Do you have employees who need to work together as a team?  Or perhaps you need to work as a team with your customers and vendors.  When people of different backgrounds get together for a common goal, there are often four stages they go through before they become a true team or family.

Four Stages of Teams

In 1965, Bruce Tuckman noted that there are four stages in which teams evolve:  forming, storming, norming, and performing.  Two goals are crucial for teams:

  1. To reach the optimal stage, performing.
  2. To build trust, respect, and open communication during all four stages of the process.

Forming

In the forming stage, team members begin to get to know each other and what their goals are.  This is a good time for the team to set ground rules that cover how often the team should meet, how they should communicate, and what their objectives will be.  This is an ideal time for the team to assess their strengths and challenges.

Storming: Team Conflict

In the storming stage, conflict begins.  The diverse points of view of each team member present as team conflict.  Team members need some tools in this stage to avoid clashing egos and turf wars.  Have team members actively listen to other team members’ viewpoints to better negotiate through the problem-solving the group needs to perform in order to get their goals met.

Don’t let a team get stuck in this stage because emotions that simmer under the surface will blow up.

Both active listening and assertiveness training are great tools to help teams learn how to manage the conflict and work through the issues that come up during the storming stage.  Employees also need to learn how to deliver feedback and bad news in an effective, non-threatening way.

Norming: Becoming Complacent

The third stage of teambuilding is norming.  In this stage, team members can become complacent and agree with the group to avoid conflict.  The leader must challenge the group not to fall into this type of groupthink, which results in terrible decisions.

Performing: The Optimal Stage

In the final stage of teambuilding, performing, the group has found their synergy.  They perform at their highest productivity and quality.  They have built trust among team members to get the job done constructively and without personal conflict.

Which stage is your team in?  Knowing the natural stages will help you move your team to the optimal stage, performing.

A great way to speed up your cash flow is to get paid faster by customers who owe you money.  One way to do that is to examine your payment terms to see if you can accelerate them.  First let’s talk about what payment terms are common.  Then I’ll share a study that showed which payment terms generate the fastest payments.

English, Please

Traditional payment terms are spoken in the following format:

Percentage discount/(Days due from invoice date), “Net” (Days due before payment is past due)

An example is 2/10, Net 30.  It means to the customer that if they pay within ten days, they can take two percent off of the invoice due amount.  If they don’t want to do that, they need to pay the full invoice within 30 days of the invoice date.

You could write “2/10, Net 30” on your invoice, but you will get paid faster if you write it out in plain English.

Industry Standard

If your industry “has always done it that way,” I encourage you to challenge the status quo.  Getting your cash faster is important to all small businesses, so don’t let your industry hold you back.

Discounts

Most corporations are required to take discounts if they are offered, so offering an early pay discount might help you get paid faster.

Insights

There are several studies on how to get paid the fastest.  Of course they all have different conclusions!  FreshBooks advises that “due upon receipt” terms can work against you as most people decide that that can mean anything.  They suggest using wording that says “Please pay this invoice within 21 days of receiving it.”  Here is their blog post on the topic:

http://www.freshbooks.com/blog/the-best-invoice-payment-terms-to-help-you-get-paid-faster-and-more-often

Xero produced a page on the topic as well. Their research suggests that debtors pay bills 2 weeks late on average.  They also suggest using terms of net 13 or less in order to get paid within 30 days.  Here is their page on the topic:

https://www.xero.com/us/small-business-guides/invoicing/invoice-payment-terms/

Feel free to contact us if you’d like help deciding on payment terms for your business.

Older marketing methods like direct mail and cold calling just don’t work as effectively as they did a few decades ago.  There are two reasons for that:

  1. The trust level between people has dropped more than 20 percentage points in the last few years; people are more skeptical and untrusting of each other than ever before.
  2. The amount of marketing messages we receive on a daily basis has increased exponentially, to the point where most everything is simply treated as white noise.

What is there to do if you still need more clients?  Sharpen your marketing skills and try out these newer ideas from the 21st century:

Website Landing Pages

A landing page is a web page that is not listed in your website menu.   It’s a hidden page that advertises something very specific, such as a free report, a service, a niche, or a sale item. The landing page includes a description of an offer and a call to action, such as a Buy Now button, or a signup form where you enter your name, email, and possibly phone numbers.

You can drive traffic to your landing page through social media, online ads, or email notices.  Once someone has taken action, a sale team often follows up with a phone call or an email to encourage further action.

Free Trials or Samples

Although there is nothing new about free trials, they are certainly popular and they still work very well.  You might think they are only for magazines and software companies, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

You can offer free food samples or free servings if you own a restaurant, catering or other food service company.  If you own a training or consulting company, you can offer a free course or a free consulting hour.  Physicians often offer free pharmaceuticals, and dentists offer free toothbrushes.  Think about how free trials or samples can be used in your business to attract new clients.

Webinars

The online equivalent of a class or lecture is a webinar.  If your company sells a product or service that requires a lot of client education, you can deliver this information via a webinar.  The benefits to offering a webinar are that people do not have to get dressed up to go anywhere, you can have people from all over the world attend, and people will be able to get to know you and how you think so they can make a decision about whether they want to do business with you.

To offer webinars, you’ll need webinar software such as Citrix GoToWebinar or WebEx.  You could also use Google Hangouts for free, but the number of people attending is limited.  Invite people you know via email announcements or social media.  You can make a sales offer during the webinar as well.

Email

Email is a great way to make sales offers to people, especially if you have a list of people who have given you permission to send emails to them.  If you send out a monthly newsletter, include a Product of the Month or a Deal of the Month.  It’s much less expensive than direct mail, and often there is a much better response rate.

Online Ads

If placing ads in newspapers and magazines is not working in your industry any more, then try placing online ads.  There are lots of choices.  You can go with Google AdWords and Facebook Ads.  Twitter and LinkedIn have ads as well.

You can also try banner ads.  There is a special type of banner ad called retargeting.  Have you ever been on a company’s website, then left it and started seeing advertisements for that company on the websites you visited later?  That’s called retargeting and it’s very popular.

Before you create your marketing plans for next quarter, give these ideas some consideration.  You may get more bang for your marketing dollar.

Google Drive, which used to be called Google Docs, is a great way to collaborate with team members and stakeholders that are in a different location than you are. Here’s a quick introduction (or refresher) on how to use this powerful collaboration tool.

Google Drive is a browser-based application that allows you to create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and other documents that reside in the cloud. They can easily be shared with others, and both of you can see and edit the document at the same time.

Using Google Drive

To get started, you’ll need to have (or set up) a Google account. If you have a gmail account, you can use it. Log in to your gmail or Google account, and at the top right corner of your screen, you will see a square made up of nine small squares. You can click on it and select Google Drive.   Alternately, you can go to drive.google.com.

Time to Create

Once you’re on the Google Drive main page, you’ll see a large red CREATE button on the top left. Click it to create your first Google document. Select among the choices of spreadsheet, document, presentation, and more. Give the document a title, and start editing. The commands are very similar to Microsoft Office®, so there’s no learning curve.

Time to Share

When you are viewing a document, you’ll see a blue SHARE button on the top right side of your screen. Click it to enter the email address of a person you’d like to have see and/or edit the document.

You can tell who else is viewing the document at the same time you are because you’ll see a colored box and perhaps their picture on the top right side. You can also tell where their cursor is in the document; it will show up in another color.

As you create documents, you will see your list growing under My Drive. If someone else created the document and shared it with you, you’ll see it under Shared With Me.

So Many Uses

Here are a couple of ideas on how you can use Google Drive.

  • As a bulletin board for your employees or customers
  • For status reports on projects
  • As a to-do list when multiple team members are involved – they can check off the items as they go
  • As a collaborative note-taker when you’re brainstorming with another person
  • With a client when you need to explain part of a document – you can copy and paste from Word or Excel to Google Drive (but check to make sure everything came over)

Google Drive is great for productivity and makes communications easier. Try it and let us know how you use it.


Does Your Accounting Department Have Holes in It?

You’ve got someone to do your federal and state income tax returns, and you have a bookkeeper. So that’s all that a small business needs when it comes to having an accounting department, right?

Wrong.

Large companies have many functions in their accounting departments, and small and mid-sized businesses need many of the same functions as well. They just won’t need as many staff to handle them. Many of these functions will fall on the CEO, but a smart CEO will find a way to delegate some of the accounting duties to free their time up.

Here are just a few of the things you’ll want to make sure that you have covered in your small business accounting department:

Accounting Software Expertise

Who do you have on your team that can identify opportunities for making your accounting function run more efficiently? The solutions could include training on your current system or could be more comprehensive such as identifying a new accounting system that will save a tremendous amount of time and money.

Let your accountant get to know your processes because they may know of some software applications that can do what you need faster, better, and cheaper. Manual data entry is a hot spot of potential; today, you can find software, scanners, and even smartphones and tablets that can automate the data entry, even if all you have is paperwork to enter.

Business Performance Advice

Are you getting accounting reports that tie to the areas where you have challenges and issues? If not, let your accountant know where those areas are. They may be able to suggest some reports that will provide you with insight and enlightenment.

If you are receiving reports with lots of numbers that you’re not quite sure how to interpret, ask your accountant for help. They can not only help you interpret the numbers, but they can also put the report into a graphical format so that it’s more visual for you.

It’s All About the Revenue

The number one challenge of most small businesses is to attract more business and generate more revenue. Your accountant can help you study your revenue patterns by presenting “what if” tools that can help you see what happens when you change price, impact mix, or adjust volume.

Keeping the Cash Flowing

If your business seems to stampede through cash, you’re not alone. A cash flow forecasting report is in order so you can plan ahead and be ready for the valleys and hills.

Beyond Compliance

If your accounting department focuses on compliance work alone, such as taxes and recordkeeping, you’ll miss out on allowing it to become a profit center of sorts. With these added functions, you’ll discover new actions to take in your business to drive profitability. You’ll have clarity about decisions like price changes, and you’ll know your accounting function is efficient and not wasting time and money.

Take a look at your accounting department, and let us know if we can help you plug any of the holes.