Six Challenges Facing Business Owners

Having spent the last few weeks meeting with and chatting to small business owners around Essex, it became clear that they all seem to face similar challenges on a day-to-day basis.

As I expected, they are all time poor and there was an ongoing sense from these company owners or directors that they should be ‘hands on’ and across every facet of their business. But, as they told me, they may know all about their business but sometimes they need expert support and guidance to ensure their company grows and increases profitability.

Some of the challenges they faced included:

Customers
Customers are at the heart of any business. Without customers and the revenue generated then the business becomes just a good idea. One of the main challenges they faced was how to attract, retain and maximise their customers?

For me, the key to winning new business and ensuring customer retention is providing not only great products or services but adding a great customer service experience. A strategy needs to be developed for ensuring this customer growth and maximizing revenues from existing customers.

Marketing
Many business owners are not marketing experts and need strategic advice when it comes to developing a business positioning, a marketing plan, a campaign and thinking about the channels they wish to promote their business through.

The challenge is to enable the business to tell its story in a way that enables the business to grow and build customer engagement. Bringing an experienced marketer into the business either in-house or as a consultant to help develop this strategy can allow the business owner to focus on what he does best.

Time
For many business owners there are simply not enough hours in a day. All owners are stretched for time. Creating more time means sometimes saying no and focussing on what is essential for the success of the business.

This is where business owner often seek external advice from a business mentor or consultant to get them to focus on what is critical for the development of the business.

Financial Management
It is imperative for a small or medium-sized business to manage their cashflow effectively but sometimes managing the P&L seemed to be the third or fourth ‘order of the day’ for some business owners.

Getting good financial advice from a consultant who takes the time to analyse business performance, looks at aged debtors, analyses client profitability and puts effective financial planning measures in place mitigates the risk of the business getting into financial troubles.

Profitability
Business Planning seemed to be a bit of an afterthought for some of the business owners I spoke with, they were working more ‘on the fly’. Annual Planning should start a minimum of four months before the end of the financial year and should start with a formal annual budget, understanding the profitability of each client/customer, growth opportunities, business development planning and an analysis of the overheads required to service those clients/customers, market and grow the business, generate a great customer experience as well as delivering a sustainable profit margin.

Successful business owners create wealth and grow their business because they understand how to build a culture where sustainable profitability is a given.

Processes
Many business owners are not across all the processes involved in running a business so the challenge is to make the processes involved in running a business simpler. This is where an external consultant or expert support can prove highly beneficial.

Failure to manage processes such as sales, marketing, business development, building customer loyalty, operational management, HR and employee development can lead to businesses failing. Being stretched across business functions is not the best way for business owners to develop their business.

Lucemi Consulting are a Strategic Marketing and Business Consultancy based in Colchester, Essex, UK.

We help business owners and companies by providing strategic advice to find the right solution for their business challenges. We take on their challenges, analyse the issues, and help them in a collaborative way to get to the answer.

We work in partnership with clients, helping them adapt and evolve to their business and market environment, building their capabilities to ensure real change happens.

We work with clients on business positioning, business planning and development, operational performance and brand and marketing strategies.

Canada Express Entry – Canada Visa

Immigration through the Canada Express Entry Program

Canada Express Entry is an immigration procedure that helps skilled workers get selected to work in Canada under the country’s Federal economic programs. Applicants should submit their online profile to the Canada Express Entry pool. The provincial government and Canadian employers look for the best candidates who are selected by the Canadian Federal government to apply for permanent residency. Provincial governments look to select candidates from the Canada Express Entry system via Provincial Nominee programs in order to fulfil the labour requirements of local markets.

There are three types of Federal economic immigration programs:

  • the Federal Skilled Worker Program,
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program, and
  • Canadian Experience Class.

There are two main steps in applying for Canada express Entry:

Online Canada Express Entry Profile

Interested candidates need to fill an online profile. It is a secure way of providing information regarding their work experience, education, language ability, skills and other important details that will help the Canada Immigration authorities assess them:

A candidate who meets the criteria of one of the aforementioned Canada Federal Immigration programs will get selected into a pool of potential candidates, If a candidate doesn’t have a job offer in hand which is recognised by the Labour Market Impact Assessment, then it is important to register with the Employment and Social Development Canada’s (ESDC) Job Bank. This is applicable for applicants who don’t possess a nomination from a territory or a province in Canada. Job banks help candidates connect with potential employers in Canada.

Invitation for Permanent residence

There is a point based system called Comprehensive Ranking System that ranks candidates against each other. Points are given to them according to the information mentioned in their profile. The candidates with the highest scores in the pool are invited to apply for permanent residence’. A candidate is awarded points for skills, experience job offer and provincial nomination. Once selected, a candidate gets 60 days to fill the online application for permanent residence; Candidates can remain in the pool for up to 13 months. If they don’t receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence during that time, then may submit a new profile.

Eligibility

The Canada Express Entry program doesn’t have any pre defined skill list the applicants can present their credentials irrespective of what profession they are working in.For the language eligibility you need to meet the minimum level of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) and need to pass the test conducted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) with the required level of reading, writing and speaking skills.

 

7 Secrets Your Consultants Won’t Tell You

1. How to Pick the Right Consultant

When choosing a consultant, be sure they are qualified to handle matters pertaining to your investment. Search for professionals who have education and experience in the real estate field, in general, and rental properties, in particular. Begin your search for real estate experts by asking for referrals from individuals in the profession

2. Beware of “Know It Alls”

Beware of the consultant who is willing to give you advice on all subjects. Some people will expound on anything and everything, even if unqualified or unknowledgeable. Always make sure you have people working for you who have the expertise to get the job done.

3. Getting the Most Out of Your Consultants

The best way to get the most out of your meetings with consultants is to record them. You will be surprised to find how much you didn’t hear when you play it back. Let the consultant know before you begin that the meeting is being recorded and get approval. If there are any objections, get another consultant.

4. Controlling Fees

Your recording can also help you control billing costs. Consultants who bill on an hourly basis should give you a breakdown of hours (or a fraction thereof) based on specific matters. Make note of the hours recorded each time you use the consultant’s services. Then when you receive the bill, compare the hours. If the bill doesn’t agree with your figures, ask to see supporting documentation, such as copies of telephone bills and employee time sheets.

5. Avoiding Unnecessary Billings

Remember, you’re working with an expert. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Why do you have to research everything?” You’re right in thinking they should have a strong background in the area of their expertise. The more research, the more billable hours. Be careful!

Beware of the consultant who charges a flat work fee. I’ve talked with attorneys who charge $200 per hour for their time. However, if you ask the same attorney to prepare a living trust, the attorney might quote you a flat fee of $5,000, knowing that with the help of a secretary and a word processor, actual billable time won’t come close to that figure.

Insist on getting a written cost estimate before any work is performed. An experienced consultant should be able to do this. If the consultant cannot, find out why not. Unless you’re asking the consultant to do something that is outside his or her field of expertise, there shouldn’t be any reason why an estimate can’t be given. If you are asking for something outside of the consultant’s area of expertise, don’t. Get another consultant.

6. Protecting Yourself

All consultant reports should be in writing. Recommendations, estimates, interpretations, and opinions must be written down to avoid any misunderstandings. Your decisions are made based on the consultant’s input. Don’t be trapped into the “I said this instead of that” or “I meant this instead of that” syndrome. The degree for potential liability is extremely high. Protect yourself by getting everything in writing.

Have the recordings transcribed or make written notes of your meetings with the consultant. Be sure everyone involved receives a copy. The notes must reflect what took place at the meeting (and should include telephone conversations), the plan of action, and who is responsible for what. Always protect yourself from other peoples’ failures. Having it down in writing helps.

7. Keeping Control

Probably the most important rule to remember while working with consultants is to maintain complete control. Consultants provide the support for the decision-making process. It’s up to you to maintain control by making the decisions. Don’t relinquish command to anyone. If you lose authority, you’ll end up losing your money.

A Guide On Different Types Of Business Consultants

The consulting services industry is known as one of the most diversified markets available within the professional services industry and as a result, different types of consultants are found working in this industry. Being a professional consultant is not the protected professional title like any other professions and this is why the consultants can easily title themselves as management, strategy, business, IT, HR or financial consultants. Given the wide range of areas where the consultants mainly run, there has been an immense rise in the total number of independent consultants in the last several years.

This article aims to offer a glimpse of different types of business consultants, who specialize in business consulting services.

  1. Technology consultants: The main job of these consultants is to deliver software solutions, which can improve the business performance of the clients while converting the initiatives into reality. In other words, it is the strategic understand and knowhow of the main technology drivers to plan the adoption, integration and development of the advanced technology into the client business.
  2. HR or Human Resource Consultants: The main job of these consultants is to manage the workforce or human resources of any organization. Most of the companies now outsource the total job of attraction, selection, assessment, training and rewarding of the employees while overseeing the organizational culture and leadership. In this case, the human resource consultants co-ordinate between the companies and the employees and new candidates.
  3. Strategy consultants: These consultants assist companies to figure out any issues in the work strategy and operations and to improve the performance mainly through analyzing the present organizational issues and developing new plans for improving the business.
  4. Marketing consultants: The job of these people is to focus on developing different types of strategies to sell, promote and distribute services and goods of a company successfully to the targeted clients. The companies mainly take the help of these consultants to discover different creative techniques to launch and sustain their businesses.
  5. PR or public relations consultants: The main job of these consultants is to manage the flow of information between a company or any person and the public. These consultants build a point of view or reputation of the company which they serve in front of the investors, public, employees and partners.
  6. IT consultants: The job of this consultant is to recommend computer software, networks and hardware to develop high performing workflow and high performing software. Besides, these consultants also offer technical expertise in the fields of software programming, information system design and development.
  7. Finance consultants: Also known as the financial analysts or advisors, the professionals are licensed to help organizations or people to make smart financial decisions. To do this, these consultants use information about the stock values, market trends, taxes and other types of economic factors.
  8. Legal consultants: The legal consultants mainly play the role of identifying, solving and preventing legal issues faced by any company or any client. One can find different types of specializations in this field like legal consultation in banking, employment, corporate, contract, tax, intellectual property, information technology, real estate or trust.

Impactful Communication for Consultants

Consultants are chosen to solve problems since they carry deep understanding of the industry and domain they operate in. In addition to all the knowledge that a consultant carries, equally important is the ability to communicate clearly with the client and their stakeholders. Consultants often work with diverse groups in client organizations to understand problem areas, investigate root causes and recommend tailor-made solutions. A consultant who makes the effort to understand the background of his/her audience – their communication preferences, styles, needs, roles is definitely better placed in presenting recommendations in an influential way.

Communication is a skill that comprises of confidence, tact and grace. Information that is complex or technical in nature needs to be presented in business terms or in the language that the client understands. A consultant must display confidence in the clients’ mind, even when they have to respond with “I don’t know”. In the same breath, supplementing it with “I know someone who does” instills a sense of assurance in the client’s mind. Responding with tact and grace is an important skill, especially, when a stakeholder disagrees with what you are saying. In such cases, it would be wise to unearth the reason behind their stance and clarify by either rephrasing or by providing examples, scenarios or testimonials. In addition to this, below are three important tips that can help you overcome challenges when you communicate with clients.

Reply in the affirmative, but only after careful consideration…

Clients often expect consultants to offer multiple options, well researched insights and sometimes, even an unconventional approach for solving their problem. Saying yes to a client in these circumstances might only seem reasonable since they are paying for it. However, being excessively agreeable can cause problems to both clients and the consultant. Sometimes, clients are not exactly sure what the problem is or where it lies. Responding with a yes, in the spur of the moment, without evaluating the request and the implication it carries, leads to false promise. Over-committing and delivering below what is committed severely damages a consultant’s credibility. Analyzing the situation and probing further opens up newer perspectives to the problem at hand.

Buy time to examine and explore all aspects of what the customer has shared and then commit to the client’s needs by replying with an affirmative.

2. Do away with jargons; speak the “language” of the client…

It is of utmost importance for consultants to pick the right words when they are conversing with clients. Using phrases such as, I think you are wrong, with all due respect, let’s agree to disagree, it’s obvious or clear, etc. can come across as insulting to the client’s intelligence. It is prudent to also avoid jargons that your client may not be familiar with. You may be an expert in ERP, but shooting off technical terminologies such as JIT (Just-In-Time), HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule), etc. can confuse clients, put them off or even perceive you as a show-off.

Instead, below are a couple of techniques that you can adopt while conversing with clients in such tricky situations:

a. In my experience – this is a subtle approach to inform the client that they have done this sort of work before and they are familiar with the issues that generally cause these kind of problems. This also helps the consultant lead the client into a set of recommendations they want to present.

b. I agree and… – when a consultant uses this phrase, he/she is agreeing to certain aspects of what the client thinks or believes, while also putting forth their views on what else can be done to solve the problem at hand. This creates a win-win situation. Building trust in the initial stages of the engagement goes a long way in getting the client to accept their biases on what may not be working.

3. Quoting a ‘Best Practice’

One of the phrases that consultants use often (and sometimes overuse or abuse) is the term Best Practice. Many of these have been around for a while, for example, the Toyota Management System as a best practice. While in a discussion with a client, use examples, scenarios or cases where such best practices were tried and tested. This assures clients a sense of comfort that you are treading on a path that is not only verified but also works for them in their best interest.

As a consultant, your expertise garnered across several engagements provides a client with the ability to decide what works and what does not. A client may think that their problem is unique but you as a consultant may have solved a similar business problem in another assignment. In such cases, it is prudent to adopt best practices that have worked in similar assignments, rather than reinventing the wheel which takes valuable time and effort.

These three points go a long way in building trust with your client and in doing so, your client will be far more open to the recommendations you are presenting. Finally, to be successful in a consulting engagement, what matters is understanding these softer aspects and leveraging them to your advantage.

How to Improve Productivity Using a Strategic Planning Consultancy

If you want to be successful in business, you need to improve the productivity and performance of your company by developing strategic planning.

Productivity needs to be improved at individual and company level. Comprehensive, reality-based, accountable and action-oriented strategic planning can help a company enhance its productivity in the most efficient manner.

For developing a strategy to improve productivity of an enterprise, you can hire services of strategic planning . This post briefly discusses some of the benefits of hiring strategic planning firm, for increasing the performance and productivity of an enterprise in the most efficient manner.

Methods

Consulting firms ensure that each and every employee in a company receives some form of time management training. Time management training lets employees learn how to efficiently juggle their projects or work. To motivate your workforce to improve productivity, consulting firms help you assign tasks to particular workers as per their matching skills.

Set long term strategic objectives

Consulting firm will help you and your organization in setting up a single, variable and long term strategic objectives and goals, to improve performance of the organization.

Time management

As per recent survey, it was reported that average employee spends only 40% of their time on tasks that are directly related to a company’s goals. Given these statistics, it is easy to see how hiring strategic planning consultancy services can improve productivity of your company.

Expert insight

Popular and well-esteemed consultants helps workers effectively prioritize their tasks that matter most to an organization.

Evaluate and decide strategies

Consulting firms make use of systematic tools for evaluating various alternatives emerged from brainstorming. With proper evaluation of different strategies, consultants help you to decide which strategies to choose, in order to increase the productivity of the company.

Training

You are required to provide proper and effective training to all of your employers, when making sudden changes in the company. Esteemed and experienced consultants will teach you on addressing problems related to lack of action, no direction, no execution and lack of resources in the most systematic manner.

Generate strategic options

By analysing key strategic factors, consultants and consulting firms help you generate more strategic plans. They help your develop multiple strategies for improving the performance and productivity of your enterprise.

Engage people affected by the strategic planning

With the aid of their years of understanding, knowledge and experience of strategic planning, consulting firms involve all those individuals who will be deeply affected by the planning.

This is done by respecting the personal interest of all the individuals who will be affected by the planning. They systematically engage people to operate in accordance to different stages of the planning processes.

Considerations

Consulting firms bring different perspectives into consideration, when you are trying to implement strategic planning in your company. You have to make use of micro-managing techniques with some employees, while some employees will feel empowered by knowing that they can plan their time as per their needs.

Consulting Helped Build A Business From Scratch

My passions have always been gardening and painting. The two seem to go together and this was born out when starting a business in landscaping. It was natural to paint a picture of the finished design in my head. This led me to undertake counselling for those who could not imagine what a garden should look like. My long-standing interest in the outdoors held me in good stead as my little fingers were always in dirt from the time I could toddle.

Once advertising started and my first consulting job came to me it led to other things. The lady was so impressed with what she was offered that she paid me $400 to draw a plan of it. This was something right up my ally.

Putting my imagination to work the plan was a great success and before long there were some 2-3 per week along with consulting jobs. The main requiring for doing something like this is confidence. If one shows that they know what they are talking about and can satisfy their client with quality work, then it has to be a success.

Of course my enterprising didn’t stop there. The main point of this article is that people need to step out of their comfort zone and use their hobbies and interests to build a business. They have to start from scratch to do it but if they have enough confidence and knowledge they will success.

Mistakes will happen and that is the learning curve one has to go through. Costs of consulting work doesn’t have to be over the top as there is no outlay to doing it. Start small and build up. For consulting my charge was $75 and that is more than affordable when most landscape designers might charge 10 times that much for the same advice

Caring Professional Versus Knowing Professional

This is a message for all of my colleagues out there who work in the area of professional development and training, consultancy, coaching and mentoring.

As professionals and business owners our professional or industry knowledge is important. People expect us to know what we are talking about. They expect that we are someone they can trust to provide us with a service or product they want and to have all the required knowledge about it.

Have you noticed, however, that it’s not always the cleverest, the ones who’ve done the most training or got the most qualifications who are most successful?

Once we became the preferred service provider solely on the basis of our industry experience or the fact that we were highly qualified. If you’d been in business for a long time or if you had multiple university degrees, you had to be the go to person. That’s no longer the case.

People now want, as well, or even more so, someone they can trust.

They want someone who will listen to them and try and understand their needs and wants.

They want someone who understands the outcome they are trying to achieve with a product or service.

They want someone who genuinely cares about them and getting the best result for them.

They want someone who provides service second to none.

They want someone with good Soft Skills – good interpersonal, communication and people skills.

They Will Then Do Business With Us.

There’s a frequently quoted comment from Maya Angelou that is related to what we are talking about here.

People will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did,

but people will never forget

how you made them feel.

So ask yourself: what do I need to do, so that every client or customer I meet, feels that I really care about them? What do I need to change in myself so that they know that I am deeply committed to helping them achieve what is most important for them?

When we focus on our clients and customers in this way, they grow to KNOW, LIKE and TRUST us and then they will work with us and engage our services, buy our products.

So the message is, your Soft Skills are as important as your hard technical skills in serving our clients and customers.

PS: And this is equally applicable to all you leaders and managers out there. If you want to get the best from your people, show them how much you care.

Using Blockchain Technology Companies for Trade Finance

One of the most propitious industries for blockchain technology is trade finance. Many of the world’s largest banks are putting time into its research and development.

Thanks to a consortium of 71 global financial leaders, R3CEV, much has been uncovered about potential uses of blockchain technology.

Since 2016, R3 has executed several pilot runs in the marketplace to complement their research. They will continue to improve these strategies until ready to fully enter the market.

So, what are some of their findings of potential use? Here’s the future of trade finance with blockchain technology companies.

Monitor Real-Time Status and Condition

One of R3’s members, CBA, is a leading contributor to the research of blockchain technology. Currently, they are undergoing 3 different projects to analyze blockchain use.

They are conducting a trial run with exporters who ship cotton. A humidity monitor is placed inside the canister, which is linked to IoT and GPS.

This monitor allows consumers to track their shipments with real-time status. Also, they are able to evaluate the condition of their product as it travels through.

Other national blockchain technology companies are running pilots, similar to this study. In Singapore, Hellosent is conducting similar tests. However, they’re studying the import of French wine.

Eliminate Unpaid Settlements

A growing issue for grain farmers is a financial loss due to trade insolvencies. An estimated $50 million was lost in 2014 because of this activity.

It takes roughly 4-6 weeks for a farmer to receive payment for their shipments. At that, often times conflict arises between farmers and buyers over payment complications (failing to pay the appropriate amount, late payment, etc.).

Australian start-up, Full Profile, has taken matters into their own hands.

Their blockchain platform allows farmers to now receive automatic payment upon delivery of grains. This will significantly reduce the risk of dispute between farmers and buyers.

Once Full Profile’s application is fully functional in a domestic setting, they will expand on external trade.

Digitize

The use of blockchain technology can also be beneficial to reducing financial loss and risk. Upon further development, it will be able to digitize sales and legal arrangements.

Trade finance is an unwieldy industry, that relies heavily on settlements and contracts. Currently, most of these agreements are handled the old-fashioned way: paper copies.

Blockchain technology will remove the need for this paper-based system. This ultimately reduces the risk of financial loss as documents are often lost, mishandled, or tarnished.

Electronic documentation can be tracked much more efficiently. Also, it cuts out the need for a third-party verification system.

Interested in Learning More About Blockchain Technology Companies?

Blockchain technology creates transparency in financial trade between buyers and sellers. From the moment an order is made up until payment, blockchain is capable of simplifying the trade process.

Consultants: Do You Believe In Your Value? 4 Keys

While organizations, should seek the best possible leadership, and the utmost involvement, from their leaders, and stakeholders, there are often times, when a particular project, activity, etc, necessitates, or indicates, using a qualified consultant! However, it’s important to remember, all consultants are not created equal, nor possess the same skills, assets, attitude, abilities, or understanding/ empathy. Selecting the wrong individual, for your circumstances, often achieves little, constructive purpose, and is often, merely costly, and/ or mis – directed! We often, fail to evaluate and consider, whether someone, believes in themselves, and the value, they provide! Therefore, this article will briefly examine, and discuss, 4 keys, in terms of, considering, and evaluating, whether the consultant, believes in himself, and his personal value.

1. Why do you charge, a particular fee? Regardless of one’s field of specialty, there are several factors, which determines, the fee, one asks for, etc! How would you determine your fee, and why? If you don’t believe you provide, a high quality, meaningful value, why should anyone, be willing to hire you? How do you excel, and provide, some sort of unique service, and/ or level of advice?

2. Perfect, and believe in, your elevator speech: If someone asks you, or if the moment presents itself, how might you effectively, entice others, to listen to you, your advice, and the directions, you suggest? Consider your elevator speech, which is, how you might explain, what you do, and how it serves others, in the time, it takes to ride an elevator! Remember, unless you, truly, believe in what you say, why should anyone, even, consider, using you, as a consultant! Qualified consulting, means focusing on the needs, concerns, and requirements, of those you serve!

3. Set the example!: Avoid proceeding, with the mindset, of, Do what I say, not what I do! Consultants must be meaningful leaders, who inspire, care and direct others, to be, the best, they can possibly be! If you consult, it’s important, to set the proper example, and show others, the best, possible path of action!

4. What unique assets, do you bring, to the table?: Consultants must ask themselves, how are they different, and what unique assets, skills, and abilities, do they possess, and bring, to the table! For example, an event planning consultant, must be the definitive authority, and clearly demonstrate, a combination of skills, which, under – promise, and over – deliver!

You aren’t a true, professional consultant, until/ unless, you, first believe in the value, you provide, and then deliver a quality, consistent product, to your clients! Will you dedicate yourself, to becoming, the best, you can possibly be?