Business Best Practice and the Power of Business Information

Do nothing and you get to stay as you are.

Best practice is the goal of each individual business and will probably be described as looking after matters of ethics and integrity, good customer relations, supporting staff and maintaining good standards of service, accountability and fiscal compliance. Or the description might include positive management styles, high productivity and good economic strategies.

Most would agree that best practice is leadership, goal setting, teamwork, maintaining a culture of compliance, supervision, discipline, support, training, accountability and responsibility.

What if all of these were the focus of a new way of managing business information that provided everything that was needed to manage the business for success and peace of mind?

What if your most precious asset is your business information and what if the success of your business is affected by a lack of order and control over what happens on your business computer network? When you have no control over your business information you have no control over best practice and you might as well forget about it being in control of the business.

Best practice is available through an intelligent network that uses Business Information Organization (BIO) to create the kind of framework that allows for everyone in the business to have access to what they need to achieve the outcomes the business needs. You won’t have best outcomes unless you have best practice. You won’t have best practice if your business information is in a mess.

This is not about the way that your computers and peripherals communicate and it is not about any software. It is not about having the newest and the best equipment. It is not about hiring smart consultants and contractors to take over what should be the role of the business. It is about the power of content and the context of that content.

To explain this approach to best practice there is the example of a new office goods company. They had purchased a new warehouse and were planning to sell their goods online and in a large new showroom at the business end of town. They hired a new business management consultant with links to software companies who advised that they have two ways of managing their stock. Option 1 was to leave everything on pallets and use barcodes to locate the right pallet to get the stock to fill an order. Option 2 was to unload the pallets and store all of the same items together. Both options would be supported by software and equipment.

They chose Option 1 because they could unload the trucks faster and by having a pallet friendly storage system, get a more even distribution of bulk throughout the warehouse. It went well for a short while but they suddenly found that they had to hire more people to work in the warehouse running around to different stacks to fill a single order of multiple stock of the same item and when the computer that managed the warehouse was hit with a virus, everything stopped.

You would be highly unlikely to have chosen Option 1 but the point is that business information is like stock and you may be unwittingly using that scatter option for your business information. The more information is scattered and the more the content is hidden, the less it is available for the business. If that business information includes policy, training, resources and business knowledge the business can be in dire straits or just not doing what it should be doing.

So what if the most important stock of the business was its information content and what if it was no longer hidden and available to achieve the best practice you so desperately want to achieve? Look at your information now. How much do you know about the way it is managed? Where is your policy? How accessible is it and who created it? How often is it reviewed and updated and who does that review?

Look at your own information. Do you organize it at all or is everything bundled in my documents, my pictures, my albums? Is everything haphazard or loosely organized because you tell yourself you are the only person who needs to know what is there and where it is? If you create new folders do you think hard about how they are named and sited? Are there times when you can’t find anything? Is there time when you waste time and money looking for it?

The bad news is that the way that you don’t organize your information is exactly the same way that you everyone on your staff can’t and won’t organize the information they collect or create and store as they work. And the even worse news is that they are quite sure that they are the only ones who should know where it is and what it is. And even worse than that, they think it belongs to them and will delete it without asking anyone whether the business wants to keep it. So how does Option 2 which is about sorting and control sound when it comes to business information and protecting what belongs to the business in a place where it can be seen?

If you were able to make policy, training, resources and business knowledge (current and past) available where and when it is needed, you will have what you need for leadership, goal setting, teamwork, a culture of compliance, supervision, discipline, support, training, accountability and responsibility. You will have best practice leading to productivity and business success. Can you claim that this is available to you now?

Don’t let the IT industry keep dictating Option 1 for your business information content. They have a one-size-fits-all solution to your business information needs and they won’t be in your business to see how chaos slows it down and sometimes brings it to a grinding halt.

Option 2 is about the Intelligent Network and Business Information Organization (BIO) and it will cost you nothing to set it up. It is time to find out how it works and why it will work in your business. If you do nothing more than creating a network place for information based on what the business is and what it does you will be on a winner.

If, after reading this article you start asking questions about policy in your business you will start to move forward with velocity.

It is time to reject the ‘my documents’ solution and the promise of the virtual organizers in favor of ‘real’ order and control. It is time investigate the potential of the intelligent network and business information organization. It is time to explore best practice in information that got lost along the way and take back the control of your business.

How I Dealt With the Cashflow Rollercoaster As a Small Business Owner

If you are a small business owner, you will be well aware what I mean by the term “The Cashflow Rollercoaster”.

One month you’re on a high, business is good, the orders are flooding in and the money is great. But without warning, everything starts to slow down or even stop and you’re back to pinching the pennies.

Any small business can fall foul of the highs and lows of fluctuating cashflow, but it can come as a massive surprise.

I believe that I have found a way to tackle the dreaded cashflow issue.

I started my first business way back in 1995. I had just completed my training as a complementary therapist and decided that the best thing to do was to become self-employed, treating clients either at home or in a room I rented in a therapy centre.

I was so happy when my diary was full with clients, each paying on average £25 each. I was able to pay my bills on time while contributing to the family finances, and this was in the days before I had kids so my outgoings were pretty low.

What I was ill-prepared for was the weeks when clients cancelled, and they often seemed to cancel all in one go! I had to take a holiday occasionally but where was the money coming from when I was sitting on a beach or maybe even lying in bed sick?

In 1996 I became pregnant with my first child. In order to keep the money coming in, I worked almost to the point of giving birth and returned to work part time within two weeks after he arrived. It had been my dream to work for myself but now I found myself missing out on my son’s development and working myself into the ground in order to contribute to the bills.

When my son was around 6 months old, I was offered a very part time job. For one evening a week, I taught Aromatherapy to a group of mature students. My husband was able to look after our son while I went out every Thursday from 6pm-9pm and taught them very basic skills. Despite being nervous and not entirely sure what I was doing, I enjoyed it and was delighted with the regular money, no matter how small.

This got me thinking. I knew I wanted another child but couldn’t stand the thought of having to work so hard just before and after the birth, so I used the teaching skills I was developing and applied for a job as a lecturer at a local college. I got the job, and felt confident that I could work part time whilst continuing with my self-employed work.

After several months, my self-employed work took a backseat and I eventually gave that up, focusing instead on earning a reasonable, regular wage at the college.

Five years after the birth of my first son, I had my second child. This time it was totally different. I gave up work 8 weeks before the birth and took almost a year off with pay!
There was also a nursery at the college, so once I went back to work, I could drop him off at the nursery knowing that I was just a short walk away if I was needed.

But it didn’t take long for thoughts to turn back to my old life as a self-employed person. My hours were no longer flexible, I couldn’t work on my terms or take holidays when I wanted. I hated having to ask permission and explain myself to take time off, even for hospital appointments.

I could hear my old self-employed life beckoning me, and it was after my third son was born I decided to take the plunge and go back to being my own boss.

This time I went into business with my cousin, and we launched a small home bakery. But very soon I found I was at the mercy of the cashflow rollercoaster. Determined not to be outdone, I began to look at different ways to bring in a variety of income streams, with the idea that if we weren’t baking cakes we could still be earning money.

I set the ball rolling by joining a national networking site. We bought a license and launched our own local group. This helped to promote our business plus we receive a revenue from the monthly meetings.

We’re currently working with a business owner magazine who approached as they were looking for a small, home based bakery to create a resource that other budding bakers could tap into.

Speaking with the members of our networking group, I realised that many, if not all of them, were struggling with online marketing. I then had the idea to launch my own online marketing support page on Facebook. I also support this with an Earn and Learn Marketing programme of which I am an affiliate.

Since launching my first business almost 20 years ago, I have learnt that it is a variety of residual income streams that can provide the income needed to keep your original business ticking over.

So many small business owners fail because they just cannot ride the Cashflow Rollercoaster, but there is a way around it. Yes, it requires some work up front, but after that you can sit back to a certain extent and watch the money flow towards you!

With all this knowledge behind me, I feel more equipped to deal with any financial shortfalls faced by my business, and that lack of income shouldn’t stop me from doing what I love.