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How to meet those challenges ahead.

This year will bring a number of changes - a new resident at 10 Downing Street and, by the end of the year, we will know who will be battling for the White House in 2008.

With these new faces come new policies, new approaches and new agendas - and for businesses, new challenges and opportunities.

Rick Warburton, managing partner at Yorkshire Bank's Tees Valley Financial Solutions Centre, said: "There is no better time than the new year for businesses to review their plans in order to assess whether they are meeting strategic goals and objectives."

Rick has provided the following top tips for Tees Valley businesses to ensure their business remains buoyant in 2007:

1) Ensure your borrowing is structured to cope with any increase in interest rates.

2) Plan for energy and variable cost fluctuation - continued uncertainty in the Middle East and Russian energy markets, plus the continued debate over the minimum wage escalations could hit SMEs hard if they are unprepared.

3) If your business could be at risk from currency or interest rate fluctuations consider hedging. Hedging is the process of managing the price risk inherent in a business, by offsetting that risk in some way.

Although the US Dollar is nearly at the magic $2 to the pound, it is expected to strengthen in 2007. For a business, managing price risk means maintaining greater control of either the cost of inputs, or revenues from sales, or both. Through hedging, organisations are better able to plan for the future based on assured costs or revenues.

4) Green might be expensive - but not being green might be more so.

With politicians on all sides singing from the green hymn sheet, expect local and national green taxes to be high on the agenda in May's local elections and again when Tony Blair's successor takes office. Take the time to plan for this if it is likely to affect your business.

5) Are your liquid assets working as hard for you as they could be?

With interest rates buoyant, and the dollar continuing to decline in value against sterling, your businesses could be doing a lot with its cash to increase the value of its net worth.

6) Set goals. But make them achievable. Businesses and individuals all benefit from goal-setting. However, to be worthwhile these goals need to be achievable. The setting of unrealistic goals will simply lead to disappointment, frustration and heartache.

7) Deal with your debtors. Too many businesses, even when they cannot afford it, don't chase debtors hard enough or early enough. No-one wants to offend customers but credit control is crucial. Someone within your business should have responsibility for chasing bad debt. Act early and act decisively. Your cash works better in your account than theirs!

8) Pro-active and effective customer communication. Is there untapped potential in your existing customer base? Are they fully aware of all the products and services you offer? There is no easier way to expand and drive profits than by selling more to those you already deal with.

9) Don't be afraid of change. Successful businesses are those that continually innovate and shape the markets they operate in, rather than letting the market dictate their business.

10) Take advice!

By bringing in a fresh pair of eyes to view your finances, 2007's challenges may well become much easier to overcome.
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Business Weekly
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jan 9, 2007
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