'It is important to be brave in business - but you have got to minimise risk where you can...'
'When things get challenging, you've got to ask for help. In 1996, I convinced my wife, Lorraine, to join me in the company to help build on our experience of co-packaging nuts and turn it into a new dried fruit and nut snack production firm under the Kestrel Foods name.
"Business planning is a necessary evil, both to get the business strategy straight in your own head and to present to third parties for external funding. It is an ever-evolving process, but has acted as a point of reference for our strategy and funding considerations and to communicate our goals to our team.
"It's important to be brave in business but minimise risk where you can. We make a conscious effort to spread our risk by targeting multiple sales channels in numerous geographic market locations.
"This helps to navigate through different challenging times and negates the risk of having too much business with too few customers.
"Get close to your customers - they are the most important thing in any business. We strive to give them what they want while putting our own contemporary slant on our products.
"Keep a close eye on cash flow and put systems in place to ensure that money comes in from debtors in a timely fashion. This has been very important for us as we're a growing business with direct imports from around the world. Our business needs a lot of up-front cash for raw materials as credit isn't always an option when dealing with a global supply base.
"Thoroughly know the market in which you operate, which can be challenging when you operate in a lot of countries. External factors are constantly on our mind - whether it's the currency exchange rates (our imports are paid in US dollars), weather forecasts affecting crops on the other side of the world, global raw material prices or politics.
"We hedge our currency and forward-purchase as far as possible to protect the business from outside factors. At the same time, our close supplier relationships keep us well informed of any supply chain issues."
Michael Hall is managing director of Kestrel Foods
Sunday Indo Business