If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, you’ll be familiar with the notion of pain points: problems, issues, or challenges that you and your business need to overcome to improve performance, and achieve growth.
These potholes on the road to success can take many forms – operational, technical, HR, and marketing amongst them. But they often manifest themselves in Finance data, and require a financial response, so understanding Finance should be an integral part of your plan to help your business perform better.
Below, we take a look at some of the most common pain points that keep business owners awake at night – and what you can do to resolve them.
Competition in your market
Competitors can pose a serious threat to your business, but they can also be the spark that ignites innovation. The challenge lies in keeping your business in a stable position to compete strategically.
To achieve this, there are some must-dos.
Firstly, regular competitor analysis. Review competitor products and services, how they build their range, their marketing campaigns, and their news posts. What are they doing more effectively than you, and can you learn from or replicate it? Where are they missing a trick, and does it create an opportunity for you?
Secondly, listen to your customers! Create a customer survey to find out what engages your target market and their buying habits, and carry out a gap analysis to understand where you fall short and where this may be an opportunity-in-waiting for your competitors.
This will give you a roadmap for how to stand out from the crowd and be a leader not a follower in your sector. Then it’s up to you to deliver it – which will inevitably require you to constantly innovate, and invest in new ideas, processes and products.
If your team isn’t happy or fulfilled, their performance can suffer. Ultimately, if unresolved, this can lead to unhappy customers, a decline in sales and market position, and escalating HR and arbitration costs.
Recent research indicates the five most popular SME employee benefits are health care and fitness provision, flexible workplace arrangements, paid leave, professional development, and profit-sharing.
If you don’t offer these, it could exacerbate any employee underperformance issues you may be suffering, and so you need to investigate how you might introduce some much-needed changes – and how you would fund them.
Technology can help redefine your strategy and revolutionise your business model, but it can also be a great burden to a business owner when it fails or needs updating, or when it can’t talk to other technologies within the business and so requires tedious and costly manual workarounds.
Moving business applications to the cloud can be a good shout here. Cloud applications usually have mirrored data centres to prevent outages, protect data very strongly, and can bundle many integrated applications together in a suite.
That said, it’s still important for your business to invest in cyber essentials protection and staff cyber security training, as well as budgeting for IT services to ensure applications are promptly updated, security and other patches are applied, and technical support is available whenever needed.
Marketing: where’s the return?
Effective marketing costs.
Firstly, you need to invest in the right CRM system, as this will help you effectively manage and build stronger customer relationships.
Secondly, you need to assign ownership of marketing activities to one person to keep track of budget versus task management, and procure a monitoring system to measure return on investment on that effort, and effectiveness of all marketing spend.
And remember – although social media comes with no upfront costs and can help you effectively reach and communicate with customers, it’s far from “free”. There’s a resource cost involved in planning and managing it, and this must be factored into the return on investment.
Why you need to focus on Finance
By now, you’ll have discerned a pattern in both the pain points and the recommended courses of action above: they all involve investment or spend of one kind or another.
And to understand where this investment will come from, you need to understand your business’s finances, and the issues that can affect them.
Here are some of the Finance elements you need to be conversant with.
Profit and cash management
This area is critical, and it’s covered by three key financial statements that you must be on top of:
- Balance sheet: A formal statement of financial condition of the business at a point in time (in “Accountantese”: Assets = Liabilities+ Equity.) Think of it like this: if your January balance sheet shows your business is in better shape than your June balance sheet, what’s driving that disparity? Something your competitors have done? A problem with staff performance? Technology infrastructure creaking under the strain? Or a marketing campaign that didn’t land well?
- Profit and loss accounts: Over a specific period, usually a year, this basically shows whether your business has made or lost money – and much can be deduced from this about the effectiveness of, for example, strategy and marketing over that period.
- Cashflow statement: This shows whether the business has enough cash to pay its dues and invest in assets or other initiatives that could help to grow the business. Whatever that CRM system or new international marketing campaign is going to cost, this tells you whether you’ll be able to pay for it when the payments fall due.
But most small business owners are simply too busy “doing the do” to monitor and decipher these indicators, and take the action required.
They need help – but that doesn’t mean they have to recruit a full-time Finance Director (FD), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), or similar.
They have options.
Entrust Finance to an outsourced professional
One of these is outsourced, pay-as-you-go financial management.
This gives you access to a seasoned Finance professional to lead and manage your Finance function, and maintain the financial oversight and discipline necessary for you to be able to identify pain points, and fund a response to them.
The benefit of this approach is that you pay only for the hours that you use, so it’s a lot more cost-effective than paying for a full-time FD.
And it’s what we at EFM Ireland do for small and medium-sized businesses day in, day out. So if you’re a business owner or entrepreneur hitting those potholes on the road to success, we’re here to help.
Get in touch with Kevin Kelly today at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call +353 871220335.