Red Zebra Business Centre - Management Memos
November 2010 Making Measurably More For Your Business Since 1985!

There are endless ways generate more cash - If we look!

Max Williams, Principal Consultant

Twelve months ago, we were looking at seeing a strong recovery from the Global Financial Crisis, if only the drought will break!

Well, the GFC has well and truly gone, and the drought has well and truly broken. But now we face political uncertainty, continuing strife in the US economy, an overvalued Oz Dollar, and searing competition form overseas internet suppliers.

Add to this the arrival of Costco in Australia, the move into hardware of Woolworths and Lowes(US), and competition for small business operators just seems to bet tighter and tighter.

The position for small businesses seems unrelieved, because while the mining boom continues, there is the ever present threat of inflation, and of course the resultant interest rate rises that follow. With an interest rate hike just at the start of the summer Christmas season, the timing for most businesses is terrible.

In times like these it pays to take stock, and consider the strengths we have to work with. The recession that was threatening Australia was real enough, but nowhere as bad as it might have been. Some businesses went to the wall, but not many - not like the recession we had to have in the early 1990's!

That means that trade has been continuing, and that means some cash flow to keep us all alive. For many of our clients, cash flow has been a big issue. Large suppliers have sucked cash out of the businesses through the mechanism of tightened credit rules, or more rigorous application of credit policy, and in some cases, both. Some taxation concessions helped here, but times have been very, very tight.

But trade has continued - that is the big thing.

In this month?s edition, we look at a couple of things we can do to make business busier - and more profitable. There is a conundrum though, or perhaps you see it as a conflict. On one hand there is a need to provide even more service, and make it even more personal. That does cost money. So it has the potential to make us worse off.

On the other hand, there is the need to reduce costs to take account of the new reality of steadily increasing competition and reducing margins.

There are means of renewing your business dynamic and building profit and service both - but it needs a creative and imaginative approach. As a young man, I was a product design engineer at Ford Motor Company. When I started, I joined a growing team of engineers, targeting 100 engineers to handle two car lines. Four years later, there were 100 engineers alright, but we were handling five car lines.

It was a revelation, and a tribute to good management, because no-one was overworked. Just efficient.

So examine your business for all the ways you have not yet thought of to re-engineer what you do. Then you will make more money, and generate the cash you need to grow.

Visit these links to recommended companies:

AJD Design:
Graphic Design, Print Design, signage and Corporate Identity graphics

Television, radio, and corporate video production

Bell Mercantile
Effective, reliable debt collection and credit reporting

Retail Planning Services
Retail design, store, and merchandising layout

Ridgee Digital
Fast laser & offset printing, screen-printed stickers, corflute or metal signs, & T-Shirts, windcheaters





hile the mining industry continues to enjoy boom conditions, other industries face tough trading conditions. There are steps you can take to help some traders beat the odds!

Make the Most of  the 'Customer Experience' For Your Customers'.

Not only retailers, but all kinds of B2B traders, including manufacturers and service providers with a base of corporate customers, have traditionally measured the customer experience using market research surveys. Such approaches have worked very well, and are still valid today. But there is a change in the air!

That change is the internet! For today's traders, it is clear that customers are  Increasingly using the internet to research the products and services they're intending to buy. It's these activities which can seriously influence a purchaser's buying decision. Before, during, and after the buying act, customers are using the internet to review products,  rate their satisfaction levels, and recommend products and services to friends and form members.

Faced with these profound changes, traditional traders, and retailers in particular, now need to reconsider (or, in some cases, consider for the first time) their customer experience programs, and embrace their online reputation even if they're not selling directly on the internet.

In today's networked world, a bad customer experience can be shared online with thousands of potential customers instantly - whether it's online or in-store. News travels fast.  This means that the risks associated with customer negativity are amplified greatly. More than ever, making sure your customers are advocates and supporters is supremely important.

Business exists to meet an otherwise unmet need, and to meet that need, businesses have to find and retain customers. Inevitably, there is a major focus on the 'finding customers' action, with lots of attention on advertising and marketing budgets to tout products and services.

Customer Experience

The 'Cautious Customer' is changing this!
To remain both effective in the market, and profitable in the accounting room, traders of all kinds need to place much greater emphasis on the 'retaining' action! Putting more effort into retaining customers to make them loyal advocates, means making substantial improvements to the customer experience.

And measuring hat increase in satisfaction!

Thankfully, using simple technologies like email, mobile phones and the web, give us the chance to benchmark  customer attitudes. Such steps do take time and effort. If you can't find the time and can't make the effort yourself, find someone to help you. There are many contractors only too willing to help you do just what is needed.

You can start just by inviting your customers to give you feedback after a transaction. You'll be surprised by how many are prepared to fill in a quick survey and any glowing responses you get can be used verbatim to boost your marketing efforts.

For traders who adapt quickly to both the 'new-age' Cautious Customer, and the changing behaviour of all  customers, the potential benefits are enormous. On the other hand, ignoring these very significant changes in the market can be disastrous!

Sara Hart Joins McNicol Williams

We are delighted to welcome Sara Hart to our team. Sara comes with a background in accounting, and in graphics design. These skills will come in very handy, and have already proved her worth. But Sara's role is Client Liaison Officer.

Image Removed at Subject's Request For some time we have been striving to do more for our clients during each month. We're looking to improve their client service experience. Sara's arrival means that we can, at last, do that much more for our clients each month.

Now that's better, isn't it?

Contact Sara on

'Trust' the new focus

New research shows service brands have put 'trust-building' on the top of their retail strategies.

A study by retail experience design agency Judge Gill of the UK found trust and building a better connection with customers in store has overtaken image in a service brand's list of retail design requirements.

This shift in priorities appears to be a direct consequence of a major shortfall in trust that service brands are experiencing, the onset of social media giving disgruntled customers a very public voice and the recession increasing the public's need for brand's to provide stability and transparency, according to the researchers.

Trust The new element in this for service providers is not the building of trust. That is a requirement that has been with us for years. What is new is the importance now being put on trust over other objectives.

As always, the key challenge for service brands is to make it so that consumers are able to trust their service companies to deliver what they promise. This is much more important for service providers of all kinds, because, unlike product brands, what service companies sell is intangible.

The physical retail environment plays a fundamental role in building trust, which has undoubtedly taken a knock across a number of service industries in recent times. So how can a service brand use the physical environment to build trust?

One way is for retail service providers to participate more in customers' lives, as well as provide activities and services that get customers more involved in the brand. Service retailing also needs to offer increased convenience, by being very consumer centric in the way it markets and sells its services.

Your service marketing needs to be extremely open, keeping communication simple, and removing barriers to understanding what's on offer and relating service back to consumer's needs. Overcoming your 'trust shortfall' can be achieved through your retail environment. This can be achieved by changing around your retail environments to better match customer's needs, obviously enhancing convenience, and giving more opportunities to engage customers. The total retail experience - including the environment, the staff and the way you deliver that service - needs to actively build back that trust relationship.

The face-to-face retail environment is not only uniquely placed for generating effective, positive customer interaction, but it can bring a service brand's proposition to life in a way that no other medium can.

Your physical store environment can engage customers by entertaining them, and breaking down barriers and allowing that trust to grow, as well as encouraging them to return to the store next time the need arises.

Businesses warned to prepare for new recall rules

Australian businesses must begin preparing now for new mandatory product safety reporting requirements that take effect from January 1.

From 1 January 2011 businesses will be required to notify the ACCC when they become aware that a product they have supplied has caused, or may have caused, serious injury, illness or death.

The mandatory reporting requirement means businesses need processes to track and take action on consumer complaints promptly. Suppliers will have to notify the ACCC within two days of learning that a consumer good or product related service they have supplied has caused, or may cause, serious injury, illness or death.

To help suppliers prepare, the ACCC has issued draft guidelines on the new requirement, for comment. Information on the mandatory reporting requirements is available at:

Business can also keep up-to-date on developments via Twitter: @ProductSafetyAU.

If you'd like to find out more about how to make measurably more in your business right now, talk to us, or ask us a question here! Remember, there's no charge or obligation.

This same offer applies in New Zealand. Click Here!

McNicol Williams Management & Marketing Services is a Small Business Advisor listed with the Small Business Victoria, and has presented The Red Zebra program under its auspices. This listing requires that the first hour's consultation is always free. So when we say "No charge or obligation", we mean it!