10 of the most common operational issues businesses face (and how to beat them)

If you're struggling with business growth, here are some helpful solutions to put into practice when it comes to progress.

19 July 2019

As a company grows, there are always operational issues to go along with the progress it has made; many businesses are faced with issues and problems that can feel like they’re difficult to manage. Now that your company has dealt with the problems of getting off the ground, it’s important to have solutions in place so you can overcome growing pains when they arise.

From dealing with the uncertainty of where your business is heading to taking care of overheads, these common concerns spring up more often than you’d think, and can be costly if they go unchecked. Here, we’ll present 10 of the most frequent operational issues that businesses face when they grow, and what they need to do to overcome them.

What are operational issues in business?

In any kind of business, operational issues are any kind of problem that arises which can render a business less profitable. As this article will make clear, there are many different categories which make up operational issues, each with their own undesirable results. Broadly speaking, however, they cause large drains on business energy and resources, can affect operational performance, cause problems with the execution of strategy, and stand in the way of a business’ growth if they aren’t dealt with properly.

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1. Managing overheads

Overheads can easily mount up, whether they’re coming in the form of admin expenses, insurance, rent or utility charges. Excessive overheads can be particularly damaging if they aren’t managed in a timely fashion, so they’re a fairly big problem for small businesses to contend with.

Example

Whether it’s falling behind on rent, missed utility payments, office equipment or business overspend, spiralling overheads can be numerous.

The solution: Take a look at your spending and see what can be cut back. Any service that’s surplus to your team or your customers’ requirements should be scaled down. Quick fixes like cloud computing, free video call services, telecommuting where possible, and renting rather than buying office equipment, can all be useful here.

2. Monitoring performance

How do you measure performance? And, how do potential indicators illustrate that your team is performing to its fullest? If certain members of your team aren’t working as well as they should, your business could suffer as a result.

Example

A member of your staff’s poor performance is starting to affect the rest of the team’s morale, which has impacted their own productivity as a result.

The solution: Detail a set of performance indicators that show how well your team and your business is performing. Rather than using simplistic finance indicators, it can be highly beneficial to identify, clarify and agree upon the expectations of respective teams. Identify how the results will be measured, monitor the progress made and evaluate performances at the end of the management cycle.




3. Listening to feedback

In the modern business world, your image and reputation can easily be affected by negative reviews online. Likewise, customers expect quick, effective customer service. It’s up to businesses to listen to the feedback they receive, so they can put themselves in a position to deliver satisfactory service to their core audience.

Example

There’s been a complaint about the usability of your website, which has caused a drop in the traffic and business it’s received lately. Now you have to act…

The solution: Consider investing in a consultant or a third party who can monitor how you’re perceived online and can pinpoint where you’re going wrong with your customer service. They’ll help with everything from choosing the right customer-facing employees to streamlining the handoff process.

4. Responding to competition

In this day and age, starting a business is more realistic and achievable than ever. But, with so much easily-accessible information and guidance out there, it does mean that there can theoretically be more competition in the same market. And whether your competition focuses on a single service or a broader market, how do you stand out from the rest?

Example

A competitor offers the same product/service at a lower price than you, taking a sizeable chunk of your customers with them.

The solution: Keeping an eye on competitor activity can give you an inside track on how to get ahead. Monitoring their processes and practices can help you anticipate their next moves – and adapt your strategy accordingly.

As mentioned before, optimise your customer service in a way that exceeds expectations. Identify the aspects of your service and/or product that your customers value most, and provide the greatest service there.   

Be an early adopter of new technologies as well as processes, products and solutions. Make your site mobile-compatible, harness the power of social media effectively, and make a lasting impression on everything you do. Showing your customers you’re a forward-thinking, progressive company with a product or service to match is a strong way of standing out in a crowded market. 

5. Regulation and compliance

Regulation and compliance can be a major issue if not dealt with properly. As markets and technologies evolve, they bring with them a new set of rules and regulations. Unfortunately, businesses are often unaware of, or don’t understand, what’s being asked of them. At this point, fines and penalties come into play, and something that could easily have been resolved becomes a problem.

Example

The recent adoption of GDPR, which was enforced in May 2018.

The solution: Depending on your sector, attempting to understand the complex wording of any new regulations could be a bit of an uphill battle, especially with everything else that’s going on in your business. Consider hiring a consultant to ease you along the process of compliance if you need to.  



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6. Uncertainty

You never know exactly what is going to happen in the future, but you can prepare for customer and market trends with some canny forward planning. Most businesses will have some sort of goal for the future mapped out, but it’s surprising how many fail to plan for periods of uncertainty.

Example

The fluctuation of market trends in a changing economic climate can cause businesses to stifle themselves, creating discomfort among their employees.

The solution: With uncertainty at the helm, short-term goals take precedence. However, the importance of long-term goals should never be discounted. Have a five or ten-year plan in place and balance that with more ad hoc short-term strategies to keep your business in control.

7. Cyber risks

Rather than merely an IT issue, cyber security is increasingly a risk for all businesses. If cyber security isn’t properly managed, businesses leave themselves exposed to an increasing number of threats which can lead to data theft, hacks and other attacks.

Example

Data theft has led to important customer information being exposed, creating distrust amongst your customer base.

The solution: An approach that integrates cyber protection into every aspect of the business, from the IT department to training its employees, is recommended. Cyber security frameworks are available to business and many are utilitarian in their approach, covering business context, policy and standards, security capabilities and controls, and the environment.

8. Finding the right staff

As the company grows and you see successes increase, you’ll hopefully get more of an idea of the kind of person who’s the right fit for your business. In a small business, skill and personality tend to be favoured over other qualities, but not everyone is going to be the right person for a given company. 

Example

You’ve committed to a long hiring process, only to find you’ve hired someone who isn’t the right fit for the business.

The solution: Before, during and after the hiring process, it’s important to tailor your management style to the varying personalities in the office. Look to what works best for each individual; some enjoy working in groups, others are more content to carry out tasks on their own.

Introduce candidates to your team if possible, to determine how the dynamics may work. This may take the form of inviting the candidate’s would-be line manager into the interview process.

Create an environment where your staff can thrive. Be transparent with their expectations, concerns and successes, and create a work/life balance that ensures comfort and happiness throughout the team.

9. Retaining customers

At this point, you’ll have identified a customer base that gravitates towards your service or product, but how do you ensure they stay with you and keep coming back?

Example

Business has been spotty, with customers not returning as often as you’d hoped for, and things are starting to dry up further…

The solution: Look at the characteristics of your current best customers, those that repeatedly use your service and speak highly about your brand. What are the common traits among them? Don’t be afraid to ask your best customers what they want – the feedback is integral to finding and retaining valued customers.

10. Cash flow

Whether it’s outstanding bills, unexpected outgoings, or pending payments, money problems can be a major issue. With so much to balance, maintaining a healthy cash flow is key to surviving as a business.

Example

The business completes a job and gets paid after a month. However, you’ve got infrastructure costs, employee salary and your personal expenses to consider too…

The solution: Plan and budget as much as possible. There are plenty of money management tools out there to keep track of your cash flow. Look into apps that can create budgets, calculate VAT, automate bill payments and alert you when unusual outgoings occur. 

It could be advisable to look into fixing costs wherever possible. Essential overheads such as energy costs can be fixed, our Shield Gas and Shield Electricity products being perfect examples.  

Above all, always be ready and willing to learn when your business is going through a period of growth; it may be a little daunting, but it is often hugely exciting and incredibly rewarding.

Gazprom Energy is a leading and award-winning business energy supplier, helping thousands of small businesses manage their gas and electricity contracts. To find out more about what we can offer your business, visit the homepage or call us today on 0161 837 3395.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this article are those of our third-party content providers alone and do not represent those of Gazprom Energy. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. Gazprom Energy accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.


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