that you have success month after month, let it go cold and you will constantly find yourself suffering from famine or feast situations.

Twelve Drummers Drumming

– Drum Up New Business
There are many ways to generate new business, especially with so many tools available to you online and offline. This is the ideal time of year to network with your contacts both online and face-to-face to generate new leads and potential customers. Many of your competitors will be tempted to put their feet up on the run up to Christmas, however this is a great time to get things in place to really kick-start the New Year.

…and finally Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from everyone at ValueAdd Business Solutions.

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