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Asking The Right Questions When Times Are Uncertain

With the 2013 economy uncertain, growing businesses may be finding it hard to financially plan for the coming year. In cases like these, what should you do?

MyCity4Her subscriber Carol Coughlin of Bottomline Growth Strategies shares seven questions you should ask when the future is uncertain.

Those questions are:

What information would help us make better decisions?  

Narrow the research you need to conduct by focusing on what’s most relevant to your company’s success. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to fill in knowledge gaps that will directly impact your results.

What do we need for success for 2013?

 Explore this broadly in terms of finances and operations, but also examine your offerings and target markets.

What are our strengths and weaknesses?  Many business owners simply do not go deep enough in examining strengths and weaknesses across their organizations. The more specific and all-inclusive you can be, the easier it is to plan.

How can we build on strengths to address weaknesses?

Efficiencies can be created and costs reduced when companies use what they already have going for them to overcome financial and operational issues.

What opportunities and threats exist and how can we best leverage and overcome/minimize them, respectively?

Put the bulk of your planning time and resources towards opportunities that are most certain and which offer the best ROI. Develop solid strategies for overcoming threats that would most negatively impact your business.

How can new customers be brought on sooner and more efficiently?

Many business owners strategize about how to attract more customers without first ascertaining if infrastructure is slowing new business down. Asking this question will point you toward optimizing operations in service of creating more efficient workflows, which will support your company’s success beyond new customer onboarding.

What’s our contingency plan?

It’s important to revisit this question at the least annually. If you have a solid financial reporting system in place, you’ll be examining whether or not your assumptions have matched up with reality every month, and will be able to course correct before problems become catastrophes. It’s important to bring this same type of reporting system to the operational side of your company. Bottom line: Make sure you’re receiving accurate data and information on all areas of your business.

 Although it’s typical for growing companies to have financial and operational issues, any organization can achieve strength in both arenas. It simply requires taking a deeper look, making the end-of-year planning process a top priority and, of course, becoming a realistic optimist yourself.

BottomLine Growth Strategies was founded on Carol Coughlin’s passion and mission to give small- to mid-size business owners the same high-level financial strategy guidance usually reserved for large corporations. So if you can keep these commitments without outside support, that’s great. If you can’t, you’re not alone. And it’s time to commit to getting it.

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