An after-action review (AAR) is a fantastic process to help you look back at a project or period of your business to see what, why, and how things occurred and how they can be improved for the future. Taking a profit-focused view will help you get the most out of the idea.
- What was supposed to happen?
- What did happen?
- What worked? What should we keep doing?
- What didn’t work? What are some improvements?
- What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of the year? (Or project?)
- What personal lessons did you learn?
- Technology changes / additions or training
- Staffing changes
- Hiring process changes
- Marketing changes / additions or training
- Operations changes / additions or training
- New service or product development / new niches
- Changes in your existing services or products
- Customer retention
- Sales cycle changes or development
- Pricing evaluations
- Client surveys / communications / service level changes
Online marketing is a large component of marketing for many small businesses. There are many aspects to online marketing that you’ll want to consider for your business. Here are just five for your consideration.
Content marketing is huge, and it consists of generating articles, blog posts, social media updates, white papers, videos, and other educational materials about your company’s products and services. Content marketing provides your prospects with something to read, watch, or learn from.
You can offer your content via your website, social media pages, a special landing page, in a blog, in the description portion of your profiles, via paid ads, or almost anywhere online. Your content should promote your brand as well as show your prospect how to use your product or service.
Video has become incredibly important. It’s no longer enough to generate text. Graphics are better than text, but video trumps them all when it comes to effectiveness, higher search rankings, engagement, and sales conversions.
The good news is you don’t have to hire an expensive video team anymore. A good video camera is less than $500, and you can also use your smartphone for some very decent footage.
It’s no longer enough to simply have a website. Being listed in online directories will help your business expand its visibility. Some common directories for small business include:
- Angie’s List
- Better Business Bureau
- Yellow Pages (online version)
- Your local Chamber of Commerce
- Google for Business (Google Places)
Some of these directories work best if you ask customers to post reviews. Be sure to also check out your industry-specific directories.
Including social media in your digital marketing is a no-brainer today. Graphic and video posts are far more effective than text posts, so it’s important to make this content switch if you haven’t already.
If you’ve focused on the “big 3” platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook – it might be time to try some new ones. Pinterest and Instagram lend themselves to graphic representation of your product. Google Plus is often overlooked but can help search engine rankings. And YouTube is a must because of the importance of video.
Digital public relations has been around for a while as well. If you don’t already have a Press page on your website, consider this addition. It can list contact information for reporters as well as a list of articles that your product, company, or employees have been featured in. You can also post press releases to this page.
Distributing press releases is less expensive than ever with options such as PRWeb and PRNewswire.
Make sure your digital marketing campaign has all the components above and that you have updated your content for these latest trends. Having an up-to-date digital campaign will help you generate more revenue and grow your business.
Tim Ferriss made the 4-hour workweek a popular concept in his 2007 book. But is there such a thing, and more importantly, can business owners like you and me cash in on it? As the last of the Baby Boomers approach retirement, the topic of working less while making the same or more income is popular.
Here are five ideas to help you work fewer hours while making the same or more income.
Active vs. Automatic Revenue
Some business models allow you to generate automatic revenue. Automatic revenue is revenue you can earn and leverage over time by doing something only once and not over and over again. Active revenue is earned while doing something over and over again. Showing up for a teaching job with a live audience is active revenue while producing and selling video recordings of the same teaching is automatic revenue.
A goal of a 4-hour workweek concept is to increase automatic revenue while reducing active revenue. You may have to think out of the box to do this in your industry, but the payoff can be huge.
Delegation and Outsourcing
One traditional way to move to a 4-hour workweek is to have others do the work. Hiring staff frees up your time and allows your business to become scalable. When it runs without you, it’s more salable too.
If you have a lot of distractions in your day, you can easily double your productivity by learning time batching, which is grouping like tasks together in a block or batch of time and getting them done. For example, if an employee interrupts you with questions multiple times a day, train them to come to you only once a day to get all their questions handled at one time. Take your calls one after the other in a group, and then stay off the phone the rest of the day. Do the same with email, social media, running errands, and all of your other tasks.
Automation and Procedures
New apps save an amazing amount of time. List all of your time-consuming chores and then find an app that helps you get them done faster. For example, a scheduling app can reduce countless emails back and forth when setting meetings and appointments. To-do list or project management software can cut down on emails among you and your staff. And apps like Zapier can connect two apps that need to share data, reducing data entry.
The key to working less is to embrace the concept of leverage. How can you leverage the business resources around you to save time, increase staff productivity, and improve profits? It takes discipline and change, two difficult goals to accomplish. But when you do, you will be rewarded.
If you’re looking for more ways to bring in additional revenue, then a VIP revenue stream is one option for many businesses. Here are a couple of examples:
A plastic surgeon has a long waiting line of patients. The surgeon sets up a special membership fee of $3,000 per year for patients who wish to work with her. These patients get first access to her appointment schedule. They get priority surgery dates and personal care. Her other patients that do not pay are able to see her physician assistant. She earns an extra $300K — insurance-hassle-free — for the hundred patients who join her VIP group.
A pizza restaurant always has long lines during rush hours. The owner sets up a VIP membership of $75 per year for customers who want to bypass the long lines. He dedicates one of his cash registers to the VIP line and staffs it accordingly during rush hour. He sends specials by email and a birthday coupon to the VIP members. Five hundred customers sign up, grossing an extra $37,500 with little or no additional expenses.
A consultant has a couple of clients that want to have access to her 24/7. She sets up a special retainer of $1,500 per month for these clients and provides her cell number. Since they are busy CEOs, they only call a few times a year, but when they do, she drops everything to be of service. With four clients on retainer, it’s an extra $72K per year for a few days of work.
No matter who your clientele is, there are always a few who demand extraordinary service and are willing to pay extra for it. Capitalize on this by adding a VIP revenue stream to your offerings.
What you include in your VIP package will vary by industry, but here are a few thoughts:
- Increased access to you
- Special service, perhaps via another phone line or checkout lane
- Invitation to exclusive events or sales or previews
- Free gift wrapping
- Free shipping
- Special gifts
- Friends are free
- A richer experience
- Birthday acknowledgement
A VIP offering is not the same as a points program. A points program encourages volume sales, while a VIP program is all about special perks, exclusivity, and a higher level of service.
Does your business lend itself to a VIP offering? If so, give it a try.
Sometimes, the most telling numbers in your business are not necessarily on the monthly reports. Although the foundation of your finances revolves around the balance sheet and income statement, there are a few numbers that, when known and tracked, can make a huge impact on your business decision-making. Here are five:
1. Revenue per employee.
Even if you are a solo business owner, revenue per employee can be an interesting number. It’s easy to compute: take total revenue for the year and divide by the number of employees you had during the year. You may need to average the number in case you had turnover or adjust it for part-time employees.
Whether your number is good or bad depends on the industry you’re in as well as a host of other factors. Compare it to prior years; is the number increasing (good) or decreasing (not so good)? If it’s decreasing you might want to investigate why. It could be you have many new employees who need training so that your productivity has slipped. It could also be that revenue has declined.
2. Customer acquisition cost.
If you’ve ever watched Shark Tank®, you know that CAC is one of the most important numbers for investors. This is how much it costs you in marketing and selling costs to acquire a new client. Factors such as annual revenue, or even lifetime value of a client will affect how low or high you can allow this number to go.
3. Cash burn rate.
How fast do you go through cash? The cash burn rate calculates this for you. Compute the difference between your starting and ending cash balances and divide that number by the number of months it covers. The result is a monthly value. This is especially important for startups that have not shown a profit yet so they can figure out how much cash they need to borrow or raise to fund their venture.
4. Revenue per client.
Revenue per client is a good measure to compare from year to year. Are clients spending more or less with you, on average, than last year?
5. Customer retention.
If you are curious as to how many customers return year after year, you can compute your client retention percentage. Make a list of all the customers who paid you money last year. Then create a list of customers who have paid you this year. (You’ll need to two full years to be accurate). Merge the two lists. Count how many customers you had in the first year. Then count the customers who paid you money in both years. The formula is:
Number of customer who paid you in both years / Number of customers in the first or prior year * 100 = Customer retention rate as a percentage
New customers don’t count in this formula. You’ll be able to see what percentage of customers came back in a year. You can also modify this formula for any length of time you wish to measure.
Try any of these five metrics so you’ll gain richer financial information about your business’s performance. And as always, if we can help, be sure to reach out.
The New Business Directions Team is bringing the #1 employee-rated and requested Time Tracking Software to you. Sondra Love, Wayne Kukuruza, and Rhonda Rosand, CPA have recently joined the 6000+ TSheets PRO community by participating in an exclusive TSheets PRO certification course accredited by CPAacademy.org.
So what exactly is TSheets? TSheets is a time tracking and scheduling software designed for businesses that track, manage, and report time. TSheets provides the alternative to paper timesheets and/or punch cards to simplify human resource and data processing roles for companies of all sizes.
The best cakes have layers and layers of different delicious flavors to enjoy. Stacked on top of one another, each layer is baked separately and becomes part of the whole. Like a layer cake, your business expenses have layers of meaning to them. When you can understand how expenses play a part in profit, you can manage them better.
Here’s how to make a layer cake of your business expenses. Let’s start with the most direct expenses.
If you have inventory you will have a balance in the Cost of Goods Sold account. It should represent how much you paid for product or inventory that you are selling. It is the most direct expense of all the expenses; if you don’t spend this money, you would not have a product.
If you sell services, you should not have a balance in Cost of Goods Sold, but you will have direct expenses that are tied to performing your services. These might include labor from wages of the employees who carry out the services for clients. Any supplies directly involved with delivering services should be included as well.
You may also have other direct costs related to selling specific products or to servicing specific accounts.
The next layer includes indirect expenses. These expenses do not make up your product directly and might contribute to several different lines of products. Indirect costs might be attributable to a group of products or projects and can be apportioned accordingly.
Although overhead is technically a form of indirect cost, it’s good to create a separate layer for it. It includes management salaries, rent, utilities, and other fixed costs that cannot be directly allocated to a product or service.
Assembling the Layers
A wonderful exercise is to classify each of your expense accounts in your Chart of Accounts as direct, indirect, or overhead. In that way, you can see how each account contributes to the costs of running your business. Some questions to ask yourself:
- What is my gross margin before indirect costs and overhead?
- What is my gross profit after indirect costs and before overhead costs?
- How can I cut down on any of these categories of expense?
- What is my breakeven volume in sales before overhead is factored in?
- Can my profit margin be changed if I spent less in a certain area?
This layered view is just another way to view the financial aspects of your business and can help you make better decisions down the road.
You can also break the layers down even further by classifying the expenses as critical and non-critical. This will help you determine where best to invest while maintaining the level of profit you desire.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Layering your expenses will help you have your cake and eat it too. And if we can help, just reach out as always.
This year’s theme was “epic” designed as the epic conference to empower small business advisors to develop and sustain the epic practice that distinguishes itself and embraces the key differences that separate ProAdvisors around the good, the great and the “epic.”
The four-day conference kicked off each morning with Power Breakfast Sessions followed by main stage presentations with keynote speakers such as Daymond John of Shark Tank, Joe Buissink of Canon Explorer of Light, and author Mike Michalowicz of Profit First. In between general session, attendees dispersed around the conference center into rooms where cutting edge training sessions were being held. Training sessions were broken down into 5-tracks for Practice and Professional Development, Practice Growth, In-Depth QuickBooks Training, ProAdvisor Certification Training and QB Integrated Apps.
If you were fortunate enough to attend, Rhonda Rosand, CPA taught a 100-minute informative training session titled Successful Implementations from Initial Contact through Ongoing Support on Sunday, May 22nd. As the evenings came around, networking sessions were held consisting of ICB Bookkeeper’s Symposium, the Woodard Network Social hosted within Atlantis’ stunning marine life exhibit, The Dig and of course, the infamous TSheets dance Party on TSheets Tuesday.
Sondra’s Take on Vendors
In between training, I was able to visit the exhibit ballroom which held over 90 vendors, some of which were very familiar. I came across software I use everyday to make my work flow run smoothly and now I am able to put a face to the product. For example, SmartVault allows me to access files anywhere, anytime and from any device. I also have the capability to securely share files with clients and our team.
While at Scaling New Heights, I learned the importance of technology and how it relates to strengthening our firm and supporting our clients.
Running a small business is often about taking and managing risks. Market risks are normal but business and tax risks are another thing altogether. Most business and tax-related risks can be managed as long you know about them. Here are seven small business risks you will want to make sure are covered.
1. Best Choice of Entity
Are you operating as a corporation, limited liability company, partnership, or sole proprietor? More importantly, is the entity you are operating under providing you with the greatest tax benefits and separation from personal liability? If not, you might want to explore the alternatives to make sure you’re taking the amount of risk that’s right for you.
2. Employees or Contractors
Are your team members properly categorized when it comes to the IRS’s rules about employees versus contractors? Unfortunately, it’s not about what you and your team member decide you want. If you decide to hire contractors and the IRS determines they are employees, you could owe back payroll taxes that can cripple a small business. So you’ll want to do the right thing up front and make sure you and the IRS are in agreement, or be willing to take a future risk.
If you’d like to protect yourself from possible losses through a disaster, theft, or other incident, insurance can help. There are a lot of kinds to choose from, and you’ll likely need more than one. At the minimum, make sure you’re covered by:
- Business property insurance, renters insurance, or a homeowners rider to protect your physical assets.
- Professional liability or malpractice insurance, if applicable, to protect you from professional mistakes including ones made by employees.
- Workers compensation insurance, to cover employee accidents on the job.
- Auto insurance or a non-owned policy if employees drive their car for work errands.
You may also want personal umbrella insurance, life insurance, and health insurance. Check with an insurance agent to get a comprehensive list of options.
4. Sales Tax Liability
Are you sure you’re collecting sales tax where you should be? As the states get greedier, they invent new rules for liability. For example, if one of your contractors lives in another state, you may owe sales tax on sales to customers who live there even if you don’t live there or have an office there.
Nexus is a term that describes whether you have a presence in a state for tax purposes. Having an office, an employee or contractor, or a warehouse can extend nexus so that you’d need to collect and file sales tax for those states. If you’re in doubt, check with a professional, and let us know how we can help.
Most small businesses make the mistake of underpricing their services, especially when they start out. If you started out that way, it’s awfully hard to catch up your pricing to a reasonable level. Knowing the right price to charge can make the difference between whether the company last six months or six years. You can mitigate this risk by getting cost accounting help from your accountants who can help you calculate your margins and determine if you’re covering your overhead and making a profit.
6. Legal Services
Legal services can be expensive for a small business, so sometimes owners cut corners and take risks. Attorneys are needed most when it comes to setting up your entity, reviewing contractual agreements such as leases and loan agreements, settling conflicts, advising on trademark protection, and creating documents such as terms of service, employment agreements, and privacy policies. Just one mistake on any of these documents can cost a lot, so be sure it’s worth the risk.
7. Accounting Services
Doing your own accounting and taxes can be risky if they’re done wrong or incomplete. You could end up paying more than you should if you leave out deductions you’re entitled to. Worse, if you do your books wrong, you could end up overpaying taxes without realizing it. A common bookkeeping error results in doubling sales, and while it might look good, you certainly don’t want to pay more than what’s been truly received.
How did you do with these seven risks? If you need to reduce your risks in any of the areas, feel free to reach out for our help.
Two very important skills for entrepreneurs to master are marketing and finances. Combine them by understanding the numbers behind marketing, and you have an even more powerful understanding of exactly what makes your business tick.
Key Numbers – Cost Per Client Acquisition
Do you know how much it costs your business to bring in one client? The technical term is “Cost per customer acquisition,” and it’s computed by adding the total marketing and sales costs excluding retention costs and dividing them by the total number of clients acquired during a period of time.
Cost per customer acquisition is important to know because then you can compute how long it takes before your business begins to make a profit on any one customer. In software application services with a monthly fee, the breakeven for a client can be around ten months.
It’s essential to understand this dynamic for pricing and volume planning purposes. If your services or products are priced too low so that your acquisition costs are not recouped in a reasonable period of time, it can play havoc with your cash flow as well as your profits. If you don’t have enough volume to cover overhead and acquisition costs, then your company will be in trouble in the long term.
Customer Lifetime Value
There is a simple and an academic formula for customer lifetime value. You can estimate it by multiplying the average sale of a customer by the average number of visits per year by the number of years they remain a customer. That’s the easy version.
The more difficult version of this formula takes into account retention rates and gross profit margins. The formula is: Average customer sales for life times the gross profit margin divided by the annual churn rate.
Once you know and track these numbers in your business, you’ll be better able to make smart decisions about your marketing investments and your pricing. And if we can help you, please reach out as always.