Business Challenges newsIn our December 2014 email newsletter, we asked our existing customers what their biggest challenges were for 2015 – here’s a summary of what they said.

We wanted answers that were genuine and gave a good feel for what’s important for growing, independent businesses in the region. So, there were no prompts or multiple choice questions – we simply left it up to our customers to tell us their three biggest business challenges for 2015, in their own words.

We received a great response and some very clear themes emerged that were a challenge for many of the people who responded.

Common themes:

  • Finding and retaining customers – Not surprisingly, marketing and sales activity was the most common challenge among respondents. Particularly when nobody directly ‘owns’ marketing and sales, the owners and directors of the business can find that they don’t have the time and resources they need to plan for growth. Some respondents also mentioned specific sales and marketing challenges such as getting to grips with digital technology, social media, standing out in a crowded market, and turning one-off customers in to repeat sales and then regular customers.
  • Recruiting and retaining staff – As businesses grow, many of them reach the point where they need to recruit new staff if they are to develop further. This can be daunting – especially if you haven’t recruited people in to your business before, or if you already have a settled and harmonious team. Some of the specific issues that people mentioned within this area are training people quickly enough to be productive, the risk of investing time and resources in people only for them to leave, and finding people quickly enough to cope with current workloads.
  • Cashflow – This is the lifeblood of any business and can especially be a challenge for smaller businesses. This area has been the focus of a lot of news coverage this year, particularly with regard to SME businesses who supply supermarkets and other large retail chains. In the next few years we should hopefully see a relaxation of the strict payment terms often imposed on small businesses by the retailers. In the survey, many people mentioned cashflow and some specifically mentioned the subject of bad debts from customers and the need to manage their cashflow more effectively.
  • Time Management – Given that business owners and directors have all of the above issues to contend with, and don’t always have the right person to delegate them to, it’s understandable that Time Management was also mentioned frequently as a challenge. Some respondents spoke of the difficulty in managing their time as individuals, whereas others also mentioned an increasing difficulty in getting all of their key people in the same place at the same time to make key decisions.

So if your business is facing any of these challenges this year, clearly you’re not alone. Some other challenges that were mentioned less frequently were as folllows:

  • Health and wellbeing of key people
  • Competition, particularly for businesses that operate locally
  • Keeping up to date with technology
  • Employment legislation
  • Forthcoming Pensions Auto Enrolment

What will we be doing with this information?

Later in the year, we’ll be holding a free event for businesses, aimed at tackling some of the key challenges mentioned above. It will be held at our Head Office in Guiseley, Leeds and more details will be announced nearer the time.

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