Telling the truth about SME life today

How to build value into your business

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This is not just because you will enhance an ultimate sale value (you may not even want to sell yet!) but because that value added will enable you to do multiple other things, be it borrowing to create more wealth or simply living well for your efforts.

Value is not unlike beauty, it can be perceived as quite different by a number of people but there are some common denominators; 

Your team

No man is an island, so the saying goes, and no business is one man (or woman).
A multi skilled and loyal team (to the business not just you) means the organisation can run when you are not there. This can be either temporally, if your aspirations run more towards extended holidays, or permanently if for instance your goal is sale.

Your cash management

Cash is not just king anymore its emperor and president. Unless you are creating your own cash (not the same as profit by the way) you are going to find it difficult to borrow unless you have a shed load of assets to pledge as security. You HAVE to manage your cash, I never understand why this isn’t a high priority. Who in their right minds would want to do business with people that don’t pay, it’s just nonsense.
Agree terms by all means but ensure customers stick to them. 

Under promise and over deliver

There are very few things that separate one company’s product from another but high quality service levels are still the jewel in the crown of the high performance businesses. Lots of organisations pay lip service to this, which in many ways is worse than just being a low service level quality supplier who makes no bones about their no-frill service. 

Think Ryan Air, no matter what you may personally think about them they undoubtedly deliver just what they say and NO MORE so, in a way, your expectation levels are met. No, it’s those companies who promise more and yet don’t deliver that are the losers.
Reputation is all most businesses have in the end. 

As we are all well aware it’s difficult to win clients and easy to lose them, sometimes irrevocably, and I suspect it’s going to be a long, long time before many of us trust the banking sector again. 

The perverse thing is your reputation and values, if managed and maintained, can exponentially increase value as your customers become your unconscious sales force.

Be an innovator

Standing still is the first step towards going backwards. There is no standing still in business now, ok so you may not be the first to market but you can be creative with your opportunities. 

Reward the ideas people and celebrate the failures, as well as the successes, as it’s only by dabbling in the former will the latter come to fruition. 

Don’t be afraid of having a go, in my experience it’s the things I didn’t do that I regret rather than those it did that didn’t turn out that great, at least I know I gave it my best shot. 

Don’t be a coulda, shoulda, woulda.


Don’t be afraid to change direction, besides death and taxes change is a certainty and you need to embrace its potential rather than hide from the opportunities it presents. If you are not experiencing change you are probably falling behind those that, are so make change happen if you can rather than waiting for it to be forced upon you. 

Do it, do it to the best of your abilities and keep doing in through all that is bad and great about being an owner manager.

Jo Haigh is a partner at FDS Corporate Finance and author of the ‘Financial Times Guide to Finance for Non-Financial Managers.

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