As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, people who own their own business should always expect the unexpected. No two days are ever quite the same, and freshness and variety are part of the appeal for many business owners and self-employed.
But at the same time, the best-run businesses tend to be those that operate consistently, predictably and efficiently – like clockwork, basically.
So what are the regular business activities that you need to set your watch by?
Well, there are plenty of things you could do every single month. But if you did them all, you’d probably end up drowning in admin and regretting your decision to start a business in the first place. Instead, we’ve broken down these tasks into four simple focus areas:
1) Review your progress
Let’s start with how you’ve done in the past month. There are many ways to track progress, and you need to choose the approach that makes the most sense given the nature of your business. If you’re a therapist or tutor, you might be reviewing monthly income and time spent per client. If you’re a retailer, it could be product sales, website views, social media engagement or inventory levels.
Set yourself targets at the start of the year so that you know what you’re aiming at. But be realistic – if your monthly progress is nowhere near the target you’ve set, is that because you’re under-performing or because the target is wrong?
And whether you’ve had a good or bad month, don’t read too much into it. What’s most important is building up a bigger picture. Compare this month to the past three or six months, or to this time last year, and you’ll start to spot trends that can help you decide what your longer-term business goals should look like.
2) Sort out your finances
Setting aside a few hours per month for financial admin will help improve the health of your business. And it’s something you’ll thank yourself for it come the end of the tax year. Here’s how to spend your admin time:
Paying your bills – employees, freelancers, suppliers, HMRC, or anyone else you owe. Good business relationships are built on trust, and part of that means paying people when you say you’re going to pay them.
Invoicing – to pay all your bills, you need to manage your cash flow, and that means invoicing regularly for products/services you’ve sold. Use your invoicing time as an opportunity to nudging any customers on any unpaid invoices. Also, write out your payment terms on the invoices so that customers know when you’re expecting payment.
Log everything – your bank balance won’t always tell the whole story, so to understand your financial situation you need to be tracking your expenses, scanning your recipients and logging every transaction, either in a spreadsheet or accounting software.
3) Plan your calendar
Running a business can get a bit chaotic if too many things land on your plate at once. So the end of the month is an excellent time to look ahead in your calendar and spot any potential pile-ups.
Does your overall workload look manageable? If not, maybe you need to delegate more or bring in some freelance support.
Are there any meetings that need moving? If you know you’re going to be in the city every Tuesday, maybe you can rearrange all of your face-to-face meetings for these days?
Are there any tasks you could get out of the way now? For example, you can use simple online tools to schedule an entire month’s worth of social media posts in advance, leaving one less thing to worry about on a daily basis.
Can you see where your next break is coming from? Your calendar is a strong indicator of whether you’re doing enough to look after your well-being.
4) Reach out to your network
Achieving a record month of sales or new business enquiries is always a nice excuse to pop open the Prosecco (or Champagne, if it was a really positive month). But you also need to keep the momentum going. A great way to do this is by reaching out regularly to your ‘network’ – customers, prospects, employees, partners, essentially everyone connected with your business.
Why not start up a monthly newsletter to keep people updated on what your business has been up to? And while you’re at it, why not schedule monthly catch-ups with the employees, clients or suppliers that matter most to your business? Sure, you might already be speaking to some of these people regularly, but setting aside time to check-in with them, asking how they’re getting on, and addressing any concerns will help strengthen all of these relationships.
Finally, how about finding someone outside your current network to connect with? Because while browsing LinkedIn or doing a spot of desk research can go a long way to identifying new clients or business opportunities, the pay-off only comes if you take the plunge and make contact.
Reaching out to your network each month helps to keep customers interested, keep employees happy and keep you several steps ahead on the new business/sales front. You may never know precisely what tomorrow will bring, but if you have an engaged community around your business, you’ll be well-placed to respond to every new challenge, however unexpected.
Got any other monthly essentials that we've missed? Let us know over on @MonzoBusiness!