Getting Your Business Back on Track

There are a lot of considerations that go into running a small business, especially one in the process of growing and improving, but it’s not always easy. In fact, often times it might feel like your business just won’t cooperate and you might feel like you’re losing control.

How do you get back on track and help your business live up to its potential? Here are six areas you as a business owner can focus on:

  • Sales – Sales figures can help you determine revenue and inventory purchases, so keeping accurate records is important. To do this, implement detailed policies and procedures for all types of sales, whether it be cash, checks, credit cards or online sales. Consider using an invoicing system when shipping goods and having proof of delivery when goods are shipped. Also be sure to check your invoices against sales and payments to ensure everything matches up correctly.
  • Accounts Receivable – We’ve mentioned this a lot: keeping up on accounts receivable is important. Income from your operations is what keeps your business going, so making sure you collect, and on time at that, is very important. To keep up on AR, establish collection policies in writing, and make sure to follow through on implementing these policies. Here are some ideas:
    • Establish a solid system for billing, such as numerical or batch processing
    • Have a timely review process for all accounts
    • Keep your accounts receivable separate from cash
    • Have security measures in place for communicating
  • Accounts Payable – Just like it’s good when your business receives cash, other businesses need to be paid as well. Keeping up on payments can help your business establish a trustworthy reputation which can ultimately lead to more success and growth. Unfortunately, AP is an area that many businesses struggle with. To stay out of hot water in this area, consider setting up procedures for cross checking payments, always check pricing options from competitors and vendors and be sure that billing amounts are being entered correctly.
  • Cash – Businesses that accept cash (especially a lot of cash) are at a high risk of loss due to theft or other discrepancies and errors. Keep your cash in control by having employees balance cash at the end of their shifts, have controls in place to ensure employees can’t pocket the cash without entering the transaction, check and reconcile bank balances regularly, keep all cash payment methods secure and pay attention to your business’s cash flows.
  • Human Resources and Payroll – Technology has made it easier for hackers, scammers and even bad-egg employees to commit fraud or other harm to your business. To keep your people (and your business) safe, consider the following:
    • Require password updates regularly- for you and your employees, and make sure to keep all passwords safe and not written down.
    • When it comes to payroll, review the details (do you know all those employees?) and checks/direct deposits to make sure pay is being disbursed properly.
    • Pay attention to any differences between payroll expenses and monthly budgets – this could be a red flag that someone or something has gotten access to your books.
  • Physical Assets – The physical assets your business owns, such as machinery or laptops, are of great value to your business – you don’t want anything happening to them. When it comes to laptops and other electronics, make sure they are safeguarded or locked up. This makes it difficult for someone to steal the physical piece itself, along with the information stored on it. Cyber security problems are on the rise (seriously, check this out), so keeping these assets on lock down can help prevent data breaches and other cyber-crimes. Record asset purchases and monitor use and depreciation on them to stay up to date on their value. Also consider setting a usage policy so assets aren’t falling into the wrong hands or being mishandled.

While there are many areas of your business that deserve your time and attention, these are some areas that can help you keep control over the growth and direction of your business. Your trusted business advisors can help you set goals and policies to ensure that everything is running smoothly in your business. If you need help, just ask!

 

 

 

Business Myths: Busted!

There are a lot of misconceptions, myths, bad advice and even lies about what it takes to be a successful business. Most of these issues come from people who have never gone into business, or those who have failed and are trying to find somewhere to put the blame.

To help clear the air, we’re here to debunk some common myths about running a business.

  1. To be successful, you have to be a pioneer – It’s often said you have to be the first one to develop and sell a product or service. However, this isn’t always the case. Think of Microsoft or Dell. Dell wasn’t the first computer and Microsoft wasn’t the first word processor. However, looking at the industry now, these two companies dominate! While the leading edge can be fun and exciting, joining an established industry with your own take on a product can also bring success.
  2. To be successful, you have to be cheaper –How you price your product does not always determine your success. Nordstrom and Ferrari don’t use a cheap pricing model, but they’re wildly successful. On the other end, Amazon and Southwest Airlines use cheaper pricing models and are also successful. The moral? Customers will pay what they think is fair for your product, but ultimately you have to decide how to model your product pricing. If you have a luxury item, customers will pay more for it. If you aren’t selling your product on the cheaper end, but are providing excellent service with it, your customers will give you business based on other factors besides price.
  3. The customer is always right – Let us guess, you’ve heard this one a few times before. If this was always true, it would be tricky to find any business being profitable. The truth is customers might be wrong sometimes, but they’re still important for your business. Take time to listen to what customers have to say, and use their valuable input when making business decisions. However, don’t let customer opinions overrule logical thinking or dismantle your business mission. When customers are wrong, they can sometimes cost you more money than they make you.
  4. Bigger teams mean bigger results – While having a bigger team can help get more accomplished, it can also hinder progress. Having too many people can lead to complicated lines of communication. It can also result in productive team members getting slowed down by helping new team members get up to speed. Team work can be great for your business, just make sure the teams are operating smoothly and efficiently.
  5. Failure means you’re doomed – We’ve been told our whole lives that being a failure is bad. In reality, failure is actually a stepping stone towards success. While failing can be a setback, it’s important to remember the lesson that can come from it. Failure is only a problem when you allow it to be the final stage, rather than taking lessons learned and growing from them. Sometimes our businesses must encounter failure in order to move forward.
  6. Knowledge is power – Unless you are actually applying this knowledge to your business or other endeavors, it’s just potential. Take what you know and consider using it to better your business, rather than keeping it to yourself. You never know what kind of growth and ideas you could spark from sharing your knowledge.
  7. Every customer is equal – Truth be told, some customers can actually be more valuable than others, but in their own ways. A customer who pays you more money isn’t necessarily of more value. Sometimes a customer who pays less for a smaller project might prove more value because they can help move your business in the direction you want it to go. A valuable customer will make you money, but will also align with your vision for your business.
  8. The more customers the better – Would you believe that some companies go out of business due to too many customers or unreachable demand for their product? If you have so many customers you cannot reach their demands, your business will struggle. Customers may start cancelling orders and taking their business elsewhere, which can result in word traveling that your business isn’t competent. Although it’s a tough decision to make, sometimes you have to turn away customers to keep up with demand and keep your capacity in check.

While some of these myths have some truth to them, many of them are just that – myths. By understanding what can really help or harm your business, you can put your business in a healthy position for growth and success.

 

 

 

 

Workplace Wellness

You may have heard about a trend that seems to be taking the nation by storm – corporate wellness programs. Corporate wellness programs involve offering certain types of health and wellness benefits and programs to employees, and these programs are rising in popularity.

Just how popular are these programs? A 2016 study by PwC showed that 76% of employers are offering wellness programs for their employees. 93% of small business decision makers even stated that the health of their employees is important to their bottom line (for more on this, check out this awesome survey). Some of the most common wellness initiatives offered by employers were physical activity programs and tobacco quitting programs.

Employers have many reasons for implementing these programs — from employee satisfaction and well-being (some job seekers actively seek companies offering these programs) to reduction of healthcare costs. However, in order to implement a successful program, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Make sure the program is accessible – with seemingly longer work days, remote workers and higher stress, employees might struggle to find time to access these programs. Strive to create programs that can be accessed in the workplace since that’s where workers spend most of their time. If you have remote employees, create programs that offer benefits where they are, such as discounted memberships at nearby gyms or online resources.
  • Creativity is key – Fitness is adored by some and disliked by others. To get your more stubborn employees on board, think outside the box when it comes to creating wellness programs. When you come up with unique and fun ideas, it can be cause for employees to get excited about getting involved and be intrigued for what will happen next.
  • All hands on deck – Implementing a wellness program is no easy task. To make your program successful, you need support from everyone involved. This includes the top level down to the staff. When more people are on board, it can help get the message out.

Wellness programs can be implemented in any business, no matter the size. While larger companies may have more resources to implement larger programs, small businesses can also implement awesome programs for their employees. Some neat ideas for small businesses include:

  • Freshen up vending machines – If your business offers vending machines, take a look at what’s in them. Rather than containing only cookies and potato chips, consider adding healthier options such as granola bars and fruit snacks. If you have soda machines, consider adding bottled juices and water. Not only will this add healthier options, but it can also give employees some variety to choose from.
  • Consider fitness trackers – If you’re not sure about being able to provide gym memberships, consider some type of fitness trackers. Fitbits can be a bit more expensive, but could function as a great employee gift. Pedometers are relatively cheap, and can encourage employees to get up and get some steps. You could also consider creating activity competitions using the trackers to keep it fun and exciting, and to keep people moving throughout the work week.
  • Implement something unique – Being a small business implementing a wellness program can have some cool benefits. If you have a small amount of employees, you might be able to try unique programs and activities that larger companies would struggle to implement. Bring in a masseuse and offer massages one Friday a month, or consider offering fitness classes at work. Coming up with fun and unique ideas can help keep your employees involved and excited to participate.

Once you’ve done what it takes to implement the program, you can rest easy knowing you’re helping improve your employees’ health and giving them some great work benefits. There are many benefits that can come from establishing a wellness program, no matter how small or complex it may be. Here are some of our favorites.

  • Liven up the workday – Let’s face it: sometimes the workday seems like it’s dragging on for ages. When you have a wellness program in place, you have the opportunity to split up the day and give employees a moment to step back from their work and get reenergized. For example, at Eide Bailly, our wellness committee has organized yoga sessions throughout the week around the lunch hour that employees are encouraged to attend right here in the office. This fun, get up and move activity helps break up the day and keeps employees on their toes.
  • Increased productivity – To piggyback off our last point, taking small breaks throughout the day can lead to employees being more awake and alert. This can lead to more focus on tasks throughout the day, and more energy for employees to complete their work.
  • This one is obvious: healthier, happier employees – Wellness programs are meant to maintain and improve your employees’ health. Wellness programs can help keep your employees from being susceptible to common illnesses, such as the cold or flu, which can result in them missing work. The programs can also help them fight off lasting health issues, such as heart disease and arthritis. When employees are healthy, they are likely to be in better spirits as well.
  • Attract – and keep – top talent – Employer sponsored wellness programs are so popular that job seekers often seek to work for companies that offer such programs. In fact, according to The Institute for Healthcare Consumerism, nearly nine out of 10 employees consider wellness benefits and programs when considering an employer. When employees find companies that offer these wellness benefits, they’re more likely to stick around.

Wellness programs are rising in popularity amongst employers and employees alike. With the benefits these programs can provide your company and your employees, have you decided if you’re ready to give it a try? Seem like a lot of work to implement? Don’t sweat it (see what we did there?) – our HR team can help you develop a program that works for your company!

Finance is Important – but Don’t Just Take Our Word for It!

It’s no secret that having healthy finances in your business can help your business be successful. We believe in the importance and power of finances so much that we may have written about it a time or two. While we’ve shared some pretty great info about the importance of finances, don’t just take our word for it!

Here are some other posts that believe in the importance of healthy finances that we think are really neat!

Without Financial Management, You Won’t Get Far

In this post by the Small Business Administration (SBA), the author discusses how you can have a unique selling point, but without strong financial management, that selling point won’t take you far.

The Importance of Planning

Having a financial plan in place can act as a roadmap for your business. From where you want to be next week to what you want your business to look like in five years, financial planning can help you get there. This article shares reasons why financial planning is a necessity for small businesses.

Am I Profitable?

The most common goal of any business is to be profitable. It seems easy: sell enough of your product or service to overcome your expenses and you’ll make a profit. That’s not always the case. Sometimes, certain pieces of your business just aren’t as profitable as others. Having a strong understanding of your finances can help you see where your business is making profits, and where there might be some issues.

Keeping Everything in Order

Sometimes your finances get out of hand, and getting them back in check can be difficult. Further, when finances get out of hand, even bigger messes can show up for your business. Before things get too crazy, consider these tips for keeping your finances in order.

Survival of the Fittest

No matter the type or size of business you operate, if you don’t understand your finances, you simply won’t survive. This post shares some tips to help you understand your business’s finances, and where to go if you need help.

By the Lights on the Dashboard

Your vehicle’s dashboard can provide you with important information such as speed, distance traveled, engine status, etc. However, without the proper amount of light and information, you would not be able to see, process and understand the information provided by your dashboard.

The same could be said for your business’s dashboard. This dashboard tells you what’s happening in your business, and brings your attention to any warning lights or indicators that might pop up. Business dashboards can be in print form or electronic (which is usually the way to go), and your team of accountants can help you set it up (yeah, we’re nice like that). As long as you have a dashboard that tells you vital information about your business, the format isn’t too big of an issue.

It’s also important to keep in mind dashboards are not one-size-fits-all. In fact, another business’s dashboard might look similar to or even fancier than yours – but it simply won’t help you run your business. The key to having a useful dashboard isn’t the amount of information it provides, but rather the accuracy and relevancy of the information. Having a dashboard that specifically fits your business can allow you to make smarter, quicker decisions.

So what should your dashboard contain?

Your business’s dashboard should contain key performance indicators (KPIs), ratios, metrics, and other pertinent information that can help you make smart business decisions. In a nutshell, your dashboard should be able to quickly provide you with insight into your business.

The metrics your dashboard displays are not randomly chosen; rather, they are specifically selected to give you a better understanding of your business. The metrics you choose to monitor on your dashboard should be able to help you decide if your business is performing the mission and vision set for it. To choose which metrics to measure, it can be helpful to create a strategic map. Similar to a regular map, this map can help you see where your business is, where you want your business to go and what it will take to get there.

Business dashboards are typically broken down into four areas: client, internal processes, financials and learning and growing. Each area should contain at least three, but no more than four, metrics. If you select the correct three to four metrics (no worries, your accountants and advisors can help with this), you should have enough information to make effective management decisions. If you have more than four, you increase the risk of having too much information to sort through – you want things to be as straightforward as possible.

After all, the goal of having a dashboard is to make decision making quicker and easier. However, it’s important to remember even though having a dashboard gives you a quick look at key metrics, it shouldn’t replace your regular financial reviews and planning.

A dashboard can be a helpful tool to keep your business on track and aiming for success. Using it on a regular basis can help you monitor your business and make important decisions without having to take excessive amounts of time out of your already busy schedule.

Seem like a lot of work? We can help you set up a dashboard to keep your business on track. Seriously, just ask.

 

How to Manage Change in Your Organization

Change is inevitable, and that’s a fact. Making changes in your business allows you to stay up-to-date on trends, keep up with the competition and remain a force to be reckoned with in your industry. In order for change to be successful, you need to make sure your people are on board. Often, this can be quite a challenge. What if your employees react negatively or don’t adopt a new form of technology the way you had hoped?

A concept called change management can help get your employees on board and be accepting of new changes in your business. Change management can provide a framework to help leaders engage the entire organization and give them a sense of why the changes are being made, as well as how and who it will impact.

Here are five change management concepts to follow when implementing a big change in your business – whether it be new technology, reorganizing your teams or something else.

  1. Communication is key – Change can create some uneasy feelings, uncertainty and even resistance. The last thing you want to do is ignore these issues. The best idea is to acknowledge and address them as soon as they come up. This can lead to higher levels of support, more employee acceptance and more buy-in. People who feel uninformed or neglected throughout change are going to be less open to adopting what’s new, so communicating with everyone throughout the process ensures no one will feel left out.
  2. Support from the top – Getting executives and senior level management to support change can almost ensure a successful change initiative. When leadership is on board, it shows all others that if the executives support the change, it is likely worthwhile. In order to get this effect, leadership needs to embrace the change to unify and motivate the rest of the organization. If you have a leadership team who doesn’t support the initiative, it is likely destined to crash and burn.
  3. Dedicate a go-to person – To make matters a little simpler, consider dedicating one person to drive progress and lead the communication across the entire organization. This one person will act as a touchpoint for feedback, questions and concerns, and will be able to communicate them with key stakeholders. They could also deliver updates and progress reports to the organizations to keep everyone up-to-date. How do you choose this person? Consider the type of change you are initiating. If it involves technology, look to your IT people and see who would be the best fit. If it involves management of daily work life, consider and HR professional to be this person.
  4. Offer loads of training – If you’re initiating any kind of change that involves a disruption of how things are usually done, people will need to learn the new way of doing things. Offering technical and process training can help employees understand the aspects and impacts of the new technology, system, etc. This can help them understand how their everyday work will change and what to do to adapt. This can help keep your team engaged in the change adoption and can continue to foster communication and involvement throughout the process.
  5. Measure success – For any type of change to be successful, it needs to be adopted and accepted by those impacted by it. To know if a change initiative is successful, you need to measure the impacts of it. Have a plan to measure key data before, during and after the change to see how well it was received by the organization. This will help you identify what is working well, what might need to be improved and whether the change is still a good idea for your organization.

Change is hard – there’s no doubt about it. However, by practicing some of these ideas, you can implement a smooth change initiative that will have a successful and positive impact on your business.

A version of this blog first appeared on Eide Bailly’s Technology Consulting Blog.

 

Is it Time for a Promotion?

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: one of the coolest parts about starting a business is that you get to hire awesome employees to work for you. These employees are (hopefully!) putting a large amount of dedication and effort into the work they’re doing for your business, and they’re really impressing you. You might even be considering whether or not they deserve a promotion.

Here are four signs it might be time to hand out that promotion.

    1. They go above and beyond | All businesses dream of them, some businesses actually have them – the employees who go above and beyond what is stated in their job descriptions. When you hired this employee, you went over what was expected of them in their position – what their duties were, who they reported to and the scope of their work. However, you might have gotten lucky and found someone who does what is expected and then some. Maybe it is picking up slack of others, taking on multiple projects at a time or even working extra hours to get things done – this employee is a potential candidate for a promotion.
    2. They have a proven success record | When you hire an employee, your hope is they will do their job well. What’s even better is when they prove just how well they are doing their job. Success can be measured in many different ways, often depending on the type of work being performed. For example, maybe this employee has brought in more new referral sources than anyone else, or has seeing the greatest return on investment from a marketing project he or she completed. Another measure of success can be key performance indicators, or KPIs. KPIs can help hold everyone accountable for their tasks, make sure everyone is on the same page and ultimately map out goals that your business wants to reach. How well the employee is meeting these KPIs can indicate whether they are promotion ready.
    3. They’ve been with you through it all | Starting and maintaining a business is no simple task. It involves the highs and lows, the risks and rewards. Having an employee who has stuck by your side through everything is a huge bonus. When times got tough, this employee didn’t turn and run. Rather, they stuck around and helped the business fight its way out of the dark period and thrive.
    4. They’re a walking, talking version of your business | Your employees should promote the values of your business. If your business values giving to charity and volunteer work, you want your employees to participate and be involved with these initiatives. If you want your business to be seen as respectable and trustworthy, you want your employees to act in a manner that promotes this idea and lets people know what kind of people fit in your organization. An employee who displays the values and characteristics of the business at all times is not only a good fit for your company, but also helps promote a positive image.

 

Once you have decided to promote an employee, there are a few things to consider. When someone gets a promotion, it often comes with a pay raise. You will need to be ready to discuss this new pay rate, as well as ensure you are able to actually pay them the promised amount. You also need to note if there will be any benefit changes, such as extra PTO or bonus eligibility.

Another item to keep in mind is how you will communicate this promotion. Will you alert the employee privately and then tell the whole staff, will you hold an event or will the promotion remain private between the business and the employee? Also, keep in mind that other employees may be upset with this decision if they feel they deserved a promotion but were not given one. These employees need to be addressed individually so they understand the reasoning behind your decisions.

Employees are great and there are often times they are so great they deserve to be recognized for it! Considering the tips above can help you decide when it is time to give your employees the promotion they deserve.