How to Set Financial Benchmarks to Achieve Long Term Success

milestone2You need a starting point to establish business benchmarks. What better place to begin than with your own financial results. If you have been in business for at least a year then you can use annual data and look for specific areas to improve. Likewise, you can benefit from this practice in a brand new business, too. Here’s how.

The first step is to bring your books up to date.

Yes, I know, bookkeeping is not the most attractive task in business but it is something that we all have to do. If you are dead set against sitting down with the numbers consider subbing it out. Whatever you have to do this year to stay on top of the finances, do it. Believe me having this part of your business in order pays off when you know exactly how things are going. Also, when it comes to building your ideal business model with bench-marking, there is no room for guesstimates. Only actual will do. 

After completing the bookkeeping, the next phase is financial reports.

In this step, you prepare an accurate Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss Statement and a Statement of Cash Flows. These are the three basic reports that managers use in business. They are the score cards that provide information such as the amount of sales made, how much profit remains and what is the balance of cash in the bank. Other financial data that you may want to use for bench-marking comes from Accounts Receivable Aging, Accounts Payable Summary, and Debt Schedules.

Now you are ready for forecasts and benchmarks.

Using the historical information from financial reports is how to jump-start the process. The reports contain key numbers that you will use to calculate figures specific to your business. So rather than creating hypothetical measures, use actual financial results. Since business conditions rarely stay the same you should expect results change in future periods.

Your company is constantly changing so be prepared to forecast changes, too. One way to do this is by establishing a multiplier for each statistic you track. A multiplier provides the amount by which forecasts will increase. For example, if sales were at $100,000 at the end of the year and you expect them to grow to $150,000 over the next period, the multiplier will be 1.5 times the historical amount. Another point to keep in mind when forecasting is attrition so that you account for both the ups and downs in your business.

Overall, having the right data from the start is key to establishing benchmarks. When you couple financial information with thorough research in competitive performance, you have the makings for solid milestones in your business plan.

Do you use benchmarks in your business? Tell us how in the comments below. Want to learn what’s working for other entrepreneurs who are raising their financial IQ? Join our Facebook community.

To your success :^)

 

7 Ways to Lead Your Business and Ensure It Succeeds

succeedIf there was ever a time to pay close attention to leaders that are blazing the business trail, it is now. Entrepreneurs who desire to create viable companies will find it easier to learn from the experience of others. Let’s take a look at seven traits of today’s top entrepreneurs inside this article.

  • Enterprising Outlook. High achieving business leaders constantly seek ways to multiply their money. They are in the field making things happen and are not afraid to share their skills with the world. In order to grow they allow themselves to be stretched to do things that are out of the ordinary. Boldness and perseverance are stamps upon their character.
  • Willing to Get Help. An important principle that they embrace early on is partnerships. Successful entrepreneurs learn to build trust and collaborate with others to achieve bigger results in less time. Once the right team is in place, they go the extra mile to foster solid relationships, supporting partner’s success along the way..
  • Delegates to the Pros. Entrepreneurs who run viable companies have the right team members in place. True leaders realize the extent of their capacity and readily release the things that do not desire to do.
  • Always Learning. They are consistently learning, changing, and growing with their company. These individuals want to know “how to” elevate their business. They know that the business world is a constantly changing environment and those that do not change with it will not survive.
  • Self-Motivated. As business leaders look within themselves and connect with their own mission and purpose. This is what causes them to excel at what they do each day. True entrepreneurs will go to their grave having said, “I gave it my all and my all was good enough.”
  • Uses Common Sense. It is often said that entrepreneurs are born, not made. You can see this in the lives of many who may have dropped out of school or never completed a college degree. What makes them successful is their application of practical business principles and life lessons that they combine and turn into financial gain.
  • Never Allow Failures to Determine Success. Instead of quitting when the going gets rough, they are able to take a step back and a break, if necessary, but they do not stay down for long. Any time that you see them reeling from having missed the mark is a period of refocusing and getting their mojo back. You can bet that they are creating a plan of action so don’t let their temporary delay fool you. Be on the lookout because nothing aside from leaving this earth will cause them to lose their way.

 

Which of these qualities do you most relate? Were there any lessons that learned that can make your company more viable? How will you put them in action today?

To get more practical tips on becoming better in business, join our learning community of entrepreneurs on Facebook.

How To Pick the Perfect Accounting Tools For Your Small Business

accountingsoftwareThe ever changing landscape of accounting technology runs the gamut. With the number of players in the market increasing by the day, the choices that small business owners can select from more than abound. Now, more than ever, entrepreneurs have a greater selection of accounting tools from which they can choose.  Having a number of  criteria in the purchase process makes the task less daunting. Here are several that can give you a jump start for technology that will make the cut.

  • Simplicity. Let’s face it. No matter how fancy dancy the accounting system is, if it complicates the workflow, no one will ever use it. The  objective of the technology should be to streamline the accounting process not to become burdensome and overloading your current capacity. With every new experience comes a learning curve. One way to shorten it and make things less complicated is by having staff trained in the use of the technology. This way questions are answered and policies for use can be established so that the transition is smooth sailing right from the start.
  • Efficiency. Speaking of smooth sailing… every small business that integrates technology should have a goal prior to purchase of improving the company’s accounting workflow. Technology can help to this end by automating many of the routine bookkeeping tasks that staff handles on a periodic basis. Key activities such as invoicing recurring clients and paying recurring bills are great examples of how accounting technology can help you save both time and money in the accounting process.
  • Productivity. Ever wondered if there was a way to get more done with less effort? The right technology integration in your business will help you do just that. Some programs are better at moving you toward greater levels of output than others. That is because there are resources that boast more advanced features like automated billing, online banking, automated data backup, and the like. So your selection should ultimately depend on the productivity categories your company identifies. There are accounting technology tools on the market that will allow you to start small and then add-on as the need arises. This is especially good to know when you are looking to expand but need to stay within a certain budget to meet the company’s cash flow needs.
  • Profitability. The name of the game in business is profit. I don’t know anyone in business today that invests their hard earned cash to simply break-even, or worse to purposely generate a net loss. With that said, keep in mind that one of the primary reasons to add accounting technology is so that you can increase your company’s profits. One way to do this is by ensuring that the cost of technology is less than what it will help you bring in. This may be seen in how your employees use the program and the type of information it provides. There is a saying in the accounting world, “Garbage in is garbage out.” In other words, make sure that what goes into the system is accurate, reliable, and timely enough to help managers (including you) make the best decisions possible from accounting data.

As you can see some accounting technology will have more bells and whistles than others. It goes without saying that buyer should beware before making the leap into the accounting tech and software world. What criteria do you use when select the right accounting technology for your small business? Leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

Seven Strategies That Enterprising Women Use To Create a Thriving Business

womenentrepreneurIt’s safe to say that no two women-owned businesses are exactly alike. Yet, even in our differences, the way that we run our companies have many things in common. Here are seven secrets to female business success that stands out for me:

  1. The first thing I notice among female entrepreneurs is our goal to consistently reach new markets. We build companies with staying power. That means we are conscious of not putting all of our eggs in one basket. We add diversity in our companies by adding new products, services and market segments. We also consider new ways  to fill a different need by focusing on our core strengths.
  2. Women in business seek better ways to get goods and services to their customers. We run our companies like lean organizations because we want them to be efficient. Keeping our eyes on logistics is key as we look for ideas to streamline our processes. We are careful to control costs while doing our best to meet high standards of quality.
  3. Female CEO’s realize that a successful enterprise is a growing enterprise. Women in business know the difference between being thirsty and being hungry for success. That’s why we set the bar high. For us, the focus is two-fold: Give extremely high value to customers and add extremely high value to the companies we own.
  4. We are also interested in building relationships. In business the adage, “Time is money” is true. That’s why it is key to build strong business relationships.  Industrious women know that the investment of time is the seed that produces long-term growth.
  5. Women business owners build companies with strong teams. No woman is an island. So women achieve their goals in business by delegating where they are weak and building teams to complement their strengths.
  6. We look for ways to reduce costs without sacrificing quality. When it comes to saving money, enterprising women are careful of where and when to cut expenses. We also look at costs as investments when they make our brands and market positions stronger.
  7. Enterprising women are interested in managing money well. This is a strategy that most women business owners do not take lightly. We start with the end in mind picturing where in retirement we want to financially be. Then with the help of financial professionals, we create our companies around our goals.

As an entrepreneur of over a decade I have personally used these in my business but can always improve (especially in number 5 — getting better at delegating roles).

So tell me in the comments below, did any of these tips strike a chord?

Follow-Up Friday: The Most Wonderful Tools for Managing Action Items

You need to have all the pieces in your workflow to follow-through completely. Here’s how to do it by reducing bottlenecks in your business.

The success of your company hinges upon doing the right things in the most productive way. It requires knowing what resources are available and how to effectively use them. This is going to force you to assess your business routine and pinpoint the steps that are involved.

Create a Paperwork Flow With Multiple Access Points 

Now we all have to process paperwork for one reason or another. The goal is to spend the least amount of time doing it. Saving time is a factor of productivity that you can improve by making documents simple to access and find. Not every document that crosses your desk is going to be important but many of them are. Examples include banking, credit card, insurance, loans, and legal information. Online storage resources like Dropbox makes it extremely convenient to access files while at your desk and when you are on the road. Another time saving resource is Myfax.com which frees you up to send and receive faxes by email and on your cellphone.

Stock Up on Supplies

Nothing says, “stop the presses” like running out of supplies. Stay productive by being prepared with what you need on hand. For example, keeping an adequate supply of checks, stamps, and envelopes can help you stay on top of managing finances. Be sure to check your stock on a regular basis. Know how much time you need to allow for re-orders so that you are always well stocked with supplies.  Rather than making the trip in person consider saving time and money by ordering online and by phone.

Simplify Contact Management

Stay in touch with contacts by keeping your list up-to-date. A simple way to do this is by adding contact information in one place and syncing to a shared platform. Services such as Plaxo, for example allows you to duplicate contact information between on and offline software so that you can access contacts on your computers, tablets, and cell phones. Check out Plaxo’s video below.

Backup to Reduce Loss and Downtime

Now after doing the prep work and completing the tasks the final step is to have a way to protect and store your files. Believe me as someone who has seen hard drive failure on more occasions than I care to count, I realize how important this is to keeping your business running. One of my favorite tools is Carbonite  because it automates the process. Simply set the location for backup along with the date and voila! Like magic, it does the work for you.

So as you go through your action items today consider how to be more productive and efficient.

Remember that a little planning now saves a lot of time later.

I’d love to hear what tools make your workflow smoother. Share your tips with other readers by leaving a comment below.

Free Resources That Help Entrepreneurs Save Money and Add Value in Their Business

freebizresourceThe fourth quarter is a great time for entrepreneurs to create a budget for the coming year. There are two sides to the budget equation. First is the money that you expect to come in. The other side is your costs. Let’s take a look at free alternatives to what you pay for in business.

Every business benefits from advertising and promotion. Ignore this activity and no one will knows about you. Do it well and you can create an endless stream of sales flowing through your funnel. Social media makes it much more affordable to advertise and promote your products and services online. The most common platforms are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube but be careful because although they are free, you pay the price in the amount of time you spend there.

If your business pays high consulting fees consider free advice from SCORE. Although it does not replace the relationships that you build with your core team, the guidance that you receive in management and marketing, for example, can be a good alternative to racking up hourly charges for quick questions that you need answered. Using free resources like those offered by SCORE also lets you figure out how best to take the next step before hiring a marketing pro. You might also consider doing research on your own if you are not strapped for time. There are volumes of articles written by professionals that you can access online.

Another drain on profits are your phone costs. In years past it was common for companies to pay for LAN, fax, and cellular lines. Today free and low-cost replacements are VOIP services such as Skype and Google Chat. You can also eliminate the costly expense of fax lines, ink and paper by send and receive faxes directly on your computer.

What resources can you use to spend less money in business?

It’s your time to share in the comments below. Now that you have a few ideas, think about where your business can benefit from low-cost or free alternatives.

Dream Team Pick of the Week: Personal Development Coach Brian Tracy

When it comes to getting people to see the importance of optimism, personal development coach Brian Tracy is spot on. If you have never experienced his work before then you are in for a treat. Brian Tracy is a motivational speaker and author that I have learned from over the years. His insights earns him a seat on my “Dream Advisory Board” because they produce positive change and lasting results. You can check out the video by clicking on the image and read key takeaways for being optimistic below.  

Seven ways to develop optimism:

  1. Maintain good mental fitness by being confident about yourself and life in the future
  2. Feel terrific about yourself most of the time.
  3. See setbacks as temporary. View them as limited in time and having no real impact on the future.
  4. See difficulties as pervasive. When things go wrong, instead of adopting a “What’s the use?” attitude, see it as an unfortunate event that is not controlling your destiny.
  5. See external events for what they are. Some things are out of your control so learn not to take those things personally.
  6. Be objective. When you are caught up in life’s inevitable storms keep a calm spirit, clear mind, and control over your environment.
  7. Look for the good and learn from the lessons that come from setbacks.

Being optimistic is necessary for every area of life. This week review the tips above and consider where you are on the optimism scale when it comes to your business. In what ways can you develop a mental attitude that expects and moves you toward the best?