Business Forum 03-11-2011

Dates for remaining forums for 2011 Thursday Dec 1.

Business MeetingDates for 2012. Thursday 12th January , Thursday 2nd February. Thursday 1st March, Thursday 5th April, Thursday 3rd May.
We had another excellent turnout today with a total of fourteen companies in attendance and four of these for the first time. There was a very positive learning atmosphere with no sign of a recession in the room. The key focus today was on how participants are being challenged to take advantage of the extra opportunities that are coming their way and how to keep this momentum going as they grow their companies. At the same time there are still sectors that are being challenged to manage cash flow and create more margin despite increased competition. We also got through lots of topics in the 3 hours available.

Topics we discussed

Debt collection. Changing banks (existing bank exiting Irish market) how to get the best deal.

Re-entering a market with an improved product. Taking advantage of new opportunities

The leadership theme that emanated from the first topic was to see opposing and seemingly contradictory leadership strategies from a positive rather than a negative perspective. The negative perspective was a tough versus a soft approach. When we changed that to an assertive/ confident versus subtle/collaborative approach the ideas flowed more freely and we were able to see ourselves being both assertive and subtle at the same time as well as using them on their own in different situations. This switch also changed the dynamic in the room to a more solution focused approach to the opportunities the recession is creating

First Topic – Debt Collecting

Within our group today there were two approaches with different emphasis. Both depended on the type of business and the company style. The attitude to collecting outstanding debt varied between keeping the customer with a more encouraging approach to a more assertive stance that focused on getting the dept paid as soon as possible.

Between those two approaches there was agreement on the following;

  • Have a follow-up system with different letters/ levels of severity depending on how long debt is outstanding. At the same time carefully manage the system as an example was given of a customer who received a demanding letter even thought their debt was a once off mistake and this caused them to consider switching providers
  • Stay in touch with customer to keep relationship open.
  • Do not add to problem. Instead be more upfront and specific with your expectations with agreements on future business.
  • Have agreement with all staff on how procedures will be followed to bring down outstanding debts and prevent new ones. This was concerned whit following procedures and with being both assertive and keeping the customer. But also getting agreement from management if there was a need to manage the customer out of the business
  • Get to know your customers situation and then have a partnership approach to solve problem
  • See it as more cost effective to keep some customers by working with them and also more cost effective to get rid of others who are going to use up too much time and create stress for the business.
  • Make sure (if possible) you are talking to the person who writes the cheque.
  • Be prepared to use different approaches with different customers. You can be more assertive with one because that is the only way that works and you can be more engaging and subtle with others because they are more valuable customers.

The next topic was looking at strategies when changing from one bank to another (existing client bank is exiting Irish market).

Client has long-term debt that has to be managed over a period of time and also uses invoice discounting They have also repositioned their business from 90% dependence on Irish market to exporting 90% of product and are not in a more healthy cash flow and profit situation.

Again we decided to use the same two strategies discussed above. The goal is seeing the new banking relationship as having potential to improve the company’s financial position. We agreed that by going in with a confident assertive approach that viewed the new potential banking partner gaining a new valuable/ profitable customer while also being a partner with the new bank to ensure the bank are confident there are no risks to them.

The following practical suggestions emerged.

  • See invoice discounting as a separate service that requires specialised skills and there are only a few providers who understand this market
  • Do not be afraid to approach a large UK or international banking partner.
  • Do your research and if needed bring on a partner who has the necessary specialised knowledge and expertise of operation at this level to help negotiate the best deal. Existing accountancy practice may not have this level of competency but could also work in partnership with new partner. This partner would just work on this project
  • Do not approach all banks in the market place ( word gets around, instead get someone to do the research and then target one or two banks)
  • Go in with as much detail as possible. Have all the banks questions answered before they start asking them (this gives them assurance there are no risks and gets them working from a perspective that you are an acquisition they cannot afford to lose out on). This will also allow you to be more confident as you negotiate for a better deal.

Topic. Re-entering a market where previous product did not perform due to local water pressures. Competition then took over that market with a product that did not have the same problems but also did not fully address the situation. Now have a new product that has solved issue. It is anticipated that re-entry will generate an aggressive response from competition in the form of price and other offers. There are just a small number of large customers in this market. Has had a positive reaction to the new product from the first two customers approached. New product is now superior to competition.

1. See this process as an opportunity to rebuild the confidence of the customer through educating them on the causes of the problem and then demonstrating the advantages of the new product.

2. Do not make excuses by emphasising that the problem was caused by local conditions. Hold your hands up and instead listen to their concerns and answer their questions by focusing on how new product will solve their challenges.

3. Do not just see this as an opportunity to sell the product, but to regain a customer who then has the potential to purchase many more ancillary products. So this product becomes a strategic investment.

4. This educating of the customer will re-brand you in their minds as a company who takes feedback, learns lessons and comes back with superior solutions. It puts you into a partnership with customer rather than a vendor of products.

Final Topic.

How to take advantage of opportunities for growth that involves possible recruitment and a new role for me.

The theme that came from this was not to get over excited but to stay grounded. This could have being seen as a negative, considering the positive vibrancy that went into dealing with the other topics. But it was seeing caution as a positive attribute that valued more sustainable growth.

The following are ideas for dealing with this topic.

  • Be grounded and trust that your core values of customer service will prevent you overstretching your self
  • Recruit people who are better than you at other aspects of the business
  • Play to your strengths. That is what your customers are purchasing from you. See hiring others as enabling you to spend most of your time using your skills for the benefit of the customer
  • Put a plan in place to achieve your new vision
  • Slow down, relax and enjoy your new good fortune and you will perform much better

See business as a five legged stool which follows the following steps

1. Win / get the business

2. Do the business, and do it to the best of your ability

3. Get feedback and equally important – get paid

4. Get repeat business- which will come from doing a superior job and asking for the business as in 1 above

5. Get referrals – where appropriate

The following are the main outcomes to the discussion.

  • Dealing with both the reality of the market place while incorporating a new vibrancy coming from more opportunities
  • Now seeing more options, more optimism and being future oriented.
  • It is more self motivating when I have a greater variety of approaches
  • Encouraging to hear how traditional business are re-inventing themselves
  • Use this technique ( of getting lots of diverse approaches in the forum) in my business with my managers and employees will propel my business forward
  • How easy it is to see solutions when you are positive and solution focused
  • How any business can adapt to current circumstances and reposition itself to create a new approach to being successful
  • Just keep focused on what you can achieve

Business Forum dates and locations

All Times 9am to 1.30pm

Midlands Business Forum 1,
Tuar Ard, Moate. Tuesday 8th November. Time 9am to 1.30pm 2012 Tuesday 10th January , Tuesday 7th February. Tuesday 6th March, Tuesday 3rd April, Tuesday 15th May.

Midlands Business Forum 2 Feericks Hotel, Rathowen. Tuesday 15th November. Time 9am to 1.30pm
2012 Tuesday 17th January , Tuesday 14th February. Tuesday 13th March, Tuesday 17th April, Tuesday 22nd May.

Laois Business Forum The Maldron Hotel. Portlaoise. Thursday 1st December Time 9am to 1.30pm.
2012 Thursday 12th January , Thursday 2nd February. Thursday 1st March, Thursday 5th April, Thursday 3rd May.

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