Getting a business off the ground is hard work – just ask anyone who has already done it. Starting at zero there are hundreds of aspects to keep track which will more than keep you occupied. In the end, realistically, the ratio of those who make it against those who don’t tend to be leaning to the latter. However, for those who do make it through the work is just beginning.
Imagine everything you’ll have to keep track of while you’re growing – more staff, more products, more clients, etc. Just seeing everything written down could make your head spin. Fortunately, there are systems and services in place to help you with everything. Unfortunately, they’ll most likely be specific to each individual task. This could hamper your department integration and therefore your productivity and efficiency – something you want to avoid at all costs.
All in one
In order to cut costs and rid yourself of incompatible formats (that could plague you if run multiple business solutions), it’s much simpler to just find a software that can do everything you need it to in the confines of your company. One of these products is the WP ERP – a complete business solution that, in its core modules, includes apps for HRM, CRM, and accounting – basically everything you’ll need to steer your business in the right direction in all its aspects.
When running a business, the most complex thing isn’t the product, meeting deadlines or even the clients (although they can be extremely complex). It’s the people you work with. Your staff, their interaction with you and each other, as well as the hierarchy at place (both vertical and horizontal), require so many nuances to successfully manage, you’ll need every advantage you can get to create a comfortable working environment in which every person will be able to maximize their potential.
To keep track of everything, first you’ll need to build up your personnel database. This will include all members of your staff and some general information about them. Some of the key things, in this case, will be directed towards the company hierarchy. For you, as a business owner or lead manager, it’s important to know who answers to whom and how the departments are set up. With very small businesses you’ll get a chance to micromanage all employees individually but when you grow that certainly won’t be the case.
This is why vertical hierarchy is really important. You should be in direct contact with your division/department leads. You’ll delegate aspects of your business to them, setting short-term and long-term goals. They will answer directly to you, but they will also delegate the work to their subordinates. Presuming the task has multiple stages you’ll get your feedback regarding the process from the leads, removing the need to check in on each of the smaller tasks with every individual within the department. In line with this different levels of permissions should be granted. The higher the position the greater the access to the workings of the company.
Once you’re all clear with who you have working for and how they relate to the rest of the staff you’ll want to make notes with additional information that will help you. The more staff you have the harder it is to remember everything about them. Knowing who works for you and what they’re capable of is essential for running a good business. This is something that can also be delegated – bigger companies have whole HR departments, but for small to medium sized businesses you should be able to manage by yourself.
Now that you know each of your staff members in detail it shouldn’t be a stretch to organize the work week. This will help your staff plan their week or month and, in turn, make better use of their time both in the company and removed from it.
It’s very important to find a good balance. Usually, a working week is 40 hours, and everything more than that could be considered overtime (this is a general consensus in western Europe – each country abides by their own laws). Depending on the nature of your business those 40 hours can be managed very differently throughout the week.
IT departments often work the afternoon shift since hardware and software maintenance can’t be done while others are working. Another example is having a 24/7 customer support service – in these cases, you’ll have people working through three shifts. Some companies employ the Friday or Monday part-time work schedule working an hour longer the other days and having that deducted for longer weekends. There certainly are numerous possibilities open to you, you’ll just need to figure out what works best for you.
We’ve already mentioned the importance of growth and evolving to be constantly competitive on the market. In order to manage that on a companywide level you’ll need to seek your staff to educate themselves further, be it general or something specific to their fields.
More and more companies look to encourage this kind of behavior from their staff by offering them partial or even full compensation for courses or seminars, some going so far to make such practices mandatory. No matter the financial policy the least you can do to help them improve themselves is give them leave. There’s simply no sense in overloading them with both work and additional activities.
Aside from company-sponsored leaves, it’s important to set up policies regarding leaves that are clear and make them available to your employees. These should include maternity leaves, sick leave, etc. Maintaining a fair system that puts your employees first will go a long way in raising the overall atmosphere in the workplace.
Next level HRM
With your core in place, it’s time to upgrade. Stagnation is death as many would say and enhancing on top of your foundations is essential. Among the first thing, you should look into is keeping attendance. Most of us will quickly jump to a negative context when thinking of keeping tabs on employee attendance but this shouldn’t be the case.
Knowing when and how long your staff works can give you a clear picture of their commitment. If proven positive this could lead to staff benefits and/or bonuses.
For example, you have a department working on a big project. Everybody is giving it their all putting in extra hours to complete it before the deadline. You can monitor all this and after the project is successfully completed, hand out awards for outstanding work. This will give your staff extra motivation because they know their effort is recognized and valued making them willing to put in the extra work, resulting in happier staff and much lower employee turnover (consistency is something you should really strive for).
We’ve already touched a bit on the different shifts in the workplace and how certain professions tend to have more or less unusual shifts than others. It’s therefore important that you create a viable structure that covers everything, while at the same time giving your staff enough time to have a personal life.
While on the topic of shifts one thing you’ll definitely want to do is give your staff the opportunity to if not plan their own shifts to a certain degree (with the department heads approval), then at least monitor their work time.
Something like this is even more important with jobs that have flexible work hours. No employee should be left in the dark, not knowing how much time he or she has put in. Again, providing them with insight into their workplace from a “behind the scenes” point of view will make for happier employees and them even more attached to the company.
Speaking of giving your staff access to information it could be a novel idea to set up a system that will (according to clearance) give them a frontend look into their personal work information. Giving everyone access to a dashboard that provides information on current absences, a nifty customizable calendar and even info on birthdays can go a long way towards providing employees a sense of comradeship and belonging both to other employees and the company in general.
The dashboard will, however, be more than just a place to gather information. Through it, employees will be able to input leave requests. Making this process digital will remove the need for unnecessary paperwork a make it much more streamlined, not to mention quicker for everyone involved. With your superiors having access to the module through the cloud the whole process (request – review – permission) could be done in just a few minutes thus removing any potential unnerving anticipation the employee might have while awaiting confirmation.
Of course, you’ll want to set up the same dashboard in a much more robust form for your HR department. With absolutely no coding skills required and just your (or admins) in-app approval, they’ll be able to manage all employee information. This includes personal information, attendance and leave tracking, company and department hierarchy and much more.
Much like the aforementioned “regular” employee dashboard the more in-depth one with much more access will more than just information input and review with numerous available reports. In the modern business culture, reports are commonplace. Anybody working will know that a few days probably won’t go by without you having to submit some kind of report. In these cases, it’s much easier to have a software that can put all the part together and present them to you in raw numbers. You’ll still have to interpret them in your own way, but the act of information gathering is much simpler.
Now one of those reports gave an idea to refresh your staff with a few new faces, to spice things up, as they say. To achieve this, you’ll have to go and recruit new potential employees. By far the easiest way to do this will be to put out job posting directly on your site.
This will let everyone visiting your site know you’re hiring. Now depending on your company’s reputation, you’ll get more or less applicants. No matter how many apply, you’ll want to vet them thoroughly through different stages of the hiring process (these will include questionnaires, interviews, practical tasks etc.).
After you’ve got your database of all potential employees it’s time to put it all in the grinder, look at the numerous reports and make an educated decision and hire the best candidate.
As your employee base grows, you’ll have to find a way to keep them all connected. This is done by issuing company phones, laptops and/or vehicles. It’s redundant to even mention the importance of keeping track of all these assets. You’ll want to have a platform that lets you manage everything all the while giving your employees a place to make requests for items.
This kind of job is really responsible, especially if you have limited resources where micromanagement is crucial. When a company is big enough, or better yet solvent enough to have a big enough inventory to provide everything all the time this shouldn’t be a problem, but those are rare. Most of the time you’ll want to have a designated person just running the inventory (which includes handling the assets themselves and taking care of issuing and returning them).
Every business stands and falls by their clients/customers. No matter how good your product is if you can’t sell it doesn’t matter. No matter if you’re the best at the service you provide, if no one wants it, sooner or later you’ll crumble. That’s why it’s always important to maintain good relationships with your business partners. Keep tabs on them (as they surely keep tabs on you), prioritize them, keep in constant communication, log all actions taken with each of them – these are just some of the things you must do in order to succeed.
A personal touch is something that is noticed because more often than not your clients will be bombarded with the run of the mill corporate approach. A good idea is to assign clients (especially the important ones) to certain agents that deal with them every time a contact is made. This will both guarantee a personal touch and the agent in charge will have intimate knowledge of the client’s needs. Something like this also shows that your clients aren’t just wallets in your eyes, but that you value them. It’s common knowledge that a 5-star rating goes a much longer way than a little bit more on the bank account.
Integrate and evolve
Now you may be using an all in one platform to run your business, but your clients likely won’t be. With their numbers rising so will the number of services they’re accustomed to using. Exactly this is why it’s essential to have an excellent integration protocol for as many apps as you can. Making a client feel comfortable is done by making their UI something they are used to. With ERP CRM you’ll get integrations for Zendesk, Help Scout, Awesome Support, Salesforce, Hubspot, Gravity Forms and WooCommerce. If you haven’t been paying attention that’s seven of some of the most popular business plugins available today, so ensure your customers feel at home by taking advantage of all of them.
You’ve assigned clients to your agents, you have a decent number of regular, paying customers, but you want to expand your product even more, so you start a brand new sales department. Now you have sales staff pushing your brand new products and to motivate them even more you’ve implemented a commission based bonus. Since using a chalkboard with everyone’s name and sales numbers is not something that goes with your company’s image you’ll want a software solution.
Now you can keep track of not just deals in general, but also all of the factors that make up the sum of the deal allowing you to intervene at any time if you see the deal has hit a bump or delegate it to your departments head. A deal will have a much higher success rate if you’re able to act at the right time before it closes and this is precisely why the ability to track a deals key points is so important.
Schedule a face to face or Skype call to persuade the client you’re the best solution for them. Maybe you’d rather invite them for a product presentation. Everything is possible within this module – all the tools you’ll ever need will be at your disposal, you just need to use them. Even in the event a deal falls through you’ll be able to make notes so that it never happens again, at least not for the same reasons.
Your sales team is doing a great job, but you want even more exposure – this is where email campaigns come into play. Every time somebody makes a purchase from your site they’ll provide you with their contact info. You can use this by offering them the option to subscribe to your newsletter. This will at the same time give them the chance to grab great deals and offer you that extra exposure you’ve been seeking.
Newsletters can be tedious sometimes, so it’s essential for them to be easy on the eyes, have good timing and offer something your customers will actually be interested in. Not much sense in offering baseball bats (no matter how good the sale is) to Europeans, when (on a global statistical scale) there isn’t much interest for the sport on the continent. A fine line has to be maintained for your customers to find you newsletters informative and not pushy.
Email campaigns can also be used as a general marketing tool when you’re launching a brand new product and want to get the word out. In these cases, go for quantity since it’s important for everybody to know it’s out, just try not to release something new each week. Product launches should be treated as events making them even more special. Aside from everything you’ll also be able to use MailChimp since you’ve guessed it, there’s an integration module for probably the most recognized campaign service around.
Say what you want, but in the end it really all comes down to money. You’re running a business and in order to keep running a business, you want the bottom line to be black and not red. Bigger companies will have dedicated accounting departments, but if you own a small or medium business and have the acumen for it, there really isn’t a reason not run at least part of your book yourself.
When handling your accounting it’s important to know the structure of both your incomes and expenditures. If you know which sector generate the most money and which ones spend the most you’ll be in a good position to modify certain aspects of your business to give you more balance.
To keep the balance and by that keeping your company’s financial picture healthy there are two tabs you’ll be constantly monitoring – the sales and expense transactions. Of course, you’ll always want to keep the sales numbers higher than the expense numbers. This won’t be always that easy, but even if you’re in the minus, it’s important to know if you have any payments due to come in, even more, if some are overdue. In those instances, it’s important to act quickly – you don’t want to be dragged down because of others.
We would like to note, that, as you would expect, with this accounting module you’ll be able to import vendors, create invoices, receive payments, link to bank accounts, transfer money, etc. All of this is implied since there wouldn’t be much to do without those core functions. It’s important to know how to use them as a whole to better your company’s performance on the market. Now moving on…
When working with individuals it’s a pretty cut and dry business. You have a webshop – they buy your product – their money is transferred to your account before the item is shipped. With other companies is a bit different. Sure more often than not it’s big business, but payment is much different, especially if the total amount to be paid is notably high.
You’ll have the option to compensate your goods – a practice done when companies are in similar fields, but the most common payment method is paying in installments. These are subject to agreement and aren’t generally fixed, so what applies to one of your partners might not apply to others. This is usually set based on traffic quantity and previous experience with the given company.
Taking accounting one step further
Accounting doesn’t stop at invoices. Keeping things in order inside the company is as important as managing finances from the outside coming in. All your employees expect to get paid fairly and on time. The “fairly” part is exclusively up to you and the way you’ve set up your policies, but with the “on time” part you’ll want to have a good payroll module set up to alleviate any potential problems that could arise.
One of the first things to set up is the payout policy. Payments can be done weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. You can even mix and use all the options according to departments if you so wish. After this is clear every person should be set up their very own plan. So far this is pretty straightforward stuff.
Next are policies that subtract funds certain services you as a company provide your employees such as lunch, phone plans (extending outside of work), or something completely unique for your company. Once all the policies are in place, and we can’t stress this enough, it’s essential for every employee to be informed of all of them and that this information is always available for viewing. This is so important because people are very sensitive when it comes to getting paid for their work – essentially make everybody aware in plain terms what their salary will, how it’s calculated and how it can raise or fall.
In the hectic world of today’s business, your staff will sometimes get in a situation when they’ll have to spend their own money to get things done more quickly. If this is a regular practice a very easy way to get a handle on it is to issue company credit/debit cards for your staff to use. If, however, this is done sparsely, you’ll need to reimburse them for the money spent. This is done by creating internal invoices with which the money is eventually paid out.
Payment can be done from petty cash for smaller sums, or added to the salary if it’s a bigger amount – it all comes down to the agreement between the employee and his or her employer. Again, it’s crucial for everybody to be informed on reimbursement policies so no problem will arise – this is a running theme when it comes to financial issues.
Your store has grown so much; you’re selling so many items it’s hard to keep track so you need to implement a stock management system that will help you keep track of everything. You’ll want something that will provide you with more than just plain available stock numbers. For easier recognition you want to see how an item looks, what price did you acquire it and for what are you planning to sell it etc.
With all this information available you’ll be able to see, and maybe even foresee trends and look to increase the amount you have on stock for one item and maybe quickly unload another. The rule of thumb is to unload an item when its cost and sale price are the furthest apart maximizing your profit. Of course, this can’t always be done, but with a real-time update system, you’ll have enough help to make an educated guess.
Everything mentioned so far is supposed to be the core (or at least around the core) of any successful business venture. However, there are certain modules that aren’t necessarily essential but can definitely make your life easier and these include Document Manager, SMS Notification, Workflow, and Custom Field Builder, so be sure to check those out too.
With everything mentioned, we have to reaffirm the opening statement that WP ERP really is, as advertised, a complete HR, CMR, and Accounting solution for WordPress. It really doesn’t matter if your business is small or big (although it tends to work best for small and medium ones) this is a complete experience that covers everything from A to Z.
When you add in all the premium modules it has to offer (which are all optional and you can use whichever you want) it’s also surprisingly flexible. We urge you to give it a go without hesitation, you surely won’t be disappointed.