Archive for Business Management

Data Overload

Businesses run on data and we live in a data-saturated world these days.

Even for those of us who are information junkies like me, there are days when it can be overwhelming.

Sales revenue, marketing costs, social media A/B split testing, cost of goods, lead conversions, email campaign bounce rates…the list of available business data is immense.

As small business owners, we have to figure out how to assess which data is important & useful, and which is not.

If we’re overwhelmed, the data we accumulate isn’t going to do us any good because we’re not going to process it effectively or use it timely.

Data vs. Information

Here’s the secret to surviving this mountain of data:

  • Learn to distinguish between data and information.
  • Identify the information that you need to run your business today and focus on getting that in a format you can use.

Every Business is Different

Even if they’re in the same industry, individual entrepreneurs run their day to day operations differently and will have various Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that tell them how well their businesses are running.

As an entrepreneur, the trick is to decide what your business’ KPIs are and focus on tracking and analyzing them regularly. Doing so will support better decision-making and promote your business’ success.

Identify the Information You Really Need To Know

Start with looking at the type of business you are in and assess the data what will help make it profitable.

For instance:

  • If you own a construction company, your ability to estimate, monitor and control job costs will be critical. What numbers do you need to track that accurately and timely?

  • If you’re in Real Estate Sales, you’ll want to know how successful you are at converting new leads into sales and what the typical timeline is to do so. You’ll also want to know how much it costs you in time and money to close the sale.

  • If you’re an online retailer, you’ll need to know how your website is performing:
    • how do people find you, how long do they stay?
    • how long does it take for your pages to load?
    • are they new or repeat site visitors?
    • how many pages do they view?
    • do they buy or leave?

And that’s just for a start.

Customize Your Reports

As small business owners, we need to make decisions quickly, but effectively – which means we need clear and accurate information. Whether it is up to the minute sales reporting, current conversion rates on an online ad campaign we’re running or accurate cash flow forecasts, we need the information to be available and easy for us to evaluate while we’re juggling all our other responsibilities.

So identify your key information and design report that help you, as the business owner, to manage and make quality decisions.

These aren’t necessarily the built-in reports your accounting software will generate or that google analytics will supply. You’ll need to customize reports to your needs.

It’s well worth investing some time in this…it’ll save you time in the long run and make it easy to see what you really need to know.

This way you’ll also be able to spot opportunities and problems early. Old data isn’t much help in our rapidly moving business climate, so it also needs to be easy for you to access. Whenever possible, try to automate the report so you get it on a timely basis.


Doing it Yourself Isn’t Always the Smart Move

woman & PC frustratedMost entrepreneurs have a do-it-yourself streak…after all, if we weren’t confident in our own ability we probably wouldn’t have the chutzpah start our own businesses in the first place. This go-it-alone tendency, plus the tight budget constraints that start-ups usually have, means that we often try to do too many things ourselves.
This can be a poor business strategy for a variety of reasons. It tends to delay things…and time is money. The longer a product takes to create & sell, the longer you go before you have a revenue stream. Also, it can give a competitor a jump on you if they are faster to bring their product or idea to market, thus enabling them to garner market share.
We can’t all be good at everything. Using an expert can save you time & money because it is done right the first time and you don’t waste time with a learning curve. Focusing on the things you are really good at and putting the bulk of your time into those pursuits is the surest way to build your business. 
Outsourcing specific tasks or projects can make you much more efficient at what you truly should be doing and will keep you from squandering your time in areas you aren’t knowledgeable about. It is extremely flexible: you can hire for a specific project, such as, designing your website. Or, you can find a virtual assistant to give you support with a variety of tasks on an as-needed basis.
There is a financial concept known as “opportunity cost.” In this context it means that you are losing money because you are missing the opportunity to build your business by wasting your time on things that other people should be doing for you. While you are spending time doing an administrative or other task that you could hire someone else to do, you could be out selling or promoting your business. So you’ve lost an opportunity to make a sale and build your business.  And if you’re doing the bookkeeping or administrative tasks at midnight, you’re losing sleep which is another type of lost opportunity.
Outsourcing is easy to do these days, especially using services such as Elance. It is an easy way to get global access to expertise in a wide range of fields – from virtual assistants to programmers to engineers. And they will be competitively bidding on providing services for you, so it’s a cost-effective and easy way to find assistance with everything from bookkeeping to programming.
Work smart: be realistic about how much you can effectively do, concentrate on what you do well and always look at the potential cost to the business of doing it yourself rather than hiring someone with the needed skill to do it for you. Don’t just look at the cost to outsource, consider the return on that investment for your business. Outsourcing can help you to build your business faster by providing a  cost-effective way to get the assistance you need.