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Competitive strategy

Questions to ask when planning a start up

Image courtesy of imageafter.com

If you are planning to open a new business you will need to think of many different things. Here are a few really key questions that you may not have thought about. If you cannot answer any one of these satisfactorily you may be taking unnecessary risks. With the horrifying failure rate of new start up businesses you would want to reduce risk as much as possible, so if any of these questions cannot be answered or leave you feeling uneasy, then my advice would be to attend to this urgently, even if it means delaying your launch.

  1. What loyalty from customers can you bring or build? Do you have special relationship with customers who will follow you to your new business?  Do you have special skills or knowledge that will draw customers and make them want to stay?  And by ‘special’ I mean rare, unusual or significantly different to those of competitors. Do you have an engaging manner and a real desire to make customers happy? Someone who is seen as likeable and eager to please? Do you offer a unique service or a level of convenience that will be irresistible to customers? Continue reading

Why don’t we study failure?

pic courtesy of imagafter.com

If you look at the ranks of business books in any bookstore you will see lots of ‘how to’ books, and even more ‘how I did it’ guides. So if you just follow the route taken by Richard Branson or Robert Kiyosaki or Jack Welsh you too can be a success. Web sites (including my own business site) are filled with case studies of business successes. But where could you go if you wanted to study failure, if you wanted to avoid doing what caused the downfall of the failed entrepreneur?

Contrast that with learning to drive a car or fly an aeroplane. You may read stories of famous racing drivers or see films of daring fighter pilots, but that is not how you will train. Instead you will be taught how many ways there are to get it wrong, and what to do about it. Driving a car or flying a plane start with the belief that success is required, that failure is to be avoided. Business training seems to work on the basis that failure is expected, that success is for the few high priests of entrepreneurship, and we may be able to stave off disaster by following their lead. How peculiar. Continue reading

The Brand New Ending

pic courtesy of freeimages.co.uk

If you, as entrepreneurs often do, are musing about how you can improve your business right now by doing something different and creative you might want to think about an interesting saying that I came across a while ago.

“No one can go back and make a brand new start. Anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending”. I have never managed to find the author (and if you know please tell me) but I salute the thinking.

If you wanted to apply this thought to your business you could imagine you were about to launch your business tomorrow or next week and re-experience the terror and excitement of a new venture.

 If you were truly able to put yourself in this mode you would walk on water to satisfy a potential customer requirement, you would speculate about what they were thinking endlessly and try to anticipate their needs. Continue reading

Time to stab the wounded?

CrosshairsAn old saying is that auditors arrive after the battle and enter the battlefield to finish off the wounded…

The events of 2008 and 2009 were a serious battlefield in many business sectors, with lots of failed and severely damaged businesses littering the landscape. A colleague expressed it in these words: “Those that survived the downturn often did so by using their reserves. They now are in business but in a vulnerable position with little or no reserves to fall back on. The ones who had no reserves when the downturn hit are not around anymore.” A harsh analysis perhaps but with much validity in many areas of business.

The euphoria of the successful Soccer World Cup and the air of optimism about the end of the recession is a good time to reflect where your business stands. Are you still skating on thin ice, where any major reversal right now will destroy you? Are you so overburdened by debt you find it difficult to trade? Or are you in a better shape than that, with limited but positive cash flows and some reserves?

If you fall into that latter category you may choose to start right now with a major and aggressive marketing campaign designed to take market share away from those competitors who are worse off than you. Continue reading