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Controlling Cashflow, Global Growth and Listening: Business Lessons for SMEs

30th March 2015 | Adam Jolly

Contributors to this article include Lloyds Bank, Avondale and the University for the Creative Arts.

Develop Differentiators: Kevin Uphill, Avondale

Pioneer leaders take the time to adopt or develop differentiators. This requires careful research of both competitors and market needs; it is all about research and mystery shopping. Once you have this analysis, it becomes more obvious how you can create a unique sales strategy for the future with clear, stand-out and sustainable positions. Many businesses do develop differentiators over time, through evolution and essentially trial and error, but the process is often ad-hoc and heavily reliant on window-dressing. Nearly every business has some key and often very positive differentiators; it’s just that they are taken for granted and not given momentum or talked about. You need to look clearly at what your differentiators are, and actually repackaging or positioning them so that each component looks different; you then communicate the difference more effectively with one clear and loud voice across the organization- the website, the sales team, customer services, letters and marketing material. You don’t need to say it a lot, just say it more effectively, with cohesion across all departments and messages.

Kevin Uphill has enjoyed a long and successful career as an entrepreneur, strategist and mergers and acquisitions adviser. His new book is out from Kogan Page in early 2016. Find him at @AvondaleUK

Control Your Cashflow - Adrian White, MD, SME Banking and Lloyds Bank

Our research shows that UK SMEs are owed £291 billion in outstanding invoices, with the average SME owed almost £60,000 in unpaid invoices – and one in nine (11 per cent) with outstanding bills worth more than £200,000. Creating your own internal control processes or using services such as invoice finance can help you access that cash to fund your growth. Ensure that the payment and credit terms are clear, fair and agreed from the outset. Simply including details of the product or service provided or details of work requested, as well as the expected payment date, on the invoice can serve as a reminder of the agreed terms. Another consideration may be creating incentives for customers to pay early- or at the very least to pay on time. Ongoing dialogue with your customers to help build a relationship, rather than merely a call when payment is due, can also help shape a customer’s attitude towards payment.

Adrian White is the Managing Director, SME Banking, Commercial Banking, Lloyds Bank. Adrian leads the business in the support of small-to-medium-sized banking clients with a turnover of between £1m and £25m. Follow the Business team at @LloydsBankBiz

Listen to Innovate: Uwe Derksen and Susiane Sampaio, University of the Creative Arts

Innovation and the creativity it demands, be it in product development, business process, branding and marketing strategies, management approaches or finance, will inevitably test the company’s overall working practices, culture, communication processes and values. In the end, innovation must demonstrate that it helps the business to create value. Listening is necessary for problem-solving; for example, a cashflow problem may not necessarily be about a credit arrangement with a bank but could be about a communication issue with suppliers and customers. Without being sensitive and receptive to what works and what doesn’t, a business will remain ‘stuck in its ways,’ and there will be little room for innovation. A listening culture and a desire to improve, be it products, services or working processes, is therefore a requisite, followed by the ability and freedom to articulate a problem. Simple brainstorming techniques can help a business to articulate issues freely without being judged.

Uwe Derksen and Susiane Sampaio work in Innovation at the University for the Creative Arts, which has developed an innovation platform called Edge which helps to facilitate and broker collaborations with business. More informatin at www.ucaedge.com.

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