Network to beat the slowdown
On the back of September's MYOB Business Monitor Survey of over 1000 New Zealand businesses, networking organisation BNI NZ’s National Director Graham Southwell says SMEs must take seriously their networks to weather any form of economic slowdown. 
 
Southwell has three key observations that provide guidelines for businesses facing challenging times in the upcoming year: 1. increase marketing 2. deepen your networks and 3. have sound hiring strategies. 
 
1. Increase marketing
More than half of New Zealand’s SME operators are expecting the economy to slow over the coming year according to the MYOB survey. 
 
Southwell says that in challenging times, rather than slashing the marketing budget, it’s crucial for businesses to increase their marketing efforts. “The economy always has its rises and dips,” he says, “but as things start to get more difficult, businesses need to get more proactive with their marketing.”
 
Southwell says that BNI has seen in the last two years a large increase in the number of SMEs getting far more proactive and hands-on with their marketing strategies. “This includes bringing on board business development and marketing specialists,” he says. “Most SMEs are in business for the long term, so it’s important that they have foresight and keep investing in marketing strategies that deliver growth.”
 
2. Deepen your networks
The survey noted the number of businesses expecting revenue to drop over the next 12 months. Southwell says that deepening your business networks rather than just relying on brand awareness is a key strategy for SMEs who want to maintain consistent revenue growth. 
 
“Joining a networking group is one way to get introductions to new prospects,” he says. “Customers don’t just appear out of thin air,” Southwell notes. “Businesses need a clear strategy for meeting new people and developing relationships with these people. 
 
3. Smarten your hiring strategies
Nine per cent of businesses in the survey said they planned to take on more full time staff in the next year, rising from 7 per cent in February. Eleven per cent will hire more part time employees, and 20 per cent plan to put more in their employee’s pay packets in the year to August 2016. 
 
Southwell says that those businesses considering bringing on new people need to think about those peoples’ key skills. “Networking has become now a core competency for employees and contractors,” Southwell says.
 
“It’s not just what they know, it’s who they know. Businesses need to consider this when they formulate their hiring strategies. They need to ask questions of new hires like: how can your networks advantage the business by attracting new customers, how can they add value to relationships with the existing business connections? Questions that need to be part of a business’s larger growth strategy.