Time Management

What Will Your Business Look Like and What Changes Can You Make?

Eventually things will open up fully and business activity will be flowing better than it is right now. What will your business look like and what are some changes you can make?

Technology

The use of virtual meeting technology has skyrocketed with apps like Zoom and Google Meet. This pandemic has forced businesses to be nimbler and integrate technology as an essential aspect of business operations. Other technologies that can and should be used include remote servers, cloud-based software, virtual phone systems, and electronic payment processing.

Time Management

Doesn’t the week seem like one big blur? Even though you can have a Zoom meeting with a client at 10:30 PM, doesn’t mean that you should. It is good to keep some structure in place as best as possible. This includes start times, stop times, meeting times, checking and responding to emails, and telephone calls.

Method of Delivery

If you sold products through retail, including restaurants, then now is the time to ramp up your online sales and distribution capabilities. It doesn’t mean that you need to abandon your store front, but online sales and distribution cannot be ignored. The same goes for providing services virtually to your clients. Delivering services online, such as therapy or professional services, has been widely accepted. Rethink if you need to open that second office or if you can be more virtual.

Financial Cushion

Having a financial cushion for your business and also personally is absolutely essential. The weaker businesses will struggle to be up and running quickly, while the stronger businesses can do so easier and may even be able to take advantages of expansion. How much should you set aside? A cushion of 3 months of expenses is a good minimum. It will take a while to do so, so start saving little by little until you get there.

Keep Healthy

There is a great temptation to eat more and exercise less, but this will catch up with you and rob you of your energy and clarity to make good decisions. Don’t ignore your health because it will have a direct impact on your business and ultimately on your finances.

There is so much that is unknown at this time, and it would be great to have all of the answers.

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What Should We Do?

With business closings, unemployment, restrictions, and people directly or indirectly impacted by the virus, what should we do? Here are some things we can do:

Don’t Make Drastic Changes

When possible, do not make significant, time-consuming, and cash-consuming changes. These are not normal times and no one knows how long this situation will last.

Adapt and Change

Many businesses have been adapting and changing their business models to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. Can you do the same? Think of how you can modify your product or services to deliver them in a safe and different way. This is not always easy to do, but there are always possibilities.

Don’t Be Too Positive or Negative

Let’s not be foolishly optimistic about the situation because with each passing week or month that you expect things to change, your disappointment will keep on growing. However, do not be so negative to think that the world will never open back up.

Only Think About What You Can Control

If this pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that a lot in life is out of our control. What you can control are your reactions to others, actions you take, choice of words, reactions to your emotions, and the amount of news that you view. A formula that is probably true is More News = More Anxiety.

There is so much that is unknown at this time, and it would be great to have all of the answers.

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I Took the Day Off and You Should Too

Technology is absolutely wonderful at times. This is one of those times because I took the day off today, but still didn’t miss my goal of writing one post per week. Everyone needs a day off, a week off, or even a month off and here are 5 reasons why:

Rest and Recuperate

After working intensely or longer than normal hours everyone needs to take a break. The day after tax season is always a day off for myself and my staff, and I like to take at least a few additional days off after that. It’s hard to take a family vacation at this time with the kids being in school, but I get to see them more though.

Spend Time with Family

It’s good to be able to spend some additional time with your family and not being at work all day. You don’t have to fight the commute, come home tired, or still have stress resting on your shoulders when you come home. Most likely you are just a little more relaxed.

Complete a Small Project

Maybe there is a project that needs to be tackled that you haven’t been able to get to. For me, the list seems endless, but it feels good once a project is finished. Be careful if the project is too large, otherwise it will take away from resting and recuperating.

Reflect and Think

When I am able to relax, it makes it easier to reflect on different aspects of my life and the direction of how things are going. Also, ideas seem to flow more smoothly when not under pressure.

Be Thankful and Grateful

Be thankful that you get to have a day off and grateful for all that you have. A little gratitude can help to put things into perspective.

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Are You Keeping Track of the Right Metrics?

Financial information tends to bore most people except for accountants, accountants, and accountants. Even though the thought of looking through and analyzing numbers may scare you, there are some metrics that drive your financial results and should be measured carefully. They are usually more exciting to keep track of because they can also help predict your results. Here are some examples:

Customer Metrics

Volume: Examples of customer metrics can include: the number of patients, clients, or customers seen/visits per day, week, or month. An increase in this number will increase your sales, however, there may be a delay in actual cash received.

Sales per customer: Are your customers purchasing more or less from you? An easy way to increase sales is to increase the amount of sales to each customer.

Multiple Location Metrics

Same store sales or sales by location: If you have multiple locations, you must keep track of your sales by location. Ideally, you want to keep financials by location, but sales per location is a good starting point. You should compare the sales versus the same period last year and also with other locations.

Net profit by location: It’s great if your sales are doing well in one location, but if the profitability is poor, then you need to know this to make improvements or to shut down that location. Time and resources need to be spent at locations that will achieve the highest return.

Sales or Billings per Employee or by Employee

Sales results: Which employees are performing well, and which are not? What if you operate a real estate office and do not know which agents are your top performers and which are not performing?

Billings: For non-sales positions, especially professional services firms, a crucial number is billings per employee. A low amount may mean that you are over staffed or have inefficient operations. It is also critical to know billings per individual employee.

Leads & Sales Generation

# of leads: Are you receiving more inquiries or less inquiries compared to last month or last year at this time? An increase in leads should result in an increase of sales, but this is just the starting point.

Appointments scheduled: What is the percentage of inquiries that set appointments? You need to make sure that you are able to schedule appointments from your leads.

Appointments closed: A high closing ratio is the ultimate goal and a sign of sales productivity.

Customer acquisition cost: Ideally, you want to obtain customers at the lowest cost possible with the least amount of effort. The longer you retain a customer then the more you can spend trying to acquire them, but if you spend too much money on obtaining one-time customers then your profitability will suffer greatly.

The Metrics are Endless

There is an endless amount of metrics, and each industry has their own set of metrics that are measured, but sometimes metrics can be borrowed from outside your industry to make your own business more profitable. Review your situation to see which metrics will have the most impact to keep your success moving forward.

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How to Destroy Your Business Success in 6 Steps

Sometimes to be successful means to avoid doing the things that will destroy your success. It’s easy to go down the wrong path and it’s important to be aware of this.

Step #1: Saddling Your Business with Debt

Conventional wisdom states that there is smart debt vs. dumb debt or a similar description of two kinds of debt. Although there is some truth to this, the bottom line is that large amounts of debt will cause a huge handicap to your business, especially a start-up. Even if you are doing well it will not feel like it when you have massive debt payments each month or sometimes on a daily or weekly basis if you took out a predatory lender loan. When you have easy access to large amounts of debt it numbs your sense of being financially cautious, prudence, and allows you to spend your money on things that can easily be justified but are not necessary.

Step #2: Poor People Management

See what happens if you constantly treat your employees, vendors, and customers disrespectfully. The end result will be high turnover, sabotage, lack of a sense of shared purpose, losing customers, and everything else negative. It is amazing to see how little attention is paid to the management of people in a poor performing business.

Step #3: Over Working Yourself

There are times when you need to work more or work more rigorously, but if done for too long, then your productivity will decline, decision making becomes worse, and you may find yourself in the hospital for stress induced health reasons.

Step #4: Not Listening to the Right Advisors

Unemployed Uncle Jimmy with a string of failed businesses will not provide you with the advice you need, and if he does provide you with advice, then do the opposite. Or, which is also very commonplace, is to seek the advice of the wrong professional. Make sure the professional that you confide in is an expert with the advice you are looking for.

Step #5: Personal Issues

This is somewhat related to step #2, but more on a personal level. If you are going through difficult times on a personal level, then this will ultimately translate into poor business performance.  A common example is taking care of a sick family member that needs you. If you need to focus more fully on your family situation, then delay starting a business, or for an existing business try to delegate more of your business responsibilities to trusted employees.

Step #6: Ignore Marketing and Sales

Many years ago, I met with a brand new business owner to discuss his business and try to help him out. During our discussion, I asked what he was doing for marketing, and he said that he did very little because he didn’t want to spend money on marketing because marketing costs money. I’m not sure of my exact reply, but he was no longer in business within a few months’ time.

Summing it Up

Some of these steps may seem obvious, but they are common due to the fact that it is hard to take a step back, access a situation, swallow your pride, and say to yourself, “Hey, I need some help because I am not always right.” We should probably all say that more often.

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Want a Quick Productivity Increase in 3 Steps?

Are you trying to get things done, but don’t seem to ever get ahead? Try these out for a quick and almost instant boost to your productivity.

Step #1: Stop Following the Shiny Object

There is a great amount of pressure to work on the newest task at hand while ignoring all of the other uncompleted items that are on your list. The problem with this approach is that it creates more stops and starts, which ends up prolonging the time it takes to get things done, while delaying the older projects’ completion.

Step #2: Listening to the Squeaky Wheel

Usually it’s not apparent at first, but there will always be customers, vendors, or employees that need your attention immediately, all of the time. It’s understandable that this will happen from time to time, but if the same person always needs your attention immediately all of the time, then it probably isn’t a true emergency. In this case, you have to communicate that this is an issue that can wait until later, tomorrow, or some scheduled time in the future.

Step #3: Schedule, Schedule, then Schedule Some More

You would be surprised by the productivity increases of scheduling properly. From medical practices to contractors, scheduling will allow more patients to be seen, more projects to be completed, or more customers to be serviced. Don’t take my word for it, try to visit an Apple store without an appointment.

If you can, also plan out the entire year. There are cycles to every business, every department, and every job, which are usually predictable. Although preparing for the year may seem daunting, try to schedule each week or even a recurring task on a specific day of each week, as a start.

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Are You the CEO of Your Business?

There are 3 phases of running a business with the ultimate phase of becoming the CEO. The first is that of an employee, the second of manager, and then CEO. Most business owners are in the first two phases and never achieve the CEO level. Why is this and what are the steps to become the CEO?

Every single phase is extremely important to a business, and every person in these positions is vital for the business to operate. However, if you want to be the CEO, then you must take steps in a different direction, which takes endurance. Let’s take a look at each step and how to move forward.

Employee: An employee is the one who is doing all of the work, whether physical or intellectual, such as a cook and server at a restaurant or a doctor and a nurse at a hospital, along with all of the other myriad positions. Many business owners become very wrapped up in the day to day operations and never take a break to become a manager or their business has not grown enough to support a manager.

Manager: The main job of a manager is to manage people, projects, and the overall flow of work. Although their main function is to manage these items, they will also need to jump in from time to time to help with tasks and get their hands dirty. Usually business owners are partly managers and partly employees because they are unable to fully let go of operations or their growth does not support a CEO position.

CEO: The CEO is the visionary of the business and is responsible for the business as a whole. Only high impact decisions should be made by the CEO, along with spending time on the utmost important items. A good CEO will do amazing things for a business, while a bad CEO can destroy a business in a relatively short period of time.

Unless your goal is to be an employee-owner or manager-owner, then you must take certain steps to become a true CEO. For some businesses, especially professional services businesses, this task is a little harder due to the technical expertise required to run the business.

Depending upon your goals and resources, the first step is to build up your team. Without a team of employees, you will never progress to the next level of manager. Once you have a team, you need to relinquish your everyday customer-service type activities and focus on managing your employees and the business. Lastly, you’ll need to hire managers to take over your duties to ultimately become the CEO. It only takes 3 steps! Of course, this is easier said then done, and there will be a multitude of roadblocks and challenges along the way.

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An Alternative to Setting Goals

Setting goals can become very frustrating and produce anxiety when we realize that they aren’t being achieved. Should you set goals that are very likely to happen or goals that are very difficult to reach? What if you miss your goal by a minor amount or the outcome was good, but not what you expected? Alternatively, there is a much less stressful, and possibly more effective alternative to setting goals and achieving your desired outcomes.

The truth about goal setting: The truth is that they are all guesses, estimates, arbitrary, and do not tell the whole story of what you are trying to accomplish. Ironically, you may achieve a better outcome than your goal, but still fail to achieve that goal because you didn’t make the numbers. For example, if you want to lose 20 pounds, but only lose 15 pounds because you also gained lean muscle mass, then you just failed at your goal. You may be healthier, are in better shape, look better, and are stronger, but according to your goal, you just lost. This doesn’t make sense, does it?

Think about the general direction you want to move towards: Do you want to lose weight, make more money, or save more money? Know the direction that you want to go in, but do not specify an exact number. However, it is still important for you to take measurements before, during, and at the end of the year.

Form habits: Goals are not accomplished without actions, which is why your energy should focus on your habits. If you want to lose weight, then start exercising on a daily basis, even if just for 20 minutes a day. If you want to increase sales, then spend 30 minutes a day on marketing activities. Devise a plan of which actions you need to take and then keep repeating them until you build momentum and start seeing results. Tweak as necessary.

Intensity should be based upon desired outcome: If you want to achieve dramatic results, then there should be a direct correlation between the size of the desired outcome and the amount of intensity and effort to achieve that outcome. A desire to increase sales significantly should spark you to spend more than 30 minutes a day on marketing activities, and quite possibly double or triple that.

The bottom line is to set actions instead of goals to achieve desired results.

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New Year, New Goals or a Waste of Time?

Christmas Day just passed by and another year is approaching in just 5 days. Did you set goals for the New Year or do you think they are just a waste of time? You are probably right either way, but if you do set goals, there are ways to increase your odds of actually achieving them. This is a twist on the SMART acronym of goal setting.

Make goals that you are passionate about: Do you want to run a marathon, grow your business, or start a business? If you are not passionate about your goal then trying to achieve it will feel like drudgery. Another way of looking at your goals is to determine the reason why you want to achieve it. If it would be nice for you to run a marathon without the reason, then your drive will not be strong enough.

Be able to achieve your goals: If your goal is nearly impossible to achieve then how do you continue working towards it when it is futile? This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have some stretch goals, but the more realistic your goals, then the higher your chance of success. On the other hand, if the goal is too easy, then you may not even bother to work towards it. Also, too many goals will dilute your focus so try to stick with a handful of goals.

Create an action plan and habits: Goals are achieved by the constant actions we take on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. For example, if you want to increase sales by 20%, then develop key actions to implement and then review them weekly. If you want to lose weight, then make it a habit to exercise on a daily basis. Habits and actions are so important, that you can commit to certain actions, while ignoring everything else, and still achieve spectacular results.

Be clear: Put a number and timeframe on a goal, which allows you to work backwards and determine achievement. A bad goal is to say that you want to lose weight, while a good goal would be to lose 24 pounds in one year. To achieve losing 24 pounds, you can then break the goal into monthly targets to lose 2 pounds per month or approximately half a pound per week.

Review your progress: Periodically access where you are with your goals to see if your actions are working. If so, then continue, but if not, then make changes.

There you have it. Simple ways of setting and achieving goals so you do not waste your time.

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10 Small Improvements That Have a Big Profit Impact

Improvements do not have to take an enormous effort to make a huge impact on your profits. Sometimes it’s the small things that add up over time. Here are 10 simple improvements that can have a significant impact on your profits:

  1. Schedule work better: Are you wasting time by scheduling work poorly? For example, do you allow enough time for you or your employees to complete a project within the scheduled time? If not, then there will be too much stopping and starting which kills efficiency. Another scheduling challenge is to make sure that you do not have too little or too many staff members scheduled at the same time.
  2. Set aside time for high value activities: High value activities are not usually urgent, which makes them get pushed to the side. In order to get these items done, you need to schedule this type of activity, even if just an hour or two a week.
  3. Look at your financials: Do you look at your financials or tax return just once a year or possibly not at all? For starters, you should review your financials at least once per month to see how you are doing versus the same time last year. Your financial statements are the measurement of your business’ results, and you need to know how you are doing to make better decisions.
  4. Consistency of pay: When possible, try to keep your pay and distributions consistent, unless paying yourself a bonus or bonus distributions. This makes it easier to manage your cashflow and reduces the temptation to take too much just because you had a good month.
  5. Work less: Working crazy hours will burn you out over time and is not sustainable. Try to consistently reduce your hours over time to give yourself a breather. If you become depressed or develop a health problem, then you will not be able to work at all.
  6. Acknowledge people: Show sincere appreciate, gratitude, and respect for your employees, customers, vendors, and especially your family for bearing with you during good times and bad.
  7. List your activities for a week: Over the next week, jot down everything that you do and how long each task takes. Then, ask yourself, “Should I be doing this, should someone else be doing this, and does this even need to be done?”
  8. Pay extra towards your debts: Even a small amount will add up to quickly pay off your debts. You will save interest and eventually increase your cash flow. You’ll also think twice before incurring more debts.
  9. Contact an old customer: Is there an old customer or client that you liked to work with and have not heard from in a while? Maybe there was a misunderstanding that you can easily resolve or maybe no reason at all and they just need to be asked to come back.
  10. Use a pricing worksheet: Instead of just winging it with your pricing, why not develop a pricing chart? It will take the guess work and emotions out of pricing, which ends up causing you to undercharge.

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