Do you stay abreast of everything that’s happening in your company?
Many entrepreneurs run daily, weekly or monthly reports so they can stay on top of both the good and the not-so-good. Reports are important to review on an ongoing basis because they provide you with a concise overview of how your business is running, profits and losses, what’s selling and what’s not, customer opinions, and other data that you can use to make important administrative, operational and marketing decisions and adjustments. In my opinion, every entrepreneur should be doing this regularly so you can evaluate your future plans and decisions.
Along with the information and insights they provide, reports can help you gain an edge on your competitors while also ensuring that you meet and even exceed your sales targets. As a result, they can improve your business efficiency and enable your company to enjoy healthy growth and profitability.
But what happens when a red flag appears — some bit of information that tells you things aren’t going as well as you’d hoped or anticipated?
These reality checks can often be very helpful to warn you that one or more adjustments are needed in some areas. When you see them, the most optimal response is to immediately evaluate and correct the problems that exist.
Below are four red flags that you might encounter and need to address:
Revenue projections aren’t being met.
Needless to say, this red flag can be alarming. The money that’s coming in isn’t what you expected, and now it’s time to determine why. There could be a number of reasons for this. Maybe your initial projections weren’t realistic and your goals were too ambitious. Maybe it’s due to a shifting economy. Maybe it’s bigger than that. Many companies realized over the past several months that they wouldn’t even get close to the revenue they had projected once the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to scale back operations. When revenue projections aren’t being met, it’s advisable to look at every possible factor that can impact them, try to understand where problems exist and correct them as quickly as possible.
Your great idea is getting lukewarm customer interest.
This can happen to new entrepreneurs who don’t thoroughly research the marketplace before launching. When this happens it’s time to step back and re-evaluate what you’re selling and what they’re not buying. Maybe your product is lacking in features, or perhaps you didn’t position it as well as you thought you had. Maybe your marketing and communications messaging doesn’t spell out the customer benefits clearly and powerfully.
Don’t fret if this occurs, but instead determine where any weaknesses exist. In the corporate world, surveys, focus groups and other methods of gauging customer interest and any potential liabilities serve the purpose of answering these questions. Often, it only takes a minor modification or two to correct what wasn’t working before.
Customers aren’t paying on time.
Two words: accounts receivable. This can be a significant problem in businesses of all sizes, but it’s one that you need to find ways to address. Although many — and, likely, most — customers pay their bills on time, you’re bound to experience your share of procrastinators and even scofflaws.
Some companies will offer early payment discounts or incentives, and others will develop and implement payment plans that make it convenient for customers to pay in installments. Others will include a statement in their contracts saying the payment is expected at time of service. There are numerous ways to get customers to pay promptly, so consider which one might be right for you.
Too many customer complaints.
Are you getting a few — or more than a few — complaints a month? If so, find where problems exist and solve them now. Customers are the lifeblood of every organization. In a very real way, they’re paying your bills. As a business or company owner, it’s incumbent upon you to be aware of any issues that exist. In some cases, you might not even be aware of problems until a customer calls them to your attention. Some problems might be real, and need to be dealt with. Others might be perceived, but are still important to know about since to many people perception is reality.
So when anyone registers a complaint, address it immediately. The last thing you need, especially as a new entrepreneur, is for someone to be disappointed in your product or service. It’s very easy for bad buzz to start making the rounds when just one customer is disenchanted. The successful entrepreneur will go over and above to win back that customer and make him or her feel like the most important person in the world. Always take the time to correct things that are perceived as problematic, too.