By Dr. Jane Cox - Featured LEAP Coach

Starting up a new business, or running an existing business in these economically challenging times is a job that takes bravery, determination and a huge amount of lateral thinking!

The current statistics reveal that internationally, about 20% of new businesses survive their first two years. And the sad thing is the businesses that fail have often got real substance and value to them. They just couldn't get together enough traction in the marketplace, or enough capital to see them through some of the challenging circumstances that are scattered through the existing business landscape.

One of the most interesting things that I see as I work with businesses across the world, whether they are startups, SME's or listed companies with a global presence, is that there is a fear of walking away from what has worked in the past, and even when that business is unraveling, or showing signs of strain, rather than exploring different options that may work, I watch panic reactions instead. Redundancies, downsizing, short term cost saving exercises, compromising on quality, unfortunately these are common themes at play.

So you're running a business in the 21st century? How much has it changed over the last few years? And what can you do to place yourself in that 20% of businesses that don't just survive, but thrive in the current economic circumstances?

Here are five checks and balances you can work through immediately to ascertain your current business health:

        1.      Keep an eye on your income versus expenditure! It sounds obvious, but I am seeing many businesses currently ignoring their financial reality. If less money is coming in, businesses either hope that things will pick up,or make drastic cost cutting moves that actually sound the death knell of their business. Of course, neither of these approaches are healthy for your business, and one of the initial interventions I normally do with any business is look at where money is being spent, and where and how it is coming in. It then leads perfectly to the next point:

        2.      Where is the money? In almost every industry there is loads of untapped opportunity, and it is really exciting to be able to seek these opportunities out and see which of these work for your business. There is a "safe" trend happening at the moment, where people are taking shelter behind the industry norm. It is "safe" to do what every other "successful" business in your industry is doing. But of course this turns you into yet another also-ran company. You're competing in a crowded marketplace. So where is the money, and what can you do to tap into the opportunities that have less competition and more ability to differentiate your company from your competitors? Else you may end up falling into the trap of the next point:

        3.      Don't compete on price! This is a really bad business approach that is taken by far too many companies. There is price cutting everywhere, but of course when prices are cut, profit is hard to come by. And when profits are scarce, all sorts of other cutting takes place; cutting of quality, cutting of service delivery, cutting of quality of customer experience. Which in turn leads to cutting of loyalty, of pride, of customer base, of industry standard. This is a business strategy where everyone ends up losing! So what is the answer to this? Which leads on to the next point:

        4.      Don't cut price, increase value. What happens if instead of focusing on what you can cut, you focus on what you can deliver. I love working with companies who are prepared to put their money where their mouth is. Companies who look at delivering quality products or services, who look at creating an exceptional customer experience, and who look for that little bit extra that they can deliver that will set them apart from their customers. Because of course when a customer discovers that you are the company that can be relied upon to deliver quality, with exceptional customer service, they will become loyal customers, which of course can help to boost one of your greatest assets:

        5.      Brand or company ambassadors! These are your priceless assets and the real proof that you are great at what you do. The best way of moving forward in business is when people are shouting your praises from the rooftops. The strength of a new client is already substantially stronger than one that comes from any other source. When you do a great job for your clients or customers, or deliver great quality of goods or services, and your reputation for excellence starts preceding you, your company has a much bigger chance of reaching phenomenal levels of success. Is your business excellent enough to have created great Ambassadors? And if not, what can you do TODAY to move your business towards this excellence?

Dr Jane Cox is a Human Behaviours Specialist, international business consultant and coach, and

"LEAP" movie contributor. Her website is: www.drjanecox.co.uk

For more information contact info@newlevels.co.uk.