A Framework for Making Profitable Small Business Expense Decisions

Step One: Assessment: This step requires the most effort as most business owners generally do not make the time or expend the effort to conduct an assessment of their current business – how it is delivering on the goals the owner wants to achieve. This step requires reflection, which requires setting aside time away from the business to review what is working, what is not working, and, ultimately, what needs to change to achieve the next level of performance.

Too many business people are caught up in the daily grind, taking action, without a definitive direction or plan. They have not conducted the appropriate research and find they are working more and more hours but their lifestyle doesn’t seem to be improving. Taking a good look at their current lifestyle- and how it has changed or not over the past few years is a strong indicator of whether or not, their business is actually growing. As part of this step, business owners should ask themselves the following questions, document their answers, and reflect on what they discover.

Are you working the hours you want to work? Are you working more hours for the same revenue? How is your personal and social life? Are you achieving balance between business and personal sides of your daily life?

Is your business wearing you down? What aspects are keeping you awake at night?

Why did you start this business initially? What were your goals? Are you still achieving them? If not, why not?

Being able to visualize their preferred lifestyle will help them to focus more clearly on the direction their business needs to go. Clarity around what they want for themselves, their family and, their employees will go a long way to helping them create the business environment they want.

Step Two: Strategy: There must be clarity about where the owner wants to take their business, what they want it to look like over the next few years. The strategy does not need to be complicated, but it should be clear. Something as simple as “To grow my revenue each year by 10%” provides you with a general target against which they can set annual, quarterly and monthly targets. Running a business is a journey with a destination. The destination may change but the journey has to be planned. Without a strategy, business owners won’t improve or change their lifestyle.

Step Three: Action: Just taking action for action’s sake will not get the owner very far. Actions should be based in the targets set for the month, quarter and year. Actions should be taken in consideration of associated costs, resources required and expended, time periods expected, and market segments to be exploited.

Business owners should think about setting actions that allow them to contribute to the broader community without being monetarily compensated. They may want to offer their expertise as a mentor or a coach for young entrepreneurs, be a speaker to school groups to help them prepare for the workforce of the future, conduct presentations to business groups or not for profit groups seeking expert help. This contribution component should be part of their business plan to enhance their network and influence in the communities or market segments in which they market products and services.

Step Four: Review: Taking a measure of actions taken versus targets will tell owners what works and what doesn’t work. Implementation may not yield desired results but, without detailed review of actions implemented to drive target achievement, one will continue to try the ‘same old thing’ rather than seek out creative solutions. Without review, they also take the risk of not capturing the reasons for success. When success is experienced, it makes sense to figure out why and then create more actions to repeat this success.