“You cannot improve something that you don’t measure.” This is the mantra many leadership coaches have preached for number of years, and for the right reason. If you do not know how your business is performing you are practically driving the car without a dashboard. Anything can go wrong along the way and you wouldn’t come to know about it before it’s too late. That is why performance monitoring should be integral to running a business for any leader.
Most entrepreneurs think that adequate finance is the key to success in business. But that’s not true! It is actually the business owner who is the key because it is she or he who decides how to ensure adequate finance for proper functioning of the operations. In order to ensure this sufficiency, it is vital to keep the financial records up-to-date as well as organized so that it becomes easy to track. So, here are some tips for you to follow on a weekly basis so that you can better understand the financial status of your business and maintain it smartly.
Those who are regular readers of this blog know that I am a big supporter of small businesses many of whom feel that they are at a disadvantage when competing with large corporations. I firmly believe that not only can small businesses compete with their larger rivals,but can beat them at their own game. We showed some of the techniques you can use to beat large competitors in earlier post.
In my view large corporations gain advantage against smaller rivals with economies of scale and having better access to capital and business tools. However, the Internet is changing the playing field in favor of small business owners. SohoOS is one promising start-up that aims to level the playing field in the area of business tools. SohoOS shares our vision of helping small business owners effectively compete with and beat their larger rivals who hold unfair advantage.
“I didn’t know we were in such a bad shape! How could this happen?” How many times have you heard this from a small business owner whose business is shutting down? For small business owners it is imperative to stay on top of the business like a hawk. Otherwise it is not surprising to wake up one day and find that you are not able to pay your employees or make interest payment to the bank.
We mentioned in earlier post that you have to be able to tell how your business is doing even when someone asks you in the middle of the night. We suggested that you identify key parameters for your business and look at daily, weekly and monthly reports.
We have been asked by number of small business owners if there are simple warning signs that can tell them if the business is headed for trouble – something akin to early warning system. In response, we have come up with 5 metrics that can tell you exactly that. By keeping a keen eye on these metrics you can detect potential problems well in advance and take appropriate actions to correct the path.
Here are those 5 metrics along with explanation of how to calculate them:
In the previous post we highlighted external market forces that can drive you out of business if you are not careful. The changes in economy, competition and consumer habits have hurt many small business owners in the last few years and can bring down sales and profit for your small business too.
To be fair, these external forces impact both large and small business alike; however small business owners feel this impact in a more profound way. Also, the small business owners can feel the impact very quickly. After all, unlike large businesses they do not have large financial cushion to withstand the impact. They also have their personal and business lives intertwined with the business. This will make it hard not for themselves; but also for others around them, including spouse, children and friends.
How can small business owners prepare themselves to be able to withstand the impact better than their peers?
Small business owners run their business absentee for variety of reasons. Some owners are still holding full-time job while starting a business. Others have more locations than they can handle themselves. While still others just don’t want to spend their entire time on the business. Our estimate is that while majority of small businesses are owner operated, there are number of businesses that are run absentee for the reasons mentioned above.
While it is possible to run and succeed in absentee owner business you need to be aware of the problems that arise when you are doing so. Ignoring these problems can lead to deterioration and even disaster for your business. The most common issue in running the business absentee is that you may not be aware of what’s going on with your business or at least not to the same degree as when you are present 24×7. Even if you come to know about the issues it may be too late to act on. The issues can surface in all areas of the business ranging from operations, quality, purchasing and customer service.
Contrary to beliefs held by some people it is possible to start a business while still working on your job. Many people want to hold onto their current job for as long as possible for reasons cited in this post ; while they are starting business.
While it is not easy to start a business while still working on full-time job; there are ways by which you can succeed as long as you know what you are getting into and take care of important issues that will inevitably surface. In our view, the key to success is making sure you have laid proper groundwork to operate the business in your absence; while still keep a watchful eye on it.
Below we have highlighted several suggestions you can follow to be successful.
The majority of goals set by people are never fulfilled or at least fall short. If you want the proof; go and check out health clubs in the first 2-3 weeks after New Year. They are so crowded by the people who have made resolution to lose weight, that it is difficult to find free exercise equipment. And then the crowd fizzles out after 3 weeks and only the regulars keep coming.
The reasons majority of goals go unfulfilled are multiple – they are too vague or too difficult or they don’t have any time limit. Because of this, people setting the goals either don’t know how to achieve them or they give up thinking they can never fulfill them.
We came across the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting technique a while ago that can help anyone achieve what they want in a reasonable time period. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Essentially S.M.A.R.T. goal setting ensures that you know what you want to achieve, how to achieve it and when to take actions. Below are the details on how to go about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.
In the previous post we mentioned that you need to hear customer and employee stories in addition to looking at formal reports and metrics.
One of the ways you can do this is by asking open ended questions to your customers, employees and other business owners to understand the reasons behind numbers. Below we have identified 10 questions that will get them talking.
In the previous several posts here , here and here we have discussed how looking at performance metrics helps understand how your business is performing. We also mentioned that you should be looking at the reports on a daily, weekly and monthly basis to stay on top of your business.
The reason you want to look at the metrics is simple – numbers don’t lie; people do. However, from our experience as past business owners we have noticed that numbers tell only part of the story when trying to assess business performance. The metrics tell you what is happening to the business. They don’t tell you why. You have to dig deeper to understand why the numbers are what they are. For example, let’s say you are looking at sales going down for the last several weeks. You want know why this is happening. Further investigation shows that the customer count has been declining in that same period. But this still doesn’t tell you why customers are not coming to your business leading to declining sales. It may be because they are not being served well; maybe there is another competitor in town and so on.
So how do you go about collecting the anecdotal stories to understand the reasons behind the numbers? There are several ways you can do this.