Bravo! You launched your start-up and all of a sudden the business is going great guns. Your P & L shows that top line revenues are well ahead of projections and your venture could show a bottom line profit just after the 12-month mark.You are thrilled to pieces. You are also overwhelmed and not sure how to manage your good luck. Business ventures new and old can fail for many reasons and small businesses are especially vulnerable to all manner of threats. Even good fortune can kill a business, when customer demand far outpaces the ability to deliver the goods.Fortunately, some challenges can be overcome through sound business practices that are aided by modestly priced IT hardware and software. Here are areas where conservative IT investments can help Entrepreneurs manage common business stumbling blocks. Are you ready to trade-up from your Excel spreadsheet?1. Operational efficiencies Efforts to deliver core products and services can fall short in under-staffed, under-capitalized organizations, especially when the founder is new to the role of CEO. Customer orders can be incomplete, late, or lost. There may be product or service quality control issues to confront and disappointed customers to placate.
Workflow management software can be your rescue and an online search will lead to several good options, some paid and some free and open source. Several are designed for small and midsized operations, like the open source ProcessMaker. The workflow management software that you choose will be customized to your business needs and budget and has the potential to be tremendously helpful as you and your team streamline and standardize product and service delivery into protocols that help you meet or exceed customer expectations.2. Accounts receivable and payableAs orders flood your inbox, or customers stream through your door, top line (gross) revenues arrive with them. However, that does not eliminate the possibility of cash-flow problems. A lightly or inappropriately staffed team will allow many matters to fall through the cracks. Payments to suppliers and sub-contractors could be late. Invoices may not be sent at the agreed-upon time and as a result, cash-flow will be diminished. Erratic cash-flow leads to multiple problems, including the inability to make payroll, purchase inventory, or pay the co-working space rent.There exists affordable IT solutions to guide your venture’s financial management. Billing software (sometimes free, search online) can generate professional looking invoices quickly and accurately. Bookkeeping software, such as the popular QuickBooks, for a reasonable price will allow you to manage common financial record-keeping functions. Bookkeeping software also offers management tools that help the founder/ CEO to analyze and interpret Key Performance Indicators and will reveal customer buying patterns, such as seasonal peaks and valleys. Awareness of customer buying patterns allows you to accurately plan staffing needs, inventory purchases, special pricing, or other actions to meet increased or decreased demand.3. Mobile workforceMobility is a must in today’s business world. Lacking full access to customer or other vital information while you’re on the road or meeting with suppliers, sub-contractors, or B2B customers is inexcusable and makes it impossible to uphold the quality of your brand. Invest in a tablet or notebook computer that along with your smart phone will be loaded with apps and software that allow you to demonstrate that you are able to service customer needs and answer questions wherever and whenever.
Mobile friendly business management tools accessed through the cloud allow you and your team to be effective in or out of the office. Also, make sure that your website is in the responsive design format, so that it can be easily viewed from mobile devices.4. Manage growth Growth is always the goal, but it’s sometimes like drinking from the fire hose for a new business. Serendipitous growth seems like the answer to your prayers, with orders all but falling into your lap, but the follow-through can trip you up and burn you out as it rolls through like a freight train.Resource utilization— time, talent, staffing, money— all change as the business grows. The best growth is planned, which allows for thoughtful budgeting, staffing, incorporation of the right IT tools, efficient product or service delivery systems, good quality control measures and customer service procedures that make the founder/ CEO live up to the brand promise.Thanks for reading,Kim