Sometimes going into business is like going into a battlefield.
To win, you have to overcome not just your “enemies” (competitors) but also overcome major hurdles and obstacles.
I’m sure you’d feel pretty confident if you had an army behind you and you yourself were cruising in a heavy-duty bullet proof tank. But what if you’re the “little guy?” The “underdog?”
What if you weren’t part of the “Big League?” What if you are a Small Business? The battlefield is suddenly quite a daunting place. Things can escalate pretty quickly out here and if you’re not careful, you may just get shell shocked by countless business challenges and problems that can start erupting and exploding around you.
Don’t get caught in the crossfire. Here are three Small Business Solutions that can save your life:
1. Cash Flow
Don’t worry, I’m not fond of numbers either, and you don’t have to be an Accountant to get this right. You just need to know the basic gist of achieving and maintaining healthy cash flow.
a. Cash flow is NOT the same as profit. Profit can be determined by income, whether paid in cash or paid in credit. Therefore, a credit payment cannot be part of the cash flow until the monetary value becomes tangible. So be careful about allowing credit payments and the terms and conditions you apply if you do.
b. Inflow is money coming in through the sale of goods and/or services. Outflow is money going out to pay for business-related expenses: wages, utilities, insurance, and other operational costs. The difference between the two is called the net cash flow. This is either positive or negative. A positive cash flow occurs when a business receives more money than it is spending. A negative cash flow means the business is receiving less cash than it is spending.
c. Cash Flow Management has two important parts: One is Cash Flow Analysis/Forecasting, which is basically keeping track of how your money flows in and out of your business. Most software accounting programs have built-in reporting features to help you do this. One good example is Xero. The other is Developing Better Cash Flow Strategies like shortening your cash flow conversion period, keeping on top of receivables, and having a firm grip on payables.
2. Time Management
There is a popular saying that “Time is Gold” or “Time is Money;” this is so true in business. Amounts from several studies may vary, but one thing is clear, the Price Tag for Lost Productivity is alarmingly high–give or take $544 billion annually due to at least 2 hours of workplace unproductivity per day. Unofficial use of the internet (like checking personal messages, updating social media accounts, playing online games, etc.) accounts for at least $134 billion of that annual lost amount, while (would you believe this?) “coffee breaks” actually amount to at least $11.4 billion of annual business losses.
When you think about it, “time” is the only commodity/resource, that once lost, can never be gained back. Therefore, we must use and manage our time wisely. Some simple steps would be to use time management tools like Google Calendar, which allows you to plot out your commitments, specify reminder notifications to you and any other party included in a meeting or deadline. Another useful time management tool is a Tactical Meeting Guide that helps you sift through commitments, deadlines, responsibilities, deliverables, and provides a framework for you to organize and prioritize what needs to be done and when, as well as track the progress of ongoing initiatives. Lastly, try to train your mind to think in “priority grids” so that you can already make a mental segregation of tasks, responsibilities, etc. that come your way.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the phrase “Customer is King,” which was probably cleverly coined by someone wanting to drive the point that taking care of our customers well is good for business. That person was right of course, but I’m sure he/she didn’t mean for some people to take that phrase quite so literally.
In the olden times, being King was nearly tantamount to being God on Earth. Their subjects were required to be loyal and unconditionally subservient. Because everyone wanted to please the King and get on his good graces, he could get whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, from whoever he wanted– denying him would be your head on a plate.
Nowadays, especially in business, we tend to return to our vassal ways and practically run around beside ourselves to meet a customer’s every whim, above and beyond our actual ability and resources to do so. Often, instead of achieving our intended goal of pleasing the customer and getting on his good graces, we may take on and promise too much that things eventually get out of hand and out of control– and no one is pleased with the mess; not you and certainly not your customer.
There is no hard and fast rule to solving this as each business and the market it caters to is different. One scope of services may be just right for one business while it may be overkill for another. But a key strategy you must develop is learning to MANAGE EXPECTATIONS. View your business and its capabilities and resources through a realistic lens so that you know when it is okay to give a little extra or when it is absolutely necessary for you to put your foot down. Part of managing expectations is also giving realistic and reasonable deadlines/ delivery dates. Don’t give an impressive delivery date just to impress. Give yourself as much leeway as you can. It is better to deliver earlier than promised than to photo-finish a deliverable barely catching your breath. Also, make it a habit to constantly update your customers/clients so that in case something goes awry, it will be easier to manage their expectations.
The realm of business is much like the realm of war; you must CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES carefully and strategically. Take care of your assets and resources. Know when to charge and when to retreat. So shake that shell shock off and keep moving forward!