Archive for the ‘Documentation’ Category

PostHeaderIcon The Domino Effect

Last week, I noticed that water was dripping from the ceiling of my lounge room. I noticed it about 15 minutes after I turned on my ducted air conditioning, seeking relief from the 40 degree heat outside.

Of course, I panicked. My husband was at work, and wouldn’t be home for hours. I couldn’t put the aircon back on, so was stuck in a hot house with my 11 month old son. As I wasn’t 100% sure that it was the aircon causing the leak, I didn’t know who to phone – a roofer or an aircon technician. So instead I phoned my local pest control man (obviously!) who over the years has become a personal friend, and asked him to stick his head into my roof to see what the problem was. Turns out, it was the aircon. He managed to do a band-aid fix on it, so I could at least get some relief from the heat, until we could get a professional out to fix the problem.

Long story short, we had an airconditioning specialist come out this week, and after about an hour of crawling around in my very hot roof, lots of banging, cursing, and thudding, and close to $200 later, the problem was fixed. When I asked the man what had happened up there, he said it was like a domino effect.

One small, very easily avoidable thing, had started a chain reaction that ended with almost catastrophic results. A small problem that would have been detected immediately through regular maintenance caused some of the straps supporting the ceiling unit to fail, which in turn dropped the ceiling unit on an angle, and subsequently the drain tray onto a roof support beam. This in turn knocked the drain pipe away from the drain tray, which in turn caused the drain tray to fill up the emergency tray, which then overflowed into my roof! This caused damage to a load-bearing beam inside my wall, the internal structure of my walls, not to mention the massive water stains and bubbling on my ceiling and lounge room walls, and the subsequent staining of my carpet from said dripping water! So now, as we wait for an insurance assessor to determine the full extent of the damage, I have been beating myself up because this “domino effect” could have been so easily avoided, if I’d just booked an annual aircon service.

The same kind of domino effect could just as easily happen in your business. Quite often, we overlook what we perceive as unnecessary, or unimportant steps, procedures or proecesses, which can result in catastrophic outcomes for our business. Sometimes it pays to have an outside professional come in and assess your business, and help you to create and implement steps that will ensure your business runs smoothly, without any awful surprises.

As an example, do you have Terms and Conditions of Trade documents in place for your business, in the event that you have to chase bad debtors? Many businesses do the work for their clients, and invoice afterwards, which may help to you to attract and retain clients, but what happens when a customer suddenly doesn’t pay? If your customer had signed a Terms & Conditions of Trade document, you would be in a much stronger position to recover money owing to you, than if you didn’t have any formalised documentation. In this situation, the domino effect could very easily bring down your business. Let me show you would could happen if you dodn’t get your clients to sign any formal terms of trade documentation:

You provide product / service to your client –> late paying or non-paying clients –> hours and hours spent chasing payment –> restricted cash flow due to late or non payment –> unable to pay your suppliers –> suppliers refusing to supply your business due to non-payment –> customers go elsewhere because you can’t supply –> income diminishes –> business closes!

Yet something so catastrophic could have been easily avoided, if you had just taken one simple step when setting up your business, and had a professional draft up some Terms of Trade documentation for you. A small outlay at the beginning could have saved your business.

This is only one example, and whilst this is obviously a worst-case scenario, my air conditioner certainly did get me thinking about how, if I’d just done something so simple, I could have avoided so much inconvenience and cost. So I’ve already booked my annual service for next summer!

Has anything similar ever happened to you in your business? Have you looked back, after a particularly bad experience, and thought to yourself “if only I’d done xyz, I wouldn’t be in this situation now”? Share your stories with us, so that other business owners can learn from your lessons.

If you’d like to arrange for a professional to take a look at your business, let me know, because I would be happy to introduce you to people who could potentially save you a lot of heartache down the track. You invest so much time and money into your business, don’t you think it’s worth protecting?

Till next time,

Lia…

PostHeaderIcon Necessity is the mother of all “re” invention

I was at business coaching session the other day, and someone asked me for one of my business cards. I promptly handed it over, somewhat ashamedly, as it is a very basic ”free” card, which is serving as my interim card until I get new ones done. So upon handing it over, I also gave this explanation, as I am not exactly proud of my cards. I realised that I’d been handing these cards out for too long, and really needed to do something about it. It hit home to me that my business cards and website presence were not reflecting how I wanted myself and my business to be perceived.

And so I have begun the process of re-inventing myself.

I’m currently getting new business cards done, and I’m creating a new website too. Both of these will complement one another, as well as fit in with my existing letterhead, invoice and fax templates, and email signatures. It’s important to create a presence that you are proud of, and that reflects how you want to be perceived. Many times, I have heard people advise new business operators to just get a business card or a website that is cheap, to get them started, and in the early days of starting a business, cheap is often the only solution. But be mindful of the message you are sending when you do this. Are you sending a message that you are a serious business person? That you focus on attention to detail? That you offer high quality products and services? Or are you silently communicating that you will take the “this will do for now” approach?

eSpire Solutions can help small businesses to establish their marketing materials and style guides to ensure that all marketing collateral they produce is working for them, and presenting a consistent, high quality message. Our team can also create logos, business cards, stationery and websites for you. Don’t underestimate the power of good quality collateral – it’s representing you, and reflects how you want to be perceived.

Is it time for your own re-invention? If so, then get in touch with us to talk about how we can help you.

Till next time,

Lia…

PostHeaderIcon The perils of running your own business

I have spent the last 3 days totally emerged in MYOB. I’ve been trying to get all of my FY 07/08 accounts up to date and finalised so that I can pass them on to our accountant, all so that she can tell me how much money I owe the tax man. What a rewarding few days this has been!

One thing that has come out of it though, is that I’ve found a couple of unpaid accounts which have slipped through the cracks. They are only fairly recently overdue, so obviously I’ve followed them up, but this is probably the worst, and most frustrating thing, about running your own business. Chasing debtors…

A few years ago, we made the fatal mistake of mixing business with pleasure, and we took on a friend as a client. We had a good working relationship for about 2 years, but then things started to go sour when our bills were ignored, and always put to the bottom of the pile, on the assumption that because we were friends, we could wait, and we’d understand. Well, 12 month of chasing, and qute a few thousand dollars later, we certainly didn’t understand, and we’re certainly no longer friends! I’m happy to say that we did recover most of the debt, but there is a small amount that we’ve had to write off, and seeing this appear in MYOB this week reminded me of the whole episode.

I have another client that, for all intents & purposes, is the ‘perfect’ client. Except that so far, I haven’t been paid. And I’m not talking nickles & dimes either, it’s a significant amount of money (and face it, for us small business operators, any amount is a significant amount!). I’m getting promises that the money will be in the bank “soon”, but I can’t find “soon” on my calendar, so I really don’t know when to expect this payment. And what makes it worse is that I have to pay subcontractors from this payment. Now, they have done the work, in good faith, so why should they wait for payment? Fact is, they won’t wait, I’ll pay them regardless of whether the client pays, as it’s my client, and not their problem. But it astonishes me that, time and time again, large companies think that they can take the ‘little guy’ for granted, and just not pay their bills.

There are so many benefits to running your own business. Flexibility, freedom, financial independence, work/life balance to name just a few. But there are definite perils. And unfortunately, chasing payments is one of them. It’s not something that would put me off doing what I’m doing, but it’s certainly something that I am going to keep a closer eye on now, and try to manage more effectively. And to my client that hasn’t paid yet – don’t ask me to do any more work until you show me the money!

Till next time,

Lia…