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The new year is a time when we should all give our businesses an MOT, a health check if you like!  All businesses successful or otherwise need a thorough check up where you actually take time to step back review what has happened and even more importantly figure out the direction your taking your business in!

You may be too busy with other stuff or you may simply be sticking your head in the sand and not wanting to face the harsh reality that your business is a lifestyle one providing you with little income.

Time to take stock!

In order to survive, big or small you have to be responsive and resilient and you need a plan in this rapid, unpredictable climate. No plan no long-term business, simple as that.

What to you need to do?

First up protect your bottom line. Get this apparently 72% of businesses don’t even know their break even level which utterly astounded me. 72 per cent I can’t fathom it. If you don’t know your break even level then quickly figure it out. To be profitable and successful you’ll need to know what it is. It will tell you how many units you need to sell before you make a profit, which lines are successful, how far you can let sales decline before you start making a loss, it tells you everything. Super important.

Do you manage your business strategically or reactively?

Believe it or not 81 per cent of businesses fire fight on a daily basis, we used to and to an extent we still do a tad but now there are strategizes in place for the whole year, we have plans (love plans). Goals for the next 3 months, 6 months, I year and 5 years. It is so easy not to look at the bigger picture when you are doing everything, I get that.  It took me a long time to extrapolate myself from the day to day but the minute I did that was the minute the business started taking some more money.

Does you business provide you with sufficient income?

If not why are you doing it. I woke up a long time ago probably after the first year when the thrill of having a store and business wore off due to the long hours. I woke up and vowed that I wanted to turn this business that was rolling in pence into rolling in zillions. I wrote down all the things that I thought would make a difference and although it didn’t happen over night it happened. Slowly but surely.

An exercise I found really handy was to write down the 5 most successful products you have then write down the 5 least successful and drill down into why? Do your competitors sell the same thing? Are the products too generic? Are they priced correctly?

How can you make the most profitable even more profitable (more marketing for example) and how can you raise the profitability of the lowest 5? Should you axe them? . We never sit on stock longer than 3 months if it doesn’t sell as I’ve said before it outs the door. No point having boxes of products gathering dust, discount them get them out and get your money back asap. Once I started listening to my gut buying only what I loved rather than buying things that I thought people would like our businesses turned a corner. I made the store look as jaw droopingly amazing as I could. I gave everything a ‘house style’ so the vibe of my dark inky house was carried through into the photography for the weekly mail shots we do to thousands around the world, to the website, the blog EVERYTHING got branded. Like I’ve said a zillion times if you want your business to be taken seriously you cannot DIY it yourself. Or you can but you need to go and get those Photoshop skills, and photography skills because your business and how it looks is your calling card to the world. It has to look super sleek and super professional. My brand has gotten me licensing deals around the world ( Debenhams and some other amazing brands which I can’t quite tell you about yet, soon though). It’s gotten me book deals,  its put me on the lecture circuit, it’s led to opportunities I wouldn’t have thought possible. Don’t under estimate the money needed to get this right is what I am trying to say. If you do it yourself then learn the skills otherwise you just won’t get taken seriously by the outside world.

Are you driving productivity or creating a block?

When you run you own business it is so easy to get disillusioned but as odd as this sounds no matter how awful and terrible some days are (and they are) no matter how I rant and say I’m throwing in the towel the next day when I’ve had a good sleep I’ve recalibrated my mood. I’m back on growth potential, plans, ideas to push it forward and not give up the fight.

How are you servicing your customers?

No customers no business simple as that. Are you collecting feedback to use as marketing collateral? Are customers talking about your biz if not why not? Is your product selection wrong? We have the most amazing customers from around the world and customer service is key. Of course there are going to be cracks there always are but invest in staff who love design and what you do and their enthusiasm will carry through. We have the best team right now, without them there is no business.

What is your unique selling point?  Are you marketing it?

Double question. Every business needs a USP without one you won’t last long I hate to say. It will set you apart from your competitors and give your business a unique edge! So start a list, what do you want your business to be known for? Are there any gaps in the market, why have other businesses become so successful? Drill down into it, read the business pages in the weekend papers, I buy the FT and a bunch of other broadsheets to constantly learn. Read biz books you can never stop learning.

No matter where your business is right now giving you business a good old MOT will only help it!

2015 is all about working smart, working better and taking the world by storm at least it is in my book!


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