BIZTIPS - October 9, 2005

Biz Tips: Watch Your Fundamentals
Sunday, October 9, 2005
By Art Hill

Every once in a while I get jolted back to reality by an unexpected business expense. It might be a higher than normal energy bill or a piece of equipment that stopped working. But sometimes it's just a routine invoice that has to be paid even if some revenue I was expecting didn't come in on time.

While it's not life threatening, it reminds us to check our business and personal financial basics -- do you have a cash flow plan, and does it cover this situation? Maybe you need to be more conservative in planning, or extend your receivables forecast a couple of extra weeks. Maybe you need to look at your cash reserves (rainy day balance) or line of credit to make sure you've built them up or paid them down so you're prepared.

How about promotion and sales? Did you learn that a potential customer was excited about your products, but delay in following up? We've all done that, but the companies we remember and the products we buy are usually the ones that came with great service -- before and after the sale.

Are you on top of personnel issues -- safety, regulations, incentives? Done any ìmanagement by walking aroundî (MBWA) lately? Most of the best ideas come from the folks who turn the wrenches and print the reports every day. Usually if you ask them enough questions, you'll get honest, useful answers you can act on. That beats hearing about it after they quit.

While you're at it, polish up your crystal ball. The internet is loaded with information you can use to see what's going on in your industry -- from competitors' products to ideas you can apply in your own shop. Your industry trade association may have information on the "next big thing" in your business. Join, call, ask.

I know that every one of us has a list of stuff we'd do if we could get around to it. Well, here's a final opportunity for improvement -- managing your own time. If you're a do-it-yourself (because somebody else might screw it up) manager, it's time to start working on training and trusting employees to do the work. Otherwise itíll never get done. Hire only people who are better than you at doing their job. That makes training and trusting a lot easier.

There's a saying among pilots "Only worry about what can kill you." Remember that sometimes it's the basic, routine stuff that keeps you in the air. Take care of the fundamentals and they'll take care of you and your business.

Content © 2005 East Oregonian