A-Head for Success

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A-Z of Business: X- X-Ray Vision – Know your Business Inside Out

Business performance

Your business results don’t reflect the effort you put in. Sound familiar?

If so, you are not alone.  Indeed, some of my clients have been working so hard that they are nearing burnout.  This is often because they are focusing on the wrong thing, which they believe to be the right thing.  This is why having a forensic view of your company – x-ray vision – helps you to focus on those factors which make the biggest difference to your success.  Working smart, not working hard is the difference which makes the difference.  Productivity, not activity.

For example, if you are spending a lot of time bringing in new business but haemorrhaging customers out the back door, your efforts will be as effective as attempting to fix a burst pipe with a sticking plaster.

Or perhaps you are spending your time bringing in new business that you don’t have the infrastructure to support?  Like building a house without it’s foundations.

Maybe your customer service is poor and you are busy sending out feedback forms when really the problem is that your hiring processes and training do not enforce your company value of customer satisfaction?

Or is your business booming but your customer’s aren’t paying their invoices?  This is where success leads to ruin.

So, x-ray vision on the essentials helps you work strategically – making the right decisions about how you spend your time and your money and what will be the best strategy to take your business forward.  The first step is to get yourself some key performance indicators.  These help you to measure your performance against target on areas you consider to be important, for example:

  • Turnover
  • Profit
  • Product revenues
  • Sales growth
  • Cost of sales
  • Costs
  • Performance against budget
  • Sales conversion ratio
  • New sales by marketing method
  • ROI (see individual blog about this)
  • Revenue by customer
  • Employee satisfaction
  • Employee performance
  • Revenue by employee
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer complaints
  • Customer complaints resolved
  • There are also various KPIs for:
    • Social media
    • Site engine optimisation
    • Call centre performance

Lies and statistics

A lot of clients view a nice big turnover as proof of their success and they just work very hard at increasing that number.  However, a forensic examination of the statistics will let them know whether there is also a healthy profit because if the ratio of profit to turnover is low, you are working hard for little reward.  It will help you look at what is creating the biggest profit and whether you need to make a loss on something to bring in profit on something else.  This is both an art and a science.  Also, if you are producing lots of nice big invoices but not getting paid because your credit control is not effective, that turnover is meaningless.

Here are my 5 steps to help you take control of your business with x-ray vision:

  1. Consider what KPIs you want in your business (the above are just a few examples)
  2. Regularly review performance against these
  3. Look at the relationship between them
  4. Decide what is causing the positive results and do more of those
  5. Determine what is causing negative results and take remedial action.  Make sure there will not be negative consequences elsewhere.

Remember that an x-ray shows you what is wrong structurally, it is up to you to find out the cause and to take appropriate action.

If you need help with any of this – it is hard doing it for yourself – do give me a call on 0845 130 0854.  I look forward to hearing from you!

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: R – Return on Investment (ROI)

Return on Investment (ROI)

You’re in business to make money, so understanding the return of your investment is critical.  You can do this in advance of your decision to invest and also to see how your investment is performing over time.  A related measure is the timing of your break-even point.  Can your business bear that delay as you wait for the returns to roll in?

A simple ROI calculation is the amount of financial gain divided by the amount invested multiplied by 100.  So, if you invested £10,000 to develop, manufacture and sell a new product, and the sales of that product achieved a revenue of £11,000 in year one, that would give you an ROI of £11,000 ÷ £10,000 = 10%.  That return is quite modest and, with related costs could signify a loss for your business.  What would it take to increase that to, say, 25%?  Or 50%?  And what about the potential sales year-on-year?

Sometimes the returns are less tangible, or less direct.  Instead of focusing on increased revenues, the return may involve a reduction in cost, an improvement in quality, an increase in customer satisfaction levels, enhanced employee morale, etc.  These should all have a consequent effect on your bottom line in time, though it is difficult to determine whether this improvement is as a direct result of the investment, or some other measure such as improved hiring decisions or the introduction of sales incentives.

These days a lot of marketing decisions have a longer term view.  For example, free applications being built as a loss leader to attract users to upgrade to more profitable versions of a product.

When planning the return on your investment, do be aware of the hidden costs which can erode your profits.  Costs such as legal fees, administration costs, equipment, maintenance, staffing, training, office space, design, manufacture, packaging, advertising, warehousing, distribution and also the cost of delays.  When budgeting and contracting services, do think about having project-based quotes with penalties for delays to preserve your investment.

Those of you that know me well will also know that I couldn’t write about ROI without mentioning the importance of thinking about the return of investment of your time and energy into a particular activity.  I wonder how much time and energy you spend on things which have little or no impact on the success of your business?  Just busy-ness getting in the way of business?  This impacts your bottom line too.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: K – Knowledge – Your Competitive Edge?

It is estimated that 15% of success is from your technical skills whereas 85% is through gaining trust and respect.  So, what has knowledge to do with this?  Plenty, as it happens.  Knowledge covers the whole spectrum.  Good technical skills are, of course, important.  But not if the knowledge is out of date.  Technology is changing all the time – as are trends – and it is essential to keep abreast of what’s going on in your market place and in your profession.

Solicitors and doctors go through years of training in their profession before they are able to practice.  Yet, how much training have you had to run your own department, or your own business?  How much knowledge have you acquired to help you be successful?  Whether you are running a department or a business of your own, the knowledge you need to be effective is extremely broad and most people simply muddle through.  In the meantime, what happens to the trust and respect essential to 85% of your success?

The following table helps you to understand some of the fundamentals for trust and respect and the kind of knowledge you need for them:

TRUST AND RESPECT KNOW-HOW
Good people and rapport skills Influencing and leadership
Doing what you say you will do Planning and organising
Doing an excellent job Technical and delegation
Managing complaints effectively Problem solving and conflict management
Meeting your obligations Business acumen and resource management
Emotional intelligence Understanding of people and yourself and how to manage yourself and your relationships in times of stress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business knowledge – such as sales, marketing, finance, operations –  is important whether you run your own business or manage a department as you need to see how everything fits together.  These will help you to exploit strengths, minimise weaknesses, seize opportunities and handle threats from a point of strength.

So, how can you increase your knowledge?  Through coaching, training, reflective learning and study.  Often, you don’t know what you don’t know (in the case of business, ignorance is not bliss) and it is helpful to have someone there who can help you see your blind-spot. Having your own coach and mentor is an excellent step to take to help you stay on top of your game.  For more information call 0845 130 0854 for a no obligation chat.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: G – Goals: Your Targets for Success and a Solution to Overwhelm

One of the things which hinders your ability to achieve results, to maximise performance and to increase productivity, is a lack of clarity around goals.  Goals help you establish priorities and are the foundation for actions which lead to success.  But they aren’t enough on their own. In this article, I will share with you how to set goals which move you forward, and what else you need to do to make it all happen.

A well-known acronym – SMART – helps to make your goals more tangible.  Without this, it is simply a to-do item in a sea of competing items in your cluttered mind.  When you set well-defined goals, your unconscious mind is more able to organise itself into acting on them – you will have increased control, decreased stress and greater focus.  If you have seen it before it will serve as a useful reminder.

 

Goals should be SMART:

Specific – vague goals produce vague results
Measurable – how will you know you have achieved it?
Achievable – not based on hope but reality with a contingency built in to deal with the unexpected
Relevant – how applicable is it to your business, your life, now and in the long term?
Timebound – what time scale do you want to achieve it within?

A poorly defined goal would be “Launch product”.  A better goal would be “To create and execute a project plan for the January 5th product launch of Profit Serum to existing customers, our prospect database and industry media.”

Goal Considerations

  1. It should be stated in the positive (what you want, not what you don’t want)
  2. Identify the resources needed to achieve the goal – human, financial,  physical, etc
  3. Consider whether you can genuinely start the goal and maintain it
  4. Look at the wider consequences of the goal
    • Time and effort required
    • Do you have buy-in from stakeholders?
    • Whether anyone else is affected and how to deal with it if they are
    • Does this goal impact the achievement of other goals?  Which is more important?  What can be done to achieve both?
    • What you will have to give up in order to achieve it?
    • Are you willing to give this up in the pursuit of the goal?
  5. Is the goal is in keeping with your values?  If not, can it be changed so that it does?  If not, why do you need/want it?

Making It Happen

Finally, a goal, in itself, is nothing without a plan of action. List the steps to achieving your goal and have a system to monitor your progress and to keep you on track or adjust your course as necessary.  Last, but by no means least, factor in a celebration when you have achieved it!

© Tricia Woolfrey 2012

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: F – Finance – 5 Tips to Help Your Business Succeed

 

1.  Cash is King

Cash flow is the main reason for business succeeding or failing.  An apparently successful business may have a full order book, and even good levels of projected profit, but if funds cannot be collected from customers in a reasonable timescale the business will fail.  You should ensure your customers are aware of your payment terms before carrying out tasks and where possible advanced payments, should be requested.

Tip – Get paid on time by ensuring you have regular communication with your customer and that you have an effective credit control procedure.

 

2.  Overtrading

This is where a business has a full order book but struggles to convert turnover (sales) into profit.  This situation usually develops when tasks are taken on at a cheaper rate when compared to competitors in order to secure orders.  Subsequently, the business becomes very busy but the income generated is not sufficient in order make a profit, and so the business fails.  This strategy can be used carefully in order to try and build a reputation but for small businesses it should not be used in the long-term.  Remember “turnover is vanity, but profit is sanity”.

Tip – You are usually in business to make money so ensure you do not under-sell your products or services unless you have a clearly defined plan.

3.  Control the Controllable

Fixed costs – these costs do not vary regardless of the business activity undertaken, i.e. rent and rates.

Variable costs – these are dependant on the level of activity, i.e. heat and light or staff overtime.

Tight control and effective monitoring of these costs is essential.  Whilst fixed costs by their very nature are easier to control, effective negotiation with suppliers is an important step.  Variable costs can often get out of control if not properly managed, i.e. buying stock recklessly can tie up cash and may lead to unforeseen losses.

Tip – Ensure there is an efficient method of recording  and managing costs.  Monitor them on a regular basis.

4.  Supplier Relationships

Negotiating with your suppliers is important in order to gain value for money but when evaluating a potential supplier do not focus solely on the costs.  You should try and build a close working relationship with your suppliers and also consider the following:

  1. Product efficiency – do they have a good reputation for supplying reliable products?
  2. Delivery – can delivery be made in a timely manner?
  3. Payment Terms – extended terms can often ease your own cash flow concerns.

Tip – Ensure you question potential suppliers to ensure they meet your key criteria.

5.  Initial Funding

Many small businesses often underestimate the amount of necessary funding needed to commence trading or start a new product line or service.  This lack of funding will immediately restrict any business capacity and will greatly threaten the potential growth and stability of your business.  Always identify and try to properly estimate the amount of money needed to launch your business and to cover the costs for at least the first year which should include both running expenses and capital investment.

Tip – Take time to plan the financial implications of your business plans.

With thanks to:

Colin Bentall FCCA
Ford Bentall LLP
www.fordbentall.co.uk

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