A lot has been and continues to be said about the radical changes in how small businesses in Canada (and throughout the world for that matter) must carry on business to continue or be successful. These changes have and are occuring as a result of the internet and everything digital.
Gone are the days when an accounting professional who offers any kind of CFO services to Canadian small businesses could focus on compliance, and be comfortable that their clients got around to finalizing their financial records in time for filing of taxes. Those clients will not be around much longer I'm afraid. Smart clients will look to accounting professionals that are savvy to the transformation that's ocurring.
We at InHouse CFO Inc. have set our client priorities for 2014. Here's the priority list as we see it:
Rest assured, the everyday priorities around compliance, stakeholder relationships, and keeping the business' numbers straight continue. These additional ones up the ante in a big way, keeping a small business competitive and alive.
Let's now address each one.
Upgrade Business Systems
Unless, in the past year, your Canadian small business has changed to or added the following types of business software to its systems:
- Online accounting;
- Online CRM; and
- Online Marketing
you need to in 2014, the sooner the better. I wrote a number of articles in 2013 about the competitive landscape and how smart small business owners will leapfrog over their competiition by having more comprehensive results data for all aspects of their business at their fingertips in real-time.
This is accomplished through the use of cloud-based software that covers the continuum of business from awareness generation to after sales service and relationship management.
Solutions have been developed, tested and proven to be effective, even for the cost conscious small business owner. Not only is the cost of entry affordable, the ROI is incredible. Those who do will start eating their competitors who don't for lunch in 2014.
If you'd like our thoughts on which softwares work the best for a Canadian small business, you can find it HERE.
Enhance and Formalize KPIs
To a small business owner, Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs sound an awful lot like big coprorate jargon, and not germain to smaller private operations.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
All businesses have KPI's. Knowing them, setting realistic targets and expectations for them, measuring and reporting them in an accurate and timely fashion is extremely important for a small business owner. Those who do will be the leaders in their market at the end of 2014.
Upgrade Reporting to Real-Time
I don't think that I would be able to find a small business owner who doesn't want to know their business results real-time.
Online cloud-based software only provides the ability to collect and report business results on a real-time basis. A commitment to do so, and an amendment to daily practices and processes will need to be made to actually achieve it. No excuses. The new software enables it and does so with less time and energy than maintaining older legacy after-the-fact systems.
Get Your Business Online - Seriously
Now that you've attended to getting the business' systems online, work with your owner manager client to make sure they get their business online, in a serious, profit centre way. Gone are the "brochure-level" websites, here to stay are sites which create awareness, draw in prospective customers, hook them with tasty tid-bits about your business, and close them as customers.
We think every small business in Canada should look to their online presence (website plus social media) as an added salesman, measured in a very similar fashion to human sales personnel.
The infrastructure and budgeted costs to create awareness, generate interest, create enthusiasm and ultimately close a sale are very different from a traditional marketing/sales model, however, it has been our experience that the costs in the aggregate are less, with sales that are usually significantly higher. Anyone can then do the ROI math on this project.
Review Your Banking
2014 is a great year to review your current banking arrangements. The way banking is done, who's doing it well, and the services they provide have changed. Your relationship is no longer with an individual account manager, but with their online systems, and unfortunately faceless folks who work in "Risk Management".
Be prepared to look at alternative means to obtain financing, including crowdfunding, there are some very interesting case studies on how this has worked excellently for small businesses looking to grow. One such Company that did this in a very unique way is Greatsbrand.
Click HERE to download our current rankings of banks for Canadian small business.
Connect With My Peers
I think we have strayed a bit in hanging out with members of our profession over the last number of years. At least I have. Nothing is better for getting a sense of what needs to be done than drinking beer with professional colleagues and getting the real story of what is and isn't working out there in small business land.
I fully intend on connecting, and doing so a lot this year.
So there you have it, we want to have our clients out there in front of the pack in 2014, and crossing these things off all of our clients' lists will get us there. Love to see you up there as well.