Ah, the first quarter of the year. A time when the skeletons of busy entrepreneurs come tumbling out of the closet. Allow me to present...
Exhibit A: The Financial Statements
Does this look familiar?
This is real, photographic evidence of a successful entrepreneur. He was embarrassed to show this to me. He thought I would see an unorganized mess of a company. Quite the contrary. I see an entrepreneur who is spending time on his passion and his money-maker. It’s no wonder he hasn’t been able to stay on top of his books; he’s been in the field and on the phone generating revenue!
Believe it or not, this bag of receipts will be transformed into actual financial statements in a couple of hours. From there, the maintenance moving forward will only take an hour or two each week, and he will have real-time information on the state of his finances.
He’s six years into his business and his trajectory is enviable. How do I know he’s growing? Let's look at...
Exhibit B: The Service Records
He wasn’t proud to show me this either, but I think he should be. This tells me two things: 1) He is measuring data; and 2) he has more revenue-generating activity year over year. Is it sophisticated? No, but you and I can easily see that his business is expanding. Look at how the size of those Post It Notes are growing! He hasn’t needed a sophisticated system until recently.
Many entrepreneurs overlook the importance of gathering data to inform their business decisions. It can be difficult and time consuming to dig up this information years or months later, so I applaud this client for his foresight. Now that we can see what information has helped him most in the past, we can build from there. We’re not going to over-engineer a data tracking system. We’ll create a simple, easy-to-use system that will allow him to protect this information and to access and add to it when he doesn’t have these priceless notes with him.
Speaking of valuable pieces of paper. Behold...
Exhibit C: The Client Booking System (aka, Collection of Post It Notes)
This guy is busy. Way busy. Sixteen-hours-a-day-busy. So busy that he hasn’t had time to put together a scheduling system that provides him with an easy way to keep track of where he needs to be, when, and with what equipment and materials. His clients don’t know or care about the Post It Notes. They just know that he shows up and makes them feel like they are the only thing he’s thought about since they scheduled their service.
Well… that’s how he used to show up when he only had a couple of Post It Notes each week. Not surprisingly, he’s missed opportunities to book new clients because he didn’t have a way to check his availability and respond to service requests before the clients booked with his competitor. He has also double-booked clients and had the displeasure of having to scramble to find contractors to cover the work or, worse, call the clients and try to reschedule.
Growing pains. I know plenty of people who would trade their entrepreneurship struggles for these.
By the end of the week, we will have resolved these issues and move on to more exciting work: cash flow forecasts. He’s not excited about this, but I am. From what I’ve seen so far, I’m optimistic that this information will provide him with the relief and pride he should feel moving into the second quarter.
Hey, 2017. Bring it on!
Special thanks to the client - who shall remain anonymous - for letting me share his story and providing me with the photos for this post.