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My Start-Up Is A Success – HELP!

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Bravo! You launched your start-up and all of a sudden the business is going great guns. Your P & L shows that top line revenues are well ahead of projections and your venture could show a bottom line profit just after the 12-month mark.

You are thrilled to pieces. You are also overwhelmed and not sure how to manage your good luck. Business ventures new and old can fail for many reasons and small businesses are especially vulnerable to all manner of threats. Even good fortune can kill a business, when customer demand far outpaces the ability to deliver the goods.

Fortunately, some challenges can be overcome through sound business practices that are aided by modestly priced IT hardware and software. Here are areas where conservative IT investments can help Entrepreneurs manage common business stumbling blocks. Are you ready to trade-up from your Excel spreadsheet?

1. Operational efficiencies

Efforts to deliver core products and services can fall short in under-staffed, under-capitalized organizations, especially when the founder is new to the role of CEO. Customer orders can be incomplete, late, or lost. There may be product or service quality control issues to confront and disappointed customers to placate.

Workflow management software can be your rescue and an online search will lead to several good options, some paid and some free and open source. Several are designed for small and midsized operations, like the open source ProcessMaker. The workflow management software that you choose will be customized to your business needs and budget and has the potential to be tremendously helpful as you and your team streamline and standardize product and service delivery into protocols that help you meet or exceed customer expectations.

2. Accounts receivable and payable

As orders flood your inbox, or customers stream through your door, top line (gross) revenues arrive with them. However, that does not eliminate the possibility of cash-flow problems. A lightly or inappropriately staffed team will allow many matters to fall through the cracks. Payments to suppliers and sub-contractors could be late. Invoices may not be sent at the agreed-upon time and as a result, cash-flow will be diminished. Erratic cash-flow leads to multiple problems, including the inability to make payroll, purchase inventory, or pay the co-working space rent.

There exists affordable IT solutions to guide your venture’s financial management. Billing software (sometimes free, search online) can generate professional looking invoices quickly and accurately. Bookkeeping software, such as the popular QuickBooks, for a reasonable price will allow you to manage common financial record-keeping functions. Bookkeeping software also offers management tools that help the founder/ CEO to analyze and interpret Key Performance Indicators and will reveal customer buying patterns, such as seasonal peaks and valleys. Awareness of customer buying patterns allows you to accurately plan staffing needs, inventory purchases, special pricing, or other actions to meet increased or decreased demand.

3. Mobile workforce

Mobility is a must in today’s business world. Lacking full access to customer or other vital information while you’re on the road or meeting with suppliers, sub-contractors, or B2B customers is inexcusable and makes it impossible to uphold the quality of your brand. Invest in a tablet or notebook computer that along with your smart phone will be loaded with apps and software that allow you to demonstrate that you are able to service customer needs and answer questions wherever and whenever.

Mobile friendly business management tools accessed through the cloud allow you and your team to be effective in or out of the office. Also, make sure that your website is in the responsive design format, so that it can be easily viewed from mobile devices.

4. Manage growth

Growth is always the goal, but it’s sometimes like drinking from the fire hose for a new business. Serendipitous growth seems like the answer to your prayers, with orders all but falling into your lap, but the follow-through can trip you up and burn you out as it rolls through like a freight train.

Resource utilization— time, talent, staffing, money— all change as the business grows. The best growth is planned, which allows for thoughtful budgeting, staffing, incorporation of the right IT tools, efficient product or service delivery systems, good quality control measures and customer service procedures that make the founder/ CEO live up to the brand promise.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Own Your Time

Friday, September 8th, 2017

No matter whether you are in a locker room, boardroom, courtroom, fire station, classroom, on an assembly line, opera/ ballet rehearsal or concert, hospital operating room or in another setting, being in controls of your time matters!

Lesson one: Coach Wooden “Never be late”: Own Your Time

Coach John Wooden, the winning-est coach in basketball always started and ended his practices on time. Coach always arrived early to practice to make sure everything was set up properly. Practice was for 2 to 2 ½ hours and Coach planned every minute of practice. His practice plans were reduced to a 3×5 cards and afterwards his assistant coach copied every practice session plan putting it in a notebook with all the other practice sessions to keep a record of it.

Coach Wooden did not waste time. He said, “I would privately review my notebook from the previous year’s practice for that exact day, looking for clues as to what had been effective and what did not work as well. In fact I regularly reviewed notes from two or three years back-sometimes more.” (“Wooden On leadership” by John Wooden & Steve Jamison)

His meetings with his assistant Coaches were timed too. He would also ask for their suggestions and try them out during practice. When their suggestions worked, they would be added for future practices!

Lesson two: Toastmasters Meeting Run on Time: Own your time

At Toastmasters they watch the time. Meetings begin and end on time. Every minute of the meeting is timed. Speeches are also timed! The first time I visited a Toastmasters Club they handed me an “Agenda” with the time the meeting was to start, how many minutes each portion of the meeting was to be, and what time the meeting would end. Toastmasters’ is an organization that helps “members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills.” Toastmasters teaches you to “own your time”. Visit a Toastmaster club near you to see a timed Toastmasters meeting.

Lesson three: Being on Time, Punctuality is the Key: Businesses have to run on time to stay in business. Employees are being paid to be good team members who are dependable, disciplined; experts in their field, and must arrive at work on time. They also have a positive attitude, a respect for others, and an appreciation for their time too! Businesses and employees own their time.

Tardy Employees Lose Money at a Business: You have heard the saying “Time is money”. At a company I was asked to consult with, employees were arriving late to work and leaving early. These employees were cheating the company each day of money and time. Work was not being completed and other employees could not depend on these delinquent team members. Moral was not good, Companies can go under because of this employee negligent behavior. Managers at the company had done performance reviews of these tardy employees separately and had asked questions to try to correct the situation. It was not working.

I read an article by Zig Ziglar, a motivational expert and mentor to Dr. John Maxwell, of how he had helped a company with similar problems correct the situation by having them announce to their employees that they would be installing “time clocks”. Zig Ziglar said after a month the new “time clocks” were working well and productivity, teamwork, and attitude had improved. After the time clocks were installed, Managers did evaluation reports on the tardy employees weekly, to make them accountable and charge their behavior.

Zig Ziglar “Changed the Picture”: Own your time

Zig Ziglar had changed the picture at this company by helping them install time clocks in order for his employees to receive their paychecks. By doing this employees became productive, had an improved attitude, did better work, completed assignments on time, and became responsible and accountable for their time on the job.

After reading Zig Ziglar’s article I suggested to the company I was assisting that they announce at a meeting that they were installing “time clocks” and each employee was to sign in and sign out each day. After the time clocks were in operation and the company employees had been signing in and out for a month the employees were more productive, had a positive attitude, and became more responsible and accountable for their work. Managers were also doing evaluation reports on the tardy employees weekly as a reminder to them.

Concerts and Rehearsal Begin and End On Time:

As a musician playing the violin and viola, I have played concerts with Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole, Lou Rawls in concert and performed concerts as a soloist, with orchestra, playing in opera or ballet orchestras, and in chamber groups around the world. The timing in every piece is important. Concerts and rehearsals must begin and end on time. Each piece must be timed to the minute.

In fact as a musician I always arrive early to warm up and get ready before the rehearsal or concert begins. In running any business it is imperative that employees show up on time and leave on time each day. Time management is a must in every part of your life. Without managing your time there is no discipline. Own your time.

What one thing can you do to “own your time” every day?

Like Coach Wooden and Toastmasters, plan every minute of your workday and your family time in advance and put it on your schedule. Stick to your schedule and own your time.

Rabbi Harold Kushner and Senator Paul Tsongas said, “Nobody on their death bed has ever said, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” Let your legacy be that you spent quality-focused time with your family and made sure your business was successful too. Own your time!