Monthly Archives: May 2017

Small Business Performance

When I am asked about measuring small business performance, my first inclination is to quote Lewis Carroll. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice comes to a fork in the road and asks:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

In other words, if you do not have a plan for where you want your business to get to, performance measurement does not matter much!

Management dashboard

Small businesses come in various guises and hence it is difficult to generalise when it comes to individual performance management. Metrics (also called Key Performance Indicators or KPI’s) can range from Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses focusing on Lifetime Value (LTV) and churn rates, to hotels measuring occupancy levels and average room yields. However the old adage holds, ‘What gets measured gets managed’, so it is important to have some metrics in place. A good starting point would be to try and understand what are the typical metrics that define success in your particular industry. After that, it’s a case of adding some additional metrics to the mix to ensure that all bases are covered. The following represent a list of some of the more common elements that can make up a “management dashboard” which combine to help you manage performance. Of course, some may argue that profitability should be the main bellwether as to the performance of a small business. While there is merit in this view, it is better to use a combination of metrics which all support the primary goal of trading profitably while growing year on year. This way you have early warning systems in place, as an assessment of profitability based on financial statements can take some time given the reporting time lag.

It all starts with a plan

Creating a simple business plan is vital for all small businesses regardless of whether the business is looking to raise money or not. Planning is essentially about having the foresight to plot and manage your own future, in stark contrast to reacting to accounting data with its emphasis on past performance. While business plans have many purposes, they are not often associated with performance measurement, despite the fact they are a very useful tool with which to measure performance. By committing your thoughts to a business plan you can ensure that you (or your team) know what the priorities are, what activities need to be done, who needs to do them and by when. A business plan brings a lot of transparency to the business with accountability in the form of names, actions and dates.

Cash-flow management

Careful management of cash flow is a fundamental requirement for all businesses. The reason is quite simple–many businesses fail, not because they are unprofitable, but because they ultimately become insolvent (i.e., are unable to pay their debts as they fall due). If you are a “cash-only” business, you can bank the income immediately. However, if you sell on credit, you receive the cash in the future and hence may need to pay some of your own expenses before that income hits your account. This will put a further strain on the company’s solvency and hence a well structured business plan will help you manage funding requirements in advance.

Pro forma profit and loss

A profit and loss forecast is an integral element of any business plan alongside a pro forma sales forecast and cash flow forecast. These statements are forecast in advance (broken down by month) and represent a reference point for actual data as it emerges. By forcing you to forecast and to document all expected revenues and costs, the process helps you produce a report detailing the likely trading performance for the year ahead. If you are an established small business, this data is easier to arrive at as you can use past performance data as a reference point. While brand new businesses’ lack of trading history makes this process more difficult, it also makes it more valuable – you need some references to know whether your new business is on track. Once you commence trading and have actual real data, it is then easy to undertake some variance analysis (between the forecast data and the actual data) to assess whether or not you and your business are on track. With actual data it is possible to take remedial action before waiting for a full year of historic transactions to emerge, at which point it may be too late. For example, if sales in month one are significantly below the planned level you can make an early decision regarding what actions need to be taken as a matter of urgency (i.e. perhaps bringing costs into line, increasing marketing activities, pivoting the business, etc.)

Any message that you send electronically to lots

Spam is any message that you send electronically to lots of people who have not specifically requested mail from you — in other words, junk email. Like a telemarketing call during dinner, spam almost always annoys, and sometimes offends, those who receive it. While sending spam may result in a sale or two in the short run, it will almost surely damage your reputation, so it’s good advice to stay clear of it. There are many better ways to use email to keep in touch with current and potential customers. Here are a few of them:

  • Invite people to subscribe to an email newsletter instead of sending unsolicited emails. Have a sign-up form on your website and explain that you’ll send only timely, informative email to subscribers.
  • Include late-breaking, useful information in the email you send to subscribers. Because it can be delivered so quickly, email is a perfect vehicle for alerting people who are already part of your community to new and interesting developments. Even a modestly self-serving message will go over well if you package it with enough truly unique and valuable content. Just keep the hype to a minimum.
  • Make it easy to quit receiving email. Every message should include brief, friendly instructions for getting off your mailing list. Even people who keep subscribing will appreciate knowing that you’ve made it easy for them to say, “Enough already!” when the time comes.

Work Your Niche
Get to know the online habits of your prospective audience. What other sites are they likely to visit? Make a list and try to develop a relationship with each one. There are a variety of ways to do this. Your best options include offering to write articles (informative and not self-serving) for other sites, or posting messages with your Web address on their bulletin boards. Trade links and adverts with other sites in your field, and if you can afford it, buy classified adverts at related sites.

One web publisher doubled her traffic by spending two months (and a small amount of advertising money) working through all the sites in her niche in this way. Another got similar results by hiring and supervising a Net-savvy college student.

Don’t neglect offline ways to publicise your website. Send press releases and emails about interesting features on your site to print as well as online media in your niche. List your Web address wherever you also list yourself — business directories, professional associations, and chambers of commerce. Speak at trade shows or conventions.

 

Work the search engines
Lots of people will find — or not find — your site by using online search engines such as Google, where they type in the words they’re searching for. You need to do a little work to make sure your site will turn up when a potential reader conducts a search. Here are three good places to go for tips on making your site stand out to search engines.

  • SEARCH ENGINE WATCH
    http://www.searchenginewatch.com) is an online newsletter that offers comprehensive, practical tips about making a site that search engines can find. There are also some good links for Webmasters here.

Creating the most beloved and trusted career destinations

The Muse was founded to make work more human by helping people navigate their careers and helping companies attract and retain great employees. Doing meaningful work is important to Musers, and our mission matters: to make everyone’s job search and work experience more enjoyable, helpful, and human. Creating the most beloved and trusted career destinations for the biggest brands and our job seekers feels really good.

As a Sales Development Representative, you’ll have the opportunity to significantly impact the growth of our company and help redefine the way companies hire. You’ll also become an expert in our business and products as you prepare yourself for the next step in your sales career.

How you’ll make an impact:

  • You’ll successfully manage and qualify inbound leads
  • You’ll generate quality sales leads through outbound prospecting
  • You’ll set sales meetings for Account Executives, maintaining a consistent number of meetings set each month
  • You’ll provide feedback to Account Executives on new revenue opportunities
  • You’ll enter timely and accurate data into Salesforce
  • You’ll manage and maintain a healthy pipeline

Why we’ll love you

  • You have 0-1 years of sales experience, ideally within a new business, account management, or recruiting role
  • You love The Muse, our product, and our mission and have an extreme hunger to be successful
  • You’re committed to growing your sales career and mastering your craft
  • You embrace aggressive goals and work hard to achieve them
  • You know that consistency is key when it come to prospecting and setting meetings because you know it will lead to results
  • You’re not easily discouraged and always maintain a positive attitude
  • You’re good at building rapport and gaining trust whether it’s in person or over the phone
  • You’re genuinely interested in the people and companies you’re prospecting and always think about how you can help the customer
  • You’re naturally curious and will take the time to do research before setting a meeting
  • You hustle! All that preparedness doesn’t slow you down

Why you’ll love us

  • You’ll have the opportunity to help clients like Slack, Facebook, and Squarespace amplify and improve their employer brand, putting them in a position to be more competitive in today’s war for talent
  • You’ll work at a tech company founded by two badass women—Our founders believe transparency is important so they really try to share as much as they can about changes to The Muse strategy, board meetings, and when they are wrestling with big company-wide decisions.
  • The Muse actually has—and sticks to—a “no assholes” policy, so you can come to work everyday knowing you will always be surrounded by good people who genuinely care about you.
  • We invest in growing our people—personally and professionally
  • We offer unlimited vacation—and we mean it!

Make an business impact

The Muse was founded to make work more human by helping people navigate their careers and helping companies attract and retain great employees. Doing meaningful work is important to Musers, and our mission matters: to make everyone’s job search and work experience more enjoyable, helpful, and human. Creating the most beloved and trusted career destinations for the biggest brands and our job seekers feels really good.

As a Client Onboarding Coordinator, you’ll welcome and onboard new clients, seamlessly setting them up on The Muse before transitioning them to the Account Management team.

How you’ll make an impact

  • You’ll welcome new clients with a phone call to discover profile goals, set product expectations, and explain and coordinate video shoot logistics
  • You’ll manage 30-40 clients in various stages of the process—answering questions as they arise, all while representing the Muse brand and culture
  • You’ll collaborate with various teams to solve issues and create innovative client solutions
  • You’ll liaise between the production team and client to launch beautiful profiles our clients love!

Why we’ll love you

  • You have at least 6 months of client-facing experience and a passion for talking with, listening to, and supporting your clients–internship experience counts!
  • You have a strong desire to grow in a client-facing career
  • You’re friendly and awesome, and can be a welcoming first face of The Muse for all new clients
  • You can tell us the stories about how you turned an angry customer into one that loved you again
  • You love being organized, are detail-oriented, and rarely letting things fall through the cracks
  • You’re able to work both independently and with coworkers to prioritize and resolve issues for clients
  • You’re coachable – you’re receptive to feedback and apply it quickly
  • You’re willing to answer emails at occasionally urgent times to fix any issues that come up with clients
  • Bonus: You have experience working with Applicant Tracking Systems (or a strong desire to learn more about them!)

Why you’ll love us

  • You’ll have the opportunity to help onboard amazing clients like Slack, Facebook, and Squarespace while receiving hands on support and coaching from our Client Onboarding Team Lead
  • You’ll work at a tech company founded by two badass women—Our founders believe transparency is important so they really try to share as much as they can about changes to The Muse strategy, board meetings, and when they are wrestling with big company-wide decisions.
  • The Muse actually has—and sticks to—a “no assholes” policy, so you can come to work everyday knowing you will always be surrounded by good people who genuinely care about you.
  • We invest in growing our people—personally and professionally
  • We offer unlimited vacation—and we mean it!

When you Arrive Late to the Party

Relying on academic management literature for guidance can be a fickle business. For example, while “first-mover advantage” was once lauded as the optimum strategy for market entry, it was shortly displaced by its close cousin “second-mover advantage”. The thought went that the “second mover” could learn from the mistakes of the pioneering entrant who was likely to run out of money while trying to educate the market. Of course, some of these initial pioneering entrants did not run out of money and ended up dominating their space, thus striking a blow for advocates of being a “second mover”.

For “first movers” there are a number of poster boys, like Twitter, the micro-blogging platform, which has become so dominant that successful market entry by a direct competitor would be difficult to comprehend. The launch of the iPad created the tablet market, which did not exist prior to its launch but has since been flooded with entrants. For some cash-rich entrepreneurs, with the pockets, vision and patience of someone like Steve Jobs, the lack of a market is an opportunity rather than a problem. However, in the majority of cases, there may be no competition because there are structural reasons why a market does not exist (such as a lack of demand or a market size that is currently too small to serve profitably). In other words, the entrepreneur may simply have misread the opportunity!

For “second movers,” you can generally enter the market without the cost of the first mover. A subsequent entrant can study the incumbent when deciding how to design and position their offering. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Competition also helps from a marketing perspective – trying to educate and attract a market on your own is a very costly exercise. However, in some cases the first mover is so dominant, subsequent entry would not be advised.

In other instances market entry is not always so easily defined. A recent example from the U.S. is the almost simultaneous market entry of Gowalla and FourSquare, both location-based social networking sites. These were soon followed by Rummble, and a host of others.

For entrepreneurs the lessons are clear – there are different things to be aware of when you start your business, in terms of market entry. If the market does not yet exist you need to ensure you have deep pockets as marketing is likely to be extremely costly. You also need to be confident that you are not ‘misreading the opportunity’.