Protecting Yourself from Supply Chain Shortages

The past few years have seen major kinks in the supply chain due to a number of reasons: aberrant buyer behavior, source material scarcity, government shutdowns, and worker shortages, to name a few. What can a business owner do to protect their businesses from shortages and therefore, revenue loss? Let’s take a look at a few ideas.

Source New Suppliers

Being dependent on only one supplier for a key item is risky. Increase your options by finding new suppliers to use as backups or alternates whenever you can. While it’s admirable to buy local, it’s not always possible. Expanding your network will provide you with a lot more flexibility, even if you have to pay a bit extra at times.

Understand Your Timeline

How accurate is your prediction of lead time? Are you providing enough time from ordering and delivery before you need the part in house? Timelines have changed a lot in the last year. Spend some time reviewing and recalculating lead time if you need to.

Fine-Tune Forecasting

Get good at forecasting so that you can anticipate and prevent inventory shortages before they occur. We can help you set up the correct spreadsheets and generate the right reports so you’ll have better information for decision-making in this area of your business.

Develop Relationships

The more dependent your business is on a particular supplier, the more you want to develop that relationship. Adding that personal touch might not help you get your orders faster, but when troubleshooting is needed, you’ll want the extra help a personal relationship can provide.

Increase Communication and Collaboration

Increase communication with your suppliers so they can manage their own timelines and supply chains better. Provide them with accurate forecasts and let them know how they can better meet your needs in the present and in the future.

Audit Inventory Records Frequently

If your inventory balances are only adjusted once a year, inaccurate inventory numbers are likely to cause problems. Find ways to take inventory more often, or at least increase the accuracy of inventory balances. The savings will be worth it; you’ll have fewer surprise out-of-stock or back-order situations that can cost not only sales but also customer loyalty.

Proactively Manage Shipping 

There may be times when paying rush charges on shipping is justified simply to get the parts in house. Actively managing shipping and in-transit items will help you keep a handle on this. When possible, line up alternate shipping methods in case one method becomes unreliable. This is especially advised with overseas shipments where more can go wrong.

Create a Supply Chain Task Force

If supply chain issues are critical in your business and have been costing you profits, it might be time to create a dedicated team to manage and prevent crises. Consider putting together a group of employees that can be responsible for strengthening your supply chain.

Try these ideas to smooth out supply chain woes in your business.

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How Variance Reporting Can Keep Your Profits on Track

While there are literally hundreds of accounting reports that can help you run your business better, one of the most popular – and greatly underutilized – reports is the variance report. A variance report helps you compare how you are actually doing with either a past or expected performance. It makes it crystal clear how far you’re straying from where you want to be so that you can make course corrections earlier rather than later.

Variance to Prior Periods

A common variance report that almost anyone can generate is one that compares current period results to prior period results. For example, you can generate an income statement with six columns:

  1. Current month activity, such as March 1 to March 31, 2022
  2. Prior year month activity, such as March 1 to March 31, 2021
  3. Month difference or variance (A – B)
  4. Year-to-date activity, such as January 1 to March 31, 2022
  5. Prior-year-to-date activity, such as January 1 to March 31, 2021
  6. Year-to-date difference or variance (D – E)

The variance allows you to see, at a glance, whether your sales or expenses have increased compared to last year. Seeing monthly variances is especially important if the business experiences seasonal fluctuations.

You can go one step further to explain the variances in an accounting process called account analysis. Take a look at the components of each number to see what caused the variance. Write your explanation in a notes section of your variance report.

You may not want to spend management time on the small variances. A good financial dashboard, or simply an Excel spreadsheet, can help you color-code the balances that are more than 10 percent (or any percent you feel is material) off track.

Variance to Plan or Budget

You can also develop a variance report that compares current period results to budget. Here, you would generate an income statement with these six columns:

  1. Current month actual activity, such as March 1 to March 31, 2022
  2. Budget for the same period above
  3. Month difference or variance or (over)/under (B – A)
  4. Year-to-date actual activity, such as January 1 to March 31, 2022
  5. Year-to-date budget, such as January 1 to March 31, 2021
  6. Year-to-date difference or variance or (over)/under (E – D)

Do the same thing above, color-coding and explaining the variances using account analysis. How did your budget details differ from what actually happened?  If it’s better, can you do more?  If it’s worse, how can you get back on track? Performing a timely variance analysis helps you find opportunities to exploit so you can make more money or investigate ways to get back on track faster so you don’t lose as much.

Of course, with budget versus actual variance reports, you do have to create the budget first!

If you’re not already receiving variance reports, would like help creating a budget, or would simply like to set up a session to better understand variances, please feel free to reach out any time.

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Five Ideas to Attract Staff During the Great Resignation

You’re not alone if you’re having trouble attracting and keeping staff. A convergence of issues has created one of the greatest talent shortages in our lifetimes. With boomers retiring in large numbers, pandemic and opioid deaths, people not wanting to work for low wages, child care availability disappearing, tighter immigration policies, people rethinking their life choices, and so many other factors, it’s no wonder small businesses are having trouble finding workers.

The good news is small business owners still have a lot in their control to be able to attract the perfect candidate to our workplaces. Here are some ideas to help you do just that.

  1. Be open to multiple options when it comes to what an employee looks like

If you require a 40-hours-a-week, onsite worker who has to dress in formal clothes to come to work, you need to rethink everything. Many talented people are choosing to work part time, and it might just be easier to find two part-time workers instead of one full-time employee.

How much of the job can they do virtually?  This opens up your hiring pool nationally and perhaps even internationally. Consider also temporary versus permanent. And consider outsourcing certain functions as well.

The key is to be open to creative ways to get the job done.

  1. Make fun a vital part of your workplace

Even if there are numerous deadlines and serious work to be done, your workplace can still be fun. A good start is bringing food to work; camaraderie always blossoms around food.

Add in extra activities like movie or games night, take weekly team lunches, start an amateur sports team, or encourage co-worker get-togethers after work. Decorate the office for each holiday, and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and employee successes. Create fun projects such as a volunteer day for a local charity, or support a team entry at a local fun run.

In short, create a culture where employees can not only have fun, but be themselves.

  1. Add perks, and not just the usual suspects

Employees are demanding more of their employers, and the best businesses are listening and delivering. Beyond increased pay and the usual benefits – 401K, health insurance, vacation, and PTO – here are some new additions:

  • Flex hours – more say in when they work
  • Work-at-home days – more people are working at home at least part of the time
  • Pet insurance – a New England CPA firm offers this to workers now
  • Extra PTO – one marketing agency in Texas provides unlimited PTO, no questions asked
  • Child care – any way to make this easy on parents is a plus

 

Other perks to think about are holiday gifts, bonuses, free dry cleaning, free car washes, and employee discounts.

  1. Embrace technology

Employees want the best tools you can give them so they can do a good job.  Be sure your employees are fitted with the latest hardware and software so there is less stress around the inevitable tech glitches that occur. There’s nothing worse than having a deadline and coming across a software glitch that wastes precious time.

  1. Apply marketing techniques to hiring

Instead of posting the old boring job ad, create a campaign to find employees. Make sure your social media is up to date and mirrors the fun culture of your organization. Be sure to look in places you may not have traditionally looked for candidates. Create a job interview process that’s interesting and enthusiastic. You’re definitely competing for talent, so doing all of these things will help you win.

We may be in a period of staff shortages, but there are still millions of people who want to work. Do just a little more for your employees and candidates than the small business down the street, and they will want to keep working for you.

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What’s in Store for 2022?

The last few years have been unlike any other in our lifetimes. As we close out 2021 and enter 2022, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what we’ve learned, what’s happening now, and what we want to accomplish in the next 12 months. Here are some things to consider.

Celebrate Your Successes

Give yourself time and permission to review what you have completed in 2021. You’ve likely learned and accomplished more than you think. Compare your status on January 1, 2021 with today, and celebrate the changes you’ve made and projects you’ve finished.

Monetize These Trends

Several trends will continue from 2021 into 2022 and beyond. How can you monetize them in your business?

  • The move to remote work is likely to continue, especially in certain industries, such as financial services and technology, where the work is delivered digitally. Hiring virtual workers gives employers access to a larger talent pool as well.
  • Expanding your online presence, including ecommerce, is paramount. Most businesses spent more time improving the online interface between company and customers as more customers clamored for increased online purchasing, delivery, and curbside pickup. Some brick-and-mortar businesses adapted their business model to develop new digital services, enhancing their current product line.
  • Climate changes affected many businesses this year in at least two different ways. Some were victims of disasters via extreme weather. Others became more visibly supportive of climate initiatives, working these initiatives into their mission and offerings.
  • Accelerated automation using artificial intelligence is continuing to move through the technology adoption curve. Can your business benefit from AI-driven tech solutions?
  • Diversity initiatives will continue to be important in 2022 and beyond.
  • Workforce demographics are finally changing. More young people are working in 2021 compared to pre-pandemic numbers, while workers over 50 are retiring at a faster-than-normal rate. Millennials are starting businesses in large numbers, and one statistic shows that 80 percent of those businesses are profitable.
  • Staffing struggles are real in many industries. Many business owners who can no longer find employees have had to resort to outsourcing, contract, part-time, virtual, and many other capacity options to keep their businesses afloat.
  • Social responsibility has been prioritized by Millennials and members of Gen Z, making business owners ask how they can do their part in their businesses.
  • Life-goal realignment is something that has swept the world as people experience a wake-up call because of the pandemic. The search for purpose and meaning is one of many side effects of this trend. Ask yourself how this trend is affecting your customers and employees.

Set 2022 Goals

Let’s not call them New Year’s resolutions, shall we? Still, it’s the right time of year to decide how you can incorporate the trends above with the personal and business successes you’d like to complete by the end of 2022.

Make your list, then schedule milestones on your calendar so you can track your progress.

And above all, have a happy New Year in 2022.

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Understanding Sales Conversion Metrics

How effective is your sales function in your business? One way to answer that question at a deep level is to calculate conversion metrics for every step of your sales cycle. These numbers are not tied to any numbers on your balance sheet or income statement, but can help you realize a better return on your sales and marketing expenses.

Your Sales Cycle

The sales process is different for every business. If the dollar amount of the customer purchase is small, the sales cycle needs to be very short or it won’t be efficient. For larger purchases, the sales cycle might be longer.

The first step in determining conversion metrics is to outline the steps a typical prospect takes before they become a customer. Here are a few examples:

Retail example.

  1. Prospect walks into store.
  2. Sales clerk interacts.
  3. Prospect selects item(s).
  4. If clothing, they may visit a dressing room and try it on.
  5. Prospect stands in checkout line.
  6. Customer completes purchase.

Ecommerce example.

  1. Prospect visits website and uses search or navigation.
  2. Prospect views lists of products.
  3. Prospect views product page.
  4. Prospect places product in cart.
  5. Customer completes checkout.

Service example.

  1. Prospect sends email requesting more info or an appointment.
  2. Customer service/sales clerk responds to email.
  3. Prospect makes appointment.
  4. Salesperson and prospect meet.
  5. Sales person perform follow-up activities.
  6. Prospect agrees to price/purchase.
  7. Client signs contract and pays initial deposit.

For each step in the processes above, the prospect can fail to proceed to the next step. Conversion is measured at each step with the percentage of prospects that proceed to the next step.

Not all steps are worth measuring. Sales and marketing personnel must agree on when a prospect becomes a viable lead. Measurements should occur from lead to customer.

Let’s expand on the service example.

  1. Prospect sends email requesting more info or an appointment.
  2. Customer service/sales clerk responds to email.
  3. Prospect makes appointment.

The first meaningful conversion can be calculated between steps one and three. Let’s say in the month of November, the company received 100 emails from prospects requesting more info and 50 made appointments. The conversion rate is calculated as follows:

# Appointments made (step 3)  / # prospect emails received (step 1) = 50/100 = 50%

To improve the 50 percent conversion rate, ask yourself what can be done between steps one and three to improve the prospect-facing activities.

Here’s another example:

  1. Salesperson and prospect meet.
  2. Salesperson performs follow-up activities.
  3. Prospect agrees to price/purchase.
  4. Client signs contract and pays initial deposit.

The second meaningful conversion rate in the service sales process can be calculated between steps four and seven. (You could also measure 3-4, 4-6 and 6-7.) Let’s say 40 appointments were kept and 30 became clients.

# New clients signed (step 7) / # salesperson and prospect meet (step 4) = 30/40 = 75%

To improve the 75 percent, ask yourself what you can do in steps four through seven to improve the prospect’s experience.

Actionable Sales Intelligence

As you measure these results over time, are you improving or declining for each conversion? Is one salesperson closing more business than any of the others? How can you improve each step so that conversion is increased? You will have more questions than answers when you first start calculating these numbers. You will also likely have many “aha” moments of insight you can use to improve the prospect’s journey.

If conversion is extremely low in the first few steps, it could be that marketing is not sending you qualified leads. In that case, marketing needs to improve before conversion can improve. If conversion is low in the final few steps, follow-up activities may need to be strengthened.

In any case, measuring conversion throughout your sales cycle will pinpoint the weakest areas so you can improve. When you can increase your conversions, your marketing and sales costs will decrease, and you will become more effective.

And if we can help you with any of these measurements, please reach out any time.

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Time Tracking

Keeping track of how you and your workers spend time is one of the most important things you can do in your business. Labor costs can be a large portion of expenses, and understanding how time is spent can help you manage your business better in a multitude of ways.

Benefits of Time Tracking

There are many reasons and benefits to track time:

  • If you price by the hour, time tracking is mandatory, because without it, you won’t be able to invoice your clients accurately.
  • Tracking time helps managers understand how long a task should take, where employees may need training, and where processes and procedures may need improving.
  • Information on time reports can be fed into a project management system and reviewed to make better fixed fee pricing estimates on future jobs and customer proposals.
  • Time tracking feeds into job costing for construction companies.
  • For manufacturing businesses, time tracking feeds into labor reports.
  • Time tracking is used in payroll systems to pay hourly workers accurately.
  • Time tracking can increase accountability among workers as they become more aware of how they spend their working time.
  • When time is budgeted in advance, actual hours worked can be compared to see how the budget is used and whether it was too much or too little.
  • Time tracking allows managers and business owners to determine when they need to hire additional staff because the backlog has become too large.

What Is Time Tracking?

Time tracking is the recording of how you spend your time. You can use paper, a spreadsheet, or time tracking software to log the task you are working on and the length of time you worked on it. For example, here’s a simplistic example of a time log, or timesheet, for one day:

Employees may be required to complete timesheets on a daily or weekly basis, which are then turned into their managers and payroll administrators.

Managers can take time tracking to the next level by adding hourly payroll costs as well as the employee’s hourly billing rate to gain insight into further time-tracking financial metrics.

Time Tracking Software

There are many different types of time-tracking software:

  • A time clock allows employees to “punch in” when they arrive for work and “punch out” when they leave. This type of machine is mostly used for payroll in a manufacturing setting.
  • Time tracking applications allow workers with computers to enter their time via the application. In some cases, workers can enter their time via a mobile device.
  • Some companies will have their time tracking function embedded into their project management, job costing, or billing system. Employees would then enter their time via those applications.

Getting Employees on Board with Time Tracking

Reporting your hours in a time-tracking system is one of the least favorite tasks of employees and requires an education in mindset and attitude more than any software instructions. It’s important that your employees do not feel like you will be “Big Brother” when it comes to using their time data.

For best results, let employees know how the timesheet data will be used. Allay their fears that they will not get fired or in trouble if they feel something “took too long,” which can often translate into an employee “fudging” their hours on a task where they might have made a mistake. Make sure they know they won’t be penalized in any way for what they report.

Communication is key in getting employees to report their time accurately so that managers and owners can receive meaningful information. Have managers tie time tracking to an employee’s personal career goals to increase adoption and reduce resistance.

Personal Time Tracking

Time is our most precious commodity, and tracking your personal time can give you insights into how you are investing in yourself. Some really interesting questions can be considered when you have some time data for yourself.

  • How much “downtime” do you need each day?
  • How much time are you spending on your life goals?
  • Are you spending time on what you consider to be important?

Getting Started with Time Tracking

If you’re considering time tracking or would like to take your current time-tracking function to the next level, please reach out. We may be able to help with integration, implementation, the accounting aspect of time-tracking, and financial metrics and reports.

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The Power of Thank-You Notes

As we approach the holiday of giving thanks, it’s the perfect time to think about how we can use thank-you notes in our businesses and lives to express our gratitude to others.

When to Say Thank You

There are many opportunities in business to say thank you:

  • When a client or associate sends you a referral that results in business
  • When an employee goes out of their way to fix a problem or make a customer happy
  • When a customer makes a large purchase
  • When a vendor over-delivers
  • When someone sends a gift
  • After a speaking engagement or an event when someone has hosted you
  • When someone provides advice that has been helpful, whether face to face or in a book or article
  • When someone does a favor or something nice that you’d like to reward

Keeping thank-you notes top of mind will help you think of more opportunities to use them.

What to Say in Your Thank-You Note

You don’t have to be a professional writer to make a thank you note sound good. Just write from the heart. Let the recipient know what you are thanking them for. Express a detail about the item or activity involved. And then thank them again.

If you are unsure about what to say, write a draft first that you can edit. Then transfer the version that you are happy with to your stationery. It’s far better to hand-write your thank-you note than to use a computer-generated one.

Personalized stationery for thank-you notes is definitely recommended. They add a formal and professional touch to your thank-you note, enriching the experience for the recipient.

Sending gift baskets can be a good idea, but sending a hand-written thank-you note alone can be the most powerful action you can take, especially if it is not expected.

While many businesses send holiday cards each year, thank-you notes can be far more powerful. If your budget is limited, you might want to replace your holiday mailing with thank-you notes instead.

One more thing to consider NOT doing is making your thank-you note into an advertising event for your company. If you want to send promotional items such as t-shirts, mugs, or other items, do NOT do it with your thank-you card. Sending thank-you notes is not a marketing event; it’s a time for gratitude. Sending clients promotional items can be very welcome; just don’t do it at the same time.

Helping others feel gratitude is the fastest way to experience happiness. Sending thank-you notes is not only good business, it’s good for our health and wellness, too.

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Controlling Labor Costs

For service businesses, labor cost is the largest expense that is incurred in business operations. For many other types of businesses, the cost of labor is a large component of overall costs. Controlling labor costs so that they stay in line with what’s best for the organization is an important management function. Here are several ways to control or reduce labor costs in your business.

  1. Encourage employee retention.

If well-trained employees leave, you must replace them with inexperienced employees that need training, resulting in a temporary loss of productivity. Some turnover can be good, but if it’s too high, it can result in increased labor costs.

  1. Automate tasks.

Save labor by automating any tasks that can be automated that employees are still performing. While some automation might require extensive capital outlays, many systems can be implemented that are not costly and that have an immediate return on investment.

  1. Streamline processes.

Are you operating your business most efficiently? Or are employees still doing tasks that are outdated or that have lost meaning over time?

One place to look is the interface between departments. Is your sales team duplicating marketing’s efforts?  Is customer service answering the same question without communicating to operations how it should be permanently fixed?  Enhancing communications among employees throughout the company can cut down on labor costs.

  1. Train employees.

Make sure employees are doing what they should be doing by training them. If they are using systems and other tools, make sure they have completed courses in those systems and tools.

  1. Provide the right tools for the job.

Do employees have the tools they need to do the job well? Be sure you’re providing them with the latest version of Microsoft Excel® versus an abacus, as an extreme example.

  1. Cross-train employees.

If an employee is out sick, does a customer’s job sit around until they are back? Check to see if your employees can easily pick up another’s work in the case one employee is out.

  1. Optimize employee schedules.

In many industries such as restaurant and retail, employee scheduling can make the difference between profit and loss. Software can help you determine how many employees you need and at what time. Ensuring employees know when to come in and what to focus on when they do will go a long way toward productivity as well.

In some cases, a shorter workweek is a possibility that can drive lower labor costs.

  1. Outsource.

Outsourcing may be cheaper than using employees on certain tasks, especially if you have tasks that require specialized knowledge or skills, or you might not need a full-time person. Outsourcing can also help you determine how long a task will take so you can plan better if you do decide to take the activity in house.

  1. Review compensation.

Compare your company’s current salaries to the going market rate for salaries in your industry.  Are your salaries in line? Adjust accordingly for future hires.

You can also consider different pay structures, such as commission-based, to better match performance to labor costs. Bonuses paid out in lieu of annual raises allows you to better manage accumulated pay raises in the case of long-term employees.

  1. Review benefits.

Employees love perks but they can be costly. If necessary, this is an area where expenses can be cut to reduce costs. This can include reviewing time off policies, employer’s percentage share of 401(k) plan contributions, and additional health care coverages such as dental and vision.

Hiring part-time employees that are ineligible for benefits can also be a way to cut labor costs.

  1. Cut overtime pay.

If overtime pay is so high that added headcount should be considered, then it’s too high.  On the other hand, some overtime pay is fine if it avoids hiring a headcount you don’t fully need.

  1. Incentivize workers.

Try increasing productivity and results with incentives built into your compensation plan.

  1. Provide remote work options.

Studies show remote workers are more productive. Plus, overhead expenses such as rent, furniture, and utilities will plummet, saving expenses overall.

  1. Hire smart in the first place.

The saying is “hire slow, fire fast.” Finding the right worker for your business is pretty much an art form. Interview, test, check background and references, and put employees on a trial basis to be sure you have the best workers.

  1. Maintain a safe working environment.

Follow all of the regulatory requirements, but follow common sense as well to ensure you have a safe workplace for employees.

  1. Understand the accounting side of labor costs.

If you pay an employee $15 per hour, understand that your labor cost is far more than $15. Not included in that $15 is:

  • Employer’s share of payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare)
  • Vacation and time off
  • Paid holidays
  • Workers compensation insurance
  • Unemployment insurance (federal and state)
  • Health care
  • 401(k) matches
  • Company picnics and events
  • The cost of all other employee perks

The cost to keep an employee includes even more than labor costs and should include allocations for these expenses:

  • Computer equipment and software applications
  • Rent, utilities, furniture, parking spaces, building repair
  • Employer-paid meals, snacks, and coffee
  • Training
  • Events and travel
  • Meeting time and expenses (this deserves to be listed separately)

If you’d like us to help you calculate your labor costs per employee hour, please reach out.

Employees make your business possible, but to maintain a business profit, labor costs must be kept in line. Follow these ideas to keep your team productive and your labor costs in shape.

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The Four-D Time Management Trick to Boost Your Efficiency

Time is our most precious personal resource; once we’ve spent it, we’ll never get it back. As busy entrepreneurs, we seem to have less time than anyone else, so it just makes sense to look for ways to use our time wisely. Here is one technique that has worked for many.

The Four D’s

When you think about it, there are only four actions you can take against any one of the many tasks you have on your plate:

  1. Do it.
  2. Delegate it.
  3. Delay it.
  4. Delete it.

As you approach each task on your to-do list, ask yourself which one of the four D’s is best.

Do It

The first option is simply to do the task yourself.  Get it done, checked off, and out of the way.  This is often the best option if it’s urgent, important, or you are the only one with the experience and training to do it.

It might sound counter-intuitive at first, but doing a task might not be the best option. Let’s look at the other three options before we decide.

Delegate It

If your to-do list is full of simple, routine actions, then delegating is a strong choice. Delegating is also a great choice for tasks that are beyond your skill set and that would take too much learning-curve time away from your core work. If you don’t have time to do everything yourself, then getting help is a smart alternative to doing it yourself.

Getting help doesn’t mean you have to hire a full-time employee. You can get help in a multitude of ways:

  • Engage a company to do a task. From walking dogs to managing Google Ad campaigns to handling your bookkeeping and taxes, there are companies like ours that would be delighted to take over your task for you.
  • Automation is a form of delegation. Can software do what you are doing?
  • Find someone on Fiverr.com or UpWork. You can hire someone for a five-minute task or a 5-day task. Find them on any website that lists freelancers for hire.
  • Plenty of people are looking for part-time jobs, just in case you don’t have enough work for a full-time person.

If you can write instructions about how to perform the task, you can delegate it. And if you’re worried about losing control or quality, simply add milestones where you check the person’s work. Initially, it might not be faster, but in the long term, it will pay off.

Delay It

If a task is not urgent or important, delaying it might be the right option. The problem with this option is that you have to handle the task at least twice: once when reviewing it and deciding whether to do it, and again when you finally decide to do it.  If you keep deciding to delay it, you’ve handled it more than twice. Not only can this take up precious time, it can be a drain on your energy as you see the incomplete task on your to-do list for a long time.

However, there are times when delaying a task is best:

  • Delay if it’s not urgent and you have other urgent items to attend to.
  • Delay if it’s not important.
  • Delay to prioritize other, more profitable tasks first.
  • Delay when the task is best done in batches. Here’s an example: Rather than answer each email as it comes in, think about blocking out three times a day where you check and clear your email. You can apply this time-batching concept to just about everything to gain efficiency: posting on social media (write and schedule a month’s worth in advance), returning phone calls, attending meetings (book them all on one day and keep other days clear), and running errands (delay until you have three to four errands, then do them all in one run.

Be careful of delaying a task over and over again.  Something else may be going on with your mindset:

  • The task may be uncomfortable for you (find someone that loves to do what you don’t and delegate), or
  • How to get started is ambiguous (get training or find someone experienced to shorten your learning curve).

Delete It

Some tasks should never have been added to your to-do-list in the first place. When there is no return on investment for a task, perhaps the best choice is to delete it.

Take a look at some of the things you do out of habit. Does it still make sense to do that task, or is it simply done because it was always done that way?

Do, Delegate, Delay, Delete

Try the four-D time management trick for yourself to get an instant boost in efficiency and productivity.

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Gearing Up for Holiday Sales: 2021 Trends and Opportunities

The 2021 holiday sales season will give businesses a chance to continue their online migration from 2020 trends, with opportunities for more refinement and improvements.  The key is to bring as much as possible online and integrate all of your customer touch points into an omnichannel of positive experiences.

Let’s take a look at some trends in retail that we can apply to many other industries. These trends will strengthen our businesses and position us well for the future.

Strong E-Commerce Presence

As people increased online shopping and delivery last year, the trend is expected to continue beyond the pandemic. For this reason, all businesses should strengthen their online presence, especially their e-commerce presence.

Many retail establishments benefit from a complete ecommerce solution, including a storefront, shopping cart, online payment process, and automated fulfillment. They can expand their online effectiveness with these features:

  • Enable chat features between customers and store clerks to simulate the conversation the customer might experience in the physical store
  • For clothing, post detailed sizing charts, imitate the dressing room mirror with try-on automation, and use photos of models in all shapes and sizes
  • Create how-to videos to show customers ways to effectively use the product
  • Expand photography so customers can see all angles of the product as well as how it can be used
  • Display and sort user reviews to help customers decide
  • Implement clear navigation and search options so customers can find what they want. Today, many customers research online, then visit the physical location to finalize their transaction.

Expanding your business’s e-commerce presence doesn’t just apply to retail. For example, businesses in the services space have implemented appointment-setting and payment processing. Real estate agents have enhanced virtual home tours. Many businesses with physical goods and documents have beefed up delivery options and implemented curbside pickup.

Each business has a unique sales cycle that a customer goes through when purchasing goods and services. The question for business owners to ask is how they can bring most of that experience online.

Mobile

The vast majority of transactions are now occurring on mobile devices. If your business’s mobile presence is not optimal, then you’ll want to make that a priority this year to catch up with your competitors.

Social

More and more consumers are using social media channels – Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, Clubhouse, and Facebook — to discover and purchase items that delight them. Wise business owners will invest more budget into attracting customers from this channel.

Holiday Seasons

With the move to online shopping, the holiday season has been extended from just one day or one weekend to entire months. Consumers are shopping earlier and all year long. Retailers and other businesses can benefit by always having some kind of sale or attraction going on. Here are the key holidays for the fourth quarter:

  • Columbus Day
  • Halloween, the second most profitable holiday (Christmas is first)
  • Veterans Day
  • Thanksgiving Day
  • Black Friday
  • Small Business Saturday
  • Hanukkah
  • Cyber Monday
  • Christmas Eve
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day
  • Kwanzaa
  • New Year’s Eve

How does your business fare when it comes to a fully online experience? Use these trends to boost sales growth in 2021 and beyond.

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