Business Culture and Accountability

Today, HR managers and consultants talk about business culture and creating better corporate cultures. This talk often begs the question, what does it really mean to build a better business culture?

Business culture and change rarely starts top down, although the facilitation of the change is a result a discussion made from the top. If business culture is important to the top brass, here is how they ought to begin maintaining or changing the culture.

Small Team Level Ownership
What is ownership? Ownership really is accountability. Accountability really is a result of people being personally invested in the work that they do, small teams help create ownership and thus accountability.

Three aspects of accountability answer three basic questions:
What is my role and how am I doing in that role?
What are others role and how are they doing in those roles?
What is the role of our team and how are we doing?

From item 1, we should “know thy-self”. Allow for self-assessment for members of their teams, they should be able to answer on their own. This is more difficult to answer than you might realize, but let members self-assess.

From item 2, have members of teams assess others. They need to understand other people’s roles and strengths and weaknesses. But, they also need to ask others how they are doing, and understand each other’s self-assessments as well.

And finally, from Item 3 people need to understand the underling goals and abilities as a team, how are they doing as a unit. This includes teams’ assessment as well as discussions involving individual assessment.

Role of a Leader
As a leader, you should facilitate the free exchange of ideas and allow teams to assess their own status, including your own status. Be transparent, or as transparent as allowable. Do not make judgements based on the assessments, simply use it as data points and communicate with the teams to create their own goals in addition to giving them key corporate/ business goals to achieve.

This will help foster a sense of ownership and accountability. Steer the ship in a direction that is both on board with the corporate/business goals and the goals created by the teams themselves. Incorporate the team’s ideas into being a corporate idea on the small scale. Communication across teams and management that includes input from all sides will make for a culture of accountability.

Implementing Small Team Accountability
Practical implementation would consist of weekly team based assessments, leaders communicating their goals and collecting data. That data would be used in creating goals with the agreement of both leadership and teams working together. Total time spent on assessments and meetings would be 30 minutes a week. This structure could also change or replace current meeting structures in place.

Balance Tips for Small Businesses

People involved in small business get a bad rap for their workaholic ways. You know because you either know someone who is involved in small business or you are that person. Let’s look at some facts about small businesses in San Diego and then ways people involved in small business everywhere can a better create work-life balance.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 99.9-percent of the 27.5 million businesses in the United States are considered small firms with fewer than 500 employees*. According to the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the majority of companies in San Diego County are small businesses with 50 employees or less. One out of every five small businesses in San Diego County are in the business services segment which includes consulting, engineering, accounting, research and management. The additional types of business segments in descending size order are wholesale trade, manufacturing / repair, transportation, consumer services, specialty construction, builders, retail, finance/real estate/insurance and an “other” segment (the unclassified small businesses in the county). In San Diego County, the average number of people employed by a small business is 7.3 people.

Everyone related to small business – the owners, the employees, the people who cater to and support small businesses – here are three tips for more balance in your life:

1. Schedule time off. Small business owners value the importance of sticking to a schedule and deadlines. Decide how much time you can schedule to relax, be social or spend time with family in the next week and also how much time you would ideally like to have for such activities in the future. Then, schedule time away from work. Maybe this upcoming week you can only dedicate one hour away from everything work related; block out that hour on your calendar immediately. Knowing that your ideal amount of time is two full weekdays per month, a small business owner can set aside those specific dates in February now. Once those days are on the schedule, they must be respected as if they are meetings with the most valuable client. Commit to taking the time off for the things that matter most outside of business and protect that scheduled time.

2. Turn off the cell phone. This goes for small business owners and anyone who has ever thought about work outside of the workplace. Especially when spending time with others outside of working hours, turn off the distractions of business. By removing the distractions of phone calls, text messages, instant messages, e-mails and phone alerts for a short time, you can truly relish in your time away from the office.

Do you (or the small business owner you know) feel anxiety rise up inside of you when you merely consider turning off your phone? What if you took up the challenge of turning your phone off for one hour next week? Maybe it’s turning off the phone for the hour you’ve scheduled for yourself and your family. Maybe you turn off your phone before you fall asleep or leave it off while you get ready in the morning. Another suggestion is to shut off your phone during your commute if you drive. Since you shouldn’t be on it if you are driving, turn it off and turn up your favorite tunes. Whenever you decide to turn off your phone, you are claiming that time for yourself, which is a crucial piece of the work-life balance equation.

Once you’ve turned on your phone again and realized that your business or work hasn’t imploded or exploded, your anxiety will be less the next time you cut off this type of communication. And what if your business does start to implode or explode? If you are not the sole person in your business, then someone will get ahold of you through your significant other, neighbor, friend, coworker or someone will show up where you are to tell you. If you are the sole person in your business, find another business owner in the same situation and work out a trade where you ensure each other’s businesses don’t go awry. Which brings us to the next point.

3. Appoint a second-in-command for when you are inaccessible. You will take time off whether it’s an hour next week or a full month next year, and you don’t want to worry about your work during that time. That would eliminate the balance. Select a second-in-command and let the person know in what circumstance they will be in charge and how to reach you if a true emergency arises. (You may want to clarify what you consider an emergency with this person.) Let everyone in your company and important vendors know who is in charge in your absence moving forward. That way if something comes up in the hour you are in a business meeting or at your child’s play or in the month you are on vacation abroad, all employees and important vendors will know who to go to. Your second-in-command acts like the gatekeeper to your time away and assesses when he or she needs to contact you. Finally, when setting up your away messages with the times and dates you will be out of pocket, list your second-in-command’s contact information. Your away message may be on your website, in your social media messages, in an e-mail bounce-back message, on your store’s door, and on the phones in your business. If you’d like that breath of fresh air without the worry, then take the steps needed to prevent work from finding you unnecessarily while you are claiming more life in your work-life balance.

With the majority of businesses in United States and in San Diego County operating as small businesses, work-life balance is necessary to continue and grow. By scheduling time off, turning off the cell phone and choosing a second-in-command, you can protect and freely enjoy your time away from the small business you run, work for or support. Here’s to work-life balance in small businesses everywhere!

* The U.S. Small Business Administration sources data from the Office of Advocacy estimates based on data from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Census Bureau, and trends from the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Business Employment Dynamics.

Business Owners Have a Happy Christmas

For many people the Christmas period is fun filled and relaxing with good food, drink and most of all great company. But unfortunately for some it can be one of the toughest times of the year. The festive season is a period of celebration and for many it acts as the perfect time of year to reflect on the year gone by. Over the backdrop of endless annual top 100 countdowns on TV we reflect on personal and professional achievements and regrets whilst planning our infamous New Year resolutions. This period of reflection is a source of happy memories for most but it can also be a real source of sadness for some people. Suicide rates are believed to increase throughout the holiday season and with the harshness of the current economic climate there are genuine concerns about the mental welfare of small business owners as we head into this years this festive season.

The combination of pressures derived from the accountability of owning business in today’s tough trading condition and people’s natural inclination to reflect over the Christmas period makes the festive season prime for an increase in anxiety across the SME community. Research has suggested that the SME community has experienced a 47% increase in suicide rates since the economic downturn of 2008. There are 2 intrinsically linked contributing factors to mental anxiety within the small business community over Christmas. Investing in good accounting software and practising disciplined financial management can help keep both factors at bay.

1) Money and the financial health of the business

The main cause of distress and anxiety for a small business owner over the festive season is money. Unfortunately there are still too many small business owners that are not into the detail of their company financials. For many Christmas time represents the time of year for the annual review of the company financials. The combination of compulsory requirements to prepare yearend accounts and the natural desire to reflect over the Christmas period makes it completely understandable why many owners get their head in the books over the festive season.

Practicing financial discipline once a year rarely results in a sound set of company financials. It is all too common for owners to find financial problems in their business just at the time when everyone else is relaxing and celebrating. The lack of detailed financial understanding often results in longstanding disparities between expenditure and income left unchecked throughout the year. It is also common for business owners that haven’t maintained a detailed view of the financials to find missing payments from customers. These findings ultimately leave business owners learning about nasty cash flow problems in their business that have accumulated over time which can be devastating for the short term future of the business. The emotional extreme between the relaxed PAYE employees enjoying their pre-booked off time and the anxious self-employed small business owner that can’t leave their business is already vast over this period. Finding out about a stark cash flow problem in addition to the existing frustrations of running a small business over the Christmas period can be enough to tip existing anxiety into full blown depression.

The key to a happy and relaxing Christmas period is sound financial discipline throughout the year and a good accounting software package can be central to achieving this. Accounting software allows small business owners to stay close to their business financials in a quick and easy to understand way. A simple, cost effective accounting software package means that company financials are done and managed consistently throughout the year. This ensures that if any problems occur with expenditure management or if a client hasn’t paid an invoice on time it can be rectified quickly and easily. Small business owners that are close to their financials do not have the emotional drain of a big annual review of their company accounts. Most importantly of all they don’t have the shock and subsequent unhappiness of finding nasty surprises in the books over the festive season!

2) Relationships

One of the main reasons that make Christmas so special is having the chance to spend time with your loved ones. The problem for the small business owner is that they don’t feel like they can simply leave the business for a couple of weeks. “The business doesn’t run itself!” This is in stark contrast to PAYE friends who have no responsibilities in their booked off time other than enjoying time with their loved ones. This contrast in fortunes puts an almighty strain on the relationships of small business owners as their loved ones have to cope without them for long periods over Christmas. This can be especially difficult for the loved ones of small business owners when it seems that everyone else is surrounded by their family and friends.

It can be incredibly challenging to take time off when you’re running a small business but time off is essential to keep and enjoy important relationships healthy. Time off during this year’s festive season will be even more strained for many small business owners as they not only need to complete the usual year end admin but they are also operating in some of the toughest economic conditions known for many years. BBC news have recently stated that the total number of divorces have increased 4.9% in England and Wales in the past year as a result of the tough economic conditions.

Whilst these pressures are very real they do not exist for every small business. There are SME’s that do not worry about year end accounting because it happens to be a 5 min exercise due to their on-going management of the company financials throughout the year. Small businesses that have sound financial discipline are also more likely to have enough working capital to see out the current economic pressures. These businesses have impressive working capital due to their complete detailed focus on expenditure and income and well managed time allocation reducing non-value adding administration tasks in favour of business optimisation planning. Small business owners of these types of companies are more likely to be able to relax over the Christmas period and spend time with loved ones as their businesses are sustainably healthy.

The secret to these healthy businesses is their sound financial discipline and well-structured time management. Accounting software is a critical tool that makes sure that small business owners reallocate time away from doing lengthy manual quarterly and annual accounts to free up more time to be spent on value adding business planning. This additional planning gives the business a greater chance of directing themselves successfully through hard times. In addition but equally as important accounting software makes sure that a small business has a tight grip on their cash flow position. By having a clear vision on the direction of the business and a healthy cash flow position a business owner can ultimately be more relaxed over the Christmas period focussing on what’s important – their relationships.

Small business owners that face the prospect of finding out about money problems and living through the happy festive season working all hours to keep the business afloat are in real danger of unsustainable anxiety and depression this Christmas time. The answer is to work on embedding financial discipline and well-structured time management throughout the business. The only way a small business owner will be able to relax with their loved ones this Christmas is if their business is financially sound. Having a well embedded accounting software solution is a key step towards achieving this.

Good Reasons Why Small Enterprises

You’ll agree with me that there are so many small businesses which have contributed a lot to the growth of economy. They have created employment opportunities for many families although some remain to be small throughout their operational life.

It is obvious that those who are starting new ventures have objectives to achieve. And to mention each business has got its own objectives to achieve such as maximization of profits and sales, minimize costs, maintain a certain level of production and labor force etc.

Failing of a business opportunity is what an entrepreneur won’t want to happen. Inasmuch as we agree with the fact that there are firms which have succeeded, we should also accept the fact that a good number of them have failed even before two years lapse after they commence business.

If aspiring entrepreneurs addressed the reasons why small businesses fail, then they will not fall to be victims of the same causes of failure. This is because they’ll be in a position to identify these causes and fix them before it’s too late.

Now you may be asking yourself as to why some businesses remain to be small throughout their operational life despite some of them making profits or are capable of growing.

4 Reasons Why Small Business Remain to be Small

1.) The owners of these businesses prefer not to expand their businesses. Some sole proprietors do not want to be bothered with the challenges of managing a big business. They don’t want to employ people to assist them in running their businesses but instead they prefer to be assisted by their family members.

2.) The nature of the product/service the business is involved in doesn’t allow expansion. There are people offering products/services which make it difficult for their business to grow.

3.) Lack of capital for expansion. There are small businesses which are viable and have the potential of growing but they lack enough capital. Such businesses have the challenge of securing funds from financial institutions. Lack of capital plays a negative role in hindering the growth of small businesses.

4.) Very low demand. If the business has a very low demand for its product or service, then at the end of the fiscal financial year/trading period the business won’t realize profits, and if it does, it’s very low, therefore the chances of it expanding are very minimal. Just to mention, realization of inadequate profits as a result of very low demand hinders the growth of small businesses.

However, there must be a starting point and as such, every business starts as a small entity and it gradually grows to a medium entity and eventually it becomes a big business entity which is either a private limited company or a public limited company. Note that a partnership business can also grow to become a big business.

Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail

1.) Wrong Reasons For Commencing Business: People who start a business for wrong reasons haven’t succeeded. Just because another person is making high profits in a certain line of business doesn’t mean that you will also make the same amounts of profits as him/her if you start the same business.

2.) Poor Business Management: When there is poor management of the business it becomes difficult for such a business to succeed in its operations. Finance, marketing, purchasing and selling, planning, hiring and managing employees is what most new business owners fail to execute effectively thus making their small businesses to fail.

3.) Lack of Commitment: Starting a business requires someone who is committed in ensuring that it succeeds. Neglecting the business will cause the business to fail. Many small businesses have failed because the owners didn’t take their time in monitoring performance and in marketing them. Some business owners leave their businesses to be managed on their behalf by incompetent people who lack book keeping knowledge and the knowledge of managing a business.

4.) Lack of Finances: Small businesses have failed because of lack of adequate finances. Some of the owners underestimated the amount of capital required and as a result of this underestimation some ended up running out of operating capital thus ending the operation of their businesses.

There are those who have no reserves which has led them not to be able to take care of loses and disasters when they occur thus making them to quit business.

5.) Over-Expansion of the Business: This has led to failure of many small businesses. This happens when there is borrowing of too much money beyond what the business requires so as to expand the business. Moving to markets that are not profitable is also over expansion of the small businesses.

An ideal expansion is the one that is driven by customers due to their high demand for the products and services which leads to high sales thus the business experiences good cash flow.

6.) Location: The place where the business is located is critical in determining its success. Small businesses have failed because of them being located in areas that are not ideal for business. They should be located in areas that are accessible, populated with people and has demand for their products and services.

7.) Personal Use of Business Money: This is the biggest challenge facing many small business owners. They withdraw money meant to operate their businesses to meet their personal wants and needs. If they continue to withdraw money from their businesses without returning it, their businesses will eventually run out of finances therefore forcing them to end the operations of their businesses.

8.) Lack of Delegation: Small enterprises have failed due to owners not delegating some of the duties to their employees. They think that if they delegate them, then their employees will not perform these duties as they would personally perform them. When such owners fall sick or are away from their businesses, then the operations of some tasks will be paralyzed till they resume to work.

9.) Not Diversifying: Small enterprises which have only one product/service to offer are prone to fail easily compared to those that have a variety of products/services.

10.) Procrastination and Poor Time Management: Postponements of tasks which the small business owners feel to be unpleasant to perform has made the small businesses to fail. An example of such tasks include following debtors to pay their debts (debt collection).

Time management remains to be a challenge for many people who own small businesses. If important tasks like delivering products to customers, purchasing stock etc are not handled in the appropriate time, then the business will lose its customers.