Running your own business might be a dream come true for you. Being your own boss takes a lot of the stresses off – you’re probably more satisfied with your work than an employee struggling in a corporate environment.
But small business owners know it’s not as easy as it sounds. Although you don’t have to worry about being fired, the company’s finances are your finances, and vice-versa. Your number one priority now is making sure your business has enough in the bank to pay you, your employees, utilities, and vendors. You’re also responsible for getting the products on the shelves and getting them out the door, just so you can begin the whole cycle all over again.
A recent Canadian poll showed that finances was the second biggest cause of stress for small business owners, after hiring – and retaining – reliable employees. It’s not always easy to balance the books, especially if your business is new or seasonal. It takes time to get used to the process of invoicing and paying everyone. And if there is a feast or famine cycle of work or customers, you’re probably looking for strategies protect your business during leaner times.
The good news is that it gets easier with time.
In an ideal world, you’ll make the desired profit from your entire inventory. In reality, this rarely happens for small business owners.
It takes time to learn when you should place orders and estimate how much stock you need, depending on demand. Remember that, for most businesses, you are buying wholesale to make a profit. If necessary, it is always better to sell goods that have been sitting around for a while at a discount – but still at a break-even price for you – rather than have it sit around collecting dust.
Goods will depreciate, and the longer you wait, the more money you will lose. Stagnation is nobody’s friend, especially if you’re dealing with perishables.
You need a solid invoicing and follow-up system, so you can bill your customers on time. At first blush, you may think that you’re doing them a favor by not billing them right away – more money in their coffers for longer, right? Wrong.
As much as you’re trying to balance your books, other businesses are trying to keep on top of their payables, too. Send invoices promptly, along with your sincere gratitude, of course. (Tweet this)
Don’t forget to set up a time frame for follow-ups. Three weeks (or 15 business days) is about right for sending a reminder.
To make it easier for everyone, consider setting up a credit card billing function, so that your regular clients can make auto payments, instead of issuing a check or going online to make an e-transfer.
Consider Running a Promotion
Businesses have predictable busy months and slow months every year. For instance, flower vendors are busiest during valentines, while turkey farms are busy the months leading to Thanksgiving.
Think about the lean months for your business, what causes it and is there a way to get more customers in? For instance, rainy days are considered ‘low season’ for resorts, so they’re more inclined to give discounted rates and promotions. Can you do something similar?
Creative small business owners reach out to a group coupon service to sell vouchers, offer discounted rates for new customers, or bundle up several services or products into one heavily discounted offer. They get creative to keep their business afloat.
Running a promotion is a great way to get rid of old inventory, and ensure you have incoming cash—and customers—during the dry months.
Improve Your Inventory
Take a long, hard look at your inventory or at the services you offer. What moves out the door quickly? You likely have a product that keeps getting sold-out, sometimes even before you can place another order. But you may also have a product that stagnates, constantly getting marked down to rock-bottom prices before anyone notices.
What kind of services do your customers often get? What do they ignore?
Check your sales records to look for these trends then make changes accordingly. Stock more of that product that frequently gets sold out. Stop carrying those items your customers don’t want. Examine the services your customers don’t often choose—is it outdated, terrible, or just not packaged well enough? Small business owners know that inventory matters, so they keep meticulous records in hopes of gleaning from that data later on and improving their inventory.
Despite your best efforts, you don’t have a crystal ball, so you may find yourself in a financial crunch at some point. The key is to relax and learn to roll with the punches.
Try the strategies here now—whether times are good, or you’re struggling to keep afloat—just think of it as your buffer for when the going gets tough.
Before Y2K, very few healthcare facilities had a desktop or laptop computer in the doctor’s clinic. Very few hospital lobbies had a digital signage screen to show the patient queue. Some clinics had a bulky desktop on their waiting room, but very few doctors enjoyed use of this technology.
Now, my dentist, physical therapist, general practitioner, and ENT all have at least one hi-tech gizmo in their office. That’s not even including their smart phone.
Gadgets and the advancement in technology are creating a revolution in the healthcare industry. It’s affecting how healthcare professionals and patients go about their treatments and other health concerns.
Tablets, smart phones, apps, cloud-based services, and remote monitoring apps are changing the healthcare landscape.
If you’re adaptable to changes, these technological advancements will make your life – as a patient or medical professional – easier.
Years ago, when you wanted to show your patient a picture to explain their health problems, you’d point to a poster in your clinic. Sometimes, you’d use a desktop to read their patient information or play educational videos.
As of 2012, about 62% of more than 3000 physicians surveyed owned a tablet and about half of them use it in their daily practice. Now, there’s a high probability even more doctors use their personal gadgets at work.
As for patients, they don’t mind that their physicians use a tablet at all. In fact, whereas a desktop makes them feel that it diminishes the doctor-patient interaction, they don’t feel the same way about tablets.
Dentists, for example, who use saved videos or images on their phone, to explain how a patient’s teeth moves when they have dental braces, are seen as more effective by their patients. I guess it helps to know the pain they feel means their tooth alignment is getting better.
For some patients, going to the doctor or calling to set an appointment is a challenge in of itself. It’s a chore! People are busy. And let’s face it, who likes going to the doctor?
That’s why so many people set healthcare appointments, only to cancel—sometimes at the last minute.
Then there’s the I-need-a-doctor-NOW patient, who’s in an emergency and needs to be seen immediately. Teeth pain, allergic reactions, or a ruptured eardrum, which is exactly what happened to Cyrus Massoumi, when he was on the way home to New York in 2007.
How long did he have to wait to see an ENT? THREE DAYS.
Three days trying to cope with the excruciating pain in his ear. That’s when he had a light bulb moment.
He decided to start ZocDoc, an app and web service that lets users find a doctor and book appointments in real time. This is great for patients, right? But what’s in it for doctors?
Healthcare professionals can register their practice on Zocdoc’s database, so people can find them under their location and specialty. While some healthcare professionals were hesitant during Zocdoc’s initial years, they soon found out it’s a great way to fill last minute cancellations and find new clients.
Another tool you can check is Setmore, an online appointment and schedule managing application that allows patients to book consultations. It also sends them email or text notifications ahead of time, to minimize no-shows and prevent cancellations.
Did you know the average waiting time for a patient is about 24 minutes?
Use digital signage screens to shorten your patients’ waiting time by starting the consultation way before they step into the clinic or treatment room. For instance, the waiting hall outside an ultrasound room can have a digital signage screen showing a how-to video for certain X-ray and MRI procedures.
Another strategy is to record yourself answering common patient questions, and then load it onto the screen. Doing this can reduce a patient’s perceived wait time, because he’s learning something valuable and probably related to what he’s going to consult with you.
Digital signage networks can install a screen in your facility for free, as long as you agree to them playing relevant ads of local businesses in your area.
The more medicines a patient drinks, the harder it is to keep track of them. That’s why patients taking multiple medications at different doses or schedules often have a poor compliance rate. WHO’s data states only 50% of patients in developed countries stick to their prescribed medication.
That’s a low rate! And it’s a problem technology can easily solve. Patients can choose from a variety of apps to track their medicine intake. Below are some options:
Speaking of medicines… Several apps help users to refill their mail service prescription and over-the-counter medicine. Some apps just offer price comparison and coupons from nearby pharmacies. Whatever the case, you can suggest these apps to your patients, especially those who keep forgetting to buy their medicines.
Screens aren’t going anywhere. Their uses are multiplying at an exponential rate. Now we use them on watches, fitness trackers, digital signage, and almost everywhere we can convert into a ‘smart’ gadget.
It’s time for you to adapt, if you haven’t already. How you use technology in your practice can spell the difference between loyal patients and one-off consultations.