I learned one of the best pieces of advice from the CFO of a publicly-traded company a number of years as we headed back into our conference room. He said "Mike, no matter what, make sure there are no surprises when it comes to business and you will always be successful!".
Here is how I translate those words of wisdom when working with clients at it relates to 3 areas that are the lifeblood of small--medium sized businesses:
1. CASHFLOW: Let there be no surprises when it comes to cash! Don't be surprised if a customer doesn't pay when they said they would. Don't be surprised if the credit card company that you leverage for in-field operations reduces your credit facility and don't be surprised when your bank is looking for you to pay down that line of credit to a certain balance. Do you have your cash-flow planned for 30 days or more or are you flying by the seat of your bank balance? A good measure of the health of any business is to see how far out into the future cash can be planned.
2. EMPLOYEES: Have you ever been surprised by the news that one of your key employees is considering leaving your company? Think about how surprised you were! Have you ever counted on hiring that person you think is a rockstar only to lose them to your competitor? People are the lifeblood of your organization and you can't afford to be surprised by People. What are you doing to stay engaged with your key employees?
3. CUSTOMERS: How many times did you count on the deal or project closing at particular time period only to find that your competition won the project or that the project award has been delayed? Have you ever been surprised by customer expectations (out of scope requests) on a project after a project has been awarded? What can you do to prevent scope creep?
Consider how often you are being SURPRISED by one of these three aspects of your business. Reducing your surprise factor in these areas will help dramatically improve the financial health of your organization. Drop me a note for ways to reduce your surprise factor in your business.