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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.