Navigating the Minefield

We’ve talked about the importance of a clear vision which then translated into the need for effective goal setting.

Of course, life is not as simple as deciding what you want and how you will know when you’ve got it. In business, as in life, we are subject to constant change and challenge.  The market in which we operate is ever changing, as we drive our business forward all too often nasty surprises lay in store. It’s a little like navigating your way through a minefield blindfolded.


The IOD recently highlighted the key challenges they believe face business today and broke them down into external and internal problems. Those that are external allow us little control over their arrival whereas those that are internal we should be able to anticipate and manage away before they occur.

Let’s look at them in turn:

External issues include, but are not limited to:

  • The impact of the economic climate on demand, costs of external supplies, technology,  taxes,  legislation and red tape, employee costs and skills shortages, bank lending policies.

Certainly these are all genuine challenges, but in our experience are not the crucial ones that cause so many owners sleepless nights (with the possible exception of bank lending policies).

Also competition is an area of constant concern and is high on the list for monitoring in businesses of all sizes, and rightly so. As is risk management posed by major customers and suppliers. The risk to business should they not be in a position to buy or supply is too often not evaluated and addressed. How often do we hear of a company succumbing to financial difficulties which then impacts on their customers or suppliers?

This raises an important question. Should the IOD have included these as external issues? As small business owners they are issues over which we have little or no control and impact us greatly, yet are they truly external issues, or are they part of the minefield we must navigate?

However, let’s put them to one side for the time being and look at the internal problems.

Internal problems include, but are not limited to:

  • poor cash flow, lack of funds for growth, slow or non-payment by debtors, lack of clear direction and planning, staffing issues due to ineffective leadership, lack of new customers due to ineffective marketing and lead generation strategies, fierce price competition because of lack of product differentiation from the competition, poor sales conversion, inadequate management reporting and KPI’s

These form the bread and butter tasks we address with clients daily and are endemic in the business environment. Often resources are limited and time is almost exclusively focused on “getting the job done” and these internal problems are like mines in a field - hidden from view, deadly if mistreated, yet easily avoided with a bit of careful planning. Surprise is often the reaction when we implement small changes with a business owner to allow them to move forward with a new confidence and belief.

There is no magic here as these internal issues overwhelm us and make us feel more like slaves to our business than in control of it. The outcome is often like a rabbit frozen in the headlights as uncertainty leads to immobilization! If I don’t take a step, I won’t trip the mine!



In short we cannot see a safe path through the mines.

Simple solutions often exist, but are outside our field of view and getting help is key and often the most cost effective solution (even if we are a little biased).

So, back to the issues of competition and risk management of suppliers and customers.  Consider these questions for your business:

  1. Do you actively monitor your competitors? Or, as we often find are they on your mind and affect your pricing, but are done on feel rather than cold hard fact
  2. Why do your customers come to you (or don’t) rather than your competitors? Again is this based on guesswork or fact?
  3. What would happen if you lost your two most important clients?
  4. What would happen if you lsot your two most important suppliers?
  5. Can you see how a proper vision and clear goals improves how your customers perceive you?
  6. How many of the external and internal problems we have mentioned affect your business and what will you do about them?

If you have all the answers or if “none of this applies to you”, then don’t read on.

However, if you are still reading the good news is solutions do exist. It is obvious to the enlightened that at some time or other in the life of a small business owner, outside help is essential. So, if you want to find a map through the mines, give your business a boost, or simply don’t know who to talk to, take advantage of our Free Business Review Meeting.

Should you choose to enlist our services you will be pleasantly surprised at how cost effective they are, especially as the first step really is free! Just point yourself in the right direction!

“If it’s difficult we do it immediately. If it’s impossible it may take a little longer.  Miracles are occasionally sanctioned.”

Until next time

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