Business Essentials

Preparing your business for what lies ahead, adapting to changes, handling challenges, and seizing opportunities is the mark of a good leader.

Over the years of working with small businesses, as an owner and advisor, I have keyed in on a few essentials that can make a difference in business success. I want to share with you what I have learned.

People 

First, it is all about the people involved in your business: employees, customers, partners, and suppliers. 

As the business leader, you must ensure connection, communication, and clarity, especially during change and disruption. Nurture relationships to create bonds; they can withstand periods of change. 

Communicate in the form other people are most comfortable with (face-to-face, over the telephone, via text or email, etc.). Be accessible for others to reach you and make the time to answer their questions. 

Be clear about expectations and plans for today and the future, individually and for the business. 

Managing interpersonal relationships is one of the most critical responsibilities of a business leader and human being. 

Focus

While economic conditions change, focus on your business purpose and fundamentals.

Look at why you are in business and what you are trying to achieve. Always be cognizant of and share the business’ purpose and goals. Then examine how you are doing it; think of values and execution. Lead with good character; your integrity and positively affecting the communities your business serves matters. 

Also, look at how you run your business; stay focused on the fundamentals. Strive for continuous improvement of processes, financial rigor (which we will in part address in the next point), and accountability of those involved in making it a success.

Your leadership focus is on how and why, and what you do.

Cash Flow

Cash management is critical whether your business is scaling fast or going through rough times.

Collecting receivables as soon as possible is essential. Review your customer payment terms closely to ensure prompt payment.

For business expenses, always be frugal; hopefully, there will be enough cash to endure or flourish; observe where monies are spent and the return on investment the business receives. When in a cash crunch, cut all discretionary expenses. Limit payments to what is critical to keeping the business going, such as payroll and electrical, and pay those first. Pay for other items over time; talk to your suppliers about extending payment terms. 

Always seek the best collection and payment terms for your business; cash is its lifeblood and needs careful management.

Technology

Technology is available in all business areas; when leveraged appropriately, it can be advantageous to your business, saving money and making it more competitive.

People, cash flow, and other factors drive your business needs. Consider whether technology helps you communicate better with people and/or perform tasks more efficiently and at lower cost.

Look at the return on investment for technology. Always examine rent versus buy scenarios, and remember to factor in any costs for training as well as privacy and protection of data.

Technology is rapidly changing; it can enable business processes and help scale or hinder and add risk. Technology is an essential part of business today and in the future, use it wisely.

Steps

Finally, a business can be complicated and perhaps overwhelming at times; but steps can make a difference. 

As a business leader, you must stay optimistic about the future, address near-term challenges, and seize opportunities to innovate, change, and grow. 

Be creative when you consider alternatives. Also, play to your business’s strengths, such as customer service or the highest quality offering. Then decide what you want to do and break it down into steps to get there. Then take one manageable step at a time, and you will progress.

There may be hurdles and changes along the way, but pivot and move forward step-by-step to achieve a better future.

Nothing is certain in business with many outside influencing factors. But experience has taught me that if a business leader focuses on what can be controlled, the people who can make it happen, manage the business’ cash well, leverages technology, and moves forwards in steps, there will be better outcomes.

Please feel free to share any other business essentials you have learned.

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