There is a saying that sometime you can’t see the forest through the trees, but aren’t there times you want to see a specific tree within the forest? This is true of most accounting and financial systems when it is time to look at your ‘numbers’. You want to be able to see information from a broader view when looking at your overall operations using certain metrics or benchmarks, but you want also want to be able to drill down to specific information to see trends and tendencies that will determine new strategies or initiatives. Is your current system (or systems) helping you to see your business in the all the ways you need at the times when you need them?
Most business owners and senior managers would say ‘no’, or ‘yes’ but with a lot of work and additional resources. Is it the accounting and financial systems? In some cases yes, but more often than not the systems have the capabilities to produce the range of data needed to help manage a profitable and efficient business. Here are five key ways to produce numbers that will help to both financially and operationally manage a green industry business.
1) Get as detailed as you need to measure what you want.
Don’t think ‘keeping it simple’ is going to give you the information you (and your team) need to make any useful operational analyses. Most good financial and accounting systems have methods to roll up details or combine fields for high level reporting, but the detail level reports will provide the specifics needed to actually analyze information. This could be done by simply adding in additional GL codes, using more customized fields that define customer types, or utilizing more classes or divisions to separate different work types.
2) Set budgets and develop your key metrics.
Not only will these be measuring points to compare your actual performance against, they should also be the goals everyone in your organization works toward achieving. The high level reports will give you the information to see if and by how much, you may be off from your budgets and key metrics. Use the detail level reports to find the specifics of what is causing any deviations from these targets. This is where good data collection helps to bridge your financial information with field operations.
3) Set up a schedule to review specific financial and operational reports.
Develop a list of reports and set an ongoing schedule of when and with whom, they should be reviewed with. Following a set schedule will insure that the information will be accurate and will be utilized. Without a schedule the process will quickly break down, accuracy of information will also decrease when people realize the work they are doing to support the reporting process is not being utilized. Not only will catching errors in the system be reduced, any significant downward trends or indicators can be addressed or corrected before they become critical. Keeping the reporting process up to date also allows staff to make the connection of what has been happening operationally to what is showing up in the financials. This should help to stimulate new ideas to improve processes and procedures from ‘within’ your organization.
4) Develop procedures needed to keep accurate records, then train your staff on the system.
Without systems and procedures in place collecting all the information needed to produce accurate financial and operational data will be difficult, frustrating and inefficient. Use current technology to help with this process, aim to collect this additional data without increasing staff or generating overwhelming amounts of paperwork for both your field and admin staff.
5) Compare and share. Compare your numbers to industry benchmarks and to your own previous financial reports.
If you are looking at your higher level financials on a monthly basis, compare them the previous month’s data along with data from the same calendar month in previous year(s). This is great baseline comparison for your key metrics, especially when using percentages and not just total numbers. Share certain parts of this information within your company. It may take some time to teach the staff members to where they have an understanding of the reports, but it will also give them the tools to help achieve the company’s financial and operational goals. Accomplishing certain benchmarks could also be a great basis for incentive and bonus plans as well that helps both the employees and company to grow.