7 Tips to develop your business this year

Gugu Mjadu
For many of us, the start of a new year tends to bring with it a renewed sense of focus and energy for achieving specific goals. For entrepreneurs, channelling this positivity into effective business planning and tackling challenges strategically will set you apart from your competitors.

This is according to Gugu Mjadu, spokesperson for the 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, who says that with the South African economy, and Rand seemingly in a recovery phase, entrepreneurs should adopt an optimistic outlook and seek out opportunities that exist in the economy so they can take advantage of them.

“Looking beyond the highs and lows of a fluctuating economy in 2017, a priority goal for many businesses in 2018 will be to develop and grow”, she says, “and there are strategies that entrepreneurs can assume to achieve this”.

Mjadu lists 7 tips to advance a business this year:

1. Review the previous year
“An intuitive strategy not only involves a deep understanding of your business environment and its prospects but also involves a sober analysis of previous actions and the evaluation of their performance,” she says. “It is also a good idea to cross-check the year’s performance against any goals that had previously been set – were these goals attained, and what could have been improved upon, if anything.”

2. Review the market
An intensive analysis of the local and global market will help to ensure you are in tune with the world within which your business operates. “Take a hard look at your business’s community, country and the global markets for opportunities, trends, changes and threats. Keep a careful eye on your competitors and customers to ensure that your product offering responds to real market needs.”

3. Assess business systems
“A business’ systems; such as payroll, customer relationship management, credit control and supply chain, are not eternally effective,” says Mjadu, who explains that entrepreneurs should assess what the business needs for the year ahead and ensure that the business’ current systems have the capacity to fulfil those needs”. She adds that updating and “fixing bugs” in your systems will cost you far less than the cost of using outdated systems.

4. Keep a strict eye on cash flow
“Cash flow mismanagement is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to business development,” says Mjadu. She explains that cash flow should not be handled in the moment, but should be planned for strategically to ensure that there are no nasty surprises and that obstacles can be handled proactively.

5. Listen to your customers
Mjadu says that it goes without saying that your customers are your most important stakeholder: “Find out what their needs are and put plans in place to respond accurately and timeously to those needs”. She adds that it is also a good idea to find out how consumers are feeling about their finances and the economy by doing some research, as this will help your business messaging, marketing strategy and product offering.

6. Revisit your personal and business vision
“A common mistake that many entrepreneurs make is thinking that a business plan (and vision) is a once-off document. Instead, these documents should be used and referred to often, to make sure that the business continues to align with its original vision.” Mjadu adds that any change to the vision, whether business or personal, requires a strategy revision to match the new goals.

7. Plan for challenges
Mjadu says that while some challenges are difficult to foresee, others can be anticipated and proactively planned for. She advises that business owners keep an eye out for current affairs that could impact the economy. She says that it is also important to keep an emergency fund for unforeseen financial emergencies.

Mjadu concludes that by using new-year positivity to put sustainable strategies in place now, businesses will not only be more resilient and have more capacity for growth despite the changes in the economy, but they will contribute to its improvement, which is what South Africa needs as entrepreneurs hold the key to driving economic growth.