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Do You Know Your Weakest Business Link?

by Sean on 04/18/14

You've already built a solid business that you have great pride in. Yet, if you're like most entrepreneurs, you're on a constant search for how to make your business better. One way to focus your search is to look for the weakest link in your business.

From a return-on-investment standpoint, working on and fixing your weakest link is the highest payback thing you can do. It lifts your entire company up and makes it stronger. The key is to look as objectively as possible at what might be holding your business back from being even greater than it already is.

Here are four major areas where you can look for your weakest link:

1. Client-facing interactions

A great area to start looking is where you have interactions with clients. These include things like phone greetings, email, websites, your storefront, your presence at networking meetings, client service interactions, your proposals, invoices, and thank you notes.

What jumps out at you as the weakest link when you look through the above list? Perhaps it's as simple as recording a more friendly voice mail greeting or as complex as getting your website redone. Don't get overwhelmed if a lot of these items need attention; instead focus on the one weakest link. That's the place that needs your attention.

2. Your Team

The toughest area to have a weakest link is when it involves people. If you have an underperforming employee or contractor that is undermining sales or service, you've got a tough decision ahead of you. If it's your weakest link, don't bury your head in the sand like we all want to do. You need to act so that the person does not drag down your entire business.

3. Internal Systems

If you feel stymied at the lack of information in your business, you might be in need of better internal systems. As your business grows, this is the area that changes the most over time.

Businesses that are newer or smaller need a great accounting system as well as a good point of sale or billing system. As the business grows, it might need better inventory systems, a good CRM or customer relationship management system, a project management system, or more specialized systems depending on the industry that it's in.

As the business matures, the functionality of the accounting system should expand to meet the growing data demands. Integrating the accounting system together with the company's other systems can become important to control costs and improve margins.

If you feel like your weakest link may be in your systems, we're happy to help. Please reach out and let's have a conversation about your needs.

4. Skill Set

No one was born an entrepreneur; it has to be learned. What keeps it more exciting is that new skills are required at each level you master on the entrepreneurial ladder. Some of the skills that you need at the entry level include client service, delivery of your service or product, and sales and marketing. As your business grows, you'll need to master financial skills, negotiation skills, hiring, and supervisory skills. Leadership and strategy skills will serve you well when your business is mature.

Which skill set do you consider your weakest link? If it's finance, you're not alone. Let us know how we can help.

Focusing on the Payback

The good news is when you've improved your weakest link, you end up improving your entire company and lifting it up to a new level. Once you've fixed your weakest link, congratulate yourself. Give yourself a reward, and wait a little while before tackling your next issue.

Your old weakest link is no longer the weakest area in your business, but something else is. Since you're on a constant search for improvement in your business, you can repeat this formula over and over again to keep lifting your company up using this low risk, high payback approach.

Five Browser Productivity Tips

by Sean on 04/04/14

Most of us spend a lot of time browsing the Internet, and that means using browser software. Google chrome is the most popular browser with roughly 40 percent market share. Internet Explorer follows with about a 30 percent share and Firefox is third with less than 20 percent.

Since most people use Google Chrome, we'll use that browser to describe our five productivity tips. If you don't use Chrome, you can still look for the features we list on your browser of choice.

Better with Bookmarks

Do you have a half dozen or so sites that you like to visit every day? If so, bookmark them on a toolbar so that you have one-click access. In Chrome, click the icon with three horizontal lines that is located on the web address bar at the top of your browser. We'll call this the Chrome Commands button from now on. Mouse over "Bookmarks," and make sure "Show Bookmarks Bar" is checked.

Type in your favorite site URL. To add it as a bookmark on your bookmarks bar, click the star on the right side of the web address box. It will turn gold, and then you can name your page as well as select whether you want it more prominently in the bar or simply in your list of bookmarks. Repeat this for each of your most visited sites.

Now that all of your sites are listed on your bookmarks bar, you can visit them in one click.

Enlarge the Page

If a page is too small and you want to enlarge the entire thing, you can do so with your mouse wheel. On your keyboard, hold down the CTRL key and roll your mouse wheel away from you while you're on a web page. The page will get larger. Roll your mouse wheel toward you to reverse the effect and make the page smaller.

You can also customize your fonts by going into Chrome Commands, Settings, Advance Setting, and Web Content. You can find your font options there.

Download Redux

Do you need something you downloaded earlier today and forgot where you put it? Access it again here by typing this into the web address box or selecting "Downloads" from the Chrome Commands. Hey, even better, if you need this a lot, make it a bookmark: chrome://downloads/

If you're a history buff - that is, if you closed a browser screen and find you want to re-visit that page, then look for the History command under the Chrome Commands button. It's super-handy and will save lots of time when you need to backtrack.

Autofill

Tired of filling out forms? Chrome will do it for you by remembering certain fields and matching them up with their form fieldnames. You can have Chrome remember addresses and credit cards; however we can't really recommend the latter for security reasons. Manage this feature and its settings by clicking the Chrome Commands buttons and Settings. Scroll to the end and look for Advanced Settings, then look for the Autofill area and Manage Autofill Settings.

Instant Dictionary

While browsing, have you ever come across a word or phrase you don't know or want to know more about? If so, highlight it right there on the web page and then right-click. Select "Search Google for the phrase you highlighted" to bring up the information you want.

Most of us have never had a formal class on using web browsers, but it's not a bad idea to think about tricks to make usage easier. Hopefully, these tips will help you discover a little more about the browser you use every day.

How Painless Is Your New Customer Experience?

by Sean on 03/20/14

Is your business easy to do business with? Or is it difficult? The answer could impact your revenue as well as your reputation for service. Here are a few tips to help you stand in your customer's shoes for just a few minutes to answer these questions.

First Impressions

What is the first image of your business that your future customer sees? Is it your website? A sign in your office window? An ad? Whatever it is, take a look at it with fresh eyes, like you've never seen it before. You may have several images to consider if clients approach your business in many different ways.

What do you notice first? Is the website simple or cluttered? Is your sign rusty and crooked or new and pleasing to the eye? Do you need to make any changes based on what you see?

Voice Time

If a customer calls, how many times does the phone ring before it's picked up? Does the voice sound inviting and excited that someone called, or is it as if you were just interrupted? Or worse, did they get a recording?

If they walk in face-to-face, how are they greeted? What does your waiting room look like?

Service

What is the interaction like with you? Are you able to answer the prospect's questions? Do they feel comfortable with you or intimidated? What do you suspect it's like for your clients?

If the prospect becomes a client, what do they have to do? Are there lots of forms to complete? How organized are you in getting the client started and serviced for the first time? Are you respectful of their time if they are in a hurry?

Mystery Shoppers

You've probably heard of mystery shoppers who are hired to give their opinions of what their client experience was like. They go through a similar process, evaluating every client touch point and suggest ways to make it a smoother experience.

Almost every business can benefit from periodically reviewing the client experience to discover where the weakest links are and how they can be fixed. Ask yourself these questions to see where you can improve your client experience and make it easy and pleasant to do business with you.

Five Ways to Go Green With Your Accounting

by Sean on 03/06/14

With St. Patrick's Day and spring arriving, March is a great month to have "green" on the mind. There are green shamrocks, green beer, new green vegetation, and there's even green accounting too. Here are five ways to make your accounting a little more green:

Business Receipts

When you spend money on your business, ask for an emailed receipt rather than a paper one if you have the option. More and more vendors are offering this as a service. Then when the receipt comes in your email, you can forward it to your bookkeeper and/or upload it to your accounting system.

Smile for the Camera

If the vendor does not offer an emailed receipt, do the next best thing: take a picture of the receipt with your cell phone. Some accounting systems allow you to upload the receipt right from your phone, and if you don't have that feature, you can always email it or upload it to your PC.

PDF Invoices

If you invoice customers, send a PDF invoice via email. More and more businesses are abandoning the snail mail and getting things to customers faster with email. They're getting paid faster, and speeding up your green is usually a good thing.

Online Banking

Many people adopted online banking about a decade ago. If you're still getting paper statements, you can get those stopped and download your statements once a month from your online account. It's better not to get your statement in the mail anymore anyway; it reduces your risk of identity theft from stolen mail.

Software and Supplies

When possible, purchase your software online and download it rather than making a gas-guzzling trip to the store and purchasing a box. You can also order your office supplies online and have them delivered. As long as you buy local, it should be a green purchase, and it will save you tons of time too.

These five ideas will help your accounting become a little more green.

Quick Tip: Using Memorized Transactions

by Sean on 02/24/14

Chances are, you have at least one recurring transaction each month, whether its a bill or invoice, or maybe a credit card or bank fee. Do you find yourself entering these transactions after-the-fact, days, weeks, or even months later than they occurred? These types of transactions are perfect candidates to be setup as memorized, or recurring transactions in your accounting program. You wont have to worry about trying to remember to enter them every month, and it's a quick, easy way to streamline your bookkeeping just a bit more. The next time you encounter one of these transactions, memorize it, and then you can forget about it!

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