Business experts share their lessons from the last year

14 December 2017

2017 has been a big year for Gazprom Energy; we’ve strengthened our profile through renewed business with Arcadia Group, and with the introduction of our new strategic energy management tool, InSight.

2017 has been a big year for Gazprom Energy; we’ve strengthened our profile through renewed business with Arcadia Group, and with the introduction of our new strategic energy management tool, InSight.

We’ve learned a lot over the past 12 months, and we’re looking forward to going into 2018 with the same relish and passion we’re known for.

An indication of the many challenges facing businesses of all kinds, we’ve asked a variety of business experts to share the lessons they’ve learned throughout the year. The lessons shared with us included:

Hopefully you’ll be able to heed these piece of advice as you approach the new year with fresh goals.

Promote a happy workplace

Employee wellbeing is something more and more businesses are focusing on right now – in fact, it’s arguably one of the most important aspects of a business. Promoting a happy workplace was certainly something three of our business experts felt was their biggest concern this year.

Joanna Swash, managing director of MoneyPenny says: “It’s essential to keep investing in employees. We pride ourselves on delivering exceptional customer service and providing innovative solutions for our clients. However, none of this would be possible without having a fantastic team in place.

“Ensuring we have a happy workplace has become a key priority of mine – whether that means organising a party, putting on more exercise classes, or introducing new working policies. It’s not just about doing the right thing for employees on principle, too: this approach also has tangible business benefits. We strongly believe that happy employees lead to happy customers."

Paul Macildowie, CEO and owner of MPL Contact, agrees, saying: “I always encourage employees to have a good work-life balance, and so I thought it was time to start practising what I preach. As a result, I've made many small changes like turning off email notifications on my phone and setting dedicated times to respond to them, and going to the cinema on a Friday afternoon. Entrepreneurs face a lot of day-to-day pressures and it's important we take our mental health seriously too!"

The importance of digital marketing

Digital marketing’s multi-faceted avenues plenty of opportunities for growing a business. From improving SEO to leveraging influencers to promote products, if you’ve not stepped into the world of digital marketing, then perhaps 2018 is the time to start.

Mariah Tompkins, founder of WKM Accountancy Services, noted the boon digital marketing has given her business.

"Over the past year or so, we’ve really been spending a lot of time on digital marketing; nowadays, this is the best way to publicize your business and aid growth. The main thing we’ve learned this year is that to succeed in digital marketing, you have to spend time and money investing into the process – in addition to ideation and collaboration with your team.

“We have found that by making technical improvements to our website and delving into SEO, we are beginning to improve our internet presence. The key is trying to understand things for yourself more – and the learning truly never stops.

Kimberley Hurd, CEO of craft food marketplace business Tabl also spoke of using emerging marketing trends to better her business’ profile: "Given that we're in the food industry and started out less than a year ago, we hear a lot about influencer marketing – it's been a very hot topic this year, and is something many of our sellers ask about.

"However, we've seen much better results by focusing on personalised engagement; we're always available to answer our community's questions and strive to get as much feedback as possible so we can build a site and product that answers their needs.

"This approach has taught us the importance of building an engaged community and advocates; while it is a bit slower, it yields better results with repeat purchases and increased sales. We've seen a 3x increase already and will focus on this building this programme out further in 2018".

Don’t be afraid of change

Although we’re naturally geared to stick to our routines, change can undoubtedly be beneficial. As Sean McPheat - Director of sales and management coaching business MTD Training and CEO of online training library Skillshub Microlearning – details, sticking to your guns isn’t always the best option.

“The biggest lesson I learned this year is that there was a new kid on the block in terms of the objections we faced, and that was ‘do nothing’. It was even more popular than ‘that costs too much’ or ‘we don’t have the budget’.

“The reason this objection came up more often this year was that fear of making mistakes was so high, it paralysed decision-making. Similarly, we found in some cases that the real drivers for change were not there – meaning that clients had a weak desire to act. Therefore, we started to ensure that the consequences of taking no action were taken into consideration when selling.”

Focus on your customers

Helena Murphy, founder of growth coaching business The Guide to Growth favoured fine-tuning her business’ approach to its own customers.

"2017 has been a year of putting our customers at the centre of everything we do and building a community around our brand. The simple task of asking our customers what they want from us, what will add value to their lives and communicating with them before launching new products and services has enabled us to grow our revenue by 70% year-on-year.

“This simple rule can be applied by sales professionals and teams big or small, across multiple sectors, and will mean they see a significant increase in the number of customers they close."

Don’t forget about your own brand

If you’re an agency or otherwise, it’s possible to lose track of how your own profile and how people perceive it. Rob Skinner, Managing Director at B2B PR agency Skout, says: “It sounds obvious, but it’s important not to underestimate the need to promote your own brand. As a PR agency, it should be a busman’s holiday for us, but typically, we’re so busy promoting other people’s brands, it’s something we neglected ourselves in our first few years.

“Investing in our own brand and our own story over the last 12 months has paid off hugely in terms of business growth. It’s something a lot of small businesses – not just marketing and PR agencies – overlook. Being the ‘best-kept secret’ in your market sounds like you’re winning by stealth, but in the long term it’s not a good place to be.”

The value of human resources

2017 has seen plenty of employment changes in the workplace. A responsive Human Resources department should be able to fulfil the needs of their organisations. Natalie Ellis,  HR Consultant and Blogger notes: “In the past year alone, we have seen the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, the removal of Employment Tribunal fees, experienced the impact of impending Brexit, and we are now preparing our clients for the challenges that come with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018.

“Bearing all of this in mind, we are entering 2018 with trepidation, and due to these uncertain times, we have learned that organisations need to prioritise engagement and trust within their businesses in order to successfully progress.

“Because of this, we as a business are receiving significant interest for our specialist on-site consultancy services, but we are also designing and delivering bespoke training to actively support our clients as the world of work continues to evolve.”

Ensure your team are on the same page

Luke Budka, director of B2B marketing company TopLine Comms says: “We learned a long time ago not to get involved in any new business opportunity where we were removed from the decision maker during a pitch process.”

This can form a key part of your 2018 strategy, ensuring that all key participants are involved in all important decisions and aware of any open dialogue. This simple step can help boost performance in the new year and beyond.

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