Top Goal for Small Businesses: The Eight Most Important Checkup Questions for 2021

Are you happy with your business this year? What are you going to do differently? How can you hire the right people to support your vision? Sadly, many small business owners do not spend enough time planning for the future. It’s quite understandable. Managers must keep pace with the daily demands of their businesses, including payroll, taxes, product/service delivery, and customer expectations.

Fortunately, the end of the year is the perfect time for a comprehensive evaluation of your company. Your business needs a checkup. Most people can relate to a checkup with their local doctor, depending on their background and personality characteristics (age, sex, family medical history). The doctor will conduct a variety of tests, including blood, vision, heart, and hearing.

In fact, one element like an individual’s weight is not the only indicator of overall good health. Likewise, small businesses could benefit from a good checkup too. Successful entrepreneurs think strategically when engaged in a hostile, global environment.

After 27 years of managing projects and conducting over 100 organizational evaluations of business organizations, I realize that both large and small organizations struggle in implementing their operations effectively. This article examines how small businesses need to conduct an effective checkup of their organizations.

Welcome to the New Normal! Yet, nearly a year after this pandemic, the full impact on the U.S. economy is unclear. According to recent studies, more than four million Americans have left the workforce, and nearly 10 million are now unemployed compared with last February.

In fact, the number of unemployed people continues to rise. According to a business study conducted between March 28 and April 4, 2020, small businesses have been heavily damaged by the lockdowns due to Covid-19.

In an analysis of more than 5,800 small businesses (reaching a network of 4.6 million small businesses), the research highlighted the damage caused by the pandemic. The results showed evident damage of the pandemic. At this juncture, 43% of businesses had temporarily closed, and nearly all of these closures were due to COVID-19.

Respondents stated that they had temporarily closed, largely pointed to reductions in demand and employee health concerns as the reasons for closure. In fact, the businesses, on average, reported having reduced their active employment by 39% since January.

All industries have been impacted. However, retail, arts and entertainment, personal services, food services, and hospitality businesses showed significant employment declines exceeding 50%. Some businesses hope for assistance from the government.

According to a Babson’s Goldman Sachs report, 88% of U.S. small business owners have already exhausted their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan; the Small Business Association gave these loans specifically to help businesses keep their workforce employed during the pandemic. These loans were helpful.

Yet, these successes do not diminish the fact that more than 32% of PPP loan recipients already have laid off employees or cut wages. In fact, Forty-three percent of Black small business owners reported that their businesses’ cash reserves would be depleted by year’s end due to Covid-19.

Today’s small businesses and entrepreneurs must retool themselves, given the potential impacts of Covid-19 have the necessary capacity to change their way of thinking because of their passion. However, small businesses must be willing to evaluate their current operations and make the required changes.

For example, customers have largely gone online to purchase services due to the lockdowns. If a business does not have an online presence now, this company does not exist. Internet pioneer and CEO of PSINet Bill Schrader explains the significant of online visibility: “Almost overnight, the Internet’s gone from a technical wonder to a business must.”With the appropriate diagnosis of an organization, a business can develop more sustainable success. Thus, the right checkup is critical.

Below are some critical questions to help you conduct your own self-checkup:

Do you have a clear vision for your business? What is it?
Do you know why your customers buy from you and why others do not buy from you?
What results are you getting from your marketing? Do you have an effective online presence on the web?
Are you collecting data or the right kind of data on your customers and competitors?
Are you keeping pace with your industry trends? If so, what are the key trends?
How are you measuring results (i.e., key performance indicators like cash flow and revenue)?
What are your key competitors’ marketing strategies?
Have you evaluated your strengths and weaknesses (i.e., SWOT Analysis)?
In summary, successful global businesses, like IBM and Google, have continuous systems in place to evaluate their performance. Let’s call this process an organizational checkup.
Small businesses that want to succeed in this global and technological climate must be able to conduct this self-evaluation or checkup. This article demonstrated the relevancy of a good checkup to help improve a business by asking probing questions. In many cases, small businesses do not have to take on this organizational checkup along.

There are various organizations like the Small Business Administration and local universities that can assist in this process. Have you conducted a checkup for your business this year? It’s not too late. Start the new year with a healthy business checkup.

© 2021 by D. D. Green

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9 Things to Consider Before Forming a Business Partnership

Getting into a business partnership has its benefits. It allows all contributors to share the stakes in the business. Depending on the risk appetites of partners, a business can have a general or limited liability partnership. Limited partners are only there to provide funding to the business. They have no say in business operations, neither do they share the responsibility of any debt or other business obligations. General Partners operate the business and share its liabilities as well. Since limited liability partnerships require a lot of paperwork, people usually tend to form general partnerships in businesses.

Things to Consider Before Setting Up A Business Partnership

Business partnerships are a great way to share your profit and loss with someone you can trust. However, a poorly executed partnerships can turn out to be a disaster for the business. Here are some useful ways to protect your interests while forming a new business partnership:

1. Being Sure Of Why You Need a Partner

Before entering into a business partnership with someone, you need to ask yourself why you need a partner. If you are looking for just an investor, then a limited liability partnership should suffice. However, if you are trying to create a tax shield for your business, the general partnership would be a better choice.

Business partners should complement each other in terms of experience and skills. If you are a technology enthusiast, teaming up with a professional with extensive marketing experience can be quite beneficial.

2. Understanding Your Partner’s Current Financial Situation

Before asking someone to commit to your business, you need to understand their financial situation. When starting up a business, there may be some amount of initial capital required. If business partners have enough financial resources, they will not require funding from other resources. This will lower a firm’s debt and increase the owner’s equity.

3. Background Check

Even if you trust someone to be your business partner, there is no harm in performing a background check. Calling a couple of professional and personal references can give you a fair idea about their work ethics. Background checks help you avoid any future surprises when you start working with your business partner. If your business partner is used to sitting late and you are not, you can divide responsibilities accordingly.

It is a good idea to check if your partner has any prior experience in running a new business venture. This will tell you how they performed in their previous endeavors.

4. Have an Attorney Vet the Partnership Documents

Make sure you take legal opinion before signing any partnership agreements. It is one of the most useful ways to protect your rights and interests in a business partnership. It is important to have a good understanding of each clause, as a poorly written agreement can make you run into liability issues.

You should make sure to add or delete any relevant clause before entering into a partnership. This is because it is cumbersome to make amendments once the agreement has been signed.

5. The Partnership Should Be Solely Based On Business Terms

Business partnerships should not be based on personal relationships or preferences. There should be strong accountability measures put in place from the very first day to track performance. Responsibilities should be clearly defined and performing metrics should indicate every individual’s contribution towards the business.

Having a weak accountability and performance measurement system is one of the reasons why many partnerships fail. Rather than putting in their efforts, owners start blaming each other for the wrong decisions and resulting in company losses.

6. The Commitment Level of Your Business Partner

All partnerships start on friendly terms and with great enthusiasm. However, some people lose excitement along the way due to everyday slog. Therefore, you need to understand the commitment level of your partner before entering into a business partnership with them.

Your business partner(s) should be able to show the same level of commitment at every stage of the business. If they do not remain committed to the business, it will reflect in their work and can be detrimental to the business as well. The best way to maintain the commitment level of each business partner is to set desired expectations from every person from the very first day.

While entering into a partnership agreement, you need to have an idea about your partner’s added responsibilities. Responsibilities such as taking care of an elderly parent should be given due thought to set realistic expectations. This gives room for compassion and flexibility in your work ethics.

7. What Will Happen If a Partner Exits the Business

Just like any other contract, a business venture requires a prenup. This would outline what happens in case a partner wishes to exit the business. Some of the questions to answer in such a scenario include:

How will the exiting party receive compensation?
How will the division of resources take place among the remaining business partners?
Also, how will you divide the responsibilities?
8. Who Will Be In Charge Of Daily Operations
Even when there is a 50-50 partnership, someone needs to be in charge of daily operations. Positions including CEO and Director need to be allocated to appropriate individuals including the business partners from the beginning.

This helps in creating an organizational structure and further defining the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder. When each individual knows what is expected of him or her, they are more likely to perform better in their role.

9. You Share the Same Values and Vision

Entering into a business partnership with someone who shares the same values and vision makes the running of daily operations considerably easy. You can make important business decisions quickly and define long-term strategies. However, sometimes, even the most like-minded individuals can disagree on important decisions. In such cases, it is essential to keep in mind the long-term goals of the business.

Bottom Line

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