The Lost Art of the Thank You Note

By: Allison Ausmus, Recruiter

Chances are that at some point in your life, whether it be personal life or career, you’ve had a reason to thank someone. Maybe it was for a gift you received or help on a project. We remember to say thank you when someone helps us, but when did we forget to say thank you after a job interview?

A few years back (we don’t want to date ourselves), colleges taught students to send hand written thank you cards after interviewing for jobs. This practice was seen as a way to show professionalism and was deemed as good etiquette – and it was the polite thing to do!

However, in recent years this trend seems to be disappearing. In today’s fast paced world of technology, showing appreciation by email or even snail mail (gasp!) is often considered a waste of time or seen as taking up too much valuable inbox space. And honestly, that’s a really sad trend.

Having a strong background in human resources, I know from experience that the candidates who send thank you cards or emails after an interview stand out (in a good way) because many candidates don’t take the time to send a thank you.

Here are a few reasons why it’s important to say thank you after an interview:

  • It shows character. Taking the time to express your appreciation for someone shows thoughtfulness. And who doesn’t want to work with kind, appreciative, thoughtful people?
  • It gives the opportunity to ask questions. If any questions or concerns came up in the interview, this is the perfect place to let them be heard. This shows you paid attention to what the interviewers were asking and what the company is looking for. You can address those concerns and simultaneously sell why you are the right choice for the opportunity.
  • It lets you reiterate you are a great fit for the job. You are able to address once more why you would be a good pick, and it also allows you to state what you like about the company and position. Ensuring the interviewers that you want this job lets them know how serious you are about the opportunity, and will help them differentiate between candidates.

If it comes down to the wire with you and another candidate, that thank you note could give you an edge. Sending a well written thank you note is a great opportunity to leave a memorable final impression with the interviewers, and could ultimately land you the job.

No Man’s Land: A National Treasure

In our previous blog in the No Man’s Land series, we talked about the decision to grow your business. Although a hard decision to make, there is often great reward in making this decision.

So, after thinking it through, you may have decided that growth is indeed the right path for your business to follow. You are ready to step out into this new adventure and see where your company is headed. So, what can you expect for your business with this new growth plan?

Doug Tatum, author of No Man’s Land gives some examples of what the “growth business” industry looks like:

Growth companies have an average revenue growth of at least 20% over a four year period

  • Of the 20 million companies in America, there are roughly 350,000 growth companies.
  • Most growth companies are small to mid-sized, and only 5% employ over 100 people after their growth spurt.
  • Growth companies exist in all sectors of the economy.
  • Growth companies are not all young; up to half have been in business for at least 15 years.
  • Growth companies are all over the country.
  • Growth companies are innovative. In fact, one estimation showed that these companies are responsible for two-thirds of the economy’s innovations.

Another important aspect of growth companies is that they provide and create jobs. Why are these companies hiring so many people? Well, they’re in the process of renewing and growing their business, and these efforts require all hands on deck. As these companies grow, they also need to grow their employee base to scale to keep up with the changes going on in the business.

Now, we come to the closing of our No Man’s Land blog series. We hope you have gained knowledge on how to navigate through No Man’s Land. We leave you with two closing pointers to keep in mind when you find yourself on the journey through No Man’s Land.

  • Think strategically when making decisions about the business. Also, be sure to consider factors in both the long and short term.

 

  • Always be conscious of the four Ms and the rules and implications that come with each.
    • Market alignment – make sure business is still meeting the needs of the market while keeping up with the entrepreneur’s visions
    • Management expertise – hire at the top, and have management that truly knows the ins and outs of the business
    • Model that is scalable – make sure the value proposition is still attainable at a higher level
    • Money – make sure money is managed and invested strategically, and is ultimately reducing the risk of the company

“Growth companies are America’s National Treasure” – Doug Tatum

Inspiring Confidence with Financial Statements!

Yes, you read that title right. Financial statements do a lot of things (we’re hoping you’ve learned that from this blog). But can they inspire confidence? Absolutely!

You may be thinking that financial statements are just numbers and nothing more. In a literal sense, you’re right — financial statements are a set of numbers. But when you understand them, they tell a story of where your business has been and where it’s going.

This story has many important tales to tell, and it is important to pay attention as your business grows and changes. It can also give you warning signs of disaster, and can help you stay on track to avoid this.

While working in the mergers & acquisitions department, I’ve come to understand the value of financial statements and that they can really instill confidence. Let me tell you a little secret friends: buyers WANT to feel confident when they write a check for millions, and financials play a big role in the confidence they feel.

A healthy bottom line gives buyers the warm fuzzies about their future with your company, but what else do financial statements provide?

  • Cleanliness | You have to have cleaned up financials before you decide to sell your business. A myriad of adjustments to wade through can raise some serious red flags and, frankly, make people wonder what’s really going on behind the scenes.
  • Timeliness | Being casually late works at times, but not all the time. When July’s financials are not ready to review until October, this gives some very negative signals to buyers. Its shows missed opportunities and the inability to react to the market … both of which will keep your buyers up at night.
  • Processes and procedures | No one wants to buy a circus, so make sure you have processes and procedures in place to get things done. If things are three to four months late, it’s an indication that maybe your buyer should run or reduce the offer.

And in case you’re wondering, we’re not talking a one-time thing. The sales cycle for business can take anywhere from 6-12 months, so the buyer will get a chance to really see how things are done and make assessments along the way. It’s best to always have your best foot forward so your buyers get the true picture of your business.

At the end of the day, your financial statements should help you run or sell your business, not hinder you. Let your financial statements give you confidence and tell the story of your hard work and success by making sure they’re up-to-date, cleaned up and timely.

Shameless plug: If you don’t understand your financial statements and what they mean … or have no idea what this blog is talking about, we can help.

No Man’s Land: Beyond Growth

If you’ve been following our No Man’s Land blog series up to this point, you’ve learned what causes you to enter No Man’s Land, the troubles you will face there and how to propel your company forward and out of this phase. By this time, you’ve thought through the four Ms (market, management, model & money) and believe you can lead your company through No Man’s Land while maintaining enough momentum to carry on, even when times get tough.

However, there is one question that needs to be answered: should your company grow? Along with that question come other things to consider:

  • Are the benefits of working through No Man’s Land always worth the large costs?
  • What does the future look like after No Man’s Land?

Some entrepreneurs are determined to grow, no matter what obstacles and costs they may stumble across. Others may want to stay at the size they have established, while innovating and working on improving their current assets. There are also those who are ready to look at their endgame and sell the business.

So, should your company get big? Well, there really is no correct answer. The journey through No Man’s Land and the climb out of it reflects not only the financial wellbeing of the business and its ability to apply the four Ms, but it also looks into the determination and ambition of the entrepreneur. Leading a company after it passes through No Man’s Land requires taking a step back, and looking at the company from an investor’s perspective. Is the business making money and providing return on investment, or is the business not going to survive the journey it went through? To be successful, the entrepreneur must decide whether running the business in a way that keeps investors happy is also consistent with their own values and dreams.

The decision of whether or not to grow your company can be terribly difficult when you don’t know what exactly will happen in the future. It is hard to decide if growth is really what is best for the business. Each path, growing or not growing, carries risks and benefits that are often hard to weigh.

Finding answers to these types of questions will help you determine a course of action that will be satisfying in the long run.

There are many reasons why entrepreneurs make these decisions, and they don’t all focus on financials, market share or the product, to name a few. In the end, the decision of whether to grow big or not becomes a personal case. You need to sit back and focus on the task of making this tough decision and ask yourself a couple questions:

  • Why did you get into business in the first place?
  • Is the business still delivering what it was set out to provide?
  • What do you hope to gain from the business?

 

 

 

 

 

Successful Succession: Starting Early

You may have just gotten started or are barely getting going. So why would you need to think about a succession plan early on?

Succession planning is the process of identifying and developing people inside your organization to fill key leadership and ownership positions. It’s also commonly known as transition planning, as you’re looking at how you’ll transition the business to the next leader(s).

Succession planning is important to the sustainability of your business. According to Harvard Business Review, “some 70% of family-owned businesses fail or are sold before the second generation gets a chance to take over.”

For many small businesses, leadership has been in place for a number of years, and with that comes a substantial amount of knowledge that could potentially leave your organization. Further, without a solid plan in place, until the very end, you’re leaving your business’ future to chance.

So how do you get started?

Come up with a plan. Start with the owner, which may very well be you. Talk through what you want your company’s end game to look like. Do you want to sell out for the highest price? Do you want to reward employee loyalty and hand over the company to one of your hard working professionals? Do you want to keep it in the family? And then there’s the question of timing … how soon do you want any, or all, of this to happen?

Then, look at your leadership goals. Where is there talent in your organization? Is there a particular group or individual that has the support of others? Will this succession change your organizational structure? Who do you want to incentivize to stay long term?

Also, remember talent might not present itself in picture perfect form. So do you have a diamond in the rough that will take some mentoring and coaching, but in the end will be a truly great leader for your organization?

Hint: You also need to be thinking about employee retention here. You don’t want to put a lot of time and effort into someone who ends up leaving before the transition. So make sure you think through an employee retention strategy.

Throughout this entire process, make sure you are COMMUNICATING. Ensure you have buy-in from any and all stakeholders in your organization. This will include investors and key personnel.

Make a date with your business advisor. It’s important to ensure you have a plan in place that serves the culture, mission, vision and people of your organization. But it’s also vital to have outside help.

You’ll need a full cast of business advisors to ensure your succession plan is successfully in place. These characters will include:

  • Attorney to help you walk through buy/sell agreements and transaction documents.
  • Financial Advisor to help you determine that your ownership lifestyle is met, as well as help you raise funds for your buy/sell agreement.
  • Tax Professionals to help you understand the tax implications of transitioning your business.
  • Appraiser in order to help you value the business for transition, gifting or sale.
  • Estate planner, who will help you see past the sale of your business and into retirement.

Be strategic. It’s important to be strategic as you prepare your succession plan and not just look at the current state of your operation. Succession planning should focus on growth, retention of talent and improve processes.

And one final thought … if all of this seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is. So don’t start at the end. Start early so you’re prepared to go forward with the end in mind.

 

Dear Bootstrapped Startup | Are you part of your bottom-line?

Bottom-line, what’s that? Also known as net profit or net income, your bottom-line is the amount that remains after you subtract all the expenses you incurred from the amount you earned from the sale of your goods or services.

Now the real question is, are you included in that calculation? In other words, are you paying yourself?

As a startup, there are several numbers that you should understand (and compute) including:

  • Startup Costs | The costs necessary to get your business up and running.
  • Ongoing Costs | The costs necessary to keep your business running.
  • Gross Profit | The amount remaining after you subtract the cost of goods sold (variable costs) from the price of your goods or services.
  • Break-Even Point | The amount of gross profit necessary to cover your operating expenses (fixed costs).

Speaking of variable and fixed costs. Let’s take a moment to talk costs … we know it can be confusing.

In many startup resources, variable costs are the costs directly associated with producing your good or providing your services. The more you sell, the more variable costs you will incur (and vice versus). We refer to these as costs of goods sold (COGS).

Fixed costs, on the other hand, are the costs you will incur even if you don’t have any sales. Fixed costs don’t necessarily increase (or decrease) because you sell more (or less). We refer to these as operating expenses.

For the numbers nerds, variable costs are the costs that vary from month-to-month. Whereas, fixed costs are consistent from month-to-month. Not only that, an expense could be a combination of fixed and variable.

Here’s an example … your payroll subscription costs $39 per month plus $2 per employee. The subscription itself is an operating expense (because you are going to pay this whether you sell 10 widgets or 500 widgets) that has fixed costs of $39 per month and variable costs of $2 per employee per month.

Okay, let’s get back on track.

When computing these numbers, startups often forget a critical component; the you part. Yes, I know what you’re thinking … it’s a startup. There isn’t enough for the you part. That might certainly be the case in the beginning, however without the you part, you can’t really figure out if your business is truly profitable (and therefore sustainable).

YOU should be included in the budget to ensure your business will be viable in the future. After all, what if you find out that, in order to achieve your ideal pay, you have to produce some unrealistic amount of widgets? Does that sound like fun? Not to mention, it’s always a good idea to have a number to work towards and track your progress against.

So, what should you budget? In general, there are two ways you can create a budget number for you. There is the essentials method (not a technical term) which is you sitting down and figuring out what you need to live. We’re talking just the bare essentials. The other option is market value. There are several resources available to determine what is reasonable to expect for pay in the marketplace. When it comes to actually paying yourself, you may need to start paying at the essentials level (or even below the essentials level) and gradually increase your pay as your profits become steady. The important part is not to forget about you.

YOU are a critical component of the success of your business, so make the investment in yourself. As always if you need further assistance with this topic, we are here to help.

Just a heads up, there are tax implications related to how and how much you pay yourself based on your entity selection (corporation, LLC, partnership, etc.). Make sure you discuss your pay with your tax professional (or one of ours).