BOOST EFFICIENCY WITH A DOCUMENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
An effective system that can create, store, and track documents electronically is a necessity in any modern business. One thing that is common with any growing business is the large number of documents that have to be stored and retrieved as the need arises. This calls for an effective document management system and a firm-wide document management policy. Whether documents are stored and made available in paper, electronic, or online formats, a document management system will enhance document security as well as making things easier to locate when needed.
One of the most important components of this kind of system is an ability to capture data and index it in such a way that storage, retrieval, and distribution become instant. Many businesses that introduce such a system soon discover how effective and efficient the management of documents and information can become. Another important aspect is that after information has been stored, it can be made available to authorised personnel as and when they need it. So processes such as sales, audit reports, etc become more efficient.
Secure storage of documents is a key feature of a Document Management System. A properly designed system can keep documents using different types of media depending on factors such as how frequently they are used, their nature, as well as the ease and convenience of their use. There are web document management systems that require documents to be stored on databases or servers, other systems that require storage on optical media such as DVDs and CDs, and still others that require storage magnetically using tape drives or hard disks. Depending on your business, your IT service provider will help you to decide what system is best for your firm.
There is more to record management than storage of documents. A good system will enable staff to efficiently retrieve or sort required documents, speeding up process driven work. Another advantage of a document management system is that all documents are available for the next person online immediately, increasing efficiency within the business.
A computer and web based document management system ensures smooth intra-organisational connectivity which also extends to inter-office levels with a well managed flow of information. Authorised users can also connect to the system when working from home or out on the road. With fast and convenient operations, the business will benefit from further efficiencies and increased levels of productivity.
Businesses need to know their competition, especially in today’s hyper-competitive business environment. Knowing what the competition is up to allows you to develop unique selling points (USPs) which will encourage buyers to purchase from you.
In order to understand the customer experience offered by your competitors, try “mystery shopping” your nearest direct competitors. Things to note include: the customer experience, staff-customer interaction, how staff dress and present themselves, the business environment and little touches such as complementary tea or coffee. Most important of all is to take note of the sales process – how do your competitors go about selling products or services to the customer? Do they suggest how their product or service can add value? Do they offer a demonstration? How do they close the sale?
Products and Services
Keep an eye out for any new services or products your competitors offer. Pay close attention to the quality of their brochures, the appearance of their products and any new or interesting ways in which they add value for their customers. You should create reports which compare your business to the leading competitors in your particular sector of the market. You should circulate these reports to your management and sales teams with a view to encouraging them to implement new ideas and approaches which will improve your business against your competitors.
Once you know the specific details about your competitor’s people and their products or services, your sales team will be more informed and can develop the USPs that they can use when challenged by customers as to “why should I buy from you and not from your competitor?”. Your sales team can then focus on the strengths of your products or services and encourage your customers to do the same.
If you are at a disadvantage to your competitors in terms of your pricing, work with your sales team to prepare a checklist of the specific features and benefits unique to your product or service. Have each sales person practice presenting this checklist, as this particular part of the sales process will usually be enough for the prospect to decide to purchase from you.
No matter what type of business you run, you need to network in order to build your business. Effective networking involves a lot more than simply handing out business cards. Here are a few tips to help your business development meetings produce the business relationships that you want:
Sort your contacts
Try to get a copy of the attendee list prior to the event. Cross check the list against your contacts and targets to identify individuals. Aim to meet each one and to get a follow up meeting in the diary.
Prepare an agenda. You’ll want to find out what their goals are for their business, what special skills they have, and what they’re especially proud of (both business-wise and personally). What organisations do they belong to that may be a good fit for your business networking?
If your contact is unlikely to turn into a prospect, mark them off your list of potential business development leads (but keep them as a business contact). As you go through this process, you’ll find your goals and interests match better with some people than others. This means that your meetings are producing the results you’re looking for. For those that have similar goals and interests, you should schedule times in the future to continue to build on what you’ve learned. For those that may not closely match your goals, stay in touch more generally through email marketing, etc.
Stay in touch
There is no bigger failing for your networking activities than to let those that you’ve met fall by the wayside. Never forget that while they may not be an ideal match for you now, their businesses and lives will have changes that you may be able to complement. They’ll also meet others that may be a better fit for you and will remember you when someone looks for your services and products.
A well-run business will have controls and procedures in place to monitor the business as well as providing means of gathering relevant information in order to monitor the business on its way to achieving its goals and objectives. Controls also provide an early warning that something maybe wrong.
Most people would associate such procedures and controls with very large organisations, however, planning, budgeting and forecasting are vital tools for SMEs as well.
Strategic Plans & Business Plans
Every business should have a strategic business plan which is vital to developing a long-term view of where business is going and how it plans to get there. When a business is considering raising finance, the plan for finance providers needs to include a significant amount additional information in order to provide new parties with a better understanding of the business. It usually contains information about the history of the business, the owners/managers and key personal, range of products and services as well as financial information (historical and projected).The purpose of the plan is to enable the business to sell itself to potential investors and finance providers.
Now, more than ever it is vital that all businesses prepare an annual budget to decide a plan for the business in the following years. It is important that the budget is reviewed on a regular basis in order to measure progress and monitor as to whether the business is achieving its targets and if not, then why not.
If an SME does not have the resources in-house to prepare the information, accountants can help to devise a simplified system of planning, budgeting and forecasting which summarises key performance indicators and provides a feedback mechanism. After all, it is of no benefit to have set targets and budgets if they are not being reviewed regularly and actions agreed where significant variances arise. Contact CACM Accountants for further information.