Running a business should be fun right?

Even in a seemingly thriving business, why is it so stressful and overwhelming?

What businesses owners want

We've talked to enough businesses over the years and while every business is different, they are very similar. Why this doesn't cover everyone, we think most business owners want the following.

  • to be in an industry they love, doing what they love
  • have high performing, positive team members, that are taken care of and love where they work and what they do
  • have a business that can weather economic recessions and thrive in good times.
  • a business that provides for them financially so they can have the money and time for other interests and their family without worrying about money.
  • answer only to themselves, their team, and have complete autonomy over their day to day schedule.
  • take a day/week/month off and not be concerned about the business and problems.

Into the Unknown

Business owners create their business knowing their craft extremely well. It's everything else that's the problem. You know, all the business related duties.

Strategy and Planning, Accounting, Payroll, Technology, Process, Management, Inventory, Customer Service. The list goes on and on. All the things that don't really pertain to your craft, but as a business you need to handle. Depending how well you perform them, determines how well your business does.

You can have a great service or product offering, but if you do these poorly, your profit vanishes and you wonder why business is so difficult.

Businesses mature or die. The ones that mature do so in typical stages that are predictable and easy to see. Where do you currently stack up?

Stages of Business: 
Where are you?

  • 1-5 Years is typical
  • Figuring out the true business offering of services to meet actual needs.
  • Cashflow problems
  • Testing sales process and trying to get new revenue.
  • A lot of fires to put out.
  • Uses basic technology like email and spreadsheets.
  • Struggle with and learning business operation on the fly.
  • Hiring and firing of first employees (several rounds)
Growth & Struggle
  • Know their place in the market
  • Relative stability with revenue and getting new business.
  • Margin/Profit is less than they think it is
  • Cashflow problems
  • Higher turnover
  • Management/Leadership Issues
  • Less fires, but still very often
  • Uses different apps for each department or business function. No customized process.
  • Still have major business functions that aren't in software.
  • No automation.
  • Have created a way to do things, whether good or bad.
  • Use spreadsheets for reports and forecasting.
Operational Maturity
  • Steady revenue with predictable margins/profit.
  • Repeatable sales process
  • Consistent and stable
  • Little to no fires.
  • Reliable process and growth
  • Reliable team and training
  • Able to capture new market share reliably.
  • Have documented process and workflow for every piece of business.
  • Uses business software platform where tasks are managed and automated.
  • Complete visibility into business via reports and dashboards.

Where would you like to be?

How to create big problems


Most small businesses use QuickBooks merely due to brand awareness.  Sure it has it's limits and issues, but the bigger problem is most business owners and employees don't really understand the numbers the way it's presented. Looking at your balance and receivables isn't the whole picture. How do you truly know where your business stands in any given moment to make key decisions?

Lack of customized business software

Some use email and spreadsheets and a CRM. Others use 15 different apps where nothing talks. Then some actually pay for business software, but never have it customized.  They bought generalized industry software and use the defaults. These are usually base setups, where they're planning for you to customize it to your business. Think of it like this, you're paying for 100% of the software, but using 15% of it's features. These are also very niche so they're built by developers only worked in the industry, but don't have the business experience to build it out to best suit actual business cases.

At a certain scale of business, there needs to be software that manages everything. We don't recommend fully custom solutions built from scratch. They're overpriced, and also can't keep up with rapid change. They also are horrible to manage and maintain. Have a company or person develop a custom solution, and what happens when they leave or go out of business? It's a mess. If a company ever wants to build you a custom solution, run for the hills.  There's too many options that will better suit your needs.

We choose QuickBase.  It's a reasonably priced option that does have occasional limitations, but most businesses won't run into those, plus there's always a way around. It's a good option for small businesses.  Larger businesses with hundreds and thousands of employees use Salesforce/NetSuite/SAP.  Those cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build out, which most small companies don't have.

It's not as expensive as you think. It's crazy how it will actually pay for itself over time. Plus it's tax deductible and depreciating asset so you can spread the investment costs out.

Lack of Defined Process

Businesses do things the way they do and that has been developed over time.  This is your process. It could be good, it could be bad, but it's your process. It's usually in people's heads, but never written out. When new hires come in, they're trying to learn from other's based on training ability, not the process defined by the company. Lack of defined process also comes from lack of focus within a company. They don't want to put up anything defined so they can feel free to do what they want. If you're trying to be everything to everyone, you're going to have a hard time.

Lack of Project and Task Management

It's just the ability to group and assign tasks or to do's for different customers or services while keeping track of team members, expenses, problems and keep the process the same for every customer.  Imagine trying to manage a complex service delivery that has 100 tasks to do between 8 people, but it's just done via email, talking in person, and a spreadsheet. You're not only going to forget things, but everyone's just winging it. They have other projects and to do's and keeping a post it note mosaic on their office wall just won't do.

Example, you have 50 active customers for this month who all ordered the same service that takes 3 weeks to execute.  That's 50 projects to deliver for 50 different customers. Each project has 80 tasks. Collectively that's over 4,000 tasks. Who wants to place bets on things being forgotten, and money seeping through the cracks?

What if you could create template projects would allow you to apply the same tasks to every customer so it's consistent for all customers. Then for custom items, you add custom tasks to them individually. Each person can see their tasks for all projects on their dashboard and the status of each.

Lack of Cost and Resource Management

Businesses set a number to what they think their profit or margin is for a certain service. Most times it's a guess although it shouldn't be. Other's take a best case scenario as the number. But what happens when a higher paid employee works on it for customer? Your profit just changed. What happens when this same service takes 5 hours to complete for one customer, but 20 hours for another?  What happens when human error cause your delivery of service to take longer?  What happens when you execute poorly due to whatever reason, and the customer complains and you give in and give a partial refund?

Lack of Useful and Accurate Reporting

Most people in general don't truly understand profit and loss statements, balance sheets, or pro formas and it's thought to be more of an accounting side of the business. Facts. But there's reports that can give you the information you need to make better decisions, make more profit and not be a slave to your business.

Don't forget a business has one purpose

To generate income for it's owners and employees. When the time comes, it's purpose is to be a sell-able asset.  Problem is, most owners wait too long to think about what the business has to be, in order to sell it for the amount they want.  Just because it's your baby, doesn't mean it's worth what you think it is. The only number that matters here is profitability. Let's create the insight, and profitability you need to increase that valuation multiple.

Do you know these real-time?

  • Expenses for this month, next week, next month, 3 months
  • Cash on hand currently, next week, next month, 3 months
  • Collected revenue this week, next week, next month, 3 months
  • New Revenue to expect this week, next week, next month, 3 months
  • Accurate sales projections based on your current data?
  • How much cash runway you have in months?
  • Profitability for each of your services and/or customers?
  • Actual costs for each service/customer per job.
  • Who are your best and worst clients by profit?
  • Which services are your best and worst by profit?
  • What's your sales closing percentage?
  • What % are you up or down, month over month, year over year?
  • What's your average number of touches needed to close a sale?
  • Where do high dollar employees spend their time?
  • When do you have enough work to justify a new hire?
  • Does each role have their own measurements or metrics?  What are they and where do you employees stand?
  • What’s currently in the pipeline, value of, and odds of converting to new revenue?
  • How your business compares to the industry average?
  • How you do in relation to the economy (national, local)
  • How much time is spent wasted doing timesheets?

Not sure?

If you don't know the above using your own real-time data, this is probably contributing to your stress levels. How can you possibly relax when you don't have the data to make insightful, meaningful decisions within your business with your own data?

These are all pretty general yet critical items you should be able to know about your operations at any given time, by looking at some form of report.