The Office of National Statistics announced last week the UK economy shrank by 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2012 putting the UK at risk of falling into a triple dip recession. Even more worrying is the UK economy is not expected to recover to its peak level for another two years.

This has caused severe pessimism among small-business owners with 16% of British small business's consider themselves at high risk of going out of business within the next year due to financial pressure.

Managing a business in the current economic environment is challenging, here are some tips to ensure your business stays on track in 2013 and beyond.

1. Plan & Measure Performance

Set expectations for your business over the next year in a budget and track financial and non-financial metrics to ensure you keep control of all business functions. Ensure all employees know what the targets are and understand the importance of their role in achieving it.

Review performance against budget monthly and update your current expectations in a forecast. Perform a monthly Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis and start an action plan to capitalize on your strengths and opportunities and reduce your risks and weaknesses.

2. Control & Plan Cash-flow

Ensuring working capital is as high as possible should be a priority for all businesses.

Ensure you perform at least weekly bank reconciliation and cash flow forecast to ensure you understand all of your current and expected costs.

Produce and review weekly an aged debtors report and ensure you are actively pursuing all outstanding debts.

Change your payment terms where possible to ensure the cash is deposited into your account as quickly as possible, offer a discount as an incentive or consider using a factoring company.

All new customers should be credit checked.

3. Try and reduce costs

In uncertain economic conditions it is essential for businesses to continually review their cost base and try to reduce costs where possible. 

Staffing and building costs are usually the largest, but it can take a long time find cost savings. To make immediate savings start analyzing temporary staff, travel, utilities, marketing, telephony and technology costs. 

Review all contracted cost such as insurance and shop around for the best deals.

4. Improve efficiency (Get more from less)

To remain as competitive and cost efficient as possible continually review processes and practice. Try to reduce waste from processes by identifying what your customers find valuable. Remove steps in your processes that do not deliver value.

5. Seek new markets & channels to grow

Trying to increase revenue is essential for business sustainability. Due to a lack in funding many small businesses fail to execute growth plans . Improving cash flow forecasting and reducing costs can allow businesses to undertake their growth plans without seeking outside funding.

Growing your business doesn't need to be an expensive, growth can be achieved by improving marketing campaigns or sales win percentage. It is important to analyze what your business can do better to increase sales first.

Secondly, find out what your existing customers like about your products/services and develop new products from existing products based on customer feedback.

Thirdly, try and find new markets for existing products/services. Research whether your product/service is needed by a different demographic, sector or region or country.

6. Retain Customer Loyalty

Existing customers spend more than new customers, and customer retention costs are much cheaper than new customer acquisition costs. Despite this, marketing budgets focus on new customer acquisition. 

Offer your existing customers incentives for their loyalty and/or recommending your business to others. 

Getting your customers to look and talk about your products is strategically just as important as having an effective as traditional advertising.

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