Weekly Business Idea

July 20, 2018 – What is Critical to My Success?

Posted on | July 20, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

What is driving your business?  What are the things that you need to get right?  What are the pieces that you need to grow?  How do you know if your business is working properly?  What metrics are you looking at?  Are they the right ones?

Expansion of the Idea:

If you are asked to name the top two or three things that are critical to your business success, what would they be?  If you are like most business owners, you would probably say sales, cash flow and people.  You might include marketing, quality control or product mix.  There are a number of other items that might be at the top of your list.  The point is that most leaders will point to a few key things.

Frequently this is where the analysis stops.  If I were to ask you to name the critical steps of generating sales, you might be able to tell me.  However, rarely will a small business owner actually measure the key functions that are necessary to generate the right levels of sales.  Very few small business owners could give a numerical evaluation of the health of their relationships with their team.  Almost no one can tell if their marketing is doing anything positive except depleting their bank account.  We know a lot about our businesses but we tend to leave a lot up to chance.

The obvious question is “What should we measure?”

This question is not easy to answer because each business is a little different.  Even businesses in the same industry are in different seasons.  A start up needs to look at different metrics than a 50 year old company.  And to complicate it further, it might change throughout the year because of the seasonality of the business and the natural business cycle.

To figure out what to measure, it is first necessary to identify CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS.  This requires a little soul searching and brainstorming with your team.  At the company wide level this might be number of sales calls or order fulfillment percentages.  In my case, it is directly related to how much time I focus on marketing efforts.  Normally there are specific things that the company needs to get right.  Then you have to cascade it down into departments and employees and determine what they must do for that piece of the company to work right.

Once you figure out what is critical for the company, department and employee to succeed, then you should look for ways to measure it.  This is called KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS.  KPI’s can either be lead indicators, which measure activity, or lag indicators which measure results.  Ideally you would have a little of both.

The new manager of the St Louis Cardinals has identified his KPI’s.  One of his most important indicators is number of errors.  The Cardinals have been playing sloppy baseball and he is focused on playing those Cardinals who will be able to improve that KPI.  (Of course, last night, they committed three errors and at least two other mental errors.)  Whether his KPI is right or wrong, he has identified it as what he is focused on.  There is clarity in his communication and in who will be playing baseball every day.  Everyone knows what to expect.  I think they will improve because of it.

This whole process is not easy and can be a little time consuming.  Yet, the benefits are huge.  When you focus on what is critical for the business or at the employee level, everyone knows what is necessary.  It improves communication and focus.  When businesses hit rough spots, everyone knows where they need to focus.  It builds teamwork and will help you achieve your goals.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Do I know what is critical to our success?
  2. Does my team know what is critical?
  3. What are we measuring?
  4. Are the KPI’s properly identified and measured?

July 12, 2018 – Are You Practicing Your Skills?

Posted on | July 12, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Do you have a world class business?  Do you want a world class business?  Are you on the top of your game?  Is your business working well or do you have a lot of surprises?  Do you put out fires or do you try to prevent fires from starting?

Expansion of the Idea:

The last few days I have watched replays of most of the World Cup semifinals.  Even though I knew who won, I watched the replays because I really like the game.  I can’t tell you how many times I was dumbstruck by a move that one of the players made.  The skill, athleticism, vision and creativity exhibited by the players is simply outstanding.  It is great to see athletes compete at the highest level.  Soccer players are some of the best athletes in the world.  Obviously, they were blessed with talent.  However, I am pretty sure that most of these players are some of the hardest working athletes you will find.  It is inconceivable to me that they could perform as they did without continually practicing their skills.

As I was watching the games, the following question popped into my mind:

Do I practice my skills as much as the soccer players do?

In my case, I have two types of skills to consider.  I have to think about the technical services that I offer to my clients.  I need to do my best to make them world class.  I take continuing education classes and meet with peers to discuss problems and solutions.   I practice these skills by performing accounting, consulting and tax services for clients.  I have spent a lot of time working on these skills.  I know that I need to continually improve in this area or I will be left behind.

 

The second type of skills that sometimes get overlooked are those needed to run a small business.   Even if you took a few management courses in college, none of us are really prepared to run a small business.  We get a lot of on the job training.  Some of this is good and some is bad.  Rarely, do we get intentional about how to improve our leadership and our management.  We are too busy trying to get the next sale or meet payroll that we don’t focus on our skills which would allow the business to really move forward.

What would be involved in practicing our leadership or management skills?  It might include:

  • Having a management checklist and system
  • Getting feedback from everyone around you every week
  • Taking courses or reading books
  • Watching leadership expert videos
  • Setting goals and evaluate progress towards them
  • Start measuring the right stuff
  • Brainstorm with your team on how to improve
  • Surround yourself with the right advisors and mentors
  • Having difficult conversations with team members or customers

Leadership and management of a small business requires intentionally doing what you think are the right next steps and then continually evaluating the outcomes.  When you are deliberately working on our business, you are at the same time practicing your management skills.  When you keep practicing with an open mind on the outcome, you will become a better manager and a leader.  And that will transform your business.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Do I have a management control plan?
  2. Do I know where the business is going?
  3. Do I intentionally work on my leadership and management skills?
  4. Am I learning new things every day?
  5. Am I really open to feedback?  (I mean really open.)

A great place to start on all of this is to go to the Global Leadership Summit on August 9 & 10.  That has been invaluable to me over the last 16 years.

July 5, 2018 – Do You Have a Winning Attitude?

Posted on | July 5, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Have you defined what winning means to you and your business?  Are you doing well but feel out of control?  Are you one step away from disaster? Does your team work well together?  Are you burnt out?  Do you delegate? Are you a learner?  Are there more days than not where you are ready to sell the business and buy an island where no one will bother you?  Do you watch Fox News or CNN?  If you are a betting person, do you ever bet against Bill Belicheck, coach of the New England Patriots or Nick Saban at Alabama?

Expansion of the Idea:

As most of you who live in St Louis know, the Cardinals are having a very trying year.  The club and the city have expectations that they will get to the playoffs every year.  They have missed the playoffs for the last two years and things are not looking very good this year.  They have had their fair share of injuries.  But that doesn’t fully explain their problems.  I honestly don’t know what all of the problems are.  However, there are a couple of key players that started extremely slow and are just now coming out of that season opening slump.  During this period, they have played sloppy baseball and most people would say that they lost their edge. They have started playing better and so maybe they have found that edge.  In baseball as in business, success is frequently determined between our ears.

The leader’s attitude will determine the business’ altitude.  This is frequently overlooked.  We focus on systems and marketing and people.  We rarely focus on ourselves.  What happens when you have a flat tire on your way to the office and you walk in with a bad attitude?  Do you think that one of your employees will tell you something that you need to know even if it is not good?  They may look at your attitude and make a note to tell you later.  The whole mood of a business can be determined by the leader’s attitude.  When you walk into another business, how often do you get a feel for whether or not you would want to work there?  I know I have walked into some places and instinctively I know that business is an awful place.  I am embarrassed that has happened occasionally at my office.  (I will say that I don’t think it has happened in a long while.)

Perception is critical here.  If your team thinks you have a bad attitude when in fact you are just confused by a problem or have a personal matter that is impacting you, it can be just as bad.  This problem can be eliminated or at least minimized by communication.  Tax season can be a problem in my office.  We are all under pressure and there can be a lot of misconceptions.  This past year we had a new person who didn’t know me and the rest of the team very well.  We recognized that and we tried very hard to make sure that we communicated issues, problems, and even attitude.  If we had a problem we might talk about how it hit us but then we focused on what to do next and we didn’t get dragged into a pit.

What is critical to make sure that we have a winning attitude?

There are a lot of things that will help you attain a winning attitude.  Here are a few things that work for me.

  1. I try to surround myself with positive people.  We need to have diversity.  In my inner circle of friends and advisors, I must have positive people.
  2. I try to watch my external inputs.  Several years ago, I determined that after watching the news I just felt angry or frustrated with our political leaders.  (It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you are on.  They all frustrate me.) I stopped watching Fox News or CNN because it was just too depressing.  Instead I read the Wall Street Journal.  It has its own slant but I think I understand it and I can handle it.  I need to know what is going on but I can’t wallow in the problems.
  3. I try to define my goals.  When I am focused on my future goals, I start doing things to attain those goals.  When I attain those goals, I feel better.
  4. I spend time planning.  We will talk about this in a future weekly idea, but time spent in Stephen Covey’s Quadrant II working on important but not urgent items is critical.
  5. I celebrate the wins.  Everyone likes to win.  Even celebrating small things, we are fostering better attitudes.  If you are in a real challenging situation right now, manufacture some small wins.  Do whatever it takes to create a win.
  6. I try to celebrate the failures.  I know that this sounds crazy.  However, when we celebrate someone who tried something and gave it their best, you are setting that person up for success.  When our identity is determined by whether we just won a new contract or not, we will have problems in the future.
  7. For me it is critical to spend time every morning doing something positive.  I try to spend time studying the Bible every morning.  (I fail at this a lot.)  However, I approach the day in a much better place when I am able to do this.  I have friends who listen to positive self-help messages.  I know others that read a business book for 15 minutes every day.  The point is that you don’t have to do a lot every morning but this will help get you set.

There are a lot of other ways to work on your attitude.  You need to find out what works for you.  Your business and your team deserve it.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Do I have a good attitude?
  2. What does my spouse or kids say about my attitude?
  3. What does my team think about my attitude?
  4. Am I disciplined in working on my attitude?
  5. Is there anything in the above list that might help you?
  6. Go do it.

June 29, 2018 – What Season of Life Are You In?

Posted on | June 29, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Are you thinking about retirement?  Are you having to deal with parent’s memory issues?  Are you newly single and dealing with all that brings?  Do you have two kids in college and wonder where the time flew?  What is more precious; time or money?

Expansion of the Idea:

Last week, my wife and I had the pleasure of watching our grandchildren for the week.  They stayed with us so that they could attend vacation Bible school at our church every morning.  In the afternoon, we did stuff.  We had fun and more importantly they had fun.  It was a good chance to be around them for an extended period.  However, having a four and a six year old stay with us reminded me of one thing, kids have a lot of energy and are a lot of work.  While I did do some work last week, productivity was not at an all time high.  I knew that was going to be the case and planned accordingly.

What has this to do with running a small business?

I personally think that this has everything to do with being a leader.  A leader has to build trust with his team.  She must know where they are and how fast they can go forward.  Even the highest capacity person is only going to go so fast when he is battling cancer, or divorce.

As the kids reminded me at 5:45 in the morning, this is a season of life.  I went through this particular season 30 years ago.  But I don’t think about it as much as I should.  I am glad that I am partially reminded of what my son and daughter in law go through every day for their kids.  I know it can be a grind getting up in the middle of the night for a sick child and then going to work the next day.  Yet our team members do just that.

Everyone that works for us is in a different season of life.   When we understand what season of life someone is in, it can help build a relationship.  Life is too short to just focus on the business.  It is infinitely more fun, and profitable, when we focus on the relationships.  By focusing on the relationships, we bring mutual purpose into our businesses and strengthen our businesses.

I want to point out that we are not lowering our standards or expectations.  I believe that I have the highest expectations of my team.  However, when they have to deal with a personal issue, I do not question them because they more than make up for any time away.  I fully trust them.  They know that I trust them and I think that has helped them build trust with me.  As that trust has developed over the years, the improvement in my business is very noticeable.  While there are situations that are not always ideal for me, they are making the best choices available.  When we pay attention to our team and understand where they are, we are making an investment in our business that will pay significant dividends in the short term and long term.

Questions to Consider

  1. What season of life are you in?
  2. Does it impact your energy or focus?
  3. Do you need to do something different than what you did 20 years ago?
  4. Think about your team.  Are they in a particularly challenging season?
  5. Is there something you can do to help?
  6. Think about your key customers in light of their season of life.

June 22, 2018 – Will You Survive?

Posted on | June 22, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Are you a planner or a reactor?  Do you do business in multiple states?  Do you know who your competitors are?  Do you know who the disruptors are in your business?  Do you have too much to do and not enough time to do it?  Are you sure of the answers to any of the above questions?

Expansion of the Idea:

Yesterday, the Supreme Court overruled 50 years of established business practice and opened the door for states to collect sales tax on internet sales.  Whether you agree with it or not, everyone saw this coming.  The business environment has significantly changed since this was last ruled on in the Quill case primarily due to the internet.  This ruling opens the door for nexus to be revisited and this could impact everyone, even the home businesses that occasionally sell something that is delivered to one customer in another state.  This will be a cash grab by poorly run states (almost all of them) and small business owners will face increased compliance costs.

Six months ago, Congress passed a major tax act that dramatically changed the tax structure for small and large businesses.  This was passed to make the United States more competitive internationally.  As a result of the tax law, every business needs to evaluate how they are structured to make the most of the new tax law.

The changes in nexus and income tax should get every leader’s attention.  If you throw in the internet, state regulations, proposed tariffs, full employment, lower barriers to entry in most businesses, and a whole host of additional factors, you end up with a very precarious business operating environment.  A lot of people might look at all of this and ask if they should continue.

Now that you are depressed, you also need to look at the bright side.  The economy is doing well.  With technology it is easier to get closer to your customers.  You have more information than you have ever had about your business, your industry and the economy.  Markets are easier to enter.  If you think about it, you could add another half dozen items to this list.  The point is that there will be winners and losers.  The key question is:

What will help insure that you are a winner?

Here is my top ten list for how to make sure you are winning.  This is not in any particular order except for number 1.  That is critical for all the other items.

  1. Make sure that the leader’s attitude is a winning attitude.
  2. Proactively manage the situation versus reacting to external events.
  3. Get close to your customers.
  4. Get close to your team.
  5. Provide tremendous value to your customers
  6. Know the critical success factors for your operations and how to measure them
  7. Clarify your marketing message and plan.
  8. Be innovative and creative.
  9. Know your purpose.
  10. Know what you won’t do.

The above list is not all inclusive. However, if you are doing these things, you will be on the right path.  We will discuss these in detail over the next few weeks.  Right now, I would encourage you to think about each of these and pick one that resonates.  If the sales tax issue scares you give us a call or send us an email to discuss it.  If you are concerned that you aren’t innovative or creative, discuss it with your team.  The point is to pick something and start working on it.  Now is a great time to build a business.

June 15, 2018 – Are You Focused On the Long-Term?

Posted on | June 15, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

How do you evaluate the health of your business?  Is it determined by your cash flow or profitability?  Is it growing or declining?  How do you measure your investments in your business, including new people, services and divisions?

Expansion of the Idea:

I recently finished reading a book called “Go Long, Why Long-Term Thinking is Your Best Short-Term Strategy”.  It is a pretty good read and discusses several large companies’ decisions to jettison parts of their business to remake their future.  One example is CVS deciding to get rid of selling tobacco products in order to focus on being a more dedicated health services company.  They felt that selling tobacco was holding back their main business and they needed to do something about it.  I can’t determine if it was a core value decision or just a strategic decision.  No matter what your perspective, they were giving up $2 billion of revenue.  Yet, one year after they announced that they were getting rid of tobacco, their stock price went to $100 from $73 a year earlier.  Their business model changed and was stronger as a result of their decision.

Most people would look at this and say that is fine for large companies.  It doesn’t apply to small businesses.  Small business owners can’t afford to give up revenue.  They are fighting for their lives and need all of the business that they can get.  The irony is that most small business owners started their business with a long-term view.  They would never have started or acquired a new business if they were thinking short-term.  As they have achieved some level of success they tend to get comfortable and they don’t want to risk money on a long-term prospect.  As a result, they end up with good businesses not great businesses.

Short-term versus long-term thinking shows up in a lot of areas.  Some to be considered are:

  • New product development
  • Training of employees
  • Delegation of duties
  • Development of systems
  • Customer service policies
  • Intentionally cannibalizing your own sales with new developments at a lower price point
  • Taking time for planning or vacations
  • Saying no to the wrong types of customers and businesses
  • Succession planning
  • Physical plant or offices

The above list doesn’t scratch the surface of areas where small business owners can intentionally focus on the long term.  Changes in any of these areas when implemented might have a small short-term cost.  However, making investments in any of these areas has significant short and medium-term benefits when implemented properly.  When we do think about the long term and act on those thoughts, we end up running better businesses now.  Frequently, this turns into more cash flow currently and in the future.

Questions to consider:

  1. Are there areas of your business that need an investment of time or money?
  2. What are your metrics to evaluate your business?
  3. Are they short-term or long-term metrics?
  4. Review the list above.  Pick one item that you think you need to focus on.
  5. Discuss this with your team.

June 8, 2018 – What is the Cost of Your Core Values?

Posted on | June 8, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Does your company have core values?  Are the real core values the same as the stated core values?  Does your team know the company core values?  Do you know what the real core values are?  What happens when they are tested?  Which core values win?

Expansion of the Idea:

In the Tuesday morning Wall Street Journal, there was an interesting article on the departure of the founders of WhatsApp from Facebook.  WhatsApp is a simple, secure messaging system that Facebook bought for $22 billion dollars in 2014.  I have never used WhatsApp, but from what I read, one of the founders’ core values was privacy and security.  They had accumulated 450 million users but weren’t making a ton of money.  When Facebook bought them that was their opportunity to cash out.  However, Facebook’s core values don’t include privacy and security.  A clash was coming.  It took about 4 years but Facebook’s advertising model was introduced to WhatsApp’s business.  The founders could not handle it and finally left.

As I was reading the article, it was apparent that the founders’ core values were such that they could not handle the intrusion of Facebook type ads in their software and they finally left, leaving $1.3 billion on the table.  (It is a lot easier leaving that much money on the table when you have already collected over $20 billion.)  I had three observations on this:

  1. They had built a huge business with core values.
  2. They then sold out the business and their core values for a lot of money.
  3. They rediscovered their core values and left money on the table.

The main takeaway is that core values have a cost.  If they don’t have a cost then they are probably not a core value.  The cost may be money, time, lost opportunities or inconvenience.  But there is a cost.  The reason is that they are a boundary.  Your core values help control your decisions.  The irony is that only by sacrificing short term cost will you gain long term benefits.

If your core values include customer service, then you need to have systems to provide that service, even if it costs you money.  If one of your core values is teamwork, then you need to be prepared to get rid of a high performer who is not a good team player.

Core values are really beneficial for companies that are focused on long term results.  Companies that are strictly focused on short term frequently end up with a core value of making the most money that they can.  I am all for making the most money that you can.  However, when you focus on the short term, you risk losing long term customers or employees.  That is the cost of that core value.

Core values have a lot of power.  They can help build great businesses by inspiring employees and customers.  They can also shatter relationships when they are violated.  They are like a lot of other pieces of running a small business, they need attention.  However, when they are clear and visible in a business, the results can be extraordinary.

Questions to consider:

  1. Do you have stated core values?
  2. Are there unstated core values?
  3. Are there conflicts between numbers 1 and 2?
  4. Have you discussed core values with your team?

A very interesting book to read about implementing service standards (core values) is Be Our Guest, written by the Disney Institute.

June 1, 2018 – Do You Want to Be Great or Good?

Posted on | June 1, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Are you putting off selling your house because you dread the to-do list?  Would a real estate professional tell you that you had to replace the carpet, update the kitchen or redo the master bath?  Would you spend 2 weeks fixing the garage door, replacing the toilet that doesn’t flush, repainting the upstairs bedrooms and a whole host of things that you have just lived with?

Expansion of the Idea:

Most of us tend to put off things until we have to do them.  And sometimes as in the case of selling a home, we may not know what we need to fix until a professional tells us that something needs to be done before we put it on the market.  The problem with waiting until we sell is that we don’t get to enjoy the benefits of the repair or replacement.  We just live with the old.

The same is true of our businesses.  Most businesses are not organized and run with an exit plan.  This exit or succession plan could include being prepared to sell to an outsider or given to a family member.  It really doesn’t matter what your plans are.  It is important to have a plan and to organize the management of the business towards that plan.  It doesn’t matter if you are 60 or 30 years old.  You may have just started the business.   It is critical to think about where you want to go.

In his book, “The E-Myth Revisited”, Michael Gerber talks about creating businesses that really work.  In “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, one of the key concepts is to begin with the end in mind.  Both of these authors are really talking about the same problem that exists in small businesses.  We need to create businesses that have systems and processes that lead to the results we want.  But first we have to define what we want and where we want to go.

Just as we enlist a real estate professional to help with the sale of our houses, small business owners need outside input on getting their businesses working the way that they need them to work.  This could include systems, goal setting, strategic planning or reporting.  Every business has different needs.  The problem that small business owners have is that they don’t always know what they need.  Outside perspective really helps.

I have seen a number of situations where a small business owner says that they want to sell their business and the business is not ready for sale.  They can try to clean up some systems to provide a quick fix.  This will help but normally they will end up selling for significantly less than what the business is worth.  However, if they had begun the process 2 years ago or longer, they will end up realizing a lot more on the sale of the business.  The bonus is that normally when you improve how you manage your business, you will end up making a lot more money and have significantly fewer headaches before you sell.

As Jim Collins says, “Good is the enemy of Great.”  Because we have good companies, we don’t have great ones.  The question for you is:

Do you want to be great or good?

Questions to consider:

  1. Is my business good or great?
  2. Are there areas that need improvement?
  3. Do I have a robust reporting mechanism and management system?
  4. Who am I getting input from?
  5. Who should I involve in running the business?

May 11, 2018 – Are You Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Clouseau?

Posted on | May 11, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Are you a curious person?  Do you get answers to things and then move on?  What do you do when you lose a customer or a key employee?  Is your first instinct to figure out how to replace them?  Do you pay careful attention to details?

Expansion of the Idea:

I lost a client this week.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t a client since they never paid me.  And no, we had not done a significant amount of work.  However, I still feel I lost something valuable.  This client had hired us in December to convert his accounting record into a more streamlined system and then to provide accounting and tax services.  The problem with the client started when they deferred the start date.  Then they did it again. Subconsciously, I think they knew a month ago that they weren’t going to have us do the conversion.  They didn’t want to face the time commitment that they knew was needed during the conversion.  They didn’t see the long-term benefits.

When these situations occur, I try to digest the event, and then evaluate our systems and performance.  The goal is to figure out if we could have done something better.  On the front end, I probably could have spent more time understanding the client to get a better feel for his concerns and, most importantly, his commitment.  In this particular situation, I think that there was only one way I could have achieved a successful situation.  I could have asked the client for money in advance to make sure that he was committed to the process.  That might not have guaranteed success, but it would have improved the odds.

All of us have these types of situations in our businesses.  We have situations that look normal on the surface.  An employee leaves and gives a reasonable explanation of why they are leaving.  Two years later you find out that there was more to the story.  (And you are stuck with the wrong employee that stayed.)  Sometimes this can be figured out by asking more questions and being more observant.  We have to look for clues that tell us whether we have the whole story.

Digging into the story behind the story is critical in all aspects of our businesses.  To get started, here are some questions to consider:

  • Why do customers really buy from us?
  • Why do customers quit buying from us?
  • Will our products or services continue to attract customers in the future?
  • Why do employees work here?
  • What can I do to ensure that good employees stay?
  •  How do I know if an employee is doing their job well?
  • Are my systems working properly?
  • Can my systems be improved?
  • Is my business as profitable as it should be?
  • What are the key levers to improve the profitability of the business?
  • Is my business prepared for an emergency?

Curiosity may have killed the cat.  But, for small businesses, curiosity and observation will help you thrive.

April 27, 2018 – What Do You Need to Own?

Posted on | April 27, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Are you still having problems even when you are being proactive?  Are there some issues in your business that can completely derail your day, week, or year?  Is having a plan enough?

Expansion of the Idea:

On December 22, 2017, tax reform hit the United States.  As I started to learn what was included, I realized very quickly that this was potentially a game changer as far as my business was concerned.  Provisions in the bill changed advice I would give clients.  Clients were going to have a lot of questions.  More time would be spent explaining things to clients.  The tax simplification included in the bill possibly would significantly change my client base in the future.  (And not in a good way.)  It became very obvious to me that this was going to disrupt tax season.

Last week I wrote about being proactive, which is a critical quality for a small business owner or manager to have.  Being proactive solves so many issues for small businesses.  However, as I started thinking about the tax reform, proactivity wasn’t enough.  This situation required something beyond being proactive.  I needed to own it.  I needed to know what was in the tax reform.  I needed to be able to consult with clients in connection with their type of entity.  I needed to communicate with clients on the impact of the tax bill.  I needed to know what the impact of the tax reform will do to my client’s 2018 tax bills.  And I needed to do all of this before I got real busy with tax season.

This was a very large project because of the various moving parts of the tax law.  I did four main things to deal with the problem.

  1. I created my own template for analyzing the choice of entity.
  2. I created a template for explaining the tax changes at the personal level.
  3. I offered four workshops to explain the tax changes to business owners
  4. My team prepared tax projections for all individual clients in connection with preparing the 2017 tax returns, which we gave to the clients.

My point here is not to say I did a good job.  I messed up parts of this process.  The real point is that there are some things that we positively, absolutely have to own.  All of our businesses have some of these things. These are the areas of our business that are so critical that we need to be in control of them.  We cannot allow problems in these areas. They might include:

  • Our marketing plans
  • Product quality
  • Supply chain
  • Employee training
  • Customer service
  • Finances and financial decisions
  • Succession and retirement

At any time, you probably should not have more than one thing that you must own.  If everything is important then nothing is important.  I think most of us know in our gut that we need to focus on a particular area right now.  This area can make or break us in the short term or long term.  As a result of my firm owning the tax reform, we had significant interest in the workshops.  Clients appreciated the information and didn’t stress about it. And most importantly, most of our business clients took the time to do some planning.  That will help them and me as we go through this year.

Here are some possible next steps:

  1. What is one area that you need to own?
  2. Carefully define it.
  3. Brainstorm with your team ways to get ownership of the area.
  4. Go do it.
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  • About

    These weekly ideas are brought to you by FitzGerald & FitzGerald P.C. For more information about how to use these ideas with your small business contact Tim FitzGerald at trfitz@fitz-net.com.