“Why did we sell to that customer who is already past due?’
“Why didn’t I know that last year’s best customer stopped buying 4 months ago?”
“Why didn’t somebody tell me that we were nearly out of our best seller?
Any small business manager asks questions like these way too often. So do the employees who try so hard each day to get the customers what they want and make them happy.
“If only we’d known that <insert latest surprise here> then we could have done <insert obvious response action here> and made everybody’s day better. We’d have made more money, too ….”
Small businesses often miss more newsworthy operational events than large businesses. Kinda surprising, no? Yep, managers of a multi-store, $12 million retail operation often get less advance warning about problems than the COO of a $100 Million chain.
Why this counterintuitive Fact of Life?
The answer is that It is related to the changes that must happen as a small firm grows beyond the size that can be simply run out of the owner’s “hip pocket.” When they can no longer personally “touch” most activities, then an appropriate reporting system must step in.
Managers of $100 million operations are experienced with reporting systems appropriate for them. An owner of a $5 million business that’s quickly on its way to $10 million often doesn’t know what to turn to.
Their first thought is always, “Get the warning I need from our accounting system.” This thought has two problems.
First, most of those systems focus on past financial data. What is needed is current operational data: inventory item counts, order status, customer status, etc.
Second, these systems’ reports are generally meant to be manually run periodically, and any dashboards they might have can neither be easily distributed to operations people nor customized with the data that each operations (as in “not financial”) member needs.
What’s a business owner to do?
First, sit down and think about what information you need. What are the top 3 items on your If-Only-We-Had-Known list for the past month? For each of the preceding 2 or 3 months?
Then meet with your direct reports and generate a group list of If-Only-We-Had-Known items.
Now that you know what you need, determine what that data is now. Most of it is probably in your accounting or ERP system, and some of it in your CRM or contact management system. (If they aren’t, you will want to eventually change that.)
Now you are ready to look for products to get this vital management intelligence to the right people at the right time.
If you have a Sage ERP system, Sage Intelligence reporting will readily create these reports, including non-financial such as stock status and customer shipping results. It can run and distribute on a schedule. It can present the data in dashboards customized for each person and frequently update them.
Or, if you have another ERP systems, BizNet’s BizInsight will produce similar reporting and dashboards. (It also works quite well with Sage, as an alternative.) Both BizInsight and Sage Intelligence deliver the data in Excel!
For amazing proactive alerts and reports triggered by the actual conditions you are trying to avoid, look into KnowledgeSync. (Known to Sage users as Sage Alerts and Workflow.) Now when customers don’t order, or when they order over the credit limit, or inventory items run low or out, or [insert If-Only-We-Had-Known condition here], then the right people will get a text, an email or other notification so they can act on it before it’s too late.
“Management by exception.” No more regrets about what you did not know. It is possible, and it’s affordable.