10 Keys to a Healthy Business

Focusing on what is important to you, understanding that not all sales are healthy and more. Check out the 10 ways to test to see if your business is healthy and on track for a successful 2018.

You see your doctor for health check-ups and a mechanic for car tune-ups, but where do you turn when something just doesn’t feel right with your business? During the recent “COSE WebEd Series Webinar: 10 Keys to a Healthy Business,” Greg Gens, area president for FocusCFO—a provider of CFO-level services to the small- and medium-size business market—discussed some “tests” you can give your business to see if it’s doing well and prepared for a successful future.

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    Listed below are Gens’ 10 keys (questions to ask yourself) to ensuring your business is healthy and running the way it’s supposed to.

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    Key No. 1: Do you understand cash versus cash flow?

    There are only three real sources of funding: investors, banks and businesses. Investors and banks bring cash to the table, even if it is only borrowed. They are more complicated avenues of getting cash and bring their own share of potential conflict. Your business itself is often your best source of cash flow and is frequently overlooked. Look inside your business at accounts receivable (is it time to bill?), inventory and equipment, and overhead and capacity. Every business can better optimize cash flow.

    Key No. 2: Is your cash locked up in working capital?

    A great source of capital can be found on the left side of your balance sheet. Unlock your cash by making sure your billing and collections are up to date, getting rid of slow-moving or low-markup inventory and reducing equipment that doesn’t get much use. Ask yourself, “What if you couldn’t get money from an investor or bank; what are the opportunities inside your business for cash?”

    Key No. 3: Do you have a clear understanding of debt and a good connection with your bank?

    There are three types of bank debt: real estate, equipment and lines of credit. Real estate and equipment debt are tied to specific assets or collateral, and have a fixed term (usually three to 10 years). A line of credit is usually tied to working capital (accounts receivable and inventory) and should not be used to fund equipment, expansion or overhead costs. Lines of credit are often tied to temporary or seasonal expenses, and ideally will go to zero during the rest of the year. Make sure you can show your bank that you can pay down a debt, that you have all information at your fingertips and that you can give it to them as soon as they ask for it.

    Key No. 4: Do you have the tools for effective management reporting and financial statements?

    “Your books,” or your internal accounting systems and reports, are very important to your company.  A healthy business is able to fairly easily “close the books” at the end of each month. Keep your financial statements as simple as possible and consider something off the shelf, such as QuickBooks, Peachtree, Dynamics or others. Gens advised outsourcing this part of your business to a CPA or bookkeeping firm.

    Key No. 5: What is important to you?

    For this test, Gens outlined four questions to ask yourself and the areas of your business to consult when answering the questions.

    • What happened yesterday? Accounting.
    • What is happening today and tomorrow? Operations.
    • What will happen three months from now? Revenue.
    • Will I run out of money from either moving too slowly or too quickly? Cash Flow.

    Key No. 6: Do you have an understanding that not all sales are healthy?

    Examples of unhealthy sales include:

    • Too much revenue from one customer;
    • not enough revenue from one customer;
    • gross margins that are too low to cover overhead costs;
    • sales commissions that exceeds gross margin;
    • clients who pay too slowly; and
    • orders that cause too many disruptions.

    To have a clear understanding if a sale is healthy, Gens advised knowing the exact numbers tied to that sale, as well as looking for common trends or problems associated with sales across the board.

    Key No. 7: Are you being thoughtful about your financial strategy?

    Are you current on paying your taxes? Do your books check out? Are you able to prove that you can pay off a debt so that banks feel comfortable loaning to you?

    Key No. 8: Do you have the ability to drive positive cash flow from operations?

    Cash flow from operations refers to the amount of money a company generates from the revenues it brings in, excluding costs associated with long-term investment on capital items or investment in securities. It is cash flow from operations that will be used to make capital expenditures, design new products, make acquisitions, pay dividends, reduce debt and more.

    Key No. 9: Does your budget and forecast plan for what you want to happen?

    Understand that if you can’t make it work on paper, you don’t have much of a chance of making it work in real life. Gens suggested looking forward, not backward. If you are running your business strategy by financial statements, you’re always looking at last month’s budget. The key is a budget with a forward-facing perspective.

    Key No. 10: Does your business have good advisors and are you communicating well with them?

    Your banker, attorney, CPA and others: Are these some of your most trusted advisors and do you bring them in and talk with them regularly? Don’t be too proud to admit when you need some extra guidance.

    The COSE WebEd Webinar is just one example of the dozens of educational events COSE hosts every year. Check out the COSE Events page to see if there are any upcoming events that might help you grow your business.

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    Next up: 10 Ways Your Company’s Core Values Can Promote Success

    10 Ways Your Company’s Core Values Can Promote Success

    Your company’s core values are too important to hide them away in your HR manual. In fact, you could be leveraging them to help your business grow. Learn how online retailing giant Zappos has aligned its business model with its 10 core values and has achieved success.

    Throughout 2018, Mind Your Business will be reviewing the highlights of the 2017 BizConCLE event hosted by COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Today’s article focuses on the importance of a company living by its core values, as explained by Zappos’ Erica Javellana. Read the other stories in this series here.

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    For too many companies, the commitment to their core values extends no further than a few sentences found on a plaque hanging in the lobby. But during her keynote address at BizConCLE 2017, Erica Javellana, the “Speaker of the House” at online retailer Zappos, believes culture is much too valuable to be a throw-away statement added to a HR manual.

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    In fact, she believes it’s possible for companies to leverage their culture to not only increase employee morale and retention, but to grow their business as well. How? Read on below for the list of the 10 core values at Zappos, why Javellana believes they’re important and how they are contributing to Zappos’ success.

    Core value No. 1: Deliver a ‘WOW’ customer service experience

    Javellana recalled a time when a Zappos customer service representative helped a customer find a hoodie she was looking for, even though it was on a competitor’s site. Going above and beyond like that is a great way to generate return customers and to spark word-of-mouth advertising for a company.

    Core value No. 2: Embrace and drive change

    Don’t be afraid to be innovative. Don’t embrace the status quo. Most companies fail because they just don’t adapt to changes in their marketplace quickly enough.

    Core value No. 3: Create fun and a little weirdness

    Relatedly, don’t be afraid to try new things internally, too. Get your people excited to come in to work and let them know they can show their whole self at work—that is, the side they show their friends and not just their coworkers. She added that a lot of companies spend time talking about creating a work/life balance. But if you make it just about life, your staff might be happier.

    Core value No. 4: Be adventurous, creative and open-minded

    Think outside the box. For instance, have you considered instituting an employee-recognition program where employees can recognize their coworkers for going the extra mile?

    Core value No. 5: Pursue growth and learning

    Most employees will leave a job because they feel there is nowhere left for them to grow. Promote a culture of continual learning and also get employees trained in other departments, so that is an opening becomes available elsewhere in your company, they could be a candidate.

    Core value No. 6: Build open and honest relationships with communication

    This is important because if someone trusts you, they are much more likely to react positively to the message you are trying to get across.

    Core value No. 7: Build a positive team and family spirit

    Zappos made this a core value because the leadership team recognized that employees who work in this kind of an environment are going to be more likely to help each other. This line of thinking can extend to the vendors a company works with, too.

    Core value No. 8: Do more with less

    Be efficient with your resources and focused on business-wide financials. How can your team be more resourceful?

    Core value No. 9: Be passionate and determined

    Is your heart in the role that you play with your company? Passion is infectious. People see it and they want what you have, which is how passion spreads. At the same time, negativity is infectious, too.

    Core value No. 10: Be humble

    How do you keep that negativity away? By hiring the right people. A good way Zappos has found to weed out the negative/not humble candidates is by telling potential new hires they will need to go through a month-long training course to answer the phones because all employees are expected to handle customer service roles during busy times. To this end, Zappos also gives their workers the option to quit, with severance, after four weeks if they find the job is not for them.

    How is your company using its value system to promote growth? Let us know on Twitter! And learn more about BizConCLE and how this event provides small- and medium-sized businesses the education and resources they need to succeed.

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    Next up: 11 Business Books You Should Have Read by Now

    11 Business Books You Should Have Read by Now

    With so many business books out there, it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which ones will help you accomplish the goals you have set for you and your business. To help you narrow down your choices, here’s a list of quality reading material and what aspect of your business they will help.

    It started during my military career. Successful leaders provided reading lists prior to new assignments or to help us prepare to successfully operate with and visiting nations around the world.

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    The list included articles, books and policy publications that helped us become knowledgeable of a culture and history of people. It was clear: The better I prepared to work in new environments the more effective I was as a leader.

    As I moved into my business career, addressing new challenges or gaining new insights came from a well thought out reading list. Successful leaders know and accept the markets they compete in are not static environments. Success in business is a choice. Be ready to adapt to ever changing conditions or become irrelevant and perish.

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    So, my stack of books, my reading list, helps me stay ahead of my client’s need by:

    1. Being a student of the business they are in and increase my business acumen, my strengths and my ability to impact their results.

    2. Being responsible for my own professional development. My customers, their employees and their customers need me to help them prepare to win. I need to be viewed as ready for the challenges they face.

    3. Being distinctive by outlearning my competition and prepared to anticipate and overcome new or unforeseen challenges.

    With that in mind, here’s a list of 11 business books that you should have on your own reading list, and how these books will help you accomplish your business goals.

    To grow professional relationships and networks
    I recommend Dale Carnegie’s classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.” These focus on developing relationships and self. I also added Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” among many titles to help build the relationships I need in my coaching business.

    To increase business acumen and strategic thinking
    There are many but Jack Stack’s “The Great Game of Business” is a solid reference based on the real story of turning around a dying company. His “Open Book Management” is a great resource to help my clients grow their businesses. 

    To grow as a leader
    Carol Dweck’s “Mindset” addresses the impact of fixed vs growth mindsets. Marshall Goldsmith’s “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”, John C Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” and John Kotter’s “Leading Change” help develop “rising” leaders.

    To build and lead engaged teams
    Building and leading engaged teams requires leaders getting results through engagement and accountability. I start discussions with Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and ideas from Roger Connors’, Tom Smith’s and Craig Hickman’s “The Oz Principle”.

    What am I reading now?
    Right now, I’m reading Tim Ferriss’ “Tools of Titans” to find ideas, strategies and blueprints of success that will help my clients.

    So … which of these do you need in your “stack” of books?

    Wayne Bergman is a business and executive coach and founder of Consistent Business Growth. Questions or comments about this piece? Email him directly at wayne@cbgrowth-gfm.com.

    Grasshopper
    Next up: 12 Takeaways from the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting

    12 Takeaways from the 2018 COSE Annual Meeting

    Did you miss all the action at the COSE Annual Meeting this year? Not to worry, we have you covered! Here are 12  takeaways from the event at the Terrace Club inside Progressive Field.

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    Takeaway No. 1: Honoring COSE’s 2016-2017 Chair Michael Stanek

    The 2018 meeting began with the recognition of Michael Stanek, the outgoing 2016-2017 COSE chair. During his chairmanship, Stanek oversaw a closer alignment between COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership; worked to more closely engage members in broader economic development and advocacy work; and was engaged in the rollout of the COSE Health and Wellness Trust, a health benefit option designed specifically for small businesses that was introduced in 2017.

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    In addition to his significant focus on COSE, Stanek also took a high-profile role in advocating for the larger business community via testimony at the state level and as an officer and leader of the nonpartisan National Small Business Association.

    During his remarks, Stanek highlighted some of the ways COSE delivered on its mission of helping small businesses achieve their vision of success, including providing opportunities for education; health insurance; and savings on energy and workers’ compensation. Read on below for more details on each of these areas.

    Takeaway No. 2: Welcoming the 2018-2019 Chair for COSE

    John Young of Speed Exterminating was named as the Chair of COSE for the 2018-2019 term. In his address to the hundreds of COSE members in attendance, Young outline three goals for his chairmanship:

    • He will work to create more opportunities for COSE members to be involved and connected to the organization’s work.
    • Second, Young said he will focus on ensuring that the GCP’s work is also felt by and connected to small business members. Young will be focused on making sure that the voice of small businesses is actively connected to all the work being done at the GCP.
    • And, he will work to increase the awareness of members of the variety of additional resources available to support their success through COSE.

    Takeaway No. 3: Events and education

    With a total of 58 education and networking events under its belt in 2017 and 3,475 attendees, COSE delivered opportunities for small business professionals to meet, network and be educated on topics that will help them grow their business.

    Takeaway No. 4: COSE MEWA

    The COSE Health and Wellness Trust helps small businesses access health benefits. In just the past 15 months, COSE has had more than 2,500 small businesses join this program and it continues to grow.

    Takeaway No. 5: Energy audits

    COSE’s energy programs continue to deliver savings in electric and gas for small businesses and the organization performed 90 energy audits and 191 energy efficiency projects for small- and mid-sized businesses in 2017. This resulted in more than $3.2 million in rebates to those companies for their energy investments. Contact the COSE Energy Team to learn more about how they can help your business save.

    Takeaway No. 6: Workers’ compensation

    COSE’s workers’ compensation program serves more than 2,300 small businesses and, in partnership with Minute Men HR and 1-888 Ohio Comp, the program saw growth in 2017. More than $7 million in savings were created via the program for COSE members.

    Takeaway No. 7: Advocacy

    Working with the large business community, COSE has been actively advocating on behalf of small businesses and participated in such initiatives as:

    • Supporting the creation of a safe harbor for small businesses from cybersecurity risks;
    • advocacy for intrastate crowdfunding opportunities;
    • ensuring that marijuana legalization does not adversely impact business owners; and
    • securing business income tax exemptions for small business owners in the most recent biennial state budget.

    Takeaway No. 8: Cleveland Chain Reaction

    Following up on the successful Lebron James-led CNBC production of Cleveland Hustles, Cleveland Chain Reaction was an independent follow-up economic development project led by COSE and its partners, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and Glazen Urban, that matched local investors with local entrepreneurs to open five new businesses in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood.

    Takeaway No. 9: Recognizing leadership

    COSE relies strongly on its volunteer leadership to help provide the organization with vision and guidance. In addition to naming Young as Chair of COSE, the following leaders were also recognized during the 2018 Annual Meeting.

    Outgoing Board Members

    • Michael Baach, Philpott Solutions
    • Michael Canty, Alloy Bellows
    • Roxanne Kaufmann, ProLaureate
    • Laura McPhee, Parts Pro Warehouse
    • Michael Obi, Spectrum Global
    • Jonathan Slain, Autobahn Consultants
    • Sam Steinhouse, Excel Air Tool
    • Keith Williams, Good Karma Brands

    Current Board Members

    • Brian Alquist, 1Direction, Inc.
    • Julie Brandle, Metis Construction
    • Stacy Bauer, BauerGriffith, LLC
    • Tim Dimoff, SACS Consulting
    • John Doyle, FASTSIGNS Downtown Cleveland
    • Tim Opsitnick, Jurrinov
    • Damon Piatek, Welke Custom Brokers
    • Vince Salvino, CodeRed
    • Tameka Taylor, Compass Consulting
    • Tony Weber, Goldfarb Weber Creative Media
    • Mireille-Wozniak-Michalak, Petiole HR
    • Patty Zinn, Micro Systems Management
    • Bonnie Matthew, Food For Thought
    • Rion Safier, Rion Safier Accounting, LLC
    • Mike Stanek, Hunt Imaging
    • Sharon Toerek, Esq., Toerek Law LPA
    • John Young, Speed Exterminating
    • Nevin Bansal, Outreach Promotional Solutions
    • Diane Helbig, Seize This Day
    • Kevin Johnson, Glenwood Management
    • Marvin Montgomery, The Sales Doctor
    • Deborah Rutledge, Rutledge Group
    • Jose Vasquez, Quez Media Marketing
    • Stacy Ward Braxton, The Significance Group

    Incoming Board Members

    • Fernando Bertero, Fully Promoted
    • Cheryl Perez, Benefits Innovation Group
    • Alex Gertsburg, The Gertsburg Law Firm
    • Bob Pacanovsky, The Black Tie Experience
    • Russ Schabel, Philpott Solutions

    Outgoing 2016-2017 COSE Chairman

    • Mike Stanek, Hunt Imaging LLC

    2017 Volunteer Service Award

    • Marvin Montgomery, The Sales Doctor

    Takeaway No. 10: Learning from the Cleveland Indians

    The location of this year’s Annual Meeting inside Progressive Field served as an important clue as to who the stars of this year’s event would be. And that would be a trio straight from the leadership team of the Cleveland Indians. Manager Terry Francona, legendary play-by-play voice Tom Hamilton and Chairman and CEO Paul Dolan took part in a panel discussion on leadership strategies and how to build a winning team during a session moderated by Hamilton.

    Click here to listen to the full audio from this unique session.

    Takeaway No. 11: Encouraging young entrepreneurs

    COSE is working with the Young Entrepreneur Institute (YEI) to help our youth become more aware and inspired by entrepreneurship. Founded in 2006, YEI is a local non-profit organization that provides experiential entrepreneurship education to more than 7,000 kindergarten through 12th grade students annually through collaboration with schools and organizations in Northeast Ohio. Learn more about this partnership and how you can also support this work by clicking here.

    Takeaway No. 12: Essay judges needed

    Northeast Ohio high school students and the business community will come together for the third year to raise awareness and provide realistic solutions to critical issues facing the nation’s teens. High school students from Aurora, Beachwood, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Chagrin Falls, Kenston, Newbury, and Orange school districts will be given a voice and the power to solve, through an essay, a problem they see impacting themselves, their peers and their community, through the “We Solve Problems Essay Contest”, which was created by the Gertsburg Law Firm and the Chagrin Valley Chamber of Commerce.

    The success of the contest relies on judges and generous donations from the community and businesses. Business, government, and community leaders are asked to read about 10 one-page essays – from the comfort of their home or office - over a two-week period in February 2018.  Winners will be announced in May. Jeff Hoffman, an inventor and serial entrepreneur with accomplishments going back to Priceline.com, will serve as the final judge.

    Additional information about the contest, including how to become a judge or sponsor, can be found here.

    The COSE Annual Meeting isn’t the only important event small business representatives should have on their calendar. Click here for a list of upcoming COSE events where you can network with fellow small business professionals and attend educational sessions that will help your business succeed.

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    Next up: 2010 CIO Symposium Plenary Session - CIO 3.0

    2010 CIO Symposium Plenary Session - CIO 3.0

    CIO: 3.0 - A forward view of the industry landscape from CIOs and select vendors. 

    CIO: 3.0 - A forward view of the industry landscape from CIOs and select vendors. 

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    Panelists: Lev Gonick, CIO - Case, Sandra Rapp, CIO - LinguistaLogix, Dan Dugan - Cisco; John Sprecher - Microsoft

    Listen here.

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    Next up: 2011 CIO Symposium - A View to the Near Future

    2011 CIO Symposium - A View to the Near Future

    As the pace of advances in technology continues to quicken, leveraging new technologies can be a challenge as well as an opportunity. Advances in mobile technologies, open source applications, collaboration platforms and more provide IT executives with wide-ranging tools to foster IT innovation in the enterprise. 

    As the pace of advances in technology continues to quicken, leveraging new technologies can be a challenge as well as an opportunity. Advances in mobile technologies, open source applications, collaboration platforms and more provide IT executives with wide-ranging tools to foster IT innovation in the enterprise. 

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    But what are prominent technologies being deployed or coming on the horizon? And how are CIOs innovating in their organization with new technologies? 

    This opening session features successful CIOs and prominent vendors sharing their vision of "the near future". Confirmed panelists include Bill Blausey, CIO-Eaton Corporation; Greg Kall, CIO-Summa Health Systems; Jim DesPres, Regional Manager, Google Enterprise; and Terry Quinn, District Sales Manager, Hewlett-Packard.

    Listen here.

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