The top 5 business challenges of the summer

The Top 5 Business Challenges of the Summer

Summer is typically slow for many small businesses not in the travel industry. Here’s how to overcome some summer business challenges:

Slow sales

Cash flow can dramatically slow down during the summer months. One way to combat this is to add summer promotions and specials. Find ways to tie your business to summer activities. Have a giveaway for free ice cream at a local shop or tickets to a movie theater.

Give regular customers rewards for referrals. This makes the regular customers feel special but also brings in new customers. Word of mouth is still powerful.

Plan special deals for slow days. A restaurant might add a trivia night or a kids eat free evening. A mechanic might offer a ladies day with discounted oil changes.

Employee vacations

Make sure you have processes in place and perhaps a tool to make sure that there’s adequate coverage. Have your employees request summer vacation time well in advance. Look at the calendar and make sure there are no duplicate times that will cause problems.

If you’re going to be too short-handed, see if you can add some overtime to other employees or work with a temp agency.

Low productivity

Make sure productivity doesn’t drop in the summer by having extra assignments lined up ahead of time. Fill an employee’s workload first with their regular tasks. But then have extra activities planned such as catching up on filing or filling out documents, cleaning and organizing workspace, or working on new ideas that might be hard to implement during busy times.

Now is also the perfect time for team-building and education. Hold that seminar on improving customer service (or update procedures to reduce waste and cut cost) that you’ve wanted to do but haven’t had time.

Work/Life balance

Work is important, but so is your family. Use the time while the kids are out of school to create some lasting family memories. Plan vacations even if it’s only camping at the local state park and get your children involved in coming up with ideas for trips.

Make sure your children are occupied during the summer with fun activities such as drama or art classes. Summer camps offer a chance to experience nature and give your children a feeling of some independence.

Disorganized Financial Systems

Summer is the best time to make sure that your books and financial systems are in tip top shape. Don’t wait until tax time to get your bookkeeping in order. You can take advantage of slow months to make sure all transactions are entered into your computer system.  Also, check out your cash flow and make sure you don’t have outstanding accounts that need to be contacted.

We can help you overcome your summer business challenges and make the most of your company’s productivity during the summer. Contact us today at (602) 703-4285.

How to Find Complete Business Systems

How to Find Complete Business Systems

It’s the age-old investment conundrum; you recognize that your business could be more productive and operate with better profitability, but there’s a whole host of possible solutions with varying results and costs. You need to find a system that will work for your business and offer some return on your investment. Meanwhile, the idea that you are draining resources and the inability to expand your business is clouding your judgment.  Defining what your business requires to operate successfully and profitably can help identify and create the best complete business systems.

Why Choose Complete Business Systems?

If your business has recently experienced growth or you are in the process of a controlled expansion program, you will probably find that the existing system is stalling your ability to operate effectively. While smaller businesses can benefit from multiple software products and transfer information between colleagues, larger businesses are restricted by multiple operating licenses, and information transferal between departments can prove laborious.

An all-in-one system drastically reduces the processing time, enabling all information to be available in multiple applications, interfaces, and devices. This creates a huge reduction in entry times, eliminates the chance of human error and radically increases efficiency.

What Are Your System Requirements?

It is important to consider your system requirements carefully.  Technology advances quickly, so choosing a business system which can easily process your current demands is essential. The jump in usage between gigabyte and terabyte happened quickly, so it’s crucial not to limit your system requirements by what you deem to be sufficient today. Budget, however, is a key component, so make a checklist of functionality requirements before you begin to look at available products. A priority for creating an efficient business system should follow these points:

  1. Processes- Streamline your manual processes before changing technical systems
  2. Systems- Well executed systems create predictable customer and employee experiences and enhance operational efficiency
  3. Roles- This point is crucial to defining the necessary roles to achieve your company’s objectives
  4. Skills- Clearly defined roles will allow you to match the necessary skills to each role
  5. Structure- The structure will dictate the processes involved. The key to an effective organizational structure is to design it before you need it and then grow into it.

Employee Input

The employees who do the work on a daily basis have the best knowledge of what’s needed to work more efficiently. Challenge the employees to research different available systems. Giving their opinions on business system characteristics and recommendations will highlight the functions that your business requires for a complete all-in-one system. It’s a positive exercise for employees, who will then feel invested in the company and part of the evolution process. It will also identify, at a grass-roots level, the characteristics which will improve employee productivity and help increase profitability. Once you have gained employee feedback and recommendations, you will be ready to short-list and budget for your new business system.

Advanced Planning

The decisive action of committing to a complete business system will lead to the planning of how it should be implemented. For efficient adaptation to your system, you will need to plan and allocate tasks to different sectors of the workforce. The transfer of data, updating of line processes and input cycle plans will all simplify the transition.

Choosing to replace your existing business system can be a daunting task. With so many options to choose from, it is important to understand your requirements and define the key processes that could be refined and developed more efficiently.

Today’s all in one systems offer the opportunity to decrease costs while producing more. Finding the right systems that meet all of your requirements can be a difficult task. I can help you narrow down the list to start moving in the right direction and make your company as competitive as it can be.  Just give me a call to get started!

Are You Ready For Advanced Business Solutions?

Are You Ready For Advanced Business Solutions?

Planning for your business’ growth is the most effective way to smooth business expansion. Allocating your resources effectively requires careful timing. Here we highlight four key signals you need to upgrade your advanced business solutions. 

Your Computer Systems Are Slowing You Down 

Computers age with the same signs as humans do; they begin to slow down. In the early stages, this can be compensated for with a little maintenance. Just like going to the gym, cleaning the memory and de-fragmenting hard-drives will help with the servers’ performance. There will, however, come a point which the server will be too slow to accommodate a productive working platform. Because of the daily usage, changes in operating speeds aren’t noticed as they are happening. It’s a gradual deceleration which happens over time and is usually only apparent when there’s a sudden influx in demand, or you find yourself waiting for basic commands to process as if you were using the dial-up internet of the ‘90’s.

Employees Are Frustrated with Processes and Systems

Company systems are often put in place before or without feedback from the employees. The effectiveness of the computer system depends on reliability and ease of operation. If you do not monitor the productivity of your workforce, or act on employee feedback, it’s likely that your company isn’t operating as effectively as it could be. Poor processing systems also increase user fatigue, draining productivity. Monitor the efficiency of your computer systems by requesting employee feedback, and help boost workforce morale in the process.

You Find Yourself Constantly Repeating or Retraining

Another sign that your system is failing you is the need to repeat input. A modern system should be able to process and compute information automatically, without the need for staff to re-enter data which is already given and registered in the system. Data, once entered by an employee or the client should be available in every necessary department and program required to act on the information. Copying, re-entering and referencing data costs time and increases the risk of human error.

Re-training is a necessary course of action in all companies, keeping information and processes relevant and up-to-date. If you find yourself re-training your workforce in the same processes, it could be superseded by a more intuitive system. Again, assess the productivity and general state of morale to determine if employees are using processes which assist or hinder their work.

Your Competitors Are Upgrading

Even if your current system is working for you, and your workforce is happy with the systems in place, you may find updating your companies’ computer system advisable if your competitors are upgrading theirs. Technology advances quickly, and processing capabilities are a major factor in the productivity of your company. If your competitors have upgraded their systems, they will be outperforming youFailing to keep up with system updates and replacing aging interfaces or servers can quickly push you out of the game, and it will be harder to regain old clients and attract new ones. 

Microsoft and Amstrad were both one-time computer giants and business competitors. While one of the two companies chose to invest in software development, the other pushed the boundaries of hardware development. With just one decisive change in direction, that competition changed forever, and the two companies have never since been considered equal.

Even if you have the resources in place, reactive planning will never produce the same results as proactivity. If you’re looking to explore advanced business solutions, take a decisive step and give me a call.

Is Your Business Ready to Take Off?

Is Your Business Ready to Take Off?

In the last four blog posts, we’ve taken a deep dive into the stages of small business growth. You can begin reading this series here. Small businesses have five main stages of growth. The first one, the existence stage, revolves around the creation or the birth of the business. The second stage focuses on survival. During this stage, little to no profits are made, the business focuses more on staying alive and not counting too many losses when it comes to its resources. The third stage involves profit for the first time and the decision to expand or maintain the status quo. But, the fourth stage, called the Take Off stage is all about developing the business even further.

What is the Take Off Stage?

Your business has grown considerably, has achieved a sustainable amount of financial resources and attracted key managerial talent. Your primary concerns at this stage are not only to accelerate growth, but also to learn how to generate enough revenue to support that growth.

Is your business ready to take off? There are certain factors that can determine the answer to this question, most of which are discussed below. However, the key factor is your ability to manage both the people side of growth as well as the financial aspect of it. In some cases, you may be replaced by your board as a seasoned expert takes over to grow the business further.

Staff

Your staff work with your customers every single day and are the perfect candidates for giving input to the growth of your business. Without their input, you may deploy the wrong strategy or launch a product or service that your customers don’t want. Depending on how many resources have been used, the consequences could send your business back a few stages. It’s not only important to employ the right staff, but listening to their feedback is a crucial factor for the development of the business.

Cash Flow

Business becomes more complex in the Take Off stage. While you have competent staff, your systems are beginning to become strained by your growth so you bring on a Chief Technology Officer or systems project manager to refine them.

Maintaining the cash flow is important. However, what is more, important is using the cash in a way that moves the business forward. You’ll need to have a higher debt to equity ratio, and your tolerance for that is what drives forward progress or stalls it.

As you make decisions, you’ll consult with experts and put the right strategies in place with a cash flow plan to support them.  Throwing all cash resources into one all in strategy could potentially harm the business more than help it grow, so you’ll manage your new product lines and services accordingly.

Continuous Improvement

Keeping a positive attitude is another important factor in helping the business grow. It’s important to remember that everybody makes mistakes and that managers don’t have a way of seeing the future to determine which strategies will work and which won’t. Accepting others’ mistakes is something every owner should do to help create a great working environment where everybody can thrive.

To help your business grow and develop from the third stage to the fourth one, you need to make sure that:

  • You have experienced staff that you trust and who can come up with great strategies for your business to grow based on what your customers want;
  • You know how to use the cash resources coming in and not using them on one single strategy that promises to boost your business further; and
  • You know and accept that everybody makes mistakes, but at the same time, you expect the very best from the staff.

The Take Off stage often involves more self-discovery. How much risk are you willing to take? Are you the right leader? Can you handle higher levels of debt? With confidence and continuous learning, you’ll be ready when your company is. I’m here to help. Contact me today.

Expand or Maintain? Navigating the Success Stage of Small Business

Expand or Maintain? Navigating the Success Stage of Small Business

Small businesses have always had it rough, mostly because it takes a lot of time, resources, and effort to build a successful one. As a small business grows, investors come into the mix and the influx of cash can rapidly propel the business into the next stage.  However, some small businesses decide that they don’t want to grow. Instead, they want to maintain the status quo. Herein lies the decision to move into the Success Stage of small business.

What is the Success Stage?

The third stage in the five stages of small business growth is called the Success stage. When your business is at this stage, you’ve accomplished huge goals and stabilized cash flow. You’re less involved in the daily operations and take a more strategic role. You’ll begin to make solid plans for the future of your business, your role moving forward, and you’ll make the decision to either use your business as a means of support or as a base for further growth.

Going All-In on Success

If you decide to maintain the status quo, your goal is to get the right people in place so that you can free your time up for your next adventure or phase of life. The first steps revolve around hiring the right people for the right positions. A team of forward thinking managers will put the right financial, marketing and production systems in place. The staff hired for these positions are usually a controller and a production scheduler or operations manager.

The planning of operational budgets will support a functional delegation and overall, everybody involved in the business, including the owner and the manager, should focus on devising a strategy for the purpose of maintaining the current situation. That doesn’t mean that you don’t keep up with technology and improve efficiencies. It just means that you’re not putting much effort into research and development.

If on the other hand you’ve chosen to expand, you’ll play a significant role, but mostly on the planning and new product launch side. While the team of managers are focusing on the strategies that will maintain the day-to-day operations and keep the business profitable, you’ll be off with another team working on the next phase. You can use the cash and borrowing power of your successful business to invest in new product lines.

Moving into the Take Off Stage

As you go beyond the Success stage of small business growth, you’ll need to generate enough revenue to handle that growth. In the next article, I’ll help you navigate the Take Off stage of small business growth. If you’re anxious to get started today, contact me here.

Growing Your Business Beyond Existence

Growing Your Business Beyond Existence

Existence is the first step towards operation, and gradually, success. In the early startup phase of your business, it’s up to you to manage and consider every single aspect of operations. This is the period where you need to work the hardest and be the most creative to attract customers and provide the best product or service that you’re capable of.

What is the Existence Stage?

The existence stage is the very beginning of any business. The biggest challenge in this stage is generating demand for your product or service. This is a period of first-hand learning and experiences, where you’ll tackle problems like product and service viability and cash flow.

In this stage, you as the owner perform most of the tasks.  Your goal for the business is existence and function. Often, you’ll use your own money or a small business loan to help stay afloat.

Some of the questions to consider as you validate your business’s existence include:

  • Who are your customers and what do they want?
  • Who are your competitors and what are they doing?
  • What do you want to achieve and what is your plan?

Surpassing Existence

The key to surpassing existence and becoming a viable business requires that you focus on your core and provide value all while managing everyday aspects of day-to-day operations. To do so, consider these six areas of focus.

Focus on Your Core Business

Always remain true to your business purpose, values and mission.  This helps drive your business in the straight direction towards achieving your goals rather than getting mixed up in other schemes and ventures that aren’t in alignment. If you remain steadfast and concentrate your energies on your core business, success will follow.

Define a Market Niche

Your product or service must attract and appeal to your target market in order to generate demand. Uniqueness and distinction will set you apart in the industry, and will attract the customers you’re looking for.

Understand your strengths and weaknesses, create your value proposition and define your market niche. Then, narrow your focus on serving that niche with excellence before expanding.

Articulate your Competitive Advantage

Before you are ready to plan all your marketing and pricing strategies, it is essential to examine what techniques and promotions are being deployed by the competition. This will help you stay competitive and maintain an edge in the market.

Your aim is to be unique, and counter your competitors with a greater, more attractive value proposition. Your customers need to know why they should pick you over the countless other businesses who provide similar services or products.

Manage Cash Flow

Liquidity and solvency are the biggest problems during the earliest stage of business. Be sure to manage your cash flow, avoid waste, and keep a check on each and every dollar that is spent. If you are bad at managing finances, hire a professional accountant to do it for you.

Acquire Customers

Acquiring customers is always cited as the most challenging aspect of running a business at every stage of small business growth. The key to acquiring customers is creativity, effective promotion and value. When you provide value to customers, they want to reciprocate in the form of a purchase or referral.

Deliver Value

Provide your customers superior quality, value-added services and products, so that they keep coming back for more, and refer you to their friends. Being a resource and solving customer’s problems are the best thing you can do to grow your business.

As you begin the journey of starting up your business, you’ll need people that can come along side of you. Our Bridge Starter package can help set your business on the right path at the very beginning. Contact us to learn more.

In Survival Mode? Here’s How to Grow.

In Survival Mode? Here’s How to Grow.

Once you have established your business, defined your market niche and generated a steady demand, your business has landed in the survival stage. Now, your business is a successful and efficient entity that earns revenue and hopefully profit.

What is the Survival Stage?

The survival stage is the second stage in the growth of a small business. Here, your business has started to generate profit, and your biggest challenge is to make sure these profits keep coming in and are utilized efficiently. You do not only need to attract and entice your customers with effective marketing and promotions, but you also need to examine and analyze your ROI and engage in serious strategic planning.

Being open for business is no longer the primary concern. Now you have more important challenges to overcome, such as developing procedures, systems and plans to make sure your profits keep pouring in.

As you grow beyond survival stage, consider these three questions:

  • Are you ready to delegate minor activities and organize operational systems?
  • How can you improve internal and external communications?
  • What does your business need to improve and expand on?

The Key to Growing Beyond the Survival Stage

There are five keys to growing beyond survival, and your ability to master them will ensure your business thrives.

Focus on Expansion

You cannot expand unless you delegate everyday tasks to your employees, and concentrate your energies on more strategic matters. You need to be willing, emotionally and mentally, to let go of these tasks and trust others to take care of them by defining job requirements and tasks.

Expansion should not only be your goal and target, but your policies, strategies and plans should also adequately address all the needs of expansion. As you expand, you’ll have to hire employees and learn employment law and best HR practices. You’ll also increase your inventory and offerings, so you’ll need efficient processes and procedures to ensure that all tasks are completed on time and as promised.

Acquire Necessary Resources

Innovation and advancement are the key to success. Unless your business is adequately equipped with all the necessary financial, technical, human and intellectual resources, it cannot function, operate, innovate and succeed.  Make the right investment decisions and acquire the necessary resources you need to grow while maintaining adequate cash flow.

 Formalize Operational Systems and Procedures

Formalizing operational systems and procedures helps day-to-day activities run without a hitch.  Have employees document best practices and keep these documents up to date.

Improve Communications

You need to improve communication within your business so that your employees and contractors know the goals and can work towards them. Likewise, ensuring external communication with your customers, bookkeeper, accountant and legal team helps keep your machine running smoothly.

Spend Time Strategically Planning

Strategic planning is the secret to expansion and growth. When everything is organized and running smoothly, you can allocate time to concentrate on strategic planning.

Concentrate on all the changes and innovations you need to pursue in order to make sure your business continues to flourish and expand. Then, create and document the plan so that you can work towards achieving them.

We’re here for you when you’re ready to expand. Our Build Your Bridge package can help you go beyond survival and into the Success Stage of the small business growth.  Contact us today.

Five Stages of Small Business Growth

Understanding the Five Stages of Small Business Growth

As you grow your business, it goes through a life cycle, of sorts, encountering different challenges in each stage that requires a unique approach. Marketing, sales, business development, and preserving market share are all different now than they were when you opened the doors. Your priorities and business operations have changed and so have your finances. Understanding the stages of small business growth will help prepare you to deal with the obstacles that most small businesses face as they continue to grow.

There are five stages of small business growth that you’ll encounter as you grow and scale your business.

Existence

In the existence stage, businesses are typically small organizations in which the owners do most of the work and guides the actions of their employees. At this point, the company’s main concerns are getting clients and providing services or products that will earn their new client’s loyalty.

Survival

In the second stage of business growth, the company has managed to establish itself, has managed to generate a good client base and the quality products or services that those customers require. Revenues at this point aren’t capable of funding exponential growth, leaving survival as the major goal. Owners continue to be heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of the business.

Success

At this stage, the business has accomplished goals and stabilized cash flow making it possible for the owners to make the decision to either use their business as a means of support or as a base for further growth.  The owners will be less involved in day-to-day operations as this stage.

Take off 

At this stage, the business has grown considerably, has achieved a sustainable amount of financial resources and attracted key managerial talent. Primary concerns at this stage are not only to accelerate growth but also to learn how to generate enough revenue to handle that growth.

Resource Maturity

Businesses that arrive at this stage are generally preoccupied with consolidating and managing the financial gains that were brought on by the accelerated growth. To continue being successful, they also will need to focus on retaining the benefits associated with their small size. That is their ability to be agile, efficient and think out of the box.

Being Prepared

The five stages of growth must play a part in your business plan and the processes from stage one to stage five. If you plan for what needs to be done next and take immediate action, your business will have the best chances of achieving the next stage of growth.

If you don’t know what stage you’re currently in, take a look at your major risk factors. Are you just starting out or do you have a thriving machine that’s operating on all cylinders?

Once you know where you are, you can begin making plans for your next stage. You’ll also become more aware of your business, identify the problems, possible pitfalls, and opportunities at any given point. If you can do this, you’ll be able to navigate the five stages of business growth and thrive beyond your imagination.

If you’re struggling with any stage, I can help identify areas of improvement and scalability. Schedule a free consultation with me today.

Simple Steps To Recruit Finance Professionals

Simple Steps To Recruit Finance Professionals to Work for You

Hiring the right professionals is crucial for the success of any business. From telecommunications to manufacturing, to retail products and banking, businesses across all market sectors need exceptional financial talent to increase revenues, reduce costs, efficiently navigate through investments and merger and acquisition activity, and intelligently deal with increased government regulation. Even though recruiting exceptional financial talent is difficult, the following simple steps will help.

Step 1: Create a Success Profile

Along with developing job descriptions, it is important to create a “success profile” of what you consider to be the ideal finance professional. You probably have a basic idea of the responsibilities and job skills you want the potential employee to handle, but you’ll have a much better chance of recruiting the right candidates (and avoiding the wrong ones) if you have a success profile laid out in advance. Make sure you specify the attributes you’re looking for including knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors.

Step 2: Understand What Motivates Possible Candidates

Once you have a good idea of who you’re looking for, it’s time to consider what the ideal candidate will want in return. A positive, motivating work environment is as important to most employees as compensation. Does your workplace offer perks, benefits and work-life balance that will attract and motivate top-notch finance professionals?

Step 3: Seek Employee Referrals

Your employees can be a very reliable and valuable recruiting source. A lot of companies have an employee referral program in place that rewards employees who recommend someone that the company ends up hiring with a reward like cash bonuses or extra vacation days.

People like to work with people they know, like and trust. Not only will you get a good referral, but you increase the likelihood of keeping both employees longer.

Step 4: Tap into Social Media

If you’re not utilizing social media to its fullest, it’s time to put up a company LinkedIn profile, especially if you’re trying to recruit a finance professional. When it comes to job searches, the active job seekers spend a lot of their time networking on sites like these.

Step 5: Network

By joining business associations, going to networking events and consistently contributing to public discussions regarding your industry, you’ll be able to get the word out about your company and your recruiting needs. It’s also a good idea to take part in career fairs and maintain a presence on college campuses. These types of venues give businesses the opportunity to offer job placement, mentorships and scholarships to college students.

Step 6: Hire a Recruiting Firm

A lack of time, inexperience or inadequate professional network can all result in recruitment challenges. If you’re facing any of these challenges, it’s time to contact a recruitment agency. Reputable professional recruiters have access to a substantial pool of applicants and they also handle the key administrative details, including placing ads, reviewing resumes as well as carrying out preliminary interviews. On top of that, you only pay the recruiter’s fee once they find someone you end up hiring.

I can help you find the right financial professional for your team. Contact me today to learn more about my process.

Why You Need an Organization Chart in Your Business

As a sole proprietor, implementing an organizational chart may not be on your list of top priorities. If everyone is aware of their roles, and you have only a handful of employees who wear multiple hats, it may seem pointless to create one.

The fact is that an organizational chart covers much more than tracking employees. It ensures that your company’s efforts are being aligned with your brand strategies and vision. Following an organizational chart is a good business habit to ensure that you optimize your time as well as your employees.

Here are some of the benefits that you might see if you prepare and follow an organizational chart.

Organization Charts Make Planning Easier

Since you can visualize the structure of your business, you can use an organizational chart to help you make plans for the future. You’ll be able to allocate resources better, easily discover competencies of employees and help them visualize a career path at your company.

Organization charts help to provide a blueprint for resource allocation within your business. It can also help you identify areas where you might need a stronger skill set or someone with more experience currently and in the future. Having a hiring strategy in place is much more effective than waiting until you need to hire someone.

Better Employee Job Descriptions

Putting together an organizational chart provides the opportunity to create better job descriptions and assign ownership and accountability. It can eliminate indecisiveness regarding who is accountable and for what. Additionally, it shows who they report to for assignments, time off and career plans.

Strategically Design and Run Your Business

Using an organizational chart makes it possible for you to strategically design a business model that works for you. It’s possible for you to have the freedom you need to operate in your native genius while helping employees see and adopt your vision.

Time to Focus on Customer Service

Companies using a well-defined organizational chart will be able to spend more time concentrating on customer service as opposed to trying to correct ineffective operational issues. Superior customer service helps companies better communicate with their customers and potential customers, answering inquiries right away. When you’re not putting out fires, you have the time to focus on increasing profits and longevity.

Useful Tools of the Trade

There are a number of organizational chart products available on the market at varying price points. If you’re just starting out, a simple Word document or PowerPoint organization chart will work just fine.

Once you’ve completed your organization chart, put it in in a location where other internal employees can see it. Google Drive or Dropbox are affordable options and may even be free depending on the solutions you choose.

An organization chart that nobody sees doesn’t exist. Make sure you share it! I can help you create systems to improve communication in your company. Give me a call today so we can get you all set up for the new year.