Hello CEO’s, Managing Directors, Presidents, and leaders of all kinds,
I know you are swamped and there just simply aren’t enough hours in the day… but I have news for you: nobody cares. Your business will succeed or fail based on your actions and if you spend all of your time hyper-focused in one lane and ignoring the others it WILL 100% affect your business’s overall success. Your job is to understand the big picture intrinsically.
So here is just a friendly checklist of some crucial reminders. When you’re busy traveling and making deals, make sure you personally take time out of your month to be very aware of these items below. It could hurt you if you don’t and it could even reveal opportunities to grow that you would have missed out on.
To Clarify: What I don’t mean by taking time to analyze these things, is asking one of your staff members to analyze it for you. This simply won’t work and you won’t be able to fully grasp and understand how these things all connect. Do a deep dive all on your own, I can promise you your innate understanding of these key functions will make you a better leader and stronger entrepreneur/president etc.
1.) Do a Deep Dive into Your Accounting Software
Understand your income streams, but not just that. Take a look at who is paying on time and when? Are there any cash flow issues? Which clients actually help your business grow and which ones does it cost you to keep around? What is the business actually worth? What seasons do you see an uptick or downtick in income and how does your staffing plan compliment this? How do your overhead expenses compare to industry benchmarks? Head to Google, there are tons of great resources out there that explain how much other businesses are spending and their margins in your industry. What trends are revealed and why?
This is obviously #1 because it is SO intensely crucial. I have met many entrepreneurs (and I was one in the early days) who were so caught up in the excitement of building business and the day-to-day that they would say “I’m not an accounting person, I leave that to the professionals” so they failed to do this leg work. Once you have an understanding of the financial state – a thorough one – how are you going to make decisions that speak to this? How can you carefully take risks to build your business yet not put the whole company in a risky position? You tell me.
2.) Sit Down to Have Personal Chats with Your Staff
The always-busy vibes emanating from your office aren’t the most welcoming, even if you are a super down to earth leader. It’s hard when you report to a busy boss to ask them to make time to chat about professional development and goals. It needs to come from the top. And, I am not talking about employee reviews BLEH GROSS (I believe annual review processes are a huge killer of great culture and development, but that’s for another blog). I am talking about monthly or bi-monthly check ins, coffee dates, lunches, to see how the team is doing, one-on-one.
Are they feeling challenged? Are they swamped? Could they take on more? What facets of the work are they loving? What are they hating? Is there somewhere they need support? Do they see ways the company can strengthen systems? Do they have feedback for you as a leader? Do they have questions about the future goals and direction of the company?
Have these chats with your team but most importantly make a plan after to actually execute and implement some change based on their feedback. Of course, if you disagree with something they mention you can let them know you considered it but found that because of X this process works best for now so you won’t be making the change- but be sure to thank them for their feedback. You must consider it all and implement. They may just open your eyes to some blind spots and of course this makes for a much more engaged workforce.
3.) Take a Close Look at Your Google Analytics/Consumer Data
Understand your customers behaviors online (and offline depending on your business) – knowing what really pulls them in and what pushes them away is powerful. These things will change over time and every marketing plan you sign off on should keep these key learnings in mind. At the helm, of your business you need to drive initiatives that make your clients happy and keep them retained. How can you do that if you don’t fully understand their behaviors? So get in to your analytics and get in deep. There are lots of amazing tools if you want an even closer look like Simply Measured and MixPanel that can give you even more insight. Share this insight with your team regularly.
4.) Make Time to Speak with Your Clients (Not just the Big Ones)
Again – personally you need to have one on one or small group chats with your clients to speak about the big picture and ask them for feedback on how your team is delivering on promises. It’s easy to focus all your energy on the big guys but you may be surprised what the little guys say too, which can help you turn them into bigger earners for your company. Ask the tough questions. Understand what your clients are looking for in the short and long term. Just be available to grab a beer with them and shoot the shit. This goes such a long way and you may learn more than you think about how to best serve them, in a casual setting.
5.) Make Sure Your Clients Pay On-Time
Last but not least. If you’re a small business owner, like I was, you’re so busy delivering above and beyond for your clients you may not catch or have time to hyper manage your incoming dollars. If a client says “the check is in the mail” or “coming in the next few weeks” then it’s easy to just say “all good” and keep doing the work. Unfortunately, I have learned too many times that even the nicest people can get weird when it comes to money. Freeze your campaign until you are paid. Don’t go out of scope until additional budget has been added. Be fiercely strict about these things for the health of your business. If a client does not want to pay on the first of every month (or the deadline you set) then that is a huge red flag. For a small business where you’re paying out of pocket for resources and talent – this simply isn’t feasible. Have strict payment terms and pause work when payment isn’t received on time. Better safe than sorry. The right clients will respect these terms and understand that they allow you to do your best work for them.
That’s it. There’s only 5 whole things and they aren’t that hard to do monthly! They could save your business or at the very least make it stronger. So what’s to lose?
Thanks for reading,
*For more content like this please visit my organizational culture and productivity blog Fair Game!