Back To Basics – Being Organised

One of the most important skills a manager can possess is the ability to be organised. Not only does your work require structured thinking, discipline and action, it also requires the ability to juggle a multitude of jobs at any one time – all with their own complexities and client expectations. Now add transformation into the mix. Actions to undertake, deadlines to meet, changes to implement etc And now there is all the normal day to day administrative work to do – performance reviews, management reporting, marketing the business, coaching the team and the list goes on.

So how do you get through all this work without working 24 hours a day? Yes, you could employ more resources or you could get back to basics and employ simple and effective organisational skills to help you work more efficiently. Being organised is not just about getting a lot of work done. It is also about creating a work environment that is conducive to clear thinking, a lower error rate and enables you to control what you do and when you do it. It is also an environment that says to a client “We are efficient, we know what we are doing and you can have complete confidence in us to do a great job”. To achieve this and enjoy control over your workspace, here are a number of tips to improve your organisational skills:

  • Use a notebook or diary to track important notes and record action items. Your memory may be excellent, but there it is no substitute to writing actions down
  • Use checklists. Yes – not only will your new checklists be essential in creating consistent quality in your business, they will help you be more organised
  • Do one thing at a time. Multitasking is a great skill, but don’t multitask when working on client jobs. Adopt the mantra “One thing at a time”
  • Plan in advance. This is about preventative maintenance and planning, NOT reacting. Plan out your week and your day to use your time most effectively
  • Use folders and colour coding. As simple as this seems, putting things in folders (and labelling them) is an excellent way to be organised. Plus, having a tidy work area can give you a sense of control
  • Avoid cutting yourself short. We have all fallen into the trap of not allowing ourselves sufficient time to get a task complete. By being organised, you will have a clear picture of your priorities and be able to make promises you can keep
  • Use “To Do” lists. Simple; easy; inexpensive. Update your list every night before going home and revisit it every morning. Create a list for your week and refine it as the week progresses
  • Co-ordinate with others. You don’t work in a vacuum so co-ordinate efforts with your team members, especially if you need their assistance to complete a job. Your last minute rush is not their problem
  • Learn the most important word “No”. Being organised means having to occasionally say “no” to new work. Practice as this is a hard lesson to implement
  • Get the lay of the land. If you are new to the business, check out where essentials items are kept, who looks after stationery, computers, printers, photocopiers etc. Knowing where things are kept will save you time trying to sort this out later
  • Keep a tidy desk. This has to be one of the most difficult organisational techniques for a manager to implement. A tidy desk does contribute to clearer thinking, helps you avoid distractions, and reduces the chance of client work being misfiled.

Investing five minutes in improving organisational skills today will pay great dividends tomorrow!

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.
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7 Sure Fire Methods To Avoid Overdue Accounts

The best way to avoid collection hassles is to take preventive measures up front to ensure that accounts don’t become overdue. Below are some steps you can take to improve your receivables turnaround.

1. Don’t grant credit

It’s not always possible or practical, but some companies can be run without offering credit. Require cash or bank drafts/money orders. Ship products C.O.D. (cash on delivery), especially to new customers who don’t have a payment history with you.
2. Accept major credit cards

Make it convenient for customers to do business with you by accepting debit and credit cards. While you will pay out a small percentage of each transaction for processing, you also will get paid within days. If you follow the regulations, you won’t be liable for fraudulent charges, although the customer will have the option to withhold payment if there is a dispute about a bill.
3. Require deposits

Both service and product businesses can ask for advance payments. Product firms can ask for 50 percent payment up front and the balance on delivery, or request a deposit amount based on standards for their industry. Service businesses might want to ask for 20 to 50 percent up front, depending on the project, with remaining payments due when certain milestones are met.
4. Offer terms

Terms outline how you expect to get paid, and what interest or penalties you charge for late payment. State these clearly on your contracts and invoices because you cannot request that these terms be met if customers do not know about them beforehand. It is common to ask for one to one and a half percent per month for late payments. While this won’t net you much money, it indicates that you are serious about timely payment. You also might want to offer a discount of one percent or more for early payment as a way of speeding cash flow.
5. Get a signed agreement

Never extend credit without getting something in writing. If there’s ever a collection problem, having a signed agreement makes your case much stronger. Use a purchase order or contract that details how much a client will owe and when it will be due. Take a moment to review payment deadlines with clients and express that you expect to be paid on time. Point out the terms for late payment. Always record changes or compromises in writing.
6. Check credit

Collect the information you’ll need to run a credit check on a credit application or “new customer form.” For consumers, this data includes address and phone numbers, whether homes are owned or rented, how long at last address, and bank account and credit/charge card account numbers. For businesses, you can ask for business name, company number, names of owners/principals, address, phone number and at least three credit references. You can get credit reports from major credit reporting agencies such as Experian and Equifax.
7. Create a billing/overdue notification system

You can’t collect if you don’t know how much is owed to you and when it is due. Set up a system that alerts you to overdue accounts – most accounting software programs do this automatically. Once you have a system, make sure someone in your company is responsible for keeping it up to date.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a business evaluation and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Go On; Spoil Your Customers

We are often asked by clients “How can I improve my marketing?” – Often this means – “How can I get new customers?” Indeed, most businesses put most of their marketing effort – and budget – into new lead generation.

However, it’s amazing how few businesses are effectively marketing to their existing customers. Most business owners are sitting on massive untapped potential in terms of their existing client relationships.How do you unleash that potential? Try answering these questions:

  • What cross-sales, up-sales, new products/services could you offer your existing customers?
  • And when did you last let them know? In fact, when was the last time you wrote to your customers or emailed them or phoned them. And what kind of response rate did you get?

If you doubled the number of times you contacted them what would happen? One retail client used a brochure to market to his client base and generated hundreds of thousands of pounds in turnover each year from this method. The brochure was sent out once a year, in springtime. We asked him to try sending it again in autumn. Guess what happened!Play the easy game. Make sure you have a database with all your existing clients listed. And then……speak to them……pamper them……offer them special previews and promotions……ask them to tell their friends.

Remember It costs six times more to get new customers than it does to increase sales to existing customers and 64% of customers don’t purchase from your business a second time because of the perceived indifference with which they are treated.

If you want to reduce your marketing spend, or the cost of customer acquisition, reinvest your pounds into strategies that will retain your customers, so they keep buying from you. Investing in customer relationship strategies – the payback is stunning.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a business evaluation and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Forming Beneficial Strategic Alliances

Establishing a strategic alliance is not a “shake hands” deal that gets put in place and then becomes the forgotten part of your business. In order to be successful, strategic alliances must be carefully selected, rigorously tested and, like your transformed business, properly systemised in order to work effectively. Many business owners make the mistake of forming strategic alliances with unsuitable partners that end up costing the business considerable amounts – both in lost revenue, costs in unwinding the relationship and in terms of damaged goodwill. When evaluating reasons for these failures, some common trends emerge:

  • Poor planning and budgeting
  • Assuming, trusting and not checking the alliance partner’s credentials, capability, reputation etc
  • Failing to assess the strategic and cultural fit of the proposed alliance partner
  • Not properly documenting the relationship and responsibilities
  • Not agreeing (and documenting) the split of income, contribution to overheads and client ownership
  • Failing to plan and set targets for the alliance
  • Not adequately communicating the nature and purpose of the alliance to staff
  • Not providing adequate coaching or support to enable staff to cross sell or identify opportunities
  • Having poorly defined procedures to manage the flow of work

So how do you go about establishing a strong strategic alliance? We believe there are 9 essential steps after you have decided a strategic alliance is right for your business:

  1. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of a strategic alliance
  2. Conduct a rigorous analysis of your potential partner(s)
  3. Understand what you and your potential partner(s) bring to the arrangement
  4. Negotiate the arrangement
  5. Structure and document your arrangement
  6. Agree on who does what
  7. Plan
  8. Execute
  9. Manage

You will notice that nearly 90% of the process takes place before you and your strategic alliance partner start to do anything with clients. There is a good reason for this – the 90% of the time you invest in preparation will allow you two important things: time to get to know your potential alliance partner even better and time to make sure you have structured an alliance partnership that suits your business.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Best Business Planning Practices

What separates a weak business plan from a good plan? Or a good plan from a great one? As with any reliable roadmap, a powerful business plan clearly lays out a course and provides alternatives to follow should any roadblocks appear.

A business plan is an important tool for internal planning in any business and for garnering support from external sources. Use the business plan best practices here to create a solid plan for your business.

Build the plan around its audience

A business plan can be used for many purposes and should be created with its use and audience in mind. You might create a plan as a tactical rollout guide for a new product or market, as an annual strategic guide, as a tool to lure investors, or as a way to get your organization excited about the coming year. The way you’ll use the plan should shape its focus. A plan aimed at raising money needs to focus on the talent and experience of your team to boost investors’ confidence in your company. It should also be slickly produced, printed and packaged. A strategic guide for internal use, on the other hand, might focus more closely on the steps required to roll out a new product. Multiple versions of your plan may be required if you have more than one audience and purpose.

Focus on finances

A strong business plan demonstrates that there is a financial impact related to all strategies, ideas, and assumptions. In one way or another, every section of your plan needs a financial bent – How will marketing generate income? How will the competitive environment impact your ability to make money? What will production of a product cost and how will that impact profitability?

Be realistic in your enthusiasm

While it is natural for a business plan to reflect a belief that your offering or approach is superior to anything else on the market, remember to temper your zeal. In creating each section of the plan, ask yourself what a sceptic would be concerned about regarding your statements and assumptions. For example, if your plan concerns a new product introduction, ask yourself about the barriers to acceptance. Always return to the “why” – Why would customers switch allegiance to you? Why would companies outsource a service to you, etc? You can put a plan to the test by sharing a rough draft with someone you know who has a sceptical nature.

Segment whenever possible

No small business can be all things to all people. Focusing on specific market segments will improve the accuracy of your planning, since you will be able to build your financial assumptions around the specific needs of those segments. Don’t limit segmentation just to your marketing efforts – the habits and values of your target audience will likely influence everything from product development to pricing.

Produce carefully

Whether you are sharing a business plan with staff only or a discriminating outside resource, features such as charts that clearly illustrate a point, statistics that back up an assertion, or judiciously-placed graphics can increase the likelihood that your audience will be receptive to your message. Once your plan is complete, have it proofread by two different people to ensure that mistakes don’t undermine its effectiveness. Also, consider the appropriate way to package a plan. A plan for bankers, partners or investors should be printed on high quality paper and bound. You can cut some corners with an internal document, but be sure your document reflects the effort you put into it.

Revise, revise, revise

A business plan is a “living” document that requires periodic review and continual improvement. Your plan may be your company’s roadmap, but your business can quickly be thrown off course by market downturns, shifting buying habits, or even better-than-anticipated sales. Review your plan regularly to see if you’re on track and adjust budgets and priorities accordingly.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

SugarCRM’s Growing Momentum

SugarCRM’s Growing Momentum.