Small businesses face a host of challenges. Only a small percentage reach their fifth anniversary. Most people start out with a dream, roll the dice, and jump in feet first. You can reduce risk and increase your chances of success by taking the steps outlined below.
Plan to Succeed. A well thought out Business Plan can mitigate seven of the top ten reasons businesses fail. It allows you to organize, prioritize and shape your thoughts. It is a roadmap to the future. A Business Plan is a living document which changes periodically. When you write your thoughts down, it is easier to see the holes and to fill them before implementing. A Business Plan also allows you to share your thoughts with your advisors and employees so that everyone is on the same page.
Establish Goals. Goals help you measure success. Goals should be reasonable and a stretch to achieve. If they are too easy, the results are meaningless. Unachievable goals are counterproductive. Failure to meet them demoralizes the staff and may cause them to question the competence of the company’s leadership.
Monitor Cash Flow. Cash flow is the life-blood of business. As a business owner, you sign the checks and use the company credit card. You commit the company to spend money. When planning to spend consider Need vs. Want and Invest vs. Spend. Ask yourself, “Do I need it or do I want it?” If you want a $50,000 car when a $30,000 model will suffice, stop and think. Ask, “What’s the return on my investment?” The answer will help you make the right decision. If you need to buy raw materials that you will turn into a profitable deliverable that a customer has ordered, then do so. The question you need to answer is, “Where will I get the best return in terms of new business for the money I am investing?”
Track Your Progress. How do you know who’s winning if you don’t keep score? Determine what metrics drive your business and monitor them on a regular basis. It involves more than looking at your checkbook balance each day or running an income statement each month. You need to break down your sales process. It may include:
- Number of customers
- Revenue per customer
- Revenue per sale
- Productivity per revenue generating employee
- Sales by products type
- Profitability by product type
- How customers find your business
- Who refers business to you
- Who you refer business to
Stop rolling the dice. Begin to plan, establish goals, monitor cash flow, and track your progress. You will have a huge impact on your business’s future. If these concepts are not currently in place, the beginning of the new year is a great time to institute these changes.