For many small businesses the second quarter is among the toughest, as the pressure to finalise FY14 results mount and the dreaded pre-Christmas lull arrives as customers start to watch their wallets. Ahead of the holiday season, we've brought together some of the best and brightest business minds for tips on getting you through the holiday season.
- Customers Demand Better Value: Our research shows that clients are demanding better value for money for services provided by law firms. Agile law firms are responding by reviewing their pricing model and adopting value-based pricing, rather than simply charging on an hourly-rate basis. Set aside some time this month to understand what represents value for your customers and conduct some online research to see how other firms are tackling this issue. LinkedIn Discussion Groups like the Alternative Fee Lawyers Discussion Group are great places to discuss these issues with your peers.
- Benchmark Your Financial Performance: Many companies are finalising their end of FY14 results.Benchmarking is a great way to determine how well your business is performing compared to similar companies – but it can be expensive. Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and Crowe Horwath conduct a financial performance benchmarking study that is free for all Australian law firms and provides valuable insights. Check with your industry association to see if they offer free benchmarking as a service to members.
- Invest in Professional Development: It can be hard for owners of small firms to find the time and/or money to invest in continuing professional development (CPD) for themselves and their staff. But there is a wealth of affordable events and online resources available. Check out Bulletpoints for a simplified list of resources.
Agile law firms are responding by reviewing their pricing model and adopting value-based pricing, rather than simply charging on an hourly-rate basis
- Andrew Barnes, ALPMA
Finance and Marketing
- Peaks and Troughs: The pre-Christmas lull can be a cause of significant pressure for many businesses, particularly new small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are still coming to terms with cyclical fluctuations. Managing through these times can require all sorts of changes: from staffing, cash flow and stock control. CPA Australia’s guide can help.
- Businesses Evolve: A business plan is not a static document. It should evolve and change to ensure it remains relevant as you calibrate the settings for your business, now and for the future. Review and adjust your business plan to reflect the forces and factors that affect your overall success. For tips on business planning head here.
- What's in Stock: Good stock control is vital during peaks and troughs. Excess stock sitting on shelves is money that could be sitting in the bank, or redeployed elsewhere in the business. The Victorian Government’s Business Victoria website has some great tips on how to manage stock.
- Choice Investments: Many businesses invest in assets that are only necessary during peak periods, leaving them mainly idle. This is money that could be better invested. Solutions include Cloud computing, which lets you access computing resources on demand as needed, rather than having to invest in your own computer infrastructure that may be underutilised for long periods. Read about the Cloud here.
Good stock control is vital during peaks and troughs. Excess stock sitting on shelves is money that could be sitting in the bank, or redeployed elsewhere in the business.
- Gavan Ord, CPA Australia
- Always Ask 'What's Next?': Never get comfortable. Business keeps on changing – whether it’s customer preferences, consumer confidence, competitor offers, new products or ways of doing business. Keeping your team on top of the latest trends and updated on what your competitors are doing is vital, as well as anticipating what your customers will want next. Find out what your staff are hearing – especially from your most useful customers – the ones who are always wanting something new or experimenting with your products. Encourage innovative thinking and brainstorming so that your business can try new things while there is time to learn and change in a planned way. See the Deloitte whitepaper, Building the Lucky Country, Business imperatives for a prosperous Australia.
- Build A Diverse Team: The saying goes: If I have a meeting with 10 people who always agree with me then I have nine people too many at the table. A team who work differently and approach questions from diverse perspectives can be hugely beneficial. Encouraging dissimilar points of view and working styles within a cohesive team can help deliver the best ‘out of the box’ thinking to solve complex issues or exploit opportunities. See Australian Institute of Management’s Gender Diversity in Management for more information.
- Embrace A Flexible Work Culture: The world is much more 24/7 than nine to five, and you and your team need flexibility to reflect that. Providing access to flexible working options and giving employees the tools, like smartphones and tablets, to empower employees to work as flexibly as possible for your type of business both drives productivity and also encourages staff to “go the extra mile” for your business. Read about working from anywhere in the Australian Government's Telework Kit here.
Encouraging dissimilar points of view and working styles within a cohesive team can help deliver the best ‘out of the box’ thinking.
- Will Irving, Telstra