In the UK, November 2017, one of the key economic problems outlined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, was the matter of productivity.  The measure of productivity is complex, because it relates predominantly (but not exclusively) to the amount of money earned on the physical output of goods or services.

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The majority of politicians say “businesses hate uncertainty” as though this were some profound wisdom, but they fail to add that life in business is one never-ending uncertainty.  Where will we get our next contract?  Is everything going ok?  Are we making a profit?  What new laws have we got to comply with?  Are our competitors getting ahead of us?

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Some websites are used to make sales. Others are used for communication and marketing (e.g. to sign up for a free newsletter in order to occasionally make sales offers by mail, email or a specific website landing page.)

No matter which category your website falls into, it is vital that you learn how to look at your website statistics so that you can improve your success rate.

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The global economy has been in a poor state since 2008 and it is therefore understandable that most businesses have lowered their expectations on profit and have gone into “survival mode” at the expense of progress. Many businesses have shrunk considerably; economically and in terms of headcount and assets.

The dangers of a slow reaction to an upturn

There is a danger, however, that the actions which you took to ensure that your business did well in an economic downturn become deeply entrenched and can damage your business when the economy improves.

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If you had to pick one technology that business needs above all others, it is probably email. The value of email grew exponentially when devices were invented that could enable people to receive emails while they were out of the office. (Remember, “push” email was an expression that people once used in the early days. It is now taken for granted).

The undoubted kings of business email on the move were Blackberry. They had great devices, a useable physical keyboard and great reliability. At the height of their powers, they had 50% of the smart phone market. This is now down to 1%.

So what happened to create such a dramatic fall in market share, almost to the point that their very existence is in jeopardy? One word – strategy!

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For more than thirty years the words “middle management” have been anathema to management commentators. With constant talk of “flat structures”, downsizing and the upsurge of technology, it would be easy to infer that all the problems in organisations were caused by a tier of middle management and that the people occupying these positions were somehow harmful to the organisation.

This has always looked to me like a gross over-simplification and misrepresentation of the facts because it ignores the history of why middle management evolved in the first place. Simply put, middle management evolved as companies became larger and there was a need to spread the management word and controls throughout the organisation, which could not be done by a small group of people at the top.

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Ironically, many organisations use a tough economic environment to drive out changes that are often difficult to achieve when things are buoyant. This means that a recession can be one of the best times to embark upon a continuous improvement programme.

During a recession it is inevitable that businesses find it more difficult to make a profit and public sector organisations are asked to deliver more service for less money.

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Successful businesses invariably have a good business strategy. They understand their market and they work out the best way in which they can serve this market profitably. When they do that, everything else falls into place, including marketing, sales and profit.

Conversely, businesses that have yet to tap into their full potential invariably have no viable business strategy.

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Every business should go through the process of change management. It is inconceivable for any business to go too long without changing some aspects of the way that it works, simply because things change all around them.

The main things that change fall into one of four categories:

Therefore, change management should be the norm in any business, providing you follow the golden rule of change management, which is:

“Never change for the sake of it; only change for real, operational benefits”

The difference between change management and business transformation is one of degree. If your business needs a major overhaul it will no longer be enough for you to carry out a process of continuous improvement of the type that you can deliver through a change management process. You may need to carry out some substantial “root and branch” changes to your business, even if it causes some short term disruption. Such changes come under the heading of Business Transformation.

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Every business needs written procedures which define how business is conducted day to day.

Every business regardless of their size or complexity has a set of procedures (written or just by custom and practice), whether they are formally recognised or operated by people on “autopilot”. The purpose of business processes and quality management is to ensure that things are done well and consistently, regardless of which person carries out the task.

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A business strategy should be brief and to the point. The whole purpose of it is to give you the opportunity to set the overall direction of your business. This means that you need to be able to see the wood for the trees, so the last thing you need is a lot of detail.

A business plan, however, is a good place to think through some of the detail of your strategy and check that it is feasible. Although brevity is always the favoured option when it comes to managing a business you should not shy away from fleshing out some of the detail in your business plan.

A business plan is necessary whether you are a start-up business or an established business, although the reasons for producing them are different.

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Running a business is one of the most fulfilling and important jobs in the world. Your customers depend on you; your people and their families rely upon you and your suppliers look to you for more business.

If you get it right, you will generate profits which lead to personal wealth and job satisfaction. If you get it wrong, you risk losses or, at worst, the collapse of the business.

That is why it is so important to have a strategy. A strategy is a plan for the general direction of your business. You might think of it as the same way as planning a holiday; the first thing to decide is where you want to go. You then find out what dates are suitable, decide whether you can afford it and agree the finer details.

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In June 2013, approximately 30,000 people from businesses of all types and sizes gathered at the ExCeL centre in London to see up to the minute technology and services and quite simply to network with each other.

At our busy stay out front stand, we chatted with hundreds of business owners and managers and a substantial number of public sector managers. Here are the key lessons that we learnt from them:

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Whatever the level of performance of your organisation, it is always possible to make improvements. Our Top12 actions to improve every business are:

  1. Prepare a strategy and business plan. There is nothing more powerful in business than to decide where you are heading and plan how you are going to get there.
  2. Set up first class administration systems. Any business runs more efficiently if you know where everything is and have a system to run every business process.
  3. Review and plan finances meticulously. It is imperative that your business has sound financial information and that you use it to monitor and improve cash flow and profitability.

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Even in tough economic circumstances, it is beneficial for every business to think about growth. You can be sure that your competitors will be looking to obtain your customers or your share of the market.

There are many reasons that growth is beneficial to your business.

  1. Greater profitability by spreading your overheads. You may need a telephonist whether you have 10 or 20 people. The more you expand, the greater the value you will get from each item on your list of overheads.
  2. You will have more customers. This will give you greater security. If some customers switch to your competitors, you will still have a larger volume of business.

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When good news is in short supply in the world of politics and finance, it is easy to lose confidence. However, the fact is that all organisations are capable of taking action to reduce their exposure to events and plot a course to success

There are two things that really matter if you are to get ahead in business. The first is your attitude and the second is the action that you take. It is important to remember that management is all about taking action. During good times it is important that you allow your business to flourish and control your expansion. In tough times, you will want to protect your business against poor performance and falling revenue and profit

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