Now, more than ever before, the act of listening is important. Not only is it important to listen to someone, but to effectively listen to them. Sure, we all know that in order to understand individuals, to connect with them and understand their wants and needs, we need to be alert, focused, and mindful. After all, the power of listening—effective listening—will help you get more information from clients, increase their trust and commitment in you, and reduce conflict and misunderstanding.
Below, we’ve included more information on the power of listening, and tips on how to be a better listener.
What It Means To Listen
We don’t need to give you a textbook definition of listening; you already know what it means. However, it is necessary to point out that the act of listening and actually comprehending what a person is saying can lead to strong, healthy, and thriving relationships—all very important qualities in any type of relationships, specifically a business one.
If you don’t believe us, think about the last time you were having a conversation with someone and felt as if you weren’t being heard. How did that make you feel? How did that affect the relationship? Did it make you feel valued?
According to Dr. Carl Rogers, a psychologist, active listening is a specific communication skill. Giving free and undivided attention to a speaker through active listening is the most effective way to achieve individual change and group development.
Isn’t that the ultimate goal? Whether the relationship is professional or personal, don’t you want to establish a solid, mutual ground of respect? It’s the only way for both parties to succeed.
If your listening skills are in need of a little tune up, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered! We’ve put together a list of different ways to help you become a better listener.
Tips On Becoming A Better Listener
If you truly want to become a better listener, then consider implementing these tips into your daily life.
Understand The Benefits
First, it’s imperative to understand that listening to someone is beneficial to both the person doing the talking and you. Nothing bad or negative comes from listening to another person speak, but the complete opposite. Remember, if you thoroughly listen to an individual, it’s more likely that same individual will listen to you when it becomes your turn to speak. The partnership the two of you are hoping to grow can only be successful with mutual listening.
Make Eye Contact
Next, when someone is speaking to you, always make eye contact. This tactic not only shows respect, but it will also help you focus on the other person’s words, what he or she is saying and how they feel.
When sharing a conversation with someone, make sure there are no distractions. Obviously, this means you need to put down your phone and give the speaker your full attention. Don’t worry about what’s going on around you; don’t think about your next meeting or what you plan to have for lunch. Listen, engage, and show the person talking that you care.
One of the best ways to show the speaker that you are really listening to them, is to ask them questions. Make sure you fully understand what they’re saying by verifying their wants, needs, and/or concerns with specific questions.
Remember, nothing bad comes from listening—only good. The next time someone is speaking, consider opening up your eyes, ears, and mind just a little bit more. In doing so, you will gain the full benefits of the power of listening.
One of the best tools to forecast cash requirements is the 13-week cash flow forecast. It can help a business owner predict what their cash balance will be 13 weeks in the future. It helps to answer whether there will be enough cash to cover payroll and bills for a particular week. If you’re having significant ups and downs in your cash balance, it’s the perfect tool to help gain clarity around your cash needs.
Thirteen weeks may sound like an odd length to select, but it’s the length of a calendar quarter. This is the length of a financial projection that is typically used when a business is in financial distress; however, it’s also useful when a company is going through some ups and downs or simply wants to get a better handle on its cash requirements.
The forecast computations start with entering cash receipts and cash disbursements into a spreadsheet. Start with actual spending and receipts for the first week, then use estimates for the remaining weeks. Include planned expenditures such as overhead, payroll, and loan payments. Add in inventory purchases. Project your receipts based on history or recent changes in your business.
Once you’ve completed your forecast, you can make changes and do what-if scenario planning. For example, if the forecast shows that you will run out of cash in week seven, you have some time to decide what you need to do to remedy the shortfall. Options might be:
- Accelerate the collection of 30 percent of your receivables.
- Dip into your line of credit to cover a portion the shortfall.
- Furlough 10 percent of your workers.
Plug your selected scenario into the forecast to see how much that relieves your shortfall.
The benefits of creating a 13-week cash flow forecast are many. You can see what actions need to be taken and when to take them well ahead of time. You can also see how much of an action you need to take. For example, instead of furloughing 50 percent of your staff, you may only need to furlough 25 percent. Or instead of borrowing $50,000, you might only need $20,000.
The cash flow forecast can also save time when developing your annual budget. Budgets are especially useful when business conditions are volatile or when business owners need all the clarity they can get.
Try your hand creating a 13-week cash flow forecast for your business, or reach out to us for help any time.
At the beginning of 2020, you might have thought that developing a business continuity plan was not a top priority. Or maybe you thought it was only for large businesses. Fast forward to today, and a business continuity plan has become an essential staple in business planning.
There are more business risks than ever before to consider that can affect business continuity. Businesses are being shuttered, reopened and shuttered again from the pandemic, fires, hurricanes and damage from riots, just to mention a few of the more common issues in this unusual year.
The biggest benefit of a business continuity plan is the process of developing it. It helps you think through the steps you should take if a business interruption occurs. If you have a disaster recovery plan – or even a few steps jotted down of what you’d do – then you have already started a portion of the process.
Here are some of the major pieces of a business continuity plan to consider developing for your business.
Roles and Responsibilities
In this section, all of the business stakeholders should be identified and listed. On a high level, questions like these should be answered:
- What is each person’s role within the company, and how would that change if the business is interrupted?
- What new skillsets should be acquired in the case of a disruption?
Potential Impacts to Your Business
This part of the continuity plan lists major scenarios where something could go wrong with your business. It should include things like weather events, fire, riots, theft, leadership interruptions, cash flow shortages, and the long-term impact of the pandemic. For each event, an analysis should be made as to how it will affect the business and what possible outcomes could occur. This part is also called a Business Impact Analysis.
Once you’ve identified impacts, the next set of questions covers how to most effectively recover from them. These remedies might include seeking additional financing, selecting backup locations, checking IT department functionality, creating alternate supply chain and distribution sources, and identifying many more actions along these lines.
As we’ve seen this year, this is just as important to think through for small businesses as it is large businesses.
When owners and employees are not in the middle of an actual disaster, they can better map out a recovery strategy that’s optimal and cost-effective for the business.
A good plan should be implemented through distribution, testing, and training. All stakeholders should read and understand the contents of the business continuity plan. The plan should be tested in drills and exercises when possible. Employees should be trained so they know their part and feel comfortable carrying it out while under high stress.
The long-term viability of your business is important, and it can be strengthened when you put a business continuity plan in place. If we can help, feel free to reach out any time.
The only way to get smarter about how to invest your marketing dollars is to document and measure what’s happening now in your business. What you’ve measured, you can then improve.
The first step to measuring what you spend on marketing is to aggregate all of the costs. They may be in one account or several. Some of the places to look for marketing expenses include:
- Advertising – for online or print ads, trade shows, sponsorships, and other advertising costs
- Dues and subscriptions – for membership fees to networking and professional associations
- Education – for marketing training
- Marketing – for obvious reasons
- Office supplies – for graphics subscriptions and fees
- Payroll, salaries, and wages – for allocation of employee time spent on marketing projects
- Printing and postage – for flyers and direct mail
- Professional fees – for marketing consultants, coaches, designers, and writers
- Software/Technology – for marketing software and apps
- Travel – for trade show or conference attendance
Once you have aggregated all of these costs, you’ll have a good idea of what you’re spending on marketing and you can calculate the first metric, marketing spend. The formula is:
Total marketing costs / total gross revenue = Marketing spend
This gives you a percentage.
Most companies spend five to ten percent on marketing. Higher growth companies will spend close to ten percent, and stable growth or slow growth companies will spend close to five percent. Large companies will spend more, from nine to 12 percent of gross revenues, than small companies.
CAC – Cost to Acquire Customer
Probably the most important metric for marketing is how much it costs on average to acquire one customer. To compute this, count the number of new customers for any period of time, and use this number in the following formula:
Total marketing costs / number of new customers = CAC
A more granular version of CAC is CPA, cost per acquisition. Unlike CAC, CPA is measured by campaign or marketing channel, or the source of how the customer was acquired. Example marketing channels include email marketing, social media, and paid ads, to name a few.
Revenue per Customer
Revenue per customer is a good measure in many companies. It can tell you how much, on average, a customer will spend at your company over a period of time, adding up all of the orders, projects, visits, or engagements for that customer. The formula is simple:
Total revenue for a period / total number of customers for the same period = Revenue per customer
A similar metric that’s valuable is how much a customer will spend at your company in their lifetime. That’s called CLV or customer lifetime value. Use the same formula above but compute it based on the longest period of time you have records for.
When you can compare revenue per customer or CLV with CAC, you can determine how much you can afford to spend to acquire new clients.
Let us know if we can help you calculate these metrics so you can become wiser about how to invest your marketing dollars.
To maximize profits in your business, all of your business functions need to run smoothly, including your accounting department. Your accounting system is at the core of your accounting function. If it is old or lacks the features you need, your business may suffer. Here are five warning signs you can look for to determine if it’s time to upgrade or replace your current accounting system with something more cost-effective.
1. Not enough users
If your current system limits the number of users you can have in the system at any one time, this could be a major enough reason in itself to switch to a larger option. Luckily, most accounting software companies include an accountant user for free, so at least this type of user doesn’t have to count toward your total requirements.
If you’re not sure how many users you currently have a license for, we can help you check on that. It might be as easy as buying more licenses if you’re not at the maximum capacity. But if you are at maximum, it may be time to look for a better accounting system with room for you and your business to grow.
If your accounting system runs on desktop-based software that’s upgraded every year and you have not paid for or installed the upgrades, then your system is outdated. If it’s been sunsetted, that means the software vendor no longer supports the software. You are at major risk for the software crashing, getting buggy, getting hacked, or worse, permanently breaking.
The cost of getting the system current may be better spent looking for a new alternative, or moving to a cloud-based system where updates occur automatically.
3. Lack of functionality or scale
It is commonly the case that your business has grown so much that it’s outgrown your original accounting solution. That’s good news! It’s time to find a solution that will scale better for your business.
You might be missing important features that are costing you more time and money than if you were on a system that offered those features. Common time-wasting activities in accounting include too much time spent on data entry and/or Excel spreadsheets to make up for what the accounting system can’t do.
4. Lack of reporting and analytics
If you’re unable to receive the reports and analytics you want to run your business better from your current accounting system, it may be time to switch. With better data comes better decision-making and if lack of data is costing you money, then it’s time to find a more robust system.
5. Lack of integrations
Thousands of apps exist to expand accounting systems’ core functionality. If your current accounting system lacks integration capabilities or does not have apps that are built to integrate with it, you may be missing out on additional functionality. This include mobile apps; it’s quite common now to do much of your accounting work from your mobile phone.
Does your current accounting system have any of these red flags? If so, please reach out. We can help you find a best fit for your accounting needs.
Looking for fresh, effective ways to grow your business in 2020? You’ve come to the right place. In today’s market, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd, gain new customers or clients, and increase your company’s revenue. Note: We said difficult, not impossible! Below, you’ll find six fun, easy tips to help you achieve your goals and make your business bigger and better as it enters the new decade.
- Freshen Up Your Marketing
Have you ever given your house a new coat of paint? Well, consider giving your business one, too! Not literally, of course, but by freshening up your marketing techniques, clients and prospects will see you in a new light. For example, maybe it’s time for a new logo, more customer reviews to place on your site, or a new angle on your social media posts. Finally, give that old, tired website a facelift: add some new photos, offer a colorful promotion, or add new team members. Change is good and helps keep people (and Google search algorithms) interested.
- Enhance Your Product or Services
Nothing piques an individual’s interest like a new product! If you can, try to add a new product to your existing line. Or, if it makes more sense, simply add features to products you already offer. You have room to be creative here. Think about what your clients really want and try to give it to them.
- Meet with a Financial Advisor
Do you have a financial advisor? Now is the time to meet with him or her and discuss your future goals. Specifically, ask about new opportunities (i.e. investments) to grow your company’s revenue. Now—the start of a new year—is the perfect time to invest in new assets, get funding for new projects or ideas, and cut any unnecessary costs. You are in control of your company’s finances, so make sure money is going where you want it and need it to go. (And if we can help, let us know!)
- Update Your Organization Chart
Could you benefit from hiring a new employee or two? Maybe your company could prosper with the creation of a new position? It’s time to update your organization chart and see what your business needs to grow for 2020. You may discover that you need additional staff and/or a position to help things run more smoothly and effectively.
- Excite Your Team
Don’t forget to take care of your own! Remember, without your employees, where would your business be? Could you make it by yourself, without any help from staff? Therefore, remind your workers that you care for them and that they’re appreciated. The gesture can be as big or small as you want. For example, you could add an employee perk or benefit. Or, consider doing something small yet meaningful, like a team dinner or bonding event—anything to help show your employees that they’re more than just staff.
- Strategy, Strategy, Strategy
We’ve saved the best and most important tip for last: strategy. Remind yourself why you got into this business in the first place, as well as what your goals are and what you want to accomplish. Then, take a look at your current strategy. Will your strategy help you achieve those goals? If so, then great; you’re on the right track! But if not, then it may be time to rework that business strategy.
Think about what you need to do or change to reach those goals, and then work on incorporating them into your business plan. It could be you just need a minor tweak or two, or maybe your company requires a larger kind of shift. Either way, only you can determine whether or not your strategy is working.
It’s a new year—a new decade—and change is good! Let 2020 be the year that your business really takes off and grows. Now is the best time to accomplish all of your goals, and whether you use the list above or have ideas of your own to increase revenue, remember that only you can make a successful change happen.
In his book, The Rebel Rules: Daring to Be Yourself in Business, author Chip Conley describes what investors look for in a management team when considering providing startup money to new businesses. He says your management team should consist of a “brain trust that includes a passionate visionary, a ‘get-your-hands-dirty’ operator, and a responsible, finance-minded executive.”
Even if you’re never going to seek venture capital money to fund your business, this tidbit of advice makes a great strategy question to consider for your business, especially if you are an entrepreneur. Do you have these three roles in your company?
The passionate visionary is a creative idea person. She has the technical knowledge that supports the service or product that will be created and offered. She sees the market need and just how to sell and position the product so that clients or consumers will want the offering.
The visionary often has more ideas than budget. The finance role can evaluate the profitability of the visionary’s ideas and prioritize the projects. The operator can execute the visionary’s ideas.
The visionary provides strategic direction for the company and keeps the market offerings fresh.
If your business is missing a visionary, you might also struggle to keep your practice full as often (but not always); the sales function could fall to the visionary. You might also find yourself getting stagnant with your service offerings and falling behind the marketplace.
The fix for a missing visionary is to develop a sales and marketing team and/or a research and development team that can serve these functions.
The operator is an action person who can execute. She gets things done. She can find and hire the right team. She is a systems builder who can develop the systems, job descriptions, procedures, and processes that makes the company unique.
The operator takes the visionary’s ideas and makes them happen. She needs the visionary’s ideas because she would rather take someone else’s ideas and work with them than create her own. She also needs the support of the finance executive to stay on budget and to focus on one project at a time or avoid hiring too many people.
A business without a good operator never gets the product to market and may also constantly be short of team members.
Responsible, Finance-minded Executive
The finance expert helps to make the dollars work for the company. She can tell us how much we need to sell and how much we can spend. She can also provide capital sources for the company via investors or loans.
The finance executive loves numbers and can help to make sure the company’s operations are profitable. She’ll work closely with the operator to make sure that the right number of people are hired at the right salary levels. She’ll work with the visionary to plan and budget for new sources of revenue and new product lines.
Without a finance executive, a company often spends more than they bring in and may not have a viable profit plan. They may also run out of cash which can cause problems with creditors and investors.
This is the role we can not only help you fill, but also help you build your financial literacy to the level that you need for the stage your company is in now and for the future.
Your Business Success Trinity
As you were reading, which role are you? Which role jumped out at you that might need shoring up in your business? You might be strong in one area and need to outsource another while keeping a strategic eye on things overall.
Take a look at each of these roles and objectively assess your business. How are all three roles being served in your company? Which ones need more development in order for your business to grow?
Getting clear on your company’s roles can very well take you to the next level of success.
Which trends impact your business the most? Which ones speak to you? Feel free to reach out to discuss any of these ideas with us.