Poor Business Information Management – What Is It Costing Your Business?

Is your business drowning in information?

Are you buried under tons of paperwork and just don’t know where to start? Are you spending more time doing the paperwork than running the business?

Does you current business data management system provide ready access to your business data and perform the analysis necessary to make informed business decisions?

These may seem like simple, basic questions but in many small and medium-sized businesses they go unasked. What does this mean to the bottom line of your business?

Business data management is paramount to making your business profitable and successful. Making your information and data work as hard as you do, and turning it in to an asset rather than a liability, will give you the edge over your competitors. Effective business data management could be the key to the business success that you have been looking for.

The HOW TO of Business Data Management

All businesses today generate and need access to significant amounts of information and data, much of which is critical to the efficient and profitable operation of the business. Information like customer contact details and sales data, appointment scheduling, stock control or managing production flow and financial records is the life-blood of any business. It needs to be managed effectively to get the most out of it.

Just the process of collecting and recording business information can take a great deal of your staff’s time, and therefore your money. Just as important as collecting business data is HOW it is managed and used. Many hours can go into recording business data, and just as many of those hours can be wasted if the information is not stored in a way that provides ready access or analysis of the information it contains. Obviously, recording business information on random notes or even in structured text documents such as Word is better than nothing. But information stored this way is difficult to track and even more difficult to search. Performing any meaningful analysis on large amounts of data stored in this fashion is virtually impossible.

Using spreadsheets, such as Microsoft’s Excel program, will provide access to structured information as well as the ability to perform some effective business analysis over small subsets of data. However filling out spreadsheets and keeping them up-to-date can be a time consuming task. And what do you do when you have voluminous amounts of data that you want to analyse for trends, or business opportunities. Unlike databases, spreadsheets are limited in the number of records they can manipulate and rarely provided the correlation between disparate data holdings that is required to perform meaningful analysis.

Making the Most of your Business Information

I think we all can agree that proper business information management is an important aspect of effective business management and should be a core consideration in ensuring the success of your business.

As you have probably realised by now, using hand written notes, document files and even spreadsheets may not be the most efficient way for you to manage and make the most of your business information. In fact, when you take in to account the time and effort necessary to collect and store the information, collate it, and then try to make sense of what it all means, you have likely come to the conclusion that unstructured business data is costing your business not only tens of thousands of dollars in time and resources handling the information, but also many thousands of dollars in missed opportunities that proper analysis of that data could have identified.

For the efficient and effective management of business information you really need a database. Databases provide significant advantages over other forms of information capture, storage, retrieval and analysis. More importantly a database enables rapid access to any data held within the database through sophisticated, and yet in most cases easy to use, search functionality. Most database systems today handle virtually any size data-set, be it large or small, and have the ability to perform tasks as simple as ‘Customer Relationship’, ‘Inventory Management’ or ‘Asset Management’, right through to the more complex sales and/or trend analysis, across ten or even hundreds of thousands of individual records.

Perhaps equally as important is the ability of relational databases, such as the Microsoft Access database, to vastly decrease the time and effort required to collect the data. With functionality such as data import, default field values, lookup tables, drop-down lists and the ability to enter common data (which may be used often across 1000s of records) only once, they can significantly reduce the time and effort required to collect and store information.

Over time there have been many database applications available. Whilst all these database systems have provided the basic data storage and retrieve capability, more modern-day database applications such as Microsoft Access Database provide a graphical user interface, simplified querying and comprehensive internal reporting functionality which is capable of analysing and charting vast amounts of data in very short periods of time, often only seconds. Microsoft has gone to great lengths to incorporate all the modern features required by any business to effectively handle their information management and analysis needs. Microsoft Access Database comes packaged with the ‘Office’ (professional) suite of software tools, and its integration with those tools makes passing information and data between documents, spreadsheets and databases a simply process which greatly enhances and simplifies its data collection, analysis and reporting capabilities. Existing users of MS Access Database will also be aware that several of the sample databases that ship with the Access Database, whilst basic in design, already provide some good business information management tools.

Whilst Microsoft’s Access database is easy to use, allowing basic databases to be easily built by the novice, it also contains advanced functionality and features that can be used to build more powerful, integrated business information management systems. Consequently, a number of ‘business to business’ companies specialising in the development of custom, business specific, Access Database applications have emerged. Where you have a need to build a database to meet a specific requirement within your business, but just don’t have the time or someone with the advanced training and knowledge required to build the database in-house, then using a specialist Access Database developer may be the answer. As there are many such companies offering this service the development rates are usually very affordable, and you will find that the time required to have a functioning, customized database, up and running will be significantly reduced.

Effective, efficient business information management is a must for anyone wanting to grow their business and their profitability.

Top 2 Free Ways To Advertise A Business Online

People running businesses usually want or need to know what the best way to advertise a business online is. Well, many ways exist, but some of the more effective ways to advertise is by using the free methods. Not only will these methods help get the word out that the business exists, but it will also save money that most small businesses and start-ups do not have to spend on marketing and advertising.

Forum Signatures

One of the best-known ways to advertise a business online is by using forum signatures. However, sometimes they are used too often that the signature could be flagged as spam, so the trick is to use forum signatures in the right way. For example, do not simply jump into any forum and any forum thread to leave a short, one word reply.

Instead, start out with forums that are related to the business itself. A cloud computing business would have very little to no reason of leaving a signature with its business website link there in a makeup or cosmetics forum. Once the business owner has found the perfect forums, he can jump in and reply to threads with relevant information. Then, start leaving a signature with his business link attached, and in some cases where possible, the phone number to the business. Eventually, traffic will start flowing into the business website and calls will begin to come in from the forums.

Free Classifieds

Free online classified ads are another great way to advertise a business online. Thousands of free online classified ad websites exist in which a business owner can write an ad for display online. Not only can the business owner write a two or three line description of the services offered, but he or she can also leave a link to the business’ website, an address, and phone number of the business.

Classified listings work just as regular keyword and “Sponsored Results” ads do, that is when people search for specific keywords on the internet, those listings will eventually come up in the search results. The increased viability from using classified ads to advertise a business online can oftentimes garner added website traffic, increased calls to the business and overall, increased ROI, especially if the classified ad was free.

Overall, online advertising can take a lot of time; however, when the added benefit of increased website traffic, increased sales calls, and an overall increase in sales, the initial time investment is seen as a worthy one, because no money was spent to advertise a business online using these methods.

Training and Retraining Senior Managers in Business Information Best Practice

There is an urgent need for business information management to be a crucial aspect of management training for executives in any kind of business or any size and in any location. This is a largely ignored aspect of management training with everyone leaving it to IT or information management professionals to deal with what the business needs, what it needs to spend and what it can expect. This will always result in outcomes being attached to output, in this case financial. But there is a fundamental component that is missing and it is time that it was noticed and replaced.

Messy, unstructured computer networks do nothing to support productivity and economic viability or encourage success for the average small, medium and large business. They are also a potential source of business degradation for large companies and government. Messy, unstructured information renders the business unsafe and unmanageable and messy unstructured information masked by document management systems and clever search functions are putting the business at risk, reducing its effectiveness and leaving it without the means to exploit the power of policy, training, resources and business knowledge.

Most business owners and managers are capable of setting out the rules by which their business information is managed but are unaware of both the need to do this and its relationship to their management role. They know they are capable of understanding the needs of the business but are not aware of the benefits of information structure and control. There are limits to their view of what is really available to them by controlling their precious but undervalued business information.

It is this lack of awareness that ensures that they are not in charge. Others are in charge. Those others do not have the interests of the business at heart because it is not their business but they have been given responsibility for all business information only because owners and managers have not been made aware of any other way to manage this precious asset.

Information management technology is usually viewed as simply a tool for creating, collecting, storing and using business information where the technology, having produced the information, is then used to try to create a context for the content. Systems currently used to manage business information will generally focus on creating context at the point at which the information becomes storable and not at the point in which it is determined as being usable. They do this by applying search terminology to enable the business to look back at what has been used. This application of terminology or key words is totally reliant on the person who is undertaking this work and it may or may not be in the best interests of the business.

Business Information Organization (BIO) is a methodology that maintains the context throughout the life cycle of all business information. That context is firmly seated within the operational profile of the business. This simply means that the information is structured to suit the business and not the operator. Any computer or network structure that moves away from ‘my documents’ and represents what the business is and what it is doing is using the power of BIO.

BIO as a methodology on an intelligent network does not rely on the artificial application of keywords and search terms to point to location of the information and return to it at some later date, but relies totally on the context of location of the information from the moment of generation or collection. On a BIO structured network nothing is generated or collected unless it is controlled by a business based location and this means it will be in context. This means that the location is predetermined and controlled by carefully organized folder structures.

The computer and the business computer network has evolved into a default setup that could never be recognized as the tool for location. Many individuals know to do this for themselves and they create order and control in where and how they store the business information for which they are responsible but most businesses are not aware of both the potential and the power of organization as a business-wide strategy.

Much of the current management training focuses on making use of existing systems and software. What if business executives were shown the basics of business information organization (BIO), the power of the intelligent network and how information best practice is one of the options for managing the business?

These are high stakes. The future of the business is being left in the hands of people who may be here today and gone tomorrow. Every business deserves to be told the truth about information management and what they should expect in the way of best practice. What might be the difference if a business could confidently say:

o We have complete confidence in content management on our computers and networks.
o All policy and compliance is in place where and when it is needed.
o Resources to aid productivity are logged and accessible in context of the work being done.
o Training is accessed continually in context of the work being done.
o Every new project is supported with policy, training and resources.
o Attachments are no longer necessary in in-house communications and duplicates are not tolerated.
o Less paper is produced and more information is digitized to maintain a strong knowledge base.
o Backups and security procedures are context based.
o The network is well managed with file naming protocols in place and folder management practices working across the whole organization.
o There are important economic benefits and greater productivity across the whole of the business.

Selling a Business – Tips to Advertise a Business For Sale Successfully

Anticipate a buyer search criteria and categorise your business accordingly

It is important to file your business for sale advertisement in such a way that it grabs the attention of the maximum number of relevant business buyers. The more types you file your business under, the better your exposure will be.

If you are selling a pub that serves food, for instance, it is worth filing the business under not just ‘pubs’, but also ‘pubs and hotel property’, ‘restaurants’, ‘taverns’ and ‘bars’, as your likely purchasers will be searching for a business for sale under all or some of these categories.

It is also worth including key information such as the postcode, street or town where your business is located in your description text, so that any business buyer using the keyword search facility will find your business in their search results.

Honest figures will help your business to sell

In order to sell your business successfully, it is vital that you give your potential buyers a sensible indication of the kind of living they can expect to earn from the business. New business buyers aren’t just relocating from a street or village that they are familiar with; in most cases they are also walking away from the financial security of a monthly paycheck to become their own employers. This constitutes a daunting step into the unknown for a lot of people, and the more data you can reassure them with in your advertisement, the better your response levels will be.

You can include the turnover, gross profit and/or net profit figures on a weekly, monthly or daily basis with an advertisement, and it’s advisable to include at least one of these figures as a bare minimum if you can. Other figures that are worth mentioning in your advertisement are footfall / shop frontage (if it is a retail business), traffic levels (if it is an online business), demographics on the local economy (if it is a service-led business) and lease length / rent review dates (if it is a commercial property).

Your figures may be highly confidential, in which case it is perfectly acceptable to write ‘turnover and profit figures available on request’; The most important thing to do is to acknowledge the figures in your advertisement; if you don’t, it can look suspicious or unprofessional, and it can stop potential buyers from taking you seriously and enquiring about your business for sale.

Pricing your business for sale :

To get your business to sell quickly, it is important to price your business sensibly. An overly ambitious asking price might feel like a safe place to negotiate down from, but if you price your business too high, your potential buyers might not come across your advertisement in their search, as it will fall outside of their price range. If you price the business at a value lower than you are prepared to accept, you could find yourself inundated with buyers who you are not prepared to sell to, wasting your time and theirs. Remember that the price at which your business is sold is ultimately dictated by your acceptance – or refusal – of an offer; at the initial stages, your priority is to generate as much valid interest as you possibly can in your business for sale.

Take a look at comparable businesses for sale on websites listing businesses for sale and pick an asking price that is in line with what looks to be current market values. If you are unsure of what your business is worth, you can get a free business valuation from business agents or websites advertising businesses for sale.

Choose business-related photos that help your business to sell

Your existing promotional material may be remarkably effective at bringing customers through your doors, but you are dealing with a very different target market when you are selling a business. The business itself is now the product, and your ‘customers’ in this case will be looking for signs of prosperity, security and success. For instance, a photo taken inside your premises at peak times showing a busy shop floor will give potential purchasers more incentive to enquire than a beautifully-crafted logo on its own. Try to take photos that show off the passing trade and ‘bustle’ of your business.

Choose the right place to advertise your business for sale

Advertising your business for sale online is a great way to get maximum exposure. The price to advertise online is also less expensive than on print newspapers and magazines.