Any other business

Facing challenges: The businesses undeterred and winning

9 min read

09 November 2015

Former editor

We hear a lot about the challenges that face businesses up and down the country, but perhaps less about how business owners are tackling them. For some, overcoming these obstacles can be the key to unlocking their ambitions and achieving growth.

In association with American Express.

Real Business has heard from a number of different enterprise leaders who are rising to their particular business challenges, not only to realise their growth potential, but also to reap the personal rewards that come from running your own enterprise.

Scorpion Shoes

Entrepreneur Moji Rezvani is a business owner who has the fortunate ability to look back on nearly 20 years of endeavour. His company, Scorpion Shoes, which blends “bricks and clicks” to sell fashion footwear in store and online, was set up in 1998 and has gone from being in the red when he first took over, to running a successful business with a seven figure turnover today.

In that time, Rezvani has remained focused on evolving the business to stay ahead of the game. In addition to going online to compliment their in-store offer, Scorpion Shoes has teamed up with other small businesses to talk to suppliers collectively and find products which aren’t available widely, “just to certain independent players like us,” Rezvani said.

It’s a highly collaborative and innovative approach from Rezvani, and one that means he is better able to compete with bigger high street rivals and continue to grow turnover. It’s an approach he wouldn’t be able to take without being in control of cash flow, which he says is a particular challenge for retail businesses like his. In addition to now employing 40 people, making payroll a significant outlay, the company regularly has to refresh stock to stay on top of current trends. That’s where having a flexible credit limit (1) courtesy of his American Express® Small Business Card, proves helpful to financial management. It means he is able to make bigger stock purchases without having to worry so much about cash flow, being able to track all spending in real-time.

EverythingBranded.co.uk

Another SME which has proved adept at dealing with the challenges of competition and achieving growth year-on-year is EverythingBranded.co.uk, a business dealing in promotional products and corporate gifts. It was founded by Paul Rowlett, who was out of work before starting up the company. He credits the time he spent in the Navy at a young age for instilling in him the self-discipline and drive to carve out his own, more productive, destiny as an entrepreneur.

His wife, Jennifer Rowlett, now runs the business on a day-to-day basis and is in control of the company’s finances, having left behind a teaching career to do so. She explained: “EverythingBranded.co.uk’s hardest periods come in December and January with many clients wanting to delay pre-Christmas payments till the new year.” 

“Also dealing with large companies as clients, which often have longer payment terms, means having a financial buffer is pivotal.”

Jennifer added that her key motivation for getting to grips with cash flow is paying their staff on time, but acknowledged that an additional benefit is that this frees her and Paul up to make strategic decisions for the good of the business. Paul talked about the fierce competition that EverythingBranded.co.uk faces in the online marketplace – having to spend more to get his business noticed online. Nevertheless, talking to the couple, it is clear they know their market inside out; they are confident in their company’s strengths and in marketing these accordingly and are putting their growth plans into action.

Roked Filling Station

Roked Filling Stations in Salford is another business undeterred by the challenges of staying competitive. Having taken over a petrol station and retail store from their father, Mubarak Roked, and his sister Farhana, invested heavily in the business which allowed them to snap up a second site.

The business has enjoyed relatively quick growth, but Mubarak Roked explained that remaining competitive on price and securing repeat custom are ongoing challenges. Access to finance and securing strong supplier contracts are not always straightforward.

Roked Filling Stations uses cash and carry for the retail side of things, but finds stock is always a big expense up front. Mubarak Roked explained that the access to a flexible spending limit (1), provided by his American Express Card, allows him to make larger and broader stock orders – improving margins and giving customers a better range when they visit. Both of which contribute to the ongoing success of the business.

From our interviews it is clear that getting the right financial management and tools in place can play a key role in enabling future business success. Conversely, poor cash flow has the capacity to hold entrepreneurs and the companies they run back, because there is not the financial freedom available to invest and grow.

Stacey Sterbenz, from American Express Small Business Services, commented: “We recently surveyed 500 small firms across Britain* and the findings paint a positive picture for the nation’s entrepreneurs, with over 80 per cent of small businesses surveyed expecting to grow this year compared to 43 per cent last year. Businesses also told us they expected to increase turnover by an average of 24 per cent in next 12 months.”

Sterbenz added, “Of course, success is not a foregone conclusion – small business owners tell us that the challenges they face are many. Our experience in providing financial management tools for small business owners not only helps to ease some of the day to day challenges that may distract them from growth but allows us to continue providing valuable support as these businesses seek to expand.”

To find out more about how American Express Business Cards could help you manage cash flow, whilst earning rewards on virtually all your spend, visit the American Express Website.

*The American Express Small Business Barometer was commissioned by American Express and conducted by market researcher Coleman Parkes in summer 2015. The research polled 500 decision makers in businesses with under 50 employees in the UK.

Terms and conditions:

(1) No pre-set spending limit does not mean unlimited spending. Purchasing power can adjust with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to us, and other factors. We reserve the right to apply temporary spending limits in accordance with the Cardmember Agreement.

Click here for full terms and conditions.

American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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