Marketing

Are You Too Financially Cautious?

Is it possible to be too financially cautious?  Cautious does not mean that you are just conservative or frugal with your money, but that you are too afraid to spend your money wisely. You may not even be aware that you are too cautious and here are some examples:

Hesitate to make the right investments: Aside from traditional investments, you may be too cautious to invest in your own education and knowledge, spend the money for new equipment and technology, marketing, or spending money on employees.

Too cautious about wasting money: If you are so concerned that you will waste your resources then you will end up spending too much time trying to save a nickel, but it ends up costing you a dollar. For example, you don’t want to spend the money to keep track of your finances in QuickBooks or even Quicken for personal use, but yet you incur hundreds of dollars of insufficient funds charges each month. I have seen clients spend approximately $10,000 for insufficient funds fees.

Not taking a loan when you should: I am not an advocate of borrowing money excessively or foolishly, nor do I think that borrowing should be avoided at all times, which some pundits advocate each position strongly for. However, sometimes you need to have a line of credit to smooth out some bumps or to take advantage of low-risk opportunities that arise. Alternatively, if you pay off all of your debts too quickly then you may not have any cash available.

Time versus money: Using your time productively strongly dictates your financial success. However, if you spend your time on $10 per hour activities that drive you crazy instead of paying someone to perform them, while you can be making $200 per hour, then that is a poor use of your time and financial resources.

Money before relationships: If you are too financially cautious then you will probably never want to get married, and if you do, then you will worry about not having enough money for your children and will probably not have any.

Another way of saying financially cautious is to be penny wise and pound foolish. Don’t try to save your pennies, but make dollars!

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5 Habits for a Healthy Business and 3 Unhealthy Habits to Avoid

Our habits are repeated actions that we take, and have a tremendous impact on our results. Healthy habits become ingrained within us and we continue to do them with little thought or resistance over time. What are some practical, easy habits to ensure a healthy business and also the habits to avoid?

Healthy Habits:

Schedule activities: If you want important things to get done, especially non-urgent, important items, then you need to schedule them. Whether you need to schedule an activity on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, once it is on your calendar, then the likelihood of it being completed increases significantly. Examples include setting aside time for marketing, networking, reviewing finances, and reviewing processes.

Delegate often: Do you want to get more done? The key is to delegate, but not only to delegate, but to delegate the right things and delegate to the right people. Think before performing a task that needs to be done, especially a somewhat urgent task. This can be as simple as scheduling appointments, cleaning up a mess, or communicating simple issues.

Pause before spending: Virtually every single expense can be justified and rationalized for your business or for you personally. Before committing to spending money, first pause, think about it, and answer  the following questions: can the expense be delayed without their being a negative impact, are their other options, and what would happen if I do not incur this expense?

Consult advisors regularly: Everyone should have an advisor to consult with before making major decisions. High impact decisions can include: employee management issues, loans and finances, purchasing another business, opening another location, legal matters, etc.

Measure results: This can include reviewing your financial results, effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and employee productivity. Do not make assumptions, but keep track of important metrics and review your finances. Just because you are busy does not mean that you are profitable. Look at the numbers!

Unhealthy Habits:

Impulsive decision making: Almost all important business decisions can be pondered, and do not have to be made immediately. Take your time!

Following emotions and feelings: Don’t do things just be you feel like it or because you don’t feel like it. This can include being reactive to a customer that is upset or an employee that made a mistake. Although you may feel better at the moment, it doesn’t help long-term. The same goes for how you feel. I know that I feel like playing Cooking Fever on my phone for a few hours, but if do so, then only the virtual customers in the game will be fed, while my family will be starving.

Consulting with inept people: I know this may sound harsh, but seek the advice of people who are competent to give you advice and/or thoroughly know you and your situation.

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Try to Move the Needle Just a Little Bit

Do you want to make big massive changes? From growing your sales, increasing profits, working less hours to even losing weight, it seems daunting, but here’s how to get started:

Habits: When you want to change something drastically, it all starts with your habits. Incorporate new habits into your routine, and replace the old habits with these new habits. Doesn’t this sound so easy?!

Keep track: Keep track of your results to be able to measure your progress. For example, let’s say that you want to increase your sales by 20% compare to last year. First, monitor your results using financial software, such as QuickBooks, or even in Excel. If you do not measure your results, then you will not be able to determine if your actions are working.

Give it time: When making changes, you have to give it time to see those changes happen. It can be weeks, months, or sometimes years. As long as you are seeing the needle move in the right direction, then you know that it is working, no matter how small the positive results are.

Sustainability: If you make a monumental change then it may not be sustainable over the long haul. For example, if you decide to work less and cut your hours all at once, then you will quickly become overwhelmed and will go back to your old schedule. Look at the longer-term goal and then work backwards to figure out the proper actions and timeframes. For example, if you are currently working 50 hours per week and want to cut back to 40 hours, then give yourself a timeframe of one year. Next, shoot to reduce your workweek by approximately 1 hour per week for the first month, then 1 hour the next month and so on, until you have achieved a shorter work week. Then, figure out which actions you need to take to reduce your hours.

Change can be dramatic even if the results seem small in the beginning. Have the endurance, discipline, and willpower to continue your actions to achieve your long-term goals.

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Don’t Focus on the Wrong Things

What we focus on gets our time, energy, and attention, but how do we know what to focus on to amplify our financial results?

Reactive items: Sometimes there will be an event that needs to be dealt with immediately, but most of the time this is not the case. If you find that you are always being reactive then you are probably not focusing on actions that will produce the best results. Also, this means that you not operating your business in an organized manner, which tends to produce more reactive items.

Minor items that produce little to no value: An example is spending gobs of time and money trying to design and print your business cards. Your business card should be a representation of your business, but if you spend 15 hours trying to design them, then that is overkill. Cleaning excessively and making everything impeccably neat is another waste of time. Cleanliness and neatness are good, but don’t spend an hour each day cleaning your desk, car, or anything else. If you do, then you may have other issues that I am not qualified to fix!

Blaming others: Everyone likes to be right, right? But if you don’t know who is helping you and who is hurting you then how can you run your business profitably? Know who is your enemy and who is your friend. The people surrounding you include your employees, vendors, professionals, subcontractors, etc. They are usually working toward the greater good, but if you do not think so, then take an objective look at the situation, which is probably more positive then your emotions will lead you to believe, to determine if this is the case.

Tasks that can easily be delegated so you can make more money: There is a business owner that I often see cutting the grass, edging, and taking care of the landscaping of his business. It is understandable to do this for your home if you really enjoy this type of work and have the time to do so, but not for your business. Let’s calculate the lost income from this endeavor. Let’s say the landscaper cost an average of $50 a week plus some extras and snow plowing for a total of $3,500 per year total. Then, it takes you an average of 2 hours or more each week to do all the landscaping (don’t forget that you need to have all of the equipment, maintain the equipment, change your clothes before yardwork, shower, change your clothes after, and now you probably need a nap). This can easily equate to spending 5% or more of your time on landscaping work. What if that time was spent trying to grow and develop your business and was equivalent to $10k, $50k, $100k or more of income?

How we spend our time has the largest impact on the profitability of our business. All of the above also relate to letting your emotions rule your decision making versus being well though-out, which I have written about previously. Focus on the right things!

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The 3 Pillars

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A business has many moving parts that must all be coordinated to ensure smooth and profitable operations. Usually, there are aspects of a business that are either completely ignored or not given the time, energy and focus that they need. These moving parts can be broken down into 3 major areas: operations, marketing, and financial.

Operations: Most businesses focus all of their time and energy on the operations of their business, and with good reason. Without operations there would be no business. Aspects of operations that are usually overlooked are: developing and managing employees, delegation, scheduling, and technology. It’s easy to get lost in all of the details of delivering your product and service that improvements to your business get pushed aside for the sake of just getting through the day.

Marketing: Marketing is the promotion of your business and is the key to growth opportunities. This can include old-fashioned networking, social media and Internet marketing, and many other forms of getting the word out. There are even indirect ways of marketing your product or service based upon visual interactions and use of technology.

Financial: Financial matters are like a middle child that tends to get ignored. Anecdotally, I have yet to see a business that does not have either cash flow problems or tax issues if they ignore their finances. Practically speaking this is the least interesting aspect of running a business, which is probably why it is ignored. However, operations, marketing and financial are all thoroughly intertwined, and if you ignore the financial aspect of your business then it will negatively impact all of the others.

These three pillars create the foundation of a business, and by strengthening them you will create lasting success.

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Why Does a Fast Growing Company Bleed Cash?

The irony of growing a company quickly is that it tends to bleed cash, and a lot of it. Why is this so and what can you do to prevent a cash crunch to keep the momentum going?

A fast Growing company is likely to spend more money to feed the growth of the business then a mature, slow-growing business in such areas as marketing, employees, technology, equipment, improvements, rent, and so on. The key to not going broke is to manage the process to keep the cash inflows consistent and much greater than the cash outflows. For example:

Accounts receivable: Sales growth without receiving money coming in will be awfully painful. Make sure you have billing and collection procedures in place to keep the cash coming in timely.

Marketing: There are different thoughts on how much should be spent on marketing as a percentage of sales. However, instead of thinking about percentages, think about effectiveness of your marketing so that your cash is not wasted.

Improvements & equipment: Building out a new location can be very costly, but there are several ways to minimize the risk of setting up an additional location. First, make sure that your first location is profitable and producing excess cash flow, second, build up a cash cushion, and third, obtain favorable financing or use a combination of cash and financing.

Employees: As sales increase there is a temptation to quickly hire more employees, which is necessary. However, if you hire too quickly, then the productivity of each employee will be too low for you to make a profit. A good strategy is to create metrics, that if met, will let you know that it is time to hire another employee or employees.

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How Long Will it Take to Double Your Sales?

Doubling your sales is an ambitious goal for most business owners, but is this practical and if so, how long will it take?

It is not as difficult as it seems if you break it down into smaller components, such as the average percent increase that is needed each year to double your sales. Here are examples of how long it will take in years to double your sales based on your compounded growth rate percentage:

Growth Rate      Years to Double

5%                          14.2 Years

10%                        7.2 Years

15%                        5 Years

20%                        3.8 Years

25%                        3.1 Years

30%                        2.6 Years

40%                        2.1 Years

50%                        1.7 Years

 

Even a modest 15% growth rate will double your sales within 5 years, which is very reasonable. If you are able to keep your growth consistent for another 5 years, then you will double your sales again, which translates to a quadrupling of sales from your base. For example, a company with $1M in sales will double to $2M in 5 years and in another 5 years will double again to $4M.

Always do the math when figuring out how to achieve your sales goals to make sure you are on track.

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The One True Business Formula for Success

There are dozens of formulas and ratios that a business can use to determine success and profitability. However, there really is one that is most important and should be used repeatedly . . .

Sales – Expenses = Profit

Keep on repeating this formula over and over again and you will do just fine.

 

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What Keeps Business Owners Up at Night?

Aside from worrying about everything, there are really just a few timeless concerns of most business owners. If you don’t have at least one of these concerns then that is probably a concern. Here they are with a few solutions:

Employees: No matter how well you run your business, it will always be a challenge to manage employees. Common problems are: finding good employees, keeping good employees, and making sure that they are productive. There are several ways to address these concerns that are simple, but no way full-proof. The first step is to take your time hiring and to hire the right people from the beginning. Next, treat your employees well and fair. Lastly, spend the time to train your employees properly so they are productive. It sounds so simple, but maybe that is why it is so difficult.

Taxes: Who wants to overpay their taxes? Not only paying taxes, but staying compliant with all of the numerous tax filings can be a huge burden. Having a good accountant can help to alleviate this concern.

Growing: If you are not growing then your expenses will soon eat up a good portion of your profits. Growing sales is a major concern, however, the focus should be to grow your sales profitably. Aside from smart marketing, each new dollar of sales should be profitable to you, otherwise something is wrong.

Cash flow: Either not knowing where your cash is going or not having enough are both problems. Your accountant should help to explain where your cash is going and why there is a shortage. Common solutions are to improve your accounting systems and procedures, increase sales, implement better collection processes, increase your profit margins, and obtain a line of credit.

Too many hours: I don’t think that you are allowed to stop thinking about your business so technically you work 24 hours a day. How can you work less hours? There are dozens of ways, but a few easy to implement solutions are: better scheduling, delegation, and a commitment to work smarter, not harder.

There are a few other closely-related concerns, such as health insurance for employees, feeling burnt out, and the economy. Unfortunately, we cannot control the economy.

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Follow Your Emotions and Go Broke

According to dictionary.com, one definition of emotion is “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.” Emotions can be complex and if you make business and financial decisions based solely on how you feel at the moment without considering facts then this can be a disaster. Here are a few examples and ways to prevent you from making decisions based upon emotions:

Investment decisions: When the stock market tanks and the economy is in a recession, you may be strongly tempted to sell all of your investments, which is most likely the worst decision ever. If you have a good financial advisor then hopefully they can temper your emotions.

Too excited over expected results: A perfect example is when a sales person tells you how much money you will make by placing an ad in their publication because thousands of people will see your ad. It may be true that thousands of people will see your ad, but if they aren’t your target market then your results will be dismal.

Conflicts with customers and employees: If you have a performance issue with an employee, first determine if this is a recurring problem before you pounce on them. Maybe the issue just needs a gentle correction versus more severe actions. What about a customer complaint? Even if you are right, try not to reactive emotionally so as not to let the situation escalate out of control.

There are several techniques that you can use to prevent poor, emotionally-based decisions:

Wait: Don’t be reactive to another person or situation. If the situation requires you to speak or deal with it immediately, then pause, even if just for a moment, before speaking. For other decisions, take a day or more to make a decision. The time spent making a decision should coincide with its importance.

Look at the facts: What you think is true based upon how you feel and what actually is the truth are two different things. Separate feelings from facts.

Seek advice: Speak to a trusted professional, friend, or colleague about your decision. Sometimes just speaking to a third party before making a decision can put things into perspective.

Don’t let your emotions get in the way of your decision making.

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