Sometimes you need to stop and take stock; here's how

Sylvia Pennington

You’ve started running your own show and chances are you’re too busy to scratch yourself. Despite, or perhaps because, every hour in the day seems to be spoken for, it can pay to pause occasionally to assess where your up-and-coming business is at and where it’s heading.

But what questions should you be asking yourself? Veteran entrepreneur and Group Colleges Australia CEO Alan Manly shares his guide for taking stock.

Counting the cash

How does your cash flow look right now? If you don’t know the answer, it’s a sure sign you’re a start-up – and a bad sign for the long term survival of your venture.

Knowing exactly what’s coming in, and when, may help you avert the cash crisis which awaits many start-ups which are founded on seed capital, or the cash reserves of founders or supporters, according to Manly.

“Many good businesses go out of business because they simply run out of cash, not because their products are no good or they can’t make sales,” he says.

Your best customers

Who are your ideal customers and are you doing your darnedest to attract them? Or are you too busy trying to hang onto the few that you have, partly out of gratitude for the fact that they took a chance on you?

If you want to take your business to the next – profitable – level, then it’s time to ask who else you should be targeting and how your offering can be tailored to make you more attractive to them as a potential partner, Manly says.

Some sound advice

You’ve leapt in and you’re doing ok but could some wise counsel mean less mistakes and a faster route to profitability?

For most rookie entrepreneurs, the answer is yes. Seeking out a mentor or business coach, formal or informal, who’s trodden the same path can mean less ‘learning by experience’ and more smart decisions early on, Manly says.

The A team

You’ve amassed a small team who’ve helped you turn your big idea into a bona fide business but are they the best people for the job, as you expand beyond start-up stage?

Sometimes the answer can be no, even if they’re a happy bunch who get on well, Manly says. It’s important to ensure your team is made up of productive people who’ll strive to meet the venture’s goals, not just friends who enjoy hanging together at work.

Dodgy debtors

Which customers are bad payers and what’s your plan for dealing with them? Don’t know and don’t have one? Customers who don’t cough up on time can be the enemy within. Becoming more proactive about collecting what’s owed and working to replace dubious custom with that of prompt payers can be the difference between sinking and swimming, Manly says.

Sylvia Pennington

Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.

Sometimes you do need to stop and ask yourself a few questions. Are you wasting time in your business? What would someone else do in your shoes? Or, do you just need a bit of advice when things get tough?