By Melinda Collins
Once upon a time, in a land far away, resided an enchanting little business called Snow White and Co. which based its operations from an industrial site in the heart of the woods. Constantly taunted by the wicked economy, company director Snow White was assisted by seven trusty managers who looked after their own divisions within the business to help them surpass the economy’s nasty spells.
Doc was in charge of the business health and maintains being able to ask for help when times get tough is invaluable for SMEs, a thought mirrored by Business Mentors New Zealand chairman Jeremy Bendall. “In my view there is a screaming need for quality mentoring to help SMEs survive, improve, innovate and grow.” The Government has advisory services available to business operators such as free business health checks and business mentoring.
Happy was in charge of marketing and says today’s consumers are inundated with choice. Bold Horizon brand strategist Wayne Atwell agrees and says if your customer cannot differentiate between you and your competitors, they will base their decision on price. “Having a point of difference takes the focus away from price. Price always matters but it is how the value of that product is perceived. Just because you are more expensive doesn’t mean you won’t get the business. Point of difference is fundamental to successful marketing.”
Ironically, Grumpy was very in touch with the customers needs and ran customer services, agreeing with Customer Experiences customer service consultant Chris Bell who says New Zealand organisations have plenty of room for improvement. “This should be a priority focus for all businesses especially in a struggling economy, providing better value, taking the time to understand your customers better and building stronger relationships. The experience a customer takes away from the business will decide whether he or she visits again.”
Funnily, Sleepy ran the planning committee; planning for the time ahead. He agrees with the thoughts of Staples Rodway director Colin Theyers who says businesses who have a pragmatic approach and adapt to the changing circumstances will prosper regardless of the economic cycle. “Start by conducting a thorough business review, determine the shape of the business and format a plan to achieve survival.”
Dopey was ironically financial advisor and agrees with Master Accountants accountant Christopher Raynall who says to keep price levels reasonable and control costs to improve margins. “Expenses that can be trimmed are those that do not impact on sales or income.” Debtor collection is critical he adds. “Every business needs cashflow to operate. Without this the business will not run for much longer.” Mirroring Dopey’s financial wisdom, he says to keep up with compliance payments, not doing so may mean not being able to operate the business.
Sneezy ran the health and safety component of the company. His business plans equalled Department of Labour Workplace Health and Safety head, Craig Armitage who says although injury and death rates have come down over the years, the sad reality is that more New Zealanders are injured and killed at work than in most other first world countries. “Healthy and safe workplaces enhance business performance and productivity.”
Last, but very far from least is Bashful, who has maybe the easiest, yet undoubtedly the most important job of ensuring employee satisfaction. He lives by the ethos “don’t be shy about praising your staff, they are the backbone of any company’s success”.