• The Business Owner

Making your data sing

Data, numbers, KPI’s, scores, financials – get your data to show you exactly where you are and where you’re going.

The analogy I enjoyed the most, when researching this article, was from Gino Wickman, author of Traction;

‘Picture a small plane flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Halfway across, the captain announces, “I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news. The bad news is that the gauges aren’t working. We are hopelessly lost, I have no idea how fast we’re flying or in what direction, and I don’t know how much fuel we have left. The good news is that we’re making great time!”

How many of us, as business owners, have felt that feeling – I have no idea what our sales are, how much money are we owed or owe, can we cover the bills, what do we have to pay the government and are we even making a profit. It’s scary, unnerving and stressful, but how do you get out of the malaise and start to get the information you need in a reliable and useful format.

The best place to start is with your accounts. Who does them, what service level agreements do you have, are your books particularly complicated, are they accurate and are they up to date? Another important question is what system you are using to complete the accounts ranging from spreadsheets to cloud based systems such as Xero. In an ideal world the accounts should be up to date and balanced daily. There should be an accurate cash-flow forecast, aged debtor/receivable list and aged creditor/payable list. You should be able to see clearly how much money you have, what is coming in and going out over the next 4 weeks and what margins or requirements you and your company need to meet.

If you use a bookkeeper or an accountant you need to make sure that they are on top of your accounts and not leaving everything until it fits into their workload or schedule. You need this information to be able to run your business.

Do you have a customer relationship management software system or similar? This keeps a track on your customers, your sales pipeline and your interaction with your customers. Is it up to date? This database, when used properly, will give you an overview of your sales, predicted sales and who your hot prospects are. You can build this information into your ‘small plane dashboard of information’.

How often do you look in your bank account?

A great habit is to go and have a look as one of the first things you do in your working day. See what transactions have occurred, learn what should be going in and out and get a good feel for it. This way you will very quickly see who has paid, if a payment has gone out and in conjunction with your cash flow forecast predict when you may runout.

If you have a business that sells goods or products having your daily, weekly, monthly, annual and seasonal sales figures are really great tools for setting your budget, stock levels, ordering and pricing. Knowing when sales historically have been strongest puts you in a great position to make sure you have enough in stock, have set the price for maximising profit, ordered at the most opportune moment to minimise your spend and getting your marketing ramped up.

How do you pull this data together?

This will vary on your business type but we use a product called Microsoft Power BI which has a free to use version as part of Office 365. This takes data from lots of different software systems and spreadsheets and presents them in a ‘dashboard’ so it is easy to review the data visually and make the decisions necessary.

Alternatively, we have previously used Xero and Hubspot reporting with corresponding spreadsheets – delivered daily to the senior management team. Easier, cheaper but more time consuming than Power BI.

So, in conclusion, there is no need to fly blind if you make sure your accounts team are up to date, your sales information is accurate, your stock planning is on point and you are able to pull the relevant KPI’s together for your business in a format that means something to you and your team.

If you need any further advice, please feel free to contact hello@iplusgroup.co.uk