We live in a data-driven world. And because data is so readily available, businesses have the ability to tap into key metrics to measure against set goals. Whether those goals are to reduce staff turnover or client churn, increase profits, or extend the average client life cycle…having a KPI (key performance indicator) strategy in place is essential for long-term success.
While data tracking and monitoring key metrics is critically important to business success, the abundance of data available can cause information overload. To help you navigate the world of KPIs and build a “starter plan” of sorts, this article offers three tips to creating a sound KPI strategy.
Not all KPIs are created equal. The first step is to understand the difference between lagging and leading indicators and why both need to be monitored.
Lagging indicators show results over a period of time (e.g., total sales in the closing quarter). These are easy to measure and provide quick answers on whether set goals have been met. For example, if you set an ambitious goal such as doubling sales by the end of Q4 (compared to Q2 sales), the ultimate lagging indicator is annual revenue or profits.
Leading indicators capture data that has an effect on an outcome. This makes leading indicators useful for predicting outcomes. For example, if an online retail store shows a sharp drop in the purchase of a popular item, the company could predict a drop in overall quarterly sales. Monitoring leading indicators helps you get ahead of predictable trends and make adjustments to influence positive outcomes.
The goal here is to get your entire organization talking about data! When everyone speaks the data language, it better supports a company-wide KPI strategy.
To build a KPI-driven culture, be sure to offer regular staff training on the value of KPIs and the metrics each department is responsible for tracking. Also, be sure to assign the proper leads to champion KPI progress and ensure staff are kept updated as your strategy evolves. Finally, make sure you have the right technologies in place to collect and analyze data, and make KPI dashboards available to required staff.
It’s important to understand that KPIs are subject to change. You can bet that over time customer behaviors will change and business goals will evolve in response to market trends. This calls for businesses to refine their KPI strategy on a regular basis.
Over time, you may discover that a KPI is not helping you progress toward a specific goal or that it’s driving the wrong actions. For these reasons, commit to consistent KPI evaluation and enhancement as you move forward. The formal process of refinement requires you to monitor what is working and what is not.
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Whether you own a business or work in one, accurate tracking of your business expenses is a necessity. If you’re a small business owner, tracking is essential for understanding your financial position, budgeting, forecasting and fulfilling your tax obligations. If you’re an employee, it’s vital to keep your expense tracking accurate and up to date for reimbursement and tax deductions.
Here are some practical tips to help you effectively track your business and job-related expenses.
By keeping detailed, organized records on the go, you’ll be ready when it’s time to submit your expenses for reimbursement or file your tax return. And you’ll be able to relax, knowing that you’ve put in the work upfront to make the process of tracking business or job-related expenses more efficient and stress-free.
Whether you’ve been a small business owner for a decade or you’re considering starting a business, you can never have enough information to help you through the ups and downs of being your own boss. That’s why we’ve created a list of 15 popular business-related books—some general, some money-related and some geared especially toward female entrepreneurs—that are worth adding to your small business bookshelf.
Remember, while reading books alone won’t guarantee your success, the right books can provide valuable insights, inspiration and strategies that you can apply to your small business—and perhaps even to your life outside the business. Here’s to happy and productive reading!
Let’s get the “firehose of cold water in the face” statistic out of the way first: According to the research team at the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of college—including books, supplies and daily living expenses—at a four-year institution for first-time, full-time undergraduates is now $36,436 per year.
It doesn’t matter how young (or non-existent) your children are right now. If you’re a parent—or plan to be a parent—it’s nearly inevitable that you’ll be faced with figuring out how to pay for college one day. That’s why financial professionals advise starting to save for college as early as possible. Here are two primary reasons why:
Plus, establishing a college savings fund can be a good way to teach children about saving, investing and the value of long-term planning. It also puts a spotlight on the importance and expectations of higher education, whether at a four-year university, your local community college or trade school.
Given the power of interest and compounding, the earlier in your child’s life that you can start saving, the better. But even if your child is in high school, it’s not too late; anything you can save will reduce the amount you need to borrow.
Here are six common options for college savings plans:
The best savings option depends on your family’s individual circumstances, goals and financial situation. Before making decisions, it’s always a good idea to consult with your financial advisor for more information.
Remember, it’s never too early—and not too late—to start saving for college. Even small, regular contributions can add up over time…and can help to reduce the stress and worry of paying for college, for both you and your children.
Small business owners: Whether you’re an old hand at blogging or you want to start a new blog for your business, you probably know that Rule No. 1 is to post informative, fresh and relevant content on a regular basis. That’s what keeps your customers and prospects coming back.
But sometimes, you simply can’t come up with a topic. Maybe you’re just starting up your blog and aren’t sure where to begin. Or perhaps you’ve been blogging for a while and feel like you’ve run out of ideas. Whatever your situation, here are 25 topics to help spark new post ideas.
There are also online blog topic idea generators (although some may require monthly fees) that can all help spark ideas when the topic well runs dry. These include Jasper, Sumo, SEOPressor and HubSpot’s Blog Ideas Generator.
According to the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), an association of business mentors, customers who read your blog are 97% more likely to click on your website. So, use these ideas to keep those customers and prospects reading and clicking, and keep on blogging!
Ah, the age-old question (well, since 1994): Do I really need a new smartphone?
We’ve all been there, getting pummeled with ads for the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy phones, which seem to appear at least every quarter. And each company promises the best-of-the-best devices with each version they roll out.
Our current phones still boast an uncracked screen when the latest and greatest jumps on the scene, making us look at the device in our hands with disdain. “If only my phone could do what this new one can.”
It makes it easy for us to settle into buyer’s remorse (yes, even just a few months later) when the newest phone is released, and it’s a fraction better than what we currently have. So, how do you know when it’s really time to upgrade? Here are six things to consider before you fall victim to the shiny object syndrome.
Does your phone load apps slower than molasses? Do games lag, or does your camera start recording seconds after you’ve commanded it to start? If so, it may be time to retire your current device. Only consider that after you turn it off and back on, however. Sometimes a quick restart is all it needs.
Do you find yourself in a panic if you’ve forgotten your charging cable or your portable charger, even when you’re only running a quick errand? Does the battery life drain faster than you can say, “I need to put my phone on the charger”? If you find yourself constantly tethered to a charger or your phone is always in “power save” mode just to make it through a few hours of the day, it’s probably time to look for a new device with better battery life.
If your once picture-perfect photos are now grainy or pixelated, your smartphone’s camera may be on its last legs. Are videos jumpy, or is there a weird glare in every photo? There’s probably next to no chance that your friends and family will consider those pictures “artistic,” so you may want to consider an upgrade, especially if you want to continue to slay on social media.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You tap on your favorite app, and instead of opening it, you get that dreaded popup about needing the latest operating system to use it. If you’re missing out on enjoying your current apps or downloading fun, new ones because of compatibility issues, it’s probably time to upgrade. Newer phones tend to run the latest and greatest software, chock-full of security features to keep you and your data safe.
Our phones go into battle every day, facing countless falls from our hands, cracked screens, spilled drinks or—for some poor unfortunate souls—plunges into bodies of water. Sometimes, that bowl of rice just won’t bring your phone back to life. You may be able to resuscitate it, but it will never be the same. If your phone falls into this category (see what we did there?), it may be time to visit your favorite smartphone distributor.
We see you, Android users. All your friends are using iPhones, and you’re the only one in the group chat who’s green. It’s blatantly obvious. Android users and iPhone users both believe their devices are superior, and each has merit. But don’t let the other side pressure you into joining them if you’re happy with what you have. That’s just not a good enough reason to buy a new phone. Stay strong, whichever side you’re on.
Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) get the better of you when you see that new ad or commercial for the iPhone 14+ or Google Pixel 7. Chances are your phone is just fine, and you’re feeling a little left out because the cameras on the newer phones boast a few more megapixels than your own.
If you do decide you’re ready for a new phone, though, be sure to do your research.
Sent from my Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra (kidding)
It’s not an exaggeration to say that as a small business owner, you’re one of the busiest people on earth. After all, it’s up to you to do everything—and that includes educating yourself on new ways of doing things, keeping up on trends and industry changes, and…well, a whole lot more. But how can you stay up to date when there’s so much else to do?
With podcasts! You can listen to them in the car, when you’re exercising or even when you’re cleaning bathrooms. As a start, here are 14 excellent podcasts that can serve as teachers, mentors and leaders for the overworked small business owner—aka you.
How I Built This—This NPR podcast, hosted by Guy Raz, appears consistently on lists of the top business podcasts. Guy interviews innovators and entrepreneurs from today’s biggest companies (Whole Foods and Airbnb, to name two) about their journeys to success. While not technically about small business, you’ll find a wealth of inspiration in each episode as you hear about the triumphs and struggles of these entrepreneurs.
The GaryVee Audio Experience—Well-known author, speaker, entrepreneur and CEO Gary Vaynerchuk offers listeners tips and insights on a range of business, marketing and technology topics. Through a combination of interviews, keynote speeches, chats and other content, he offers blunt and honest advice, information and inspiration.
The Tim Ferriss Show—Tim Ferriss interviews fascinating guests from many walks of life—Malcolm Gladwell, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, LeBron James, Margaret Atwood, Brené Brown, Hugh Jackman and more to pass on the secrets of their success. This podcast regularly ranks near the top of the Apple Podcasts business category despite the wide-ranging array of guests; that’s how interesting and inspiring it is.
The Goal Digger Podcast—Minnesota business owner Jenna Kutcher offers productivity tips, social media strategies and inspirational interviews to help you “dig in, do the work and tackle your biggest goals along the way.” While she’s at it, she also covers topics like branding and marketing, being a working mother, dealing with difficult customers and much more as you build your business.
Small Business Tax Savings Podcast—Explicitly geared for small business owners, this podcast, hosted by Mike Jesowshek, CPA, focuses on tax savings and building a sound financial foundation for your small business. As you’d expect from a CPA, you’ll get a lot of important information—without the fluff—designed specifically to help you minimize your taxes and maximize your profits.
Duct Tape Marketing—John Jantsch is the founder of Duct Tape Marketing, a digital marketing agency and consulting firm. In this podcast, he helps small business owners with small budgets gear up their marketing efforts. Branding, content, website design, SEO, strategy, new trends, how to stand out from the competition…he covers it all with his knowledge and informative interviews.
Marketing Over Coffee—Seth Godin. Simon Sinek. Ann Handley. If marketing and motivational superstars like these make you swoon, this is your podcast. Each week, John J. Wall and Christopher S. Penn bring you a 20-minute episode with tips, tactics, inspiration and interviews on topics that include email marketing, SEO and even the occasional foray into non-digital marketing.
Social Media Marketing—Whether you like social media or hate it, there’s no way around the fact that it’s nearly impossible today to market a small business without it. From content to platforms, Michael Stelzner explores social media strategies and tools and interviews social media experts on how business owners can find success with their social media marketing.
Marketing School—In this podcast, marketing guru Neil Patel and business advisor Eric Siu share lessons in digital marketing to help those who want to grow their businesses. These five-minute informational bites are released daily, covering topics like online marketing, social media, content creation, email marketing, conversion optimization, trends, insights and more.
BizChix—Business strategist and coach Natalie Eckdahl brings you inspiring stories of female entrepreneurs and business owners who worked their way to success. Natalie’s diverse range of interviews cover everything from experiences, obstacles, insights, strategies and achievements as she helps women channel their natural strengths to get their businesses into top shape.
Go-to Gal—Jacelyn Mellone, a business strategist and marketing expert, focuses on helping female entrepreneurs find their footing in the business world. In each episode, she interviews successful female entrepreneurs who share their experiences in growing their businesses. Jacelyn also shares insights on the productivity, mindset and personal growth needed to succeed as an entrepreneur.
This list is just a starting point; there are dozens (if not hundreds) of other great podcasts out there. We hope they’ll help you overcome any challenges, stay inspired, and build your business to reflect your vision and dreams. Happy listening!
Diversity—of customers, employees and vendors—isn’t just a consideration for large corporations. It’s an essential part of the future of small businesses, too.
By 2050, it’s projected that the Black population of the United States will grow by approximately 30%, the Hispanic population by 60% and the Asian American population by more than 50%, while the aged population will grow by another 6%. That’s a lot of change on the horizon, which is why the number of resources available for helping small business owners embrace diversity, equity and inclusion (known as DEI) initiatives in their businesses is growing.
Are there advantages for businesses that embrace diversity? First, let’s consider what makes for a diverse workplace: a range of races, ages, sexual orientations, gender identities, backgrounds, physical and mental skills and abilities (including disabilities), personality types, spoken languages, nationalities, education, and income.
And when you consider that diversity applies to not only the business’s employees or vendors, but your customer base, too, the benefits become clear:
All right, so you’re ready to improve your hiring process to be more inclusive. But you’re not a large enough business to have a human resources team…yet, anyway. But how do you begin? Where do you find the information you need to be sure you’re doing it right? A good place to start is with this list of resources for an employer who would like to make their business more inclusive.
When DEI is a top priority in the workplace, it not only gives all employees the same fair chance at success, but it elevates the business as an employer of choice. According to ZipRecruiter, 48% of job seekers are more likely to apply for jobs when employers state their commitment to DEI, which mirrors the growth in trends showing that consumers prefer brands that closely align with their values.
That’s almost half of the respondents…and it’s a mighty testament to the power of diversity, equity and inclusion. And when you take that first step toward becoming an inclusive workplace, you’ll not only change your business—you’ll change your horizons and your outlook…and you might even help change the world.
We’ll just say this up front: If you’re in business today, you need to be on social media.
However…that doesn’t mean you need to be on every platform. That’s the social equivalent of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, and it can make for not only a messy wall, but an overwhelmed business owner as you try to keep up. To help you decide which social media platforms make the most sense for your business, let’s take a look at some platforms to consider.
Unless you have someone who can operate as a dedicated social media specialist, we suggest keeping your focus manageable by using one to three social platforms. The idea is quality, not quantity.
So, which channels? That depends on your customers. Often, you can make a reasonable guess as to where they are on social media based on their age group and what you know about their interests (you could also send out a survey to ask about their social media habits).
Here’s an overview of the most popular platforms as a starting point:
As you can see, if your customers tend to be older, the odds are good that you’ll find them on Facebook rather than TikTok. And as an example, if you own a home décor business, your audience’s favorite online activity might be collecting aspirational home design ideas on Instagram or Pinterest.
All right, so now you have a better idea of the available platforms. Now, how do you decide where to focus your energy? This is where you’ll need to ask yourself some questions—and give yourself some honest answers—about your business:
When 72% of the public uses some type of social media, it’s time to connect with your current and prospective customers where they are. And the most important thing we can tell you is that if you’re not out there, it’s well past time to grab the opportunities that social media offers the small business owner. From brand awareness to more responsive customer service, social media can be the next best thing to a face-to-face conversation with your customers (and you won’t have to keep cleaning those walls!).
With the move to remote and hybrid work, our business devices are frequently at our fingertips 24/7. That means it’s all too easy to finish one more task…make one more phone call…send one more email…only to find we’ve added even more hours to our workday.
If you’re wondering where your work-life balance went, here are a baker’s dozen of actions you might want to consider taking to improve it. While they’re not detailed tips, they link to more detailed information and are a good launching pad for living the life you want.
Giving more time to the work side of the work-life balance can take a toll; a long-running UK study of more than 10,000 civil servants showed that people who worked three or more hours longer than a normal workday had a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems than those who worked no overtime.
While you can’t change the equation overnight, hopefully, the actions above will give you a start toward managing your time and energy in a way that will help you find a true balance—one where you’re able to feel engaged and fulfilled whether you’re on the clock or off.