Pictures vs. Movies
I tell biz owners “Numbers is the language of business”, but also that numbers rarely tell the truth. Not because we did bad math, but because we look at pictures when we should be watching movies. Want to know how you’re doing? Grab the popcorn.
Even if we think they’re important (and frankly, there’s only a few critical ones that are), we don’t look at the numbers the way we should.
Pictures vs. Movies
The most important use of numbers in business is to see trends, not to see numbers. Stop looking at your numbers – that will rarely help you. Numbers are almost always misleading unless they are put in a bigger context.
What if you look at this month’s numbers and they tell you that you won’t be able to cover your expenses. Is that bad? Not necessarily. What if they say you’ll make a bucket load of profit this quarter? That can be very misleading, too. In fact, both numbers might turn out be lies.
How can that be? I thought numbers didn’t lie? In the context of a trend, they don’t, but by themselves as a snapshot they can be very misleading. We need to see the whole movie to know what they are really saying.
Your Most Important Numbers Aren’t In Accounting
Amazon “lost” hundreds of millions of dollars for a few years straight, and if that was the only number they looked at, it would have appeared they were running off a cliff. But they had the sense to couple those accounting numbers with some even more important numbers outside accounting. In their case, the important number early on was market share, not profit. Profit became more important later. They were sacrificing short-term profit for long-term market share, and thus long-term bigger profits.
For any early stages business your most important numbers are almost always outside of accounting, usually in sales. Don’t ignore the accounting numbers, but our sales and marketing numbers are much more important. And the right question isn’t “How many clients do I have?” (that’s a snapshot), but “How many do I need, by when?”, and then, “What’s the trend – am I gaining enough clients in the right amount of time?” That’s a movie.
Retail stores love the last quarter of the year – they can look like they’re making money hand over fist. But if you put that in the context of the rest of the year, it might show that the store is about to go out of business.
If September looks worse than August, should you panic? No, you should look at last August, as well as what is going on in the market right now, plus what you’ve done to change your business if anything, and a number of other non-number factors. All of that together can help you identify a trend.
The best use of numbers is to see the longest trends possible, a quarter, a year, two years, even more. If you’ve got three years worth of numbers to look at, you’ve got a movie that will give you a really great idea of where you’re going and the real strength of the business. August doesn’t matter nearly as much as how it looks next to last August, or your forecast for next August.
In about the 12th month of Crankset Group I wondered if this was going to work. Then I looked at the TREND over the first 12 months and saw plainly that it was going in the right direction – too slowly for my taste, but still trending the right way. And if we just kept the same trend for another 12 months, we would be profitable.
We decided to keep going, the dam broke and three months later we were over the top. The trend was so much more valuable than the numbers themselves in deciding what to do and keeping me encouraged.
Stop focusing on pictures of where you are, both in accounting and throughout your business, and start focusing more on where you’ve been and where you believe that trend is taking you.
FYI – charts are like pictures, but graphs are like movies. I like graphs more than charts. And I like any number in a context that can show me a clear trend over many months. Only then can I really know what the number means and how I my business is really doing.
Stop just looking at numbers, you’ll glaze over like I do. Look at the trends instead.
Watch the movies of your business to see how you’re doing and you’ll have the confidence to keep going and to make more money in less time.
The Essential Guide To Securing Funding For Your Startup
If you are planning on launching your very own startup, the chances are that you are excited, nervous and panic-stricken at various times throughout the day. Waving goodbye to excellent promotion prospects, job security and office banter is hard enough, but not knowing when your next paycheck will arrive can cause worries.
However, transforming your business dream into a reality takes courage and determination. Many people have visions of becoming an entrepreneur but very few actually take the bold step to give it a go. Your startup will need funding. However, it can be difficult to know where to turn for cash. Take a look at this guide to help you secure funding for your startup.
The most traditional method for business funding is to pay a visit to your bank manager. Suited and booted, you should know your figures, sums and business vision inside out, ready to seduce the bank manager and convince him to part with his cash. When you enter the bank, you should have your comprehensive business plan in your hand, ready for it to be heavily scrutinized. A bank needs to know that you are a responsible borrower and that you have mitigated risk within your plan.
Ensure that you have crunched your numbers and that you know your financial forecasting for at least the next two years. Make sure that you are passionate in your pitch. Inject a little personality into your words and show off your enthusiasm for your product or service. Demonstrate your flair and business acumen and create an excellent impression. On occasion, banks will deny your loan application and if this happens to you, don’t feel like your business plans are shattered. You simply need to take another approach.
If you want to go down another funding route, a business angel could be the ideal path to follow. These individuals are experts in their fields and love investing their own cash into small enterprises. They want to help upcoming entrepreneurs make their mark in their chosen sectors. If you can secure funding from a business angel, you will have an idea that is validated. They will be investing in you as much as your business plan. Rather than just a monetary investment, business angels will be on hand to give advice, help you network, and be a listening ear if you have any startup problems.
If you are looking for a more flexible and postmodern way to secure funding, it might be worth looking into crowdfunding. By pitching your product or service online, you can attract a global market who might be keen to stake a claim in your business. You can offer discounts, shares or a return in order to attract investment from the amateur armchair investor. While each investments might be small, if you can secure hundreds if not thousands of tiny investments, this can soon add up to a larger pot of funding.
If you are keen to take your first steps into the world of entrepreneurship, follow this guide to help secure funding for your startup.
5 Small Businesses Tips to Help You Get Ahead
Few things have the potential to fire the imagination quite like the prospect of being your own boss. That has long been the dream of so many Canadians. From British Columbia to Nova Scotia, the plains and the Territories, Quebec and Calgary and everywhere in between, Canadians love the idea of striking out on their own and taking charge of their destiny.
Starting a small business of your own can be a great way to do just that. What’s more, a small business could always grow into something more someday – if you foster its growth properly. From conception to execution to securing a small business loan, here are a few tips as to how to do just that.
1. Be Ambitious
First and foremost, you’re going to want to be ambitious and dream big. Even if you plan on keeping things local and don’t imagine yourself becoming the next Tim Horton’s, there’s still no harm in at least thinking of your business on a grander scale. If you ever decide to expand, you’ll have plans in place – and if not, you’ll still be in the right mindset to manage your business well.
Entering into things imaging your business as “just” a small store or restaurant can lead to you underselling your vision – and yourself. Imaging your company as having the potential to be something more can be a great way to do the same for yourself and your coworkers, thereby keeping everyone focused and motivated.
2. Don’t Overreach
That being said, dreams are one thing – reality is quite another. While it is advisable and even admirable to reach for the stars to some extent, you don’t want to overreach yourself, either. This is especially pertinent when it comes to resource management. A company like Tim Horton’s is able to operate the way it does in part because it has far more resources than your small business does.
As such, while envisioning your company on a grand scale can be good aspirational thinking and a good future goal, running your new small business as if it were already a major corporation can have serious drawbacks. You risk overworking your employees, overtaxing your resources, and flaming out all too quickly.
3. Have a Clear Plan
That’s why it is essential that you have a clear plan from the start. This can help ensure that you get the best of both worlds. On one hand, it can help you plot out your ideas for expansion, making them feel a little more “real” while simultaneously helping everyone stay on the same page as to the direction of your small business. On the other hand, it can also help remind everyone as to where you are right now. You’re a small business with big plans for the future – but still operating as a small business here in the present.
4. Securing a Loan
To realize those ambitions and grow them over time, you are going to need some capital and Thinking Capital resources, is a knowledge center for businesses considering funding. It’s important to be very careful about the length and terms of small business loans. Every small business is different, so you’ll want to make sure that the loan is tailored to suit your needs.
5. Experience on Your Side
Last but not least, when it comes to preparing your small business for the future, you might want to seek out some advice. The best small business consulting firms have decades of experience to their credit, and can help you position, invest in, and grow your small business in a way that makes sense for your company.
Grow your small business in a big way with these helpful business tips.
5 Hidden Costs Of Starting And Running A Business
Starting and running a business isn’t cheap. As the old adage goes, it takes money to make money, and that has never been truer than when it comes to starting a venture. So when creating your budget plan, it is important that you include all the costs that go into running a business.
Knowing what expenses go into running a business can help you not only start the business but ensure you remain in business. Here are five business expenses you need to take into consideration.
1. Employee Benefits and Perks
In addition to wages, there are several employee costs that you must take into account when running your business. Payroll taxes, benefits, and retirement plans are some expenses that, when not accounted for, could cause your business to run you into the red. It’s also important to add smaller expenses such as paid time off, training, conferences, employee turnover costs and office perks as they can add up very quickly.
When you start your business, you might not need a lot of insurance. At the bare minimum, you’ll need liability insurance to protect yourself from liability risks imposed by lawsuits or similar claims. As time goes by, you’ll need more insurance policies to protect your business. This includes worker’s compensation insurance, errors and omissions insurance, property insurance, and business interruption insurance.
The type of policy and amount of insurance coverage you need will depend on several factors, including the type of business, size of business, number of employees, risk factors and revenue. These hidden costs can make it hard to stay on track if you don’t include them in your business plan.
Taxes can be an unpleasant surprise for new business owners, especially if they aren’t generating money. Even if you aren’t making much, paying taxes can hurt your business in the first few years. One type of tax you need to pay is the self-employment tax which is more than 8% of your adjusted gross income. You’ll also pay additional taxes every year to incorporate your business, no matter if you have revenue or not.
There are lots of resources on the internet that can help you estimate the total amount of taxes you’ll need to fulfill your initial expenses. A business startup cost calculator can provide a rough estimate of all the taxes fees you are required to pay when starting and running your business. It can also estimate the total amount of capital you’ll need during your first year in business.
4. Legal Fees
Legal fees are the number one hidden cost for small businesses. This is because small companies are victims of frivolous lawsuits as they are more likely than large organizations to settle rather than litigate. In 2008 alone, the tort liability price tag for small businesses was a staggering $105.4 billion dollars. Settling cases for small businesses costs less than $5,000, but even as low as $1,000 can be significant for a small business.
5. Administrative Costs
These costs will sneak up on you if you don’t include them in your business budget plan. The costs include all basic office equipment like desk, chairs, computers, filing cabinets, printers, utilities, software and office cleaning equipment to name a few.
Planning your business budget is one of the most stressful but important parts of entrepreneurship. Including these five hidden costs in the budget can go a long way toward getting your business up and running.
7 Ways to Cut Costs in a Small Business
Cutting costs in a small business doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming; the trick is knowing where to look. What may appear small costs on a daily or even monthly basis will add up over time to a significant amount. If you can put yourself in a budgeting mindset, you will be able to identify the must-haves from the nice-to-haves and the essentials from the luxuries.
Of course, cutting costs is not always about not spending money; it can also be about learning to spend your money in smarter ways. Here are 7 ways you can cut business costs and, ultimately, increase profits.
1. Embrace Technology
Technology and business software have moved on considerably in recent years enabling us to streamline efficiency and modernize our operation on a whole new level. Online payment services, accountancy software, online conferencing services, social media platforms…there are a huge number of ways to make your business more efficient and easier to manage.
2. Go Paperless
If you’re still printing and posting your communications and marketing materials, you should try and move as much as possible online. You can send communications and invoices via email and can keep your company’s key data in a more secure virtual Cloud storage system rather than a filing cabinet. You’ll save on the cost of paper, ink, envelopes, and postage, and also make your operation more environmentally friendly through reduced waste.
3. Try (Or Do More) Online Marketing
For most businesses, online marketing is no longer an option; it’s a necessity. From a website optimized for search engines to informative blogs and engaging and entertaining social media marketing, online advertising can yield great results in terms of brand awareness and sales with minimal costs.
4. Stick to a Budget
You can’t make business decisions without a budget; you need to know exactly what is coming into your business account every day and what is coming in, so it’s important to get the right system which enables you to do this. Stick to a strict, cost-reducing budget as much as you can, and you should reap the benefits very soon.
5. Switch Utility Suppliers
A quick and easy way to save money is to switch your business utilities, supplier. There are lots of suppliers out there and changing to a cheaper tariff could save you a significant amount of money each month. It may also be worth considering swapping a traditional phone line for mobile phone contracts or virtual phone systems which use an internet connection rather than a landline.
6. Consider Cheaper Premises
If you can be flexible about where you run your business from, you should consider whether you could be saving money by making a change. You may be able to downsize to smaller premises, sharing office space or even working from home. If you have employees, they may be able to telecommute.
7. Buy Second-hand or Refurbished Equipment
You may be able to reduce business costs by opting for refurbished furniture and equipment rather than brand new items. Many brands offer a good range of their products at discounted prices.
Making Something Out of Nothing: Business Grants Can Make Your Business Grow
Money. Most people need some, others need a lot. For the very few, they can never have too much money. And for these people, business is the way to their pursuit of happiness and success.
But as you all may already know, much like the pursuit of any dream, the road to success is paved with rough terrain and unexpected detours. But all that comes later on in your journey. The old adage remains true here — taking the first step is the very first step.
In business, that first step often translates to whether or not you’re able to generate funds for the business i.e. capital. And that, my friends, is often when many would-be entrepreneurs become disheartened. Because, whether you want it or not, setting up a business is going to require a significant amount of money, something that not everybody has access to.
Unless, of course, you’re able to secure money from a different source.
There are many ways to raise money, but crowd sourcing and business grants seem to be the most popular method as of late. And it’s only rightly so. But between the two, business grants are more secure and they are also more predictable.
With crowdsourced funds, you’re banking a lot on how well people are going to react to your proposal. You’re going to have to convince a lot of people to get the money you need. With business grants, you only need to convince the grantor that your idea has merit — this is not as easy a task as it seems!
What Is a Business Grant?
According to the Balance.com article, “small business grants are small amounts of seed money that further the goals of federal, state, or non-profit organizations.” The main difference between a business grant and a loan is that those who are given small business grants are not required to repay the amount of the business grant.
However, while this may seem like free money to the uninitiated, the difficulty lies in being able to convince grantors to entrust money to you.
This is because grantors are more careful in awarding their grants. For reference, the Federal Government does not award grants to help businesses start or expand. The only businesses that are awarded Government grants are those that yield the most success and in certain industries like medical research, science or environment.
Furthermore, there are many types of grants for specific business types.
Exactly How Important Is A Business Grant?
For a lot of businesses, a grant can mean the difference between success and failure. You may have the most brilliant idea but if you don’t have the resources to make that idea come into fruition it won’t mean much. This rings true even when you’re sure that you’re going to have a very profitable business venture.
A prime example of a business that could quite possibly benefit from a small business grant is Alte, a company that seeks to retrofit existing public transportation fleets with hybrid drivetrains which are more efficient as you put more miles on your vehicle.
Approximately 62 billion dollars is spent on new vehicles every year. Alte’s hybrid power trains could provide a better alternative to fleet owners as these hybrid drive trains would preserve the longevity of their vehicles.
Not only would fleet owners be able to get more use out of their vehicles, but the company would also be earning about 2 billion dollars of revenue every year. The only problem is that the company needs 130 million dollars to start production, a venture capital amount that could be easily solved by a business grant.
So, as you can already tell, business grants have the power to alter the fortunes of a startup. There are many ways to secure a business grant and sometimes you can even get one through a contest, such as this Fedex small business grant contest.
Brexit, Business & The Markets
No matter how you try and look at it, the word ‘uncertainty’ will always come to mind when discussing Brexit. Everyone is uncertain of how things will pan out when Brexit actually happens, and the UK leaves the EU. How will this affect exchange rates? What will it mean for small businesses?
There are more questions than answers as we can only really speculate based on predictions and things that have already happened. As such, we’ve tried to create a summary of everything that you need to know about Brexit, business, and the money markets.
The Current Brexit Timeline
Before we begin, it’s a good idea to see where we are in the Brexit timeline. Research from DailyFX – In June 2016 the UK public voted to leave the EU. This was followed by the triggering of Article 50 in March 2017 to show the EU that the UK will leave in 2 years. Fast forward to March 2019, and we’re currently in the midst of a deal being drawn up that parliament will vote for or against. If they agree, we leave the EU and go into a transition period that takes the UK up to December 2020 when the government and EU agree on the future relationship. If no deal is approved, then the UK just leaves the EU without a deal.
Why is all of this important? Because it’s having a crazy effect on the money markets – particularly the exchange rates. Not only that, but business owners have no clue what this will mean for them.
Uncertainty From The Beginning
We can only speculate about how businesses will function after Brexit, but there’s no denying that confidence is at an all-time low. Everyone is predicting a period of financial uncertainty because some big companies may cease investment in UK goods, which is bad for all businesses in the UK. Then, there are the EU Trade Regulations that could start charging the UK when trading with countries from the EU. As such, it becomes more expensive to purchase raw materials for small businesses, which could put a lot of people in a dangerous situation.
Everyone was uncertain from the moment Brexit was announced, and things appear to be even worse right now.
Problems In The Money Markets
If you look at the currency exchange markets, there are recent indications of problems for GBP. Specifically, the GBP/JPY pairing is trading in the red in Asia. Experts say this is thanks to the current negotiations about the Brexit deal. Nobody really has a clue what’s going to happen, which creates further uncertainty in the money markets. There’s been a lack of progress, which is why GBP is falling in value.
So, the easiest way to summarise things is that Brexit is currently hurting the markets. A lack of control over the situation from the UK government leads to growing fears from markets all over the world. This creates a lack of faith, hence the decline of GBP. As for business confidence, things aren’t much better. We can’t say for sure what will happen when the UK leaves the EU, but we can say that nobody is very optimistic.
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