Our approach to product development here at Ormsby Street follows an approach that means we only plan so far in advance, which is typically only a period of 2-4 weeks. We have a strategy that means we know where we generally want to be in 6, 12, 18 months, and this is the overall goal, but we don’t sit down and think “In 5 months time we need to do X activity in order to meet Y goal”.
Why do we do this? Simply it’s because we can’t predict the future. Don’t tell the psychics I said this, but no-one can (although if they were really psychic they would have known I was going to say that!).
We don’t know what our customers will think is important to them in the long term, but we do know what’s important for them now, so we do these things now and anything that isn’t delivering against these immediate needs gets put down the list. Our entire work schedule works around this premise, and we’re set up to change direction every couple of weeks depending on what is important.
Deal with the things that make a difference now, not the things which you think might be important a few months from now.
For most small businesses, the largest concern is the flow of cash in and out of the business. This probably trumps any need for a website, or hiring an administrator, or getting that new high powered bit of equipment. As such, focusing on the factors that affect this the most can make a huge difference to your financial security.
Getting your invoices raised when you do the work, is a key immediate activity because the sooner you raise them, the sooner you’ll get paid, especially if they’re for large amounts, or if you need to incur expenditure in order to deliver the goods or service.
After this, following up your invoices for payment as soon as they become due, will also mean you’ll get your cash sooner. You should start with those invoices that are the biggest or are with customers you know will pay soonest, as this will mean there will be cash available whilst you chase the awkward customer or the small amounts.
But be prepared to change what you need to do because of the immediate needs.
If you recognise that a customer is having financial difficulties, then get in there quick and get your invoice paid so you’re not left high and dry. if the worst happens -they stop trading. If a customer says they can’t pay the invoice until they get paid by someone else, negotiate with them to see what they can pay now, so that you have something in the bank. Or even bring in the option for up front payment so you can make sure you get your money before you incur any costs.
The aim is to get paid promptly for all your work, but when situations change, be prepared to adapt for what’s important now.