Businesses need systems and processes to maintain quality and efficiency in their operations. Systemization helps to communicate to your team how you'd like your business to be effectively run and provides a clear model for them to follow. However, busy entrepreneurs don't always take the time (or have the time) to put those systems in place.
Streamlining common business functions like bookkeeping, marketing and employee onboarding can be extremely beneficial for your business. Below, nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council explain which tasks they believe should be systemized and why.
Entrepreneurs should set up automation in their bookkeeping software to systemize administrative tasks like payroll and invoicing. These tasks are simple but can take up a lot of time each week that could be better spent on sales or product development. Payroll software can automatically generate checks, forms and tax filings without wasting multiple hours each week. Likewise, your accounting program can automate invoicing, so each sale generates an invoice that is automatically sent to your customer. It can also automatically send overdue customers reminder emails for payments. This not only saves time generating bills, but it also saves time tracking overdue receivables. Automating admin tasks will free up your time to focus on selling activities and becoming more profitable. - Shaun Conrad, My Online Accounting Course
2. Lead Qualification
The entire process from lead acquisition through nurturing and conversion should be systemized and automated as much as possible. Using an email marketing tool and a customer relationship management (CRM) tool (or a tool that combines both features, like HubSpot or ActiveCampaign) can help you build automated processes to acquire new leads, nurture them over time, score them and try to turn them into sales. More often, entrepreneurs just keep sending one-off email marketing messages or launching other ad hoc marketing tactics without a strategy for how the message, ad, etc. fits into their overall marketing strategy and what the plan is to engage and qualify leads generated from those investments. That’s a big missed opportunity that costs the business time and money. - Jonathan Prichard, MattressInsider.com
3. Employee Growth
Let your hiring process be systemized enough that it works as a profile document for the applicant in case they get hired. It should be the norm for management to update the new hire’s profile quarterly by continuing notes in the profile document and comparing their growth or differences as they work for longer periods in the company. This document is very important because it will help management know if the employee has difficulties or inconsistencies in their performance over time. It will help management avoid or solve possible issues in the future. Finally, this helps management know if there's a need to promote, transfer or let go of an employee. This profile document will help the whole management team from the first day the interviewer profiles the applicant. - Daisy Jing, Banish
4. Social Media Scheduling
A simple business function that you can systematize is scheduling and posting content on social media. When you have profiles on multiple platforms, it can take a lot of time to post images, videos and other content to each network. Invest in a good social media management tool. It will let you add content in advance and schedule it to appear at the date and time you want. This makes it easy for you to manage your social media marketing, and you have a way to document and track your content creation. What's also helpful is that you'll be able to find shares, comments and other forms of engagement on all your profiles from one place. A social media marketing tool will systematize an entire area of your marketing to save you time and effort. - Blair Williams, MemberPress
5. Customer Support
I believe all business leaders can benefit from systemizing their customer support. Existing customers and prospects will reach out to your company for many different reasons. If you don't have an organized way to handle these requests, you're going to find yourself in a position where wait times are long and customer satisfaction is low. One way I'm able to use this strategy is by using chatbots and live support agents to help our customers. The chatbots deal with common, repetitive requests, while the live agents work with customers with more complicated or nuanced issues. - Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
6. HR Tasks
There are many HR tasks that you can systematize by using the right tool. You can track employees' information, grant time off, upload reports and more with a good online tool. It's also great for employees because they can make requests and track their benefits and other details without having to manually ask for these things. We use BambooHR in our business and it's useful for remote teams. Make sure you find something that works for you that allows you to systematize the many tasks related to managing your teams. - Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
7. The Hiring Process
More entrepreneurs should systemize the hiring process starting from the very top. This can save a business the hassle and headache of hiring the wrong fit and ending up with employees who don't understand the company vision, among other things. You can build systems to create optimized job listings, search in the right places, ask the right questions and much more. This makes it easier to hire the right candidates and creates a smooth transition to the onboarding process. - Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
8. Onboarding New Employees
Business leaders should think about the system they use to onboard new employees. When we first started out, we gave everyone sort of sporadic training, and it worked for a while. However, we eventually got to the point where we needed a system to onboard new team members based on their role, department and responsibilities. We decided to work with our existing team members to create an onboarding system with Google Docs and scheduled meetings designed to help new hires feel comfortable in their roles. I believe this is one thing that we can all work on, regardless of our industry. - John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC
9. Marketing Tasks
Schedule your marketing activities. It goes without saying that marketing is the backbone of every business. It’s the only way you can grow your business and achieve your revenue goals with time. Whether it’s social media posting, email marketing or cold calling, it’s essential to work with a solid strategy and have everything planned out. You’ll get to schedule your posts, your emails, etc., without forgetting to measure important KPIs like click-through rates, open rates, likes, shares, brand mentions and the like. - Candice Georgiadis, Digital Day
Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
People spend years building businesses, sacrificing various elements of their lives and selves along the way. It can be a rewarding process, but it’s also one that comes with plenty of decisions and responsibilities. Eventually, you have to think about what’s next for your business, as much as what’s next for you. Doing so includes preparing the business for sale.
This can take a lot of effort for one person, but there are plenty of resources out there to assist you along the way. To begin your transition out of business ownership and get your company ready to hit the market, follow the steps below.
1. Clean House
While your business might be doing just fine as-is, producing profits with very few glitches along the way, that’s not enough. You should consider how your business looks to a potential buyer or investor. What are they going to see both physically and financially?
As a business broker, I’ve walked into countless small businesses that look like a complete mess but it’s been that way for so long that the owner is oblivious to the clutter and disorganization. A little housecleaning can go a long way. The key is to clean house physically as well as financially. This means having clean, accurate and honest financials and tax returns.
2. Build A Team
Often, entrepreneurs are go-getters and get-it-done-themselves types of people, but in order to position your business for sale, you need to make sure you’ve built a team around you that is not dependent on you doing or controlling everything.
What would happen if you took off, without notice, for 30 days? If the business stalls or suffers, you need to focus on reinforcing those areas to operate with employee and manager oversight, without them being dependant on daily guidance from you.
3. Look At Value As A Buyer
Selling a business is a lot like selling a home in that sellers often want to ask a lot more than the property is worth because of emotional attachment or personal investment value. You have to look at the value of your business from a buyer’s perspective: What exactly are you offering here, and what is the ROI on their purchase?
Make sure that you work with a local, knowledgeable business broker who can help you determine what the fair market value and market multiple is for your business so it's priced appropriately. Remember, the business is not priced based on how much blood, sweat and tears you’ve put into it. It will likely be based on a market multiple of three-year weighted average sellers discretionary earnings (SDE).
4. Keep Management Focused On Business
This is a huge benefit for any company: a focused management team. Yes, even when you’re trying to sell a business, the day-to-day operations must still go on. In fact, if you handle the sales process properly, most if not all of your staff should not even know the business is for sale. To ensure that happens, your team needs to be focused completely on the business operations and not the potential sale negotiations taking place.
Everyone has heard stories about last-minute game changes and dealbreakers, and if your team is already out the door at this point, your business is going to suffer and therefore your valuation will decrease. This is why hiring a professional team is vital—you stay focused on keeping the business operating and trending in the right direction and let your advisor team handle all the aspects of selling your business.
5. Put Together Your Advisor Team
Having the right team in place may be the most important thing you can do to increase the chances of you selling your business. You will need a knowledgeable business broker, transaction attorney and tax advisor who handle business exit planning.
There are a lot of things you can take a DIY approach to in life, but selling your business is so important, so detailed and so complex that it is not worth trying to figure out on your own. This is likely a big part of your future retirement, and unless you specialize in valuing, selling and closing transactions, it's not worth risking your future retirement funds to try and do this yourself.
6. Consider Tax Implications
Before you even consider selling, you’ll want to consider the tax exposure that’s going to happen along the way but more importantly, post-closing. Relying on financial advisors will be key, and your current CPA may or may not be the right person for the job. Be sure to work with someone who specializes in tax strategy and planning for business owners looking to exit, not just someone who has filed your business tax returns for the last few years who may not specialize in this work. There are some tax strategies that you are required to have implemented prior to closing the transaction, so don't wait and think you can do this too late into the process.
7. Plan Your Finances
You have to think about how you’re going to live and manage your finances after you sell your business. Will you be living off sale profits? Starting a new business? What kind of lifestyle do you want to be able to afford? You need to make sure that you know how to handle your personal finances post-sale so that you aren’t caught off guard by something that comes up along the way.
Just as important, you need to have some type of purpose that will give you fulfillment and joy. Honestly, many business owners who retire and think they are going to play golf and sit on the beach eventually end up bored and unfulfilled. Make sure to identify what you will do to bring productivity and fulfillment in your post-transaction life.
Follow these seven steps and you'll be prepared for whenever the time is right for you to sell your business.
Image Credit: Getty
It’s fair to say that business leaders fulfill dynamic roles. Between balancing the people and operational sides of management, those in charge can feel like things aren’t running that smoothly. Client deadlines keep getting pushed out, there’s a lack of cohesion between department managers and sales results are below expectations.
Falling short of business goals isn’t a fun situation for anyone on the team, but it can be a learning opportunity that identifies outdated platforms and procedures that impede productivity and collaboration.
Thankfully, technology is constantly moving forward with tools that help leaders optimize workflows, collaboration efforts and scheduling demands. Below are some of the software applications decision-makers can implement to achieve their business objectives.
1. Project Management Software
Without project management software, leaders and employees have difficulties keeping track of tasks and priorities. These apps make a manager’s job infinitely easier because their built-in features reduce the need for constant follow-up. Project management tools also help team members understand how their contributions impact the business.
Industries ranging from construction to software development can use project management tools that are geared specifically to their needs. Alternatively, applications such as Microsoft Teams, Wrike and Asana are designed to be universal, meaning nearly any department in any company will find their features useful.
With such tools, leaders and employees can create separate projects and outline individual assignments. Managers can assign ownership, set priorities and establish due dates. Checklists for subtasks, document sharing and real-time collaboration via chat and videoconferencing are also integrated into the tools.
Project management solutions show macro and micro views of an initiative’s moving parts. Teams know when they’re veering off track from an individual and collective standpoint. But most importantly, leaders and their direct reports see the same information and progress. They’re more likely to work together to get things moving, meet deadlines and overcome obstacles because their perspectives are synced.
2. Scheduling Applications
Effective collaboration can’t happen without scheduled meetings between stakeholders. Many business models also involve client appointments, whether it’s an account executive making sales calls or a customer who needs services. The problem is, manually arranging, confirming and rescheduling meetings can become a full-time job. Employees spend precious time coordinating calendars and managing scheduled appointments instead of doing their actual work.
As the creator of an automated scheduling software, I've seen firsthand how removing many of the routines and repetitive tasks involved in arranging appointments can simplify and streamline operations across teams. Stakeholders who receive meeting invites can select dates and times from calendars that reflect everyone’s availability. Confirmation emails with video call links or location details automatically go out to all attendees. Sorting through email chains and phone messages becomes a thing of the past.
Scheduling applications are versatile enough to work with internal and external groups. Teams can arrange recurring status and progress meetings with vendors. Customers who have to reschedule use links within confirmation emails to confirm new dates and time slots. Both parties receive automatic notifications, and email calendar details are updated as well. This improves communication and frees up staff to focus on more strategic or complex assignments.
3. Payment Processing Software
Some research correlates technology use to shortened attention spans. The effects of this are seen in classrooms and work environments. People move from one task to another, often before finishing a complete assignment. This fast-paced tendency also translates to a desire for instant gratification. Consumers want to order and pay for products in a snap, and vendors prefer to receive immediate payments for services.
Companies are also driven by a need to promptly collect and track invoice payments. The longer an invoice remains outstanding or past due, the more likely it will never get paid. Managing accounts receivable and payable, tacking on late fees and sending invoices to collections creates possibilities for errors and oversights. Payment processing softwares, such as Dex or PaySimple, automate the details and makes payments simpler for employees, vendors and clients.
Take property management companies and homeowners associations, for instance. Payment processing platforms allow tenants and homeowners to create personalized accounts. They can electronically submit rent payments or HOA dues, view statements and communicate with reps. Property managers have a streamlined way to send invoices and automate late fees and notifications. Payment apps keep revenue goals on track without as much human intervention.
Ensuring efficient business operations is a key component of leadership. Juggling business processes and customer and employee needs makes achieving optimal effectiveness a tall order. But with tech tools, such as project management, scheduling and payment processing software, managers can simplify and unite their teams’ efforts. By eliminating repetitive tasks and making it easier to collaborate, leaders can leverage technology to deliver on their goals.
Image Credit: Getty
Making the decision to start a business comes with plenty of emotions. Perhaps the biggest one is a sense of fear, thanks to all the unknowns. What if people don’t want your product? What if your sales tactics don’t resonate with buyers? What if you run out of cash? And, of course, the biggest what-if of all: What if you fail?
These fears are understandable, but you don’t have to say goodbye to your dreams just because you can’t see into the future. Since the start of the pandemic, entrepreneurship has grown exponentially, with more than five million business applications filed in 2021 alone. In other words, you don’t have to feel like you’re alone in your desire to bring the world something new, exciting, or downright revolutionary. Millions of others are walking the same road.
Of course, you still need to act with care, thoughtfulness, and rationality. That’s where listening to others’ advice comes in handy. Seeking insider tips on how to keep a just-launched business afloat is wise. Fortunately, it’s also easy because tons of successful entrepreneurs are eager to share the best practices they recommend. For example:
1. Metamorphose into a social butterfly.
When you’re knee-deep in the beginnings of a business, you may find yourself tempted to lead a relatively solitary existence. After all, keeping your nose to the grindstone will make your company survive and thrive, right? Not necessarily.
Networking is an essential part of starting and maintaining a successful business. By attending events regularly, you can meet potential clients, partners, and investors, and you might pick up some valuable advice from other entrepreneurs along the way. Beryl Stafford, for example, knew little about the food industry or running a business within it when she founded Bobo’s. So she turned to networking events to learn more.
“I decided to start attending various local natural food industry events, advisory group functions and most importantly, food trade shows. I entered each arena with self-improvement as my number one goal,” Stafford wrote in an article for Entrepreneur.
2. Diversify your funding sources.
Analysis by CB Insights shows that running out of cash or failing to raise new capital are the top reasons startups fail. Setting yourself up with several funding sources rather than focusing on one will be important for long-term success. For instance, you may want to use a combination of investment sources, so you aren’t reliant on one stream of cash. These sources could include anything from tapping into your personal savings to taking on “good” debt.
Don’t just say yes to every possibility, though, particularly if you’re entertaining the prospect of bringing investors on board. Lu Zhang, founder and managing partner of venture capital firm Fusion Fund, advises entrepreneurs to create a target list of investors based on research to ensure a good fit.
“Research investors’ backgrounds and sectors,” Zhang said. “I’ve said no to many founders because they weren’t within my investment focus.”
When deciding which investors will be the best fit, make every interaction count. "Whenever you talk with a venture capitalist, consider it a free consulting session instead of trying to push for more funding," Zhang advises. "Every conversation with VC is an opportunity to get feedback about your product."
3. Bolster your online presence.
In an article for Entrepreneurs’ Organization, branding specialist Marina Byezhanova wrote about how people tend to be more interested in the person running a company than their actual brand. Shote notes that in one case, a founder’s personal LinkedIn had 20 times the following of her brand’s profile.
Essentially, this boils down to a simple truth: People like doing business with people. Period. As the head of your organization, you need to make yourself the face and voice that drives your company forward online.
If you haven’t concentrated efforts on increasing your visibility digitally, now is the time to start. By putting yourself out there, you’re adding a sense of soul and spirit to your startup. No longer is it just another business. It’s the result of your passion.
The jump from thinking about starting your own company to making it a reality can be overwhelming. It’s natural to have worries and wise to acknowledge them, but don’t let them get in the way of momentum. Instead, spend time learning proven lessons from others to increase your chances of success.
Membership is open to businesses and organizations interested in increasing visibility and brand awareness in Westchester County and surrounding areas.