Back to Business Basics

Another year has already come and gone? Really?

As you wrap up this year and prepare to start another, consider using the following list to guide your business activities. If you want to consider this a “New Year’s Resolution” list, that’s fine as long as you actually turn this list into reality and stick with it all year.

Set business goals, and have plans for achieving those goals.

Establish written plans for achieving your business goals. Be sure to assign accountability using the following formula: WHO will do WHAT by WHEN?

Run your business by the numbers.

It’s important to regularly review your progress and results. Your review should include:

  • Sales, broken down by product/service or customer segments
  • Gross profit, broken down the same way as sales
  • Major expense line items
  • Net profit
  • Cash balance and cash flow
  • Accounts Receivable, if you extend payment terms to your customers

Look at both month-to-date and year-to-date results, and compare to the same period from the prior year. It’s also a good idea to look at your P&L statement numbers as a percent of total sales. This allows you to spot trends early.

Use time wisely.

Your time is one of your most precious resources, so be sure you’re making the best use of it. Use a calendar and set aside time for planning and review.

“Hire hard” so you can “manage easy.”

Spend as much time as needed with the recruiting and interviewing process to build a strong team who will grow with your company.

Spend quality time with employees.

Rather than waiting a year to discuss performance with your team members, regularly visit with them informally. Get to know their talents, strengths and weaknesses. Praise them for their good work, and coach them when you see opportunities for improvement.

Delegate.

You can’t do it all yourself, so don’t even try. Continually ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now the best use of my time and talents?” If not, find a way to delegate those activities to employees or outside vendors.

Spend quality time with customers.

Find out the answers to these two questions:

  1. What’s important to you? (Quality, customer service, product mix, etc.)
  2. How are we doing in those areas?

Develop relationships with your customers.

Find ways to stand out from your competitors and to become the supplier of choice.

Make smart use of technology.

Technology has become so affordable and easy to use that even the smallest home-based business can afford to appear bigger and to level the playing field with larger competitors. Get tech savvy to reduce costs, improve communication, increase productivity and enhance customer service.

Create a winning culture.

Get everyone in your company on the success bandwagon, starting with you. Think and talk about growing, pushing through challenges and achieving goals. Be winners.

Implement these common-sense business practices, and go make the new year your best yet.

7 Business Resolutions for the New Year

How is 2011 turning out for you? Check one:

[ ] Pretty rough
[ ] Fair
[ ] Great!

Even if you chose “Great”, it’s hard to be optimistic when unemployment is high and many of the most powerful people in our government seem determined to punish achievement via the tax code. Until fairly recently, entrepreneurs were celebrated and respected. It was all about the American Dream. Now … well, just listen to the words being used and the proposals being made. It’s clear that some folks don’t value what entrepreneurship represents: Pursuing dreams, hard work, jobs and a rising tide that floats all boats. When the dearly-held principles that made this country what it is today – including Capitalism – come under attack, it is difficult indeed to stay positive. Don’t fall for it. Here are seven resolutions for the new year to help you stay positive and improve your company’s performance.

1. I will not buy into the “the rich don’t pay their fair share” nonsense. The top 1% of earners pay 38% of all taxes. The top 10% pay 70% of all taxes. (This information is readily available on the IRS website.) You may not be rich but this ridiculous mantra is mutating into an indictment on all business owners. Get informed – immunize yourself against the negativity.

2. I will run my business by the numbers. It’s important to regularly review your progress and results, including:
• Sales and gross profit, broken down by product/service or customer segments
• Major expense line items
• Net profit
• Cash balance and cash flow
• Accounts Receivable, if applicable

Look at month-to-date and year-to-date results, and compare to the same period from the prior year. It’s also a good idea to look at your income statement numbers as a percent of total sales to spot trends early.

3. I will “hire hard” so I can “manage easy.” A bad hiring decision can haunt you for a long time. Don’t make a snap decision. Build a strong team who will grow with your company.

4. I will delegate. You can’t do it all yourself, so don’t even try.

5. I will connect with my customers. Find out the answers to these two questions:
• What’s important to you? (Quality, customer service, etc.)
• How are we doing in those areas?

Develop relationships with your customers. Find ways to stand out from your competitors and to become the supplier of choice.

6. I will make smart use of technology to improve my business. Technology has become so affordable and easy to use that no business has an excuse for not going high tech. Even the smallest home-based business can afford to level the playing field with larger competitors.

7. We will think like a growth company and will not participate in the poor economy. Get everyone in your company – starting with you and including all your employees – on this bandwagon. Think and talk about growth, pushing through challenges and achieving goals.

Be winners. Build on your successes and learn from your mistakes. Implement all these business practices, and go into the new year with the attitude that this will be your best year yet.

Prepping for my trip to Sydney

Here are the main things I did to get ready for this trip:

  • At home, I use an Android phone and have Sprint service, but it will not work in Australia. Some carriers offer an international option but not Sprint – at least not for my Android. So, I rented an old style Motorola phone thru cellularabroad.com. It was only about $60 plus airtime. The airtime was astonishingly reasonable and includes texting.
  • AC adapters: Australia uses 230 volts – double the US’ 115 volts – and uses a different outlet configuration. So, I bought an AC adapter which also reduced the voltage to run my stuff. More on this later.
  • I took both my HP laptop and my new Asus Eee Pad Transformer, which uses the Android operating system. I seriously considered leaving my laptop at home to see how I could function with just the tablet but got cold feet at the last minute and took both. Since I’m presenting and need PowerPoint in Sydney I didn’t want to chance not having the functionality.
  • Planning on working on the long flight, I charged everything fully before leaving home. I traveled Economy (coach) and there are no power outlets in that section.
  • I put all the files I expected to need in the cloud for easy access Down Under. I use Dropbox and also recently signed up for Sugar Sync so I had plenty of storage space available. I also took a couple of large USB drives for moving files around once I arrived.
  • Normally, my email client is Outlook. Not knowing how much wireless access I’d have, I set up my Gmail account to work with all 3 of my email accounts, so even if I had to resort to using somone else’s computer I could check email.
  • Got my family all set up on Skype so we could have video calls while I’m down under.
  • I’m flying United Airlines for all four legs of my journey, mainly because the Aussies paid for my flight and that’s what they chose. Researching the accomodations on United Airlines, I found out about Economy Plus. For about $400 total, I paid for this upgrade and enjoyed about 3-5 extra inches of legroom for all four of my flights. This may seem like an insignificant gain but especially on the long hauls it made things more pleasant.
  • Since this is my first trip to Australia I didn’t want to fly into town and back out again without seeing the place. So, I arrived 3 days prior to the GGOB conference and stayed 2 days after. It turns out this was still nowhere near enough time for sightseeing but I did pack plenty of quality time into the days I had.
  • I put the word out that I was looking for advice on what to do and see while there and got several people to help with that – some Sydney locals and some Americans who had been there. Additionally, of course, I did some online research. I started a “Things to do and see” list and this helped me stay organized.
  • I got in the habit of checking Sydney temperatures every day so I’d know what clothes to take.They’re headig into spring as we approach fall and as it turns out Sydney and St. Louis temps were virtually identical right up to trip time.
  • Being an avid golfer, I had to play in Australia. So I found a golfer among my Aussie contacts and had him arrange everything including clubs. I took my shoes, a glove and 2 sleeves of balls and planned to rent/buy anything else on the course.