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Archive for the Management Tips Category

Could Your Business Survive a Disaster?

As business owners, we want to remain optimistic about our business’s future. But life can happen, and we need to be prepared.  A good business owner thinks about all the risks to their business and has a plan in place to reduce or eliminate them.  In 2017, we’ve already had floods in the Midwest and California, a healthy dose of tornadoes, and an ice storm earlier in the year.  And those are just the weather disasters. Are you ready?

In 2015, Nationwide ran a survey that revealed that three out of four small business do not have a disaster plan.  The same survey noted that 52 percent of small business owners thought it would take three months to recover from a disaster.

The most common solution is to create two plans:

  • A disaster recovery plan, which details the steps needed to recover the business from a catastrophic loss
  • A business continuity plan, which details the steps needed to keep the business running in case of a major loss, such as a loss of electricity, location, or key personnel

There’s a lot of help online to help you create your plan. A few of the major items that should be covered include:

  • Employee safety: you’ll need an evacuation plan in case of a disaster that is life- or health-threatening.
  • Communication plan: how will you reach employees in an emergency?
  • Electricity contingency: will you need to access a generator?
  • Internet contingency: can your business survive without the internet for long periods of time, or will you need to find a way to get connected?
  • Location contingency: if your worksite is inoperable, do employees have another place to report to?
  • Employee roles: who will carry out the plan?
  • Private data: how will you safeguard private company and customer data?
  • Systems: do you have an inventory of hardware and software, including vendor technical support contacts? How will you prioritize which system to get back up first? Do you have agreements with vendors who can come to your aid quickly?

Creating a disaster recovery plan can be the lowest priority item on your to-do list as a business owner – until it isn’t.  If you have a lot to lose, then consider spending some time on a plan to give you peace of mind.

Ready

contributed by Jaime Campbell, CPA, MBA, CGMA, CTT, MCT

 

 

You started your business with a vision.

You thought.

You worked.

You inspired.

You produced.

Sometimes, you slept.

 

You planned.

You hired.

You executed.

You delighted.

Sometimes, you cheered.

 

You strategized.

You managed.

You invented.

You chose.

Sometimes, you laughed.

 

You are growing.

You feel freedom calling

And you feel the squeeze

The bottlenecks

You hear your legacy calling

And you hear the competing voices

Of overwhelm

Of not-fast-enough

Of why-not instead of why-yes

Of not-enough instead of here’s-how

 

Join the community

Join the circle

Join the visionaries

The leaders

The possibilitarians

Across every century

Join the pathmakers

Welcoming your creation

Into creation

 

Get clarity

Get it real

Get your team

Get your legacy

So You Think You Can Scale (Part 2 of 2)

(6) Set up team-based communication systems and share information freely with your team leaders.
You heard me. I said team leaders, not team. Even if you think you don’t have enough people to have team leaders, let this sentence be the last time in your business life that you think that.

You relate differently with your team when you recognize that they’ll be leading the next people you hire:
· You’ll train them on your decision-making frameworks, not just give them your decision. You’ll give them resources, not just answers.
· You’ll make sure that their compensation plan aligns with being and becoming a leader.
· You’ll be crystal clear about where they need to follow your lead to the letter and where they have the freedom to create.

(7) Make your calendar strategically reflect reality.
Huh?
There are five classes of activities that fill the life, and therefore the calendar, of every successful business leader. Everything, yes everything, fulfills one of these functions:
· Administrative
· Sales
· Marketing
· Operations
· Personal

Use your calendaring system to block out all of the appointments and classes, and assign each class a color.

If your inner voice is saying, “I don’t have time for that!” then I assert that you’d rather be busy than wealthy. Go get a job and beef up your volunteering. You’ll be happier.
If your inner voice is saying, “I do three or four of these in any 15-minute block!” then I assert that you’re letting other people, each person with a separate set of individual priorities, dictate how you live your life. Whose organization is this, again? Whose life is this, again?

It’s time to design your time to scale.

That means designing your schedule.
That means grouping similar activity classes.
That means creating expectations with others so every block begins and ends on time.
That means reviewing your weekly calendar at a 10,000-foot level to make sure each color is represented in alignment with a scaling organization.

You’ll need to do some research that, or work with a consultant, if you don’t already know what the Scaling Palette needs to look like for your industry, business life cycle stage, and goals.

(8) What is your favorite technique for growing your organization without your life getting busier? Write it in the comments below.

So You Think You Can Scale (post 1 of 2)

It starts with the formula (what else did you expect from me?) that many of us are taught from a young age:

I work -> I get results

Which, if you want to grow a business or a not-for -profit organization, is so horribly, horribly wrong.

Have you already discovered this?

The trick is to increase your organization’s impact without making yourself busier:

I work at creating systems and processes for my inspired team to follow -> I get BIGGER results

Same number of hours in your workday. Therefore…not busier.

What else?

 

(1) Make sure your business model is sustainable.

Never scale an organization that isn’t financially workable.

Unless you *want* to grow yourself out of business (see “How to Become an Employee”)

 

(2) Get the processes of your head.

Use checklists, flowcharts, cross-functional flowcharts, videos, screencasts, a knowledge base.

Or hire telepaths.

 

(3) Combine your processes for accountability and support.

Your empowered, inspired, and integrious team goes to a team-oriented project management tool such as Wrike or Asana that they use to proudly check off their completed tasks AND ask for help and support where they need it.

 

(4) Establish communication protocols.

E-mail is used for what kind of communications? Texting? Phone calls? Video calls? Webcast? Snail mail? Yammer? Instant messaging? Popping your head into someone’s office? Water cooler? Lunch?

To what extent do synchronous communications need to be scheduled in advance and when will you and your team be available to communicate synchronously? What is your organization’s commitment to turnaround time for asynchronous communication?

 

Guess what. You get to design this. You get to choose. Really.

 

(5) Make sure there is / Make sure you can create more market demand for what your organization does.

“But how could anyone NOT want our product/service?” I hear you ask.

No, you’re not asking that. You were actually paying attention while your currently-successful organization was getting off the ground.

So be ready to pivot if the market is changing. (Hint: The market is changing)

 

Which one of these does your organization currently have nailed? Which one of these is “what’s next” for your organization?

More to come next week!

Do You Have Past Due Accounts?

If you perform a service or ship a product before you get paid, then you likely have a balance in your Accounts Receivable account. If customers pay when their invoice is due, all is right with the world. If they don’t, then your cash flow slows down and your bank balance is not as high as it should be. Here are some tips, preventive and supportive, to help you keep your accounts receivable current.

Granting Credit

When you deliver your service or product before your client pays you, you are in effect their “bank,” granting them credit. Not everyone deserves to be granted credit. Consider running credit checks, especially if you are billing large amounts of money for your sized business.

You may also want to ask for a retainer or deposit prior to starting work or shipping your products. This will smooth your cash flow and reduce your credit risk.

Offer Multiple Payment Options

When a customer is ready to pay their bill, make it easy on them by offering multiple payment options. Perhaps they will pay faster if you take payment by credit cards. Many people have extra money sitting in their PayPal accounts, so that is another payment option.  Apple Pay and Android Pay are relatively recent options to consider adding.

You may also want to revisit the credit cards you offer: MasterCard, Visa, and American Express are universal, but many places also take Discover and Diners Club. If you are doing international business, consider JCB (Japan), China UnionPay, and RuPay (India).

Collection Process

Once an unpaid invoice has reached its 90-day mark, the chances of collecting it are about 50 percent. This means that you will need to put some aggressive collection processes in place prior to the 90-day mark.

If the invoice is due in 30 days, start at the 35- to 40-day mark with a friendly reminder. At 60 days, your customer needs a strong reminder and perhaps a phone call. At 75 days, they need to know what consequences there will be for not paying. Will you report the customer debt to credit agencies? Will you turn the account over to a collection agency?

At 90 days, it’s probably a good idea to make one final collection effort and then turn it over to a collection agency. It might sound too soon, but the odds of collecting something much older go down significantly as time passes.

At any rate, create your own process, and automate it as much as possible. The main thing is to stay on top of it.

Past Due Accounts

From how you first engage with your clients to the last steps in the collection process, there are many cost-effective techniques to avoid past due accounts and the unpleasantness that goes with them for both parties. If this is an issue in your business, try these ideas above and reach out if you’d like our help.

 

The Death of the Annual Performance Review

If you have employees, you probably also have a process to help them understand how they are doing on their job performance. There’s a new trend in large companies to kill the annual performance review and replace it with continuous, instant feedback as well as a tool called an after-action review.

After-Action Review

An after-action review (AAR) is a fantastic process to help you look back at a project or period of your business to see what, why, and how things occurred and how they can be improved for the future. Taking a profit-focused view will help you get the most out of the idea.

The AAR provides you with a bit more formal process than a passing “hmm, how did we do on that project last month?” conversation in the hall.  For example, if you planned your client retention rate to be 90 percent and your rate was 85 percent, you may want to take a look at why that happened. Doing exit interviews or a survey with discontinuing clients can help to explain the five percent variation.

Continuing the example, once you have done the interviews, you may have some ideas for improvement. It might be to automate some communication, increase response time, add more time for explanations, or something else. Let’s say you got sick last year and lost some clients because your response time during that time was not good. This year, you can put a sick plan in place to call on a peer to help you out so your service does not suffer.

The AAR requires an open mind and you will need to accept responsibility. One of the key benefits of the AAR is increased accountability. The core questions to ask yourself and your team include:

  • What was supposed to happen?
  • What did happen?
  • What worked? What should we keep doing?
  • What didn’t work? What are some improvements?
  • What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of the year? (Or project?)
  • What personal lessons did you learn?

You can use the AAR to improve your business by using it after each large project, to measure goals, or for a specific timeframe. Look at your first quarter performance this year. Are you on track? What improvements do you need to make for next quarter that you can work on over the summer and fall? Some opportunities to use the AAR include:

  • Technology changes / additions or training
  • Staffing changes
  • Hiring process changes
  • Marketing changes / additions or training
  • Operations changes / additions or training
  • New service or product development / new niches
  • Changes in your existing services or products
  • Customer retention
  • Sales cycle changes or development
  • Pricing evaluations
  • Client surveys / communications / service level changes

The good thing about the AAR is you can make it as formal or informal as you want.  You can invite your team or do it yourself, although you’re going to need an open, unbiased mind.  Try it in your business, and let us know if we can help.

 

Beyond Saving Trees: New Trends in Receipt Management

Accounting automation has come a long way in the last few years, and the process of handling invoices and receipts is included in those changes. No longer is there a mountain of paperwork to deal with. In this article, we’ll explain some of the changes in this area.

Vendor Invoices

Most invoices are now sent electronically, often through email or from accounting system to accounting system. Some accounting systems allow the invoice document, usually in PDF format, to be attached to the transaction in the accounting system. This feature makes it easy for vendor support questions as well as any audit that may come up.

Some systems are smart enough to “read” the invoice and prepare a check with little or no data entry. Others are able to automate three-way matching – this is when you match a purchase order, packing slip, and invoice together – so that time is saved in the accounts payable function.

Receipts

Today’s systems allow you or your bookkeeper to scan in or take cell phone photos of receipts – whether cash or credit card – and then “read” them and record the transaction. This type of system cuts way down on data entry and allows the accountants to focus on more consultative work rather than administrative work.

Some vendors will email you receipts so all you have to do is use a special email address where your accountant is copied or forward the receipt as you receive it.

The biggest challenge for business owners is getting into the habit of photographing the receipt and sending it to the accountant. The days of shoebox receipts are not completely over, but cloud-savvy business owners are definitely enjoying the alternative options of today’s paperless world.

Approvals

Some systems automate bill approval. This is especially handy for nonprofits or companies with a multi-person approval process. It cuts down on approval time and the time it takes to pay the bill.

New Systems

Here is a short list of new systems that automate a part of the vendor payment or receipt management system. There are a lot more, in addition to your core accounting system, and all of them have different features, platforms, software requirements, integration options, and pricing.

  1. Bill.com
  2. Hubdoc
  3. Receipt Bank
  4. Expensify
  5. SmartVault
  6. Doc.it
  7. Tallie
  8. Concur
  9. LedgerSync
  10. ShoeBoxed
  11. ShareFile
  12. DropBox

If you are interested in finding out more about automating your accounts payable invoices or receipts, please reach out anytime.

5 Metrics to Gauge Your Business Performance

Sometimes, the most telling numbers in your business are not necessarily on the monthly reports. Although the foundation of your finances revolves around the balance sheet and income statement, there are a few numbers that, when known and tracked, can make a huge impact on your business decision-making. Here are five:

1. Revenue per employee.

Even if you are a solo business owner, revenue per employee can be an interesting number. It’s easy to compute: take total revenue for the year and divide by the number of employees you had during the year. You may need to average the number in case you had turnover or adjust it for part-time employees.

Whether your number is good or bad depends on the industry you’re in as well as a host of other factors. Compare it to prior years; is the number increasing (good) or decreasing (not so good)? If it’s decreasing you might want to investigate why. It could be you have many new employees who need training so that your productivity has slipped. It could also be that revenue has declined.

2. Customer acquisition cost.

If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank®, you know that CAC is one of the most important numbers for investors. This is how much it costs you in marketing and selling costs to acquire a new client. Factors such as annual revenue, or even lifetime value of a client will affect how low or high you can allow this number to go.

3. Cash burn rate.

How fast do you go through cash? The cash burn rate calculates this for you. Compute the difference between your starting and ending cash balances and divide that number by the number of months it covers. The result is a monthly value. This is especially important for startups that have not shown a profit yet so they can figure out how much cash they need to borrow or raise to fund their venture.

4. Revenue per client.

Revenue per client is a good measure to compare from year to year. Are clients spending more or less with you, on average, than last year?

5. Customer retention.

If you are curious as to how many customers return year after year, you can compute your client retention percentage. Make a list of all the customers who paid you money last year. Then create a list of customers who have paid you this year. (You’ll need to two full years to be accurate). Merge the two lists. Count how many customers you had in the first year. Then count the customers who paid you money in both years. The formula is:

Number of customer who paid you in both years / Number of customers in the first or prior year * 100 = Customer retention rate as a percentage

New customers don’t count in this formula. You’ll be able to see what percentage of customers came back in a year. You can also modify this formula for any length of time you wish to measure.

Try any of these five metrics so you’ll gain richer financial information about your business’s performance. And as always, if we can help, be sure to reach out.

Five Steps to Getting a Loan

Most small businesses need help with cash during certain stages of their growth. If you find that you have more plans than cash to do them with, then it might be time for a loan. Here are five steps you can take to make the loan process go smoother.

1. Make a plan.

Questions like how much you need and how much you will benefit from the cash infusion are ones you should consider. If you don’t already have some version of a budget and business plan, experts recommend you spend a bit of time drafting those items. There’s nothing worse than getting a loan and finding out you needed twice the cash to do what you wanted to accomplish.

2. Know your credit-related numbers.

Do you know your credit score? Is there anything in your credit history that needs cleaning up before it slows down the loan approval process?

Take a look also at your standard financial ratios. These are ratios like your current ratio (current assets / current liabilities) and debt-to-equity ratio. If these are in line with what your lender is expecting, then you are in good shape to proceed.

3. Research your options.

Luckily, there are many more options for financing your business today than there have been in the past. Traditional options, such as banks, still exist, but it can be difficult to get a bank loan for a small business.

Here are some online loan sources where investors are matched with borrowers via an online transaction:

  • Kabbage
  • OnDeck
  • LendingClub
  • FundBox
  • BlueVine

Or you can go to Fundera and compare which loan is the most economical.

There is also crowdfunding, which is very different from a loan. Crowdfunding is a way to raise cash from many people who invest a small amount. Top sites include GoFundMe and KickStarter, where you can find out more about how it works.

Other ways to get cash include tapping into your personal assets: using credits cards, refinancing a house, and borrowing money from family and friends.

4. Create your loan package.

Most lenders will want to know your story, and a loan package can provide the information they need to decide whether they want to loan you money or not. A good loan package includes the following:

  • A narrative that includes why you need the loan, how much you want, and how you will pay it back. A good narrative will also list sources of collateral and a willingness to make a personal guarantee.
  • Current financial statements and supporting credit documentation, such as bank statements and credit history.
  • A business plan and budget, or portions of it, that cover your business overview, vision, products and services, and market.
  • A resume or biography of the business owners and a description of the organization structure and management.

While it takes time to put together a great loan package, it’s also a great learning experience to go through the exercise of pulling all of the information together.

5. Execute!

You’re now ready to get your loan. Or not. Going through these five steps helps you discover more about your business and helps you make an informed decision about whether a loan is still what you want and need.

Throughout the process, you may have learned new information that tells you you’re not quite ready for a loan, or that in fact, you are. At any rate, preparing for a loan is a great learning process, and the good news is there are lots of avenues for small businesses to get the cash they need to grow.

The Triangle of Fraud Risk

A 2014 Global Fraud Study conducted by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) estimates that the average business loses five percent of their revenues to fraud.  The global total of fraud losses is $3.7 trillion.  The median fraud case goes 18 months before detection and results in a $145,000 loss.  How can you avoid being a fraud victim?

The first step is to become more aware of the conditions that make fraud possible.  The fraud triangle is a model that describes three components that need to be present in order for fraud to occur:

  1. Motivation (or Need)
  2. Rationalization
  3. Opportunity

When fewer than three legs of the triangle are present, we can deter fraud.  When all three are present, fraud could occur.

Motivation

Financial pressure at home is an example of when motivation to commit fraud is present.  The fraud perpetrator finds themselves in need of large amounts of cash due to any number of reasons:  poor investments, gambling, a flamboyant lifestyle, need for health care funds, family requirements, or social pressure.  In short, the person needs money and lots of it fast.

Rationalization

The person who commits fraud rationalizes the act in their minds:

  • I’m too smart to get caught.
  • I’ll put it back when my luck changes.
  • The big company won’t miss it.
  • I don’t like the person I’m stealing from.
  • I’m entitled to it.

At some point in the process, the person who commits fraud loses their sense of right and wrong and their fear of any consequences.

Opportunity

Here’s where you as a business owner come in.  If there’s a leak in your control processes, then you have created an opportunity for fraud to occur.  People who handle cash, signatory authority on a bank account, or financial records with poor oversight could notice that there is an opportunity for fraud to occur with the ability to cover the act up for some time.

Seventy-seven percent of all frauds occur in one of these departments:  accounting, operations, sales, executive/upper management, customer service, purchasing and finance. The banking and financial services, government and public administration, and manufacturing industries are at the highest risk for fraud cases. (Source: ACFE)

Prevention

Once you understand a little about fraud, prevention is the next step.   To some degree, all three points on the triangle can be controlled; however, most fraud prevention programs focus on the third area the most:  Opportunity.  When you can shut down the opportunity for fraud, then you’ve gone a long way to prevent it.

While we hope fraud never happens to you, it makes good sense to take preventative steps to avoid it.  Please give us a call if we can help you in any way.

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