Staying Afloat In A Competitive Business Environment

Our streets, roads, the print and electronic media are awash with different offers from manufacturers and service providers. The one I enjoy so much is the one between the phone manufacturers. The competition is so hot that Apple and Samsung had to extend their “fight” to the court room 🙂  I also read online that one major phone manufacturer, and a one-time major player in the phone business, has been having some “survival” meetings with some organisations. How sad! But that is the nature of business. It’s like a game – no pity for the opponent and all the players cannot be winners.

As a consumer, I love competition for so many reasons. It affords us the privilege of having alternatives to choose from; it forces businesses (serious-minded businesses, if I may add) to see consumers as being the most important factor to consider and hence, be the focal point in business decision making process; it makes pricing to be at consumers’ advantage; it forces businesses to constantly seek for their loyalty; and it forces businesses that are not quality-conscious, to have a rethink……The benefits continues……

No doubt, as consumers are enjoying these benefits, businesses grapple everyday with the art of “out-smarting” one another in a game, an interesting one at that, that involves winning as many customers as they can, over to their side. Sadly, the inability to cope with competition is a major reason why so many businesses all over the world are finding it very tough to operate, and in extreme cases, many have “crawled” out of existence!

Competition has been the bane for so many businesses that have either not mastered the tricks of the game; cannot withstand it or have simply believed that businesses can survive on luck, mediocrity or chance for so long.

I got the urge to do this post after my wife started complaining that the number of businesses competing with her was rising every day. The fact is that the only way to avoid competition is to “close shops.”  Aside from legal monopolies (organisations given the legal power to be the sole producer or seller of a product/service), every business attracts other businesses in the same line of trade. Even where turnover/profit is not encouraging, or where a business enterprise is creative and launches an entirely new product or service, other people/businesses would still join the market and create competition.

So, since competition is inevitable, and the foundation of competition is “winner takes all,” what will a business do?  Apply for a legal monopoly status? 🙂 Well, I am not aware of any country where that is done. Cut corners? That too, is not a good business option as it is a short-lived solution that can even boomerang. So, what’s my take on competition?

Below are six [to avoid putting up a very lengthy post] of the tips I shared with my wife…..

1. See business like a boxing match. In a boxing match, boxers fix their eyes on each other to counter every move of the opponent. In doing this, they have to be alert and conscious of their environment – a case of complete alertness. Thus, businesses have to constantly be at alert – conscious of, and pre-emptive of competitors’ actions and inactions. I feel this among phone manufacturers this days. To me, competition among phone manufacturers is  good case study for my post.

2. Do something extra.something special.  Make your product or service very outstanding. Relate with your customers in a way your competitors are not known for. Give them a very competitive price, without lowering standards. Use marketing campaigns and strategies that your competitors have not explored or have not even thought of. Give your customers reasons to stick to you and give your competitors‘ customers reasons to cross over to you.

3. If making huge profits was your major focus, think of this : while you are busy chasing money, your competitors are busy strategizing on increasing customer base, including, of course, winning the hearts of your own customers over. So, my take on this is: re-strategise by making customer-focused strategies to be your main focus.

4. Where you do not see your customers for a while, do not wait for them. Reach out to them. In this age of high tech communication, distance or large number of customers is not an acceptable and reasonable excuse.  By just by clicking “enter” or “send” on your computer or mobile device, you can reach millions of customers. A simple message that reads : “Hi valued customer. I/we just want to wish you a splendid weekend” can go a very long way in reawakening a dwindled customer loyalty.

5. Every consumer loves convenience. Think of ways you can create convenience for your customers. There are many ways that this can be done. This however depends on the nature of your product. You can carve out time for home service, break bulk, arrange for delivery of the goods to the door-step of the consumers, ease usage, among others. All of these are aimed at satisfying different groups of consumers rather than seeing the entire market as being the same.

6. There is no doubt that the human resource “drive” an organisation towards growth, stagnation, decline or eventual collapse. It becomes MANDATORY therefore for businesses to engage and maintain(through motivation and excellent welfare and staff development packages) goal getters and workers who understand what business growth and success is all about. Thus, merit and not nepotism or sentiments should be a business’ over-riding criteria in employment.

Of special mention here, is the caliber of the CEOs and top management personnel who take far-reaching decisions affecting the entire business. This days, wrong choices of who pilots the affairs of a business would be a costly mistake as it could place a business on the path of failure, stagnation, inability to stand competition, and then collapse.

I hope you found my tips useful.  I would like to read your reactions 🙂

Thanks a lot for your time and wishing you loads of luck in your business 🙂

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Business Start up : Step By Step Tips

Image courtesy M - Pics/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy M – Pics/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I once heard a friend say he needed money to start up a business. To him, starting a business simply involved having a fat bank account and hiring people to work for him. But experience over time has proved that notion to be “quite easier said than done.”

I got the inspiration to write this post after witnessing the “collapse” of a business that was barely six months old. What could have gone wrong?

A number of factors could be responsible for business failure at early days of existence. In most, if not all the cases, owners of such businesses did not take some basic start-up issues into consideration.

The first thing in business start-up should be identifying a need to satisfy. This is compulsory as the main purpose of setting up a business is to make money; and to make money you need to sell goods and/or services that people are willing to buy. So, there must be a need. Where you chose to sell what is not needed by the consumers, it would take a lot of effort to attract people.

In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg said  when he lunched “Thefacebook,” that “everyone’s been talking a lot about a universal face book within Harvard.” He also stated his intention to create a universal website that can contact people around the university.

Zuckerberg was able to identify a need which had to be filled. Today, Facebook has over one billion members !

Once this is settled, the next question should be “can I fix this need? Do I have the ability and skills to fill this need? So many businesses have collapsed simply because their owners were mediocres in their chosen line of businesses. Most successful businesses are those whose owners are producing/rendering high quality goods/services to the consumers, because they have the skills and expertise to do so. Zuckerberg (and many orhers) did not stop at seeing a need; he had the skills and also gathered capable hands to work with him. Blackberry, Nokia, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Samsung, LG, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, Honda,  Facebook, Tweeter, Yahoo, Google, Forbes, CNN, BBC, MTN, Globacom, Etisalat…… These and many more have consistently retained customer loyalty, and hence remained on top, for being synonymous with TOP QUALITY products.

With the twin issues of need identification and ability to deliver settled, it is very compulsory to find out the feasibility of the venture. It is necessary to find out the viability of the business. It would not be worth putting so much money, time and energy into a business that would be profitable only in the short-run ; or a business that will take “forever” to recoup the start-up capital. A critical analysis of the proposed business is necessary here. A lot of research is compulsory. This must be thorough as wrong decisions and steps taken could be far-reaching.

In order to have a business identity, it is necessary to have a business name and register it too. Care must be taken when choosing a name. Apart from not choosing an already existing name, it is good to choose a simple

ts: savings, loans from financial institutions, disposal of properties and many more. For a new business, the options are not as many as existing businesses. Capital will also be dependent on the scale the owner wants to start off – small, medium or large.

Another crucial factor to consider is the location of the business. Businesses have to be located where its customers can easily find them. By extension, some businesses are not suited for some areas. For example, locating a school in a very busy area might not be a good idea; while it will be suitable for a cyber cafe, dry cleaning or trading business. A wrongly located business is like having a very beautiful garden on the last floor of a high rise building that people hardly go to. It’s as good as the garden does not exist at all. In this circumstance, the owner(s) of the business have a lot to do in terms of creating awareness for both the business and its products, using a lot of advertising and personal selling.

Once a suitable location has been found, the next thing would certainly be to put the place in order. Office furniture, electronics, equipment and fittings speaks a lot about you and your business. They give a first impression about you and the business. In fact, it might determine the economic class of customers that would eventually be patronising you later. The rich love going to shops and offices which match their economic status. So, do not be surprised if they prefer the shop or office of a competitor if yours is of low standards. The poor get intimidated by an expensive-looking shop/office. But everyone loves a decent place of business. So the choice is yours.

For a business that is in the service industry, you are good to go. The issue of hiring someone or not is entirely up to you to decide. However, for a medium sized business, you might need to hire someone to reduce your work load. Be careful here because a lot of businesses today are either facing serious problems or have collapsed because of the choice of staff they employed.

For a trading business, it is time to get your supplies and start business. Care must be exercised here too to ensure that you chose reliable suppliers – in terms of quality and timing of supplies.

To cap it all, aggressive promotional efforts is needed at this stage. Advertising, sales promotion, personal selling and public relations activities are needed to :

* Create awareness for the new business and your products

* Win and build up customer loyalty

* Grab and build a share of the market

* Give competitors an early fight

* Impress everyone that has something to do with your business (stakeholders)

A lot of options are available for each promotional effort. Choice is dependent on funds available, nature of product, competitors’ activities, among others.

In the coming days of the business everything has to be done to build up a customer base as well as customer loyalty. It is also necessary to be conscious of practices capable of causing business stagnation and collapse.

However all of these require a lot of patience, determination, resilience, foresight, planning, guts, tolerance, wisdom, and like I always add …..prayers. I cannot do (or advice anyone) anything without God’s direction, involvement and assistance.

In Michael Jackson’s words, “…all is possible, if GOD is on my side…”- (Speechless, Dangerous album)

Good luck to you and thanks for your time.

Related post :

Customer loyalty : A condition for business survival

Small business’ practices and the issues of stagnation and collapse 

Decision making : The most sensitive and far reaching function of a manager 

Take good care of your employees…

Outsmart your competitors or they will kick you out of business