Croll Productive Synergy | Streamline Your Business Growth & Increase Cash Flow

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Senior Trainer / Instructional Designer | 9 Years of Delivering Excellent Instructional Programs & Materials

Senior Trainer / Instructional Designer | 9 Years of Delivering Excellent Instructional Programs & Materials

Over the years I have seen a common practice of cutting employee development during difficult economic times.  Though this may seem a fiscally good idea, the real costs say otherwise.  One significant facture is the cost of turnover.  Equally important, an unengaged employee provides poor service, high absenteeism and can slowly destroy a corporate culture.  There really is no upside to eliminating developing your human capital.

“A recent survey indicates that 40 per cent of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year. They cite the lack of skills training and development as the principal reason for moving on.

Consider the cost of turnover. With one fewer worker, your company’s productivity slips. Sales decline. Your current staff members are required to work more hours. Morale may suffer. To find a replacement, you spend time screening and interviewing applicants. Once you hire someone, you need to train that person.  The cost of staff turnover adds up. Figures vary, but it can cost as much as $2,500, depending on the position, to replace a frontline employee. That is a hefty price to pay for not training staff.” Excerpt from “EMPLOYEE TRAINING IS WORTH THE INVESTMENT”  www.go2HR.ca

Reducing turnover is only one factor there are other motivational and cultural benefits to developing your most valuable resource.

  • A competitive edge. If you have dedicated engage employees you are ahead of your competition. They will be the banner for your marketing, service/product delivery and customer service.  An organization cannot grow their market share and profits without them.
  • Recruiting quality out of the gate. If you have a quality training and development program this will make you attractive to talent out there looking for a “home”.  The days of money being the primary motivator are fading away.  We have become a society of engagement and this is what the emerging workforce is looking for.  Give them a reason to come to your first.
  • Retention. This goes without saying.  Happy employee stay and are vested in the success of the organization.  Keep your talent.  You don’t want a situation where they get experience under their belt and go elsewhere.
  • Keeping long time employees engaged. People who have been in an organization for a number of years can become complacent and burnt out.  Offering opportunities to learn new skills, develop areas of interest and potential for advancement can have a significant impact on continuing their productivity over time.
  • Creating balanced workloads. Here is where cross training comes in.  Training people within an area or department to cover for coworkers is a valuable tool.  This can help reduce burnout, balanced workloads and give you a competitive advantage.  If you can provide service without interruption how much could you expand your bottom line?

So what does these mean for you?  If you have an employee training and development program excellent.  Always look for areas to expand and be flexible with changing work and economic conditions.  If you do not, start now.  Do research on what is being offered in your industry, talk to colleagues who have had success with this and local human resources associations.  Get a clear picture of your needs and where the gaps are.  Then work with human resource and training professionals to help you design your human capital investment program.  You will be glad you did.

Cynthia Marsh-Croll is a Training & Performance Improvement Specialist as well as former Entrepreneurial Assistance Program Manager at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at 845-649-2778 or cmc@CrollPS.com.

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Apr/15

15

Effective Training = Transfer and Adoption of Skills

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maxresdefaultAs a trainer one of the biggest challenges is having your attendees retain the information and then apply it when they get back to their office.  While working with my clients I have found 6 areas which are key to adopting the new habits and workflow being implement in their organizations.  For a training program to be successful these need to be examined.

  1. Needs Assessment: What is the goal of the training? What are you trying to accomplish? How does it fit into the bigger picture of how the business operates and interacts between departments?  We often think of an organization in silos.  This is far from reality.  Every department affects another and the ability to serve your customers or clients.
  2. Gap Analysis: As you can ascertain from the title it’s figuring out what is missing. This could be the skill levels of the staff you are training, available technology and possibly reengineering your business processes.  This area will help to determine how you will get from where you are to where you want to go.
  3.  Implementation Plan: Training programs or initiatives need to be planned. These programs will require resources to be temporarily pulled and business must continue while the training is commencing.  For instance, do some of the employees need skill training prior to attending the upcoming program?  How is this being achieved?  Is there a need to get new software installed that will help streamline your processes?  How is this getting implemented and what resources are needed to get this done prior to training?  Lastly, do you have internal subject matter experts who can develop and roll out the training? Most projects will have more than one phase.  Be clear where one ends and one begins.
  4. Training Program Development: The top three items above will help to determine the overall program goals, expected outcomes, resources and tools you have at your disposal.  Now you can develop your curriculum for all phases of the training.  Take into consideration the age of the attendees, skill level, position in the organization and availability to attend.  For example, if a software change is involved, then you will most likely have different training sessions for targeted departments.  A software change will radically change the workflow and each area affected need to be taught how to implement the new business processes.  Lastly, what resources and equipment will be necessary to roll out the training?  The timeline for the training initiative may need to be tweaked from estimates in the implementation phase.
  5. Adoption of Skills: How do you transfer skills and then have them followed in everyday business operations?  I have found that addressing people’s fears about the change and their job security is important.  In some occasions a person will subconsciously sabotage the effort because they have underlying fears.  Address these as early as possible.  Show your staff how this will make their jobs easier, the customers happier and ultimately help grow the company.  If the company grows everyone does well.  Show the staff “What’s In It For Me”.  Have them take ownership of the changes.  Also key is providing exercises during the training that will mirror real world application.  Have the staff help each other and aid in discovery.  This aids in cementing learning and adoption.
  6. Continuous Improvement: One area clients in the past have struggled is continued implementation of the new skills and tools. This area is challenging for any company.  It can take up to three months to change a habit.  Provide an easy to use forum for questions, concerns, etc. after the training.  Regularly, check in with the staff to see if they are having any challenges.  As with most things, what looks great on paper does not always work in real life.  Address these issues quickly as to not derail the results of the project.  Create a schedule of online and instructor led follow up or refresher sessions.  You can also create exercises to help with any updates or continuous improvement efforts.

No matter what size your training initiative you will want to examine these six areas to help increase the success of your program.  Well trained and empowered employees help a company grow, in alignment with branding and key to sustainability.  Staff is one of the most important resources.  Help them be the best they can be and it will be reflected in their quality and commitment to their work.

Cynthia Marsh-Croll is a Training & Performance Improvement Specialist as well as former Entrepreneurial Assistance Program Manager at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. She can be reached at 845-649-2778 or cmc@CrollPS.com.

 

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Dec/14

15

How Do I Apply for New York State MWBE Certification?

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Cynthia Marsh-Croll, Training and Operations Specialist

Cynthia Marsh-Croll, Training and Operations Specialist

In my last article I talked about the benefits of New York State MWBE certification.  Once you have determined that your business can benefit from selling to the government and you qualify for the program what should you do next?  Use the online system to submit your application.  What I really like about this system is that you can work on your application a little at a time and save it.  Visit https://ny.newnycontracts.com/ to get started.

Let’s go over the basic components of the application:

  1. Going through the initial account setup and eligibility questions.  When you are on the home page to the left in the gray box is an option for “Apply for Certification” click that.  You will be asked to create an account.  Make sure your company information matches the legal formation documents for your business.  Once you do that you will move forward to answering eligibility questions.
  2. Getting into the application.  You will be required to provide an extensive list of backup documentation.  New York State requires this to prevent fraud.  What I like is before you even get into the body of the application they give the list of what you will need to submit.  Once you go through all the screens you will be in the body of the application.  Here you can work on each area.
  3. Processing and submitting.  The one advantage of this system is it allows you to submit your application electronically which speeds up the process on the review end.  Make sure to have completed all the sections and provide all the documentation requested.  If the certification division has to ask for documents this will delay processing.  I suggest making a folder on your computer and put all of the documentation in there along with a copy of your application so it is easy to attach and retrieve.  You will sign and submit from the application system.  Keep a copy of your submission confirmation.

While running the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program (EAP) I worked with many people on certification.  For some clients once they reviewed everything they were on their way and needed little oversight.  Other clients needed additional help and questions answered.  Either way you have FREE resources that can guide you through completing the application.  I suggest you go online create an account, review the application and decide what you need help with.  Make the most of your assistance.  Two great resources for application assistance are: Liz Kallen at PTAC http://www.redc.org/new/index.php?/site/ptac and Vanessa Primus at the Mid-Hudson SBDC http://www.nyssbdc.org/centers/centers.aspx?centid=94.  Another option is assistance from an EAP center.  To find the once closest to you visit http://www.esd.ny.gov/BusinessPrograms/EAP.html.

A significant advantage to working with one of these organizations is the procurement assistance.  They walk you through step by step how to target and sell your products and services to the government.  Both Liz Kallen and Vanessa Primus, mentioned above, provided procurement training to my EAP clients.  They really know their stuff.  Just as with any new market you need to come up with a strategy for how you will market and sell to this new customer.  Just getting your certification does not guarantee contracts.  Due diligence is needed to see a return on your investment in certification.  I would recommend getting assistance in this area.  It can be very confusing to navigate on your own.

I have found that for the right companies certification and selling to the government has helped them grow their business dramatically.  By leveraging your resources you can make this happen for you.  For more information about certification visit http://esd.ny.gov/MWBE/Certification.html.  Cynthia Marsh-Croll is the former Entrepreneurial Assistance Program Manager at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce and Operations Productivity Specialist that can be reached at 845-649-2778 or cmc@CrollPS.com.

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Dec/14

14

Why Get New York State MWBE Certified?

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Cynthia Marsh-Croll, Training and Operations Specialist

Cynthia Marsh-Croll, Training and Operations Specialist

Many business owners are looking for ways to expand or create new revenue streams for their business. Selling your products or services to the government is one way to do that. That being said, not every business is a good fit to sell to the government so do your research. A great place to see if you have a product or service New York State purchases check out the Contract Reporter at www.nyscr.ny.gov  it has a list of current bids. Just click on the box that says “I want to find contracts to bid on” and follow the directions. The next consideration is whether New York State Minority Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) Certification is an option.

Per Empire State Development “Because state government has been mandated by the Governor and the legislature to provide greater opportunity for participation by MWBEs in state contracting, certification gives business owners an advantage when marketing goods and/or services to state agencies and authorities.”

•  30% of vendors must be NYS MWBE certified
•  Prime Contractors use MWBE certified Sub Contractors
•  You are at the top of the list – DOES NOT GUARANTEE A CONTRACT
•  Potential significant revenue stream for some businesses

Herein lies an opportunity for qualifying businesses. New York State has very specific criteria to become certified. Below is an overview of the requirements:

• MBE is a business enterprise in which at least fifty-one percent (51%) is owned, operated and controlled by citizens or permanent resident aliens who meet the ethnic definitions. A WBE is the same requirement but woman owned.
• All firms seeking MBE, WBE or MWBE certification must be independently owned, operated and controlled by minority members and/or women.
• The ownership must be real, substantial and continuing, and the minority members and/or women must exercise the authority to independently control the day-to-day business decisions.
• Each minority or woman owner upon whom certification is based, cannot have a personal net worth exceeding $3.5 Million after allowable deductions.
• In no event can the applicant firm employee more than 300 Full Time Equivalent Employees(FTE)
• The firm must operate independently of other firms, must demonstrate it is an active business’ and generally, the business must be in operation for at least one year.

A detailed list of requirements can be found at http://esd.ny.gov/MWBE/Qualifications.html. This program is a great option to help your business catapult to the next level. It is the expectation of the department that you will grow your business to the point of no longer qualifying for the program. That would be a good problem to have. For information about certification visit http://esd.ny.gov/MWBE/Certification.html. Look for my next article where I will cover how to begin the certification process. Cynthia Marsh-Croll is the former Entrepreneurial Assistance Program Manager at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce and Operations Productivity Specialist that can be reached at 845-649-2778 or cmc@CrollPS.com.

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Certified Lean Office And Data Management Specialist Cynthia Marsh-Croll

Operations Productivity Specialist

I recently had a table at a Minority Women Business Enterprise (MWBE) Expo. It was a great event and fabulous resources for the attendees as well as quality workshops.  Wonderful to be part of that.  One area I was talking to the attendees about was rapid unmanaged growth.  As someone who was also involved with the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program I have heard my share of horror stories including established businesses going under while performing a contract.  Go on the offense not the defense and prepare for the projected growth by evaluating your workflow from lead to delivery.

Below are the areas you will want to review and address to streamline your processes and procedures:

  1. How long is it currently taking for a customer’s order/service to be processed?  What is the time frame the customer requires?  How much difference is there between the two?  If there is a shortfall this needs to be examined more closely to eliminate bottle necks and waste.  If you are able to do it ahead of schedule good job.  This is a competitive advantage that needs to be continued and promoted.
  1. If you are having issues with your current processes and procedures growth is going to be a real challenge.  This will need to be addressed so you can increase your capacity with the current resources.  One way to do this is break the workflow into the phases of your sales process.  If you attempt to do the whole thing as one workflow there are too many variables involved that it becomes difficult to see the challenges.  Pay very close attention to information flowing from one department to another.  Classically this is where information can be lost or stuck.  Also the tools you are using come into play.  Are you able to move the client through the sales funnel effectively while sharing information with other areas and get it done in the time required.  That is your goal.  What the client/customer wants when and how they want it.
  1. Everything you do should be customer centric.  Therefore streamlining something that provides poor products or service will not help your organization.  The result should be to provide quality service and products which the streamlining can help you achieve and then grow that result.  Many procurement officers or purchasing personnel want to see companies who provide value and capable of ramping up at a moment’s notice.  Again, having your sales funnel and customer service streamlined makes this much easier to achieve.
  1. As you grow keep reviewing and adjusting your process and procedures to adapt to the volume of customers.  There is something call the Demming Cycle which is Plan, Do, Check, Act. This needs to be the mantra of any organization looking to grow and stay on top in the market place.
  1. Empower your employees who are doing the day to day to provide solutions and quality improvements that can help you maintain customer satisfaction while growing.  Create a mechanism for the information to be shared so everyone can reap the benefits of a good idea.

All of this can seem daunting however how do you eat an elephant – one bite at a time.  I would also recommend checking out your industry trade publication.  They have targeted articles on how to do business and what improvements are coming down the pipe.  I also invite you to peruse my blog that contains articles on how to resolve workflow issues at www.ProdutiveSynergy.biz  We also offer a FREE one hour Growth Potential Assessment valued at $500.  To learn more visit www.CrollProductiveSynergy.com/GrowthPotentialAssessment Cynthia Marsh-Croll is an Operations Productivity Specialist and can be reached at 845-649-2778 or cmc@CrollProductiveSynergy.com

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Certified Lean Office And Data Management Specialist Cynthia Marsh-Croll

Certified Lean Office And Data Management Specialist Cynthia Marsh-Croll

Many non-profits are being affected by the different initiatives coming down the pipe involving federal and state funding requirements. This can make it very challenging for organizations who are already doing more with less while still providing quality services to their communities. The good news is some of these initiatives can help create an environment where you spend more money and time on furthering your mission instead of managing it. As part of these changes organizations are working towards collaboration, consolidation and compliance. These necessary “Strategic Steps” help safeguard your funding as well as ultimately increase access and quality of services. For initiatives of this kind setting the right foundation is key to being successful. Let’s examine these three components.

Collaboration
It is the perfect time for non-profits to collaborate. We now have the technology to allow multiple organizations to work together. Effective collaboration allows a non-profit to shift resources which will reduce administrative costs associated with running an organization. More and more funders are requiring non-profits to share staff and resources as a way to be more efficient and increase the dollars spent on direct services. Overall this is a very beneficial arrangement. However, if you do not have well defined processes and procedures this can be quite challenging if not impossible to achieve. It is vitally important that your organization has streamlined documented processes that can be shifted or delegated. This is where you can collaborate and share those resources. Some examples could be combined fundraising, receptionist duties, administrative assistant help or bookkeeping. If the proper foundation is laid, this can be a very effective way to cut costs and provide better service.

Consolidation
What is consolidation: solidification; strengthening. So when two or more organizations come together and form an alliance they are stronger than their individual parts. This is becoming more prevalent among health and human services. The medical and psychology fields are realizing that you need to treat the “whole” person. So organizations that perform various services can work together in a single location to provide help without the client being bounced around. This results in higher quality of care, better outcomes and resources that would not necessarily be available individually. For successful consolidation the parties need to clearly define the roles and expectations of the parties. Along with all the proper legal and accounting issues that encompass a working alliance. One challenge is to create procedures for sharing information and triggering when the next services are initiated. Having an effective record keeping and communication system is crucial to the unimpeded flow of information and service for the clients.

Compliance
This is by far one of the biggest administrative resource drains. Compliance for any non-profit involves a mountain of paperwork, tracking, data entry and reporting. This can mire down whole departments. So finding a way to remain compliant in spite of the necessary paperwork and complex reporting is essential to utilizing your resources to their fullest. The goal is to be as efficient as possible with your processes and data management systems being that most government agencies tend to be inefficient with report forms and submission methods. You really want to look at how you can eliminate rework, double entry and have the right program management software. This can be challenging to achieve but it is possible and key to increasing capacity for your organization while remaining compliant to your funders.

 

Non-profits have an opportunity to change the way they “do business” and as a result provide expanded quality care. With the growing number of individuals who require assistance our non-profits are needed more than ever. Being able to do the 3 “C’s” will help these organizations meet the growing need today and tomorrow.

Croll Productive Synergy has been successfully helping diverse businesses operate more effectively and efficiently throughout the Hudson Valley. By “creating the shortest path to success”, Ms. Croll has been able to facilitate improved workflow systems, allowing clients to save time, focus on revenue generating tasks, prioritize for maximum cash flow, effectively delegate and, consequently, increase their bottom line. To learn more visit www.crollproductivesynergy.com.

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Certified Lean Office Specialist

Certified Lean Office And Data Management Specialist Cynthia Marsh-Croll

Over a year ago I was asked to take over as Program Manager for the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce.  This has been a wonderful experience and I truly enjoy helping people achieve their goals and watching our clients transform right before my eyes.  However, the paperwork and reporting for New York State is extensive and I was up for the challenge.  By streamlining the process, I reduced the administrative tasks 50 hours a month thus making the paperwork manageable.

So how did I do this?  First I did a Value Stream Map of the current program putting in who was doing what functions, what information needed to be collected and when business plan parts were due from the students, etc.  This allowed me to see how everything fit together.  It also provided the opportunity for the previous manager to talk about any challenges he faced while running the class.  I made notes about the challenges so I could address them before they impacted the flow.  I then familiarized myself with all the paperwork, state database and how all of this information impacted our required goals in the contract.

I was in the process of running the session and immediately saw the opportunity for improvement.  Being that my background is data management I began formulating how I could leverage digital tools to eliminate double entry, mistakes and over processing of the forms.  One of my biggest hurdles is having to work within the state system which operates in a paper based flow.  So I had to improve the flow on our end and still provide the paper tracking and reports.  A puzzle – yeah!  I did the following 5 steps to improve the process and reduce administrative time by 50 hours a month.

  1. Imported all the previous and current EAP students into my ACT database.  Then categorized and tagged them for future reporting and marketing.
  2. Eliminated double entry into the excel workbook we are required to use for each client.  I formatted the workbook to merge with ACT which is integrated with Microsoft Office and was now as easy as clicking a button. This workbook contains over 30 sheets and is cumbersome to work with.  Previously the information from the website of who registered was being typed into the workbook for each person.  This was done for 25+ students per session plus the workshop attendees.
  3. Customized the database so that I could track and report on specific areas that I needed to focus on for achieving our contract goal as well as the ability to focus on outreach to clients that needed the most assistance and follow up.
  4. I could now produce reports and delegate administrative tasks such as database entry, survey phone calls, mailings, etc.
  5. A wonderful colleague instructed me on how to create a print macro in excel and this will also cut down on time to produce the paper copies of the excel workbook for the required paper reports.  Very cool tool that I will utilize well into the future.

We have even asked for some database improvements that will reduce the need for parts of the excel worksheet and streamline paper reporting even more.  I look forward to this in the future. The bottom line is even in a challenging environment you can still make your processes and back office operations more efficient saving your business time and money.  To find valuable tools and tips to utilize in your own business check out some of my earlier articles.

Croll Productive Synergy has been successfully helping diverse businesses operate better and faster than their competition throughout the Hudson Valley.  By “creating the shortest path to success”,  Ms. Croll has been able to facilitate improved work flow systems, allowing clients to save time, focus on revenue generating tasks, prioritize for maximum cash flow,  effectively delegate and, consequently,  increase profits.  To learn more visit www.crollproductivesynergy.com.

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Certified Lean Office Specialist

Certified Lean Office And Data Management Specialist Cynthia Marsh-Croll

In our world of information overload emails, digital and paper documents are increasing not decreasing as predicted. To stay on top of this information onslaught companies need to create a retention schedule for both paper and digital files. Below are some tips on creating a retention schedule for all your document types.

When I am asked how long to keep something I answer “it depends”. The reason for keeping something will usually dictate how long to retain it. Asking yourself whether you are keeping documents for tax, legal, insurance or historical purposes is the first step in developing your retention schedule. This applies for both physical and electronic records. The digital and paper retention schedule should align and mirror each other.

Taxes
The IRS site recommends “The length of time you should keep a document depends on the action, expense, or even the document records. Generally, you must keep your records that support an item of income or deductions on a tax return until the period of limitations for that return runs out.” To get a complete list from the IRS click How long should I keep records? Always consult your accountant about any retention schedule. Some industries have specific guidelines not listed in the above resource such as lawyers, real estate agencies, etc.

Legal
This area can be challenging when trying to determine how long to keep records. For example, vital records such as social security cards, birth certificates, etc. should be kept permanently and stored in a fire or safety deposit box. From the business standpoint retention is going to depend on why you have to keep the documents. A great starting point resource for developing your retention schedule is “The Record Retention Guide” developed in 2004 by the Massachusetts Society of CPAs, Inc. What is valuable about this resource is the in-depth description of the business document types and suggested retention schedule. Again, always consult your attorney and accountant about these guidelines and their adherence to your industry and business model.

 Insurance
Consult your insurance company about what records they require you to keep per the terms of your policy. Depending on the type and items covered you may need to produce receipts, backup, etc. when filing a claim. That is not the time to find out you do not have the documentation to receive your benefits. Begin with a conversation with your insurance agent and get the recommended retention schedule in writing.

Historical
These documents are usually client communication records. How long do you need to keep these will depend again on why you need to keep them. In many cases it is a matter of company policy and preference. For example when is a prospect considered “dead” and what is done with their historical information? Or when is a client inactive and what should be done with those records? Archived, deleted and if archived how long afterward are they purged? Again this applies to physical and digital information. Another part of this is resources. Keep them as long as they are relevant. Once they are updated keep the current copy (digital or paper) and purge the old resource. You will also want to consult your three experts: accountant, lawyer and insurance agent about your historical and client retention schedule.

Lastly, keeping your desktop and hard drive clean. Below is a simple table from “The New Lean Office Pocket Guide” to give you a basic schedule for keeping on top of your electronic documents and preventing digital clutter.

Target Area Task  Location  Taskmaster  Frequency 
Email Inbox  Extract data, attachments and tasks and delete emails from your Inbox Outlook Inbox 

 

User 

 

Daily 

 

Email Folders  Extract data, attachments and tasks and delete old saved, underutilized email Outlook Mail Folders 

 

User 

 

Weekly 

 

Desktop  Create a folder for each project/subject and move all files into the appropriate folder on your desktop. Create a folder on the network drive in the User Files folder with your name and a subfolder named “Active Files” within. Active Desktop User 

 

Weekly 

 

Hard Drive  Remove all files from the My Documents/My Pictures etc. Run the cleaning software and defragment the hard drive. C: 

 

User 

 

Monthly 

 

Common Files  Department to review all files weekly Q:Common Files 

 

Team Rotation 

 

Weekly 

 

Red Tags  Every 6 months review all files and folders  Q:Red Tags 

 

Supervisor 

 

Daily 

 

User Files  Delete any files that are 60 days old  Q:User FilesUser Name 

 

User 

 

Bi-Weekly 

 

Maintaining documents uses up considerable resources in any business. Having a comprehensive retention schedule allows you to effectively manage your information and free up time maintaining old and outdated records. Utilize the recouped time on revenue producing activities and satisfying your customers. You will get a far better return on your time investment.

Croll Productive Synergy has been successfully helping diverse businesses operate better and faster than their competition throughout the Hudson Valley. By “creating the shortest path to success”, Ms. Croll has been able to facilitate improved workflow systems, allowing clients to save time, focus on revenue generating tasks, prioritize for maximum cash flow, effectively delegate and, consequently, increase profits. To learn more visit www.crollproductivesynergy.com.

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Certified Lean Office Specialist
Certified Lean Office And Data Management Specialist Cynthia Marsh-Croll

While working with my clients and as Program Manager of the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program I have a common theme presents itself.  How do I figure out how my business is doing?  As a business owner I need to know the answer to this myself.  So when I meet with my accountant, I want to give him the most up to date and accurate information.  Thus providing the data he needs to help me make sound financial decisions.  Your accountant can do this for you but they will need “information”.

I recommend that all businesses no matter what size have a solid and well maintained accounting system.  This is the financial history of your business.  To get the most out of a business health review with your financial professional include these questions

  1. What are my projected sales for the next fiscal year per month (factoring in product and sales cycles)?  By collecting information on your previous sales, customers, etc. you can use that information to make an educated assumption about what is going to happen in the future. 
  2. What were my costs for the last fiscal year?  What are my projected costs in the upcoming fiscal year?  Again, by tracking everything you paid out, to whom and for what will help you develop a realistic budget.  This information can be utilized by an experienced bookkeeper to help you create and maintain that budget.
  3. What does my cash flow look like?  Do I have enough operating cash to stay in business?  Even if your profit and loss statement shows you made money that does not mean it is in the bank.  Businesses who do not manage their cash flow tend to go out of business.
  4. What is my break-even point?  In other words how may widgets (product/service) do I have to sell to cover my costs?  At what point should your business be making a profit?
  5. There are other ratios your accountant can help you calculate that will provide insight into managing your inventory, accounts receivable and accounts payable.  If you are seeing problems with your cash flow one of these may help you understand why.

With all of the different threats and opportunities in today’s business environment, business owners need to make educated decisions for the long term health of their organization.  That includes using an accounting system to collect information while conducting business and utilizing that valuable data to formulate plans for the future.  A quality account can help you reach your business goals if ~ you help them help you.

Croll Productive Synergy has been successfully helping diverse businesses operate better, faster and cheaper than their competition throughout the Hudson Valley.  By “creating the shortest path to success”,  Ms. Croll has been able to facilitate improved workflow systems, allowing clients to save time, focus on revenue generating tasks, prioritize for maximum cash flow,  effectively delegate and, consequently,  increase profits.  To learn more visit www.crollproductivesynergy.com.

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Apr/12

5

Planning For Success

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Certified Lean Office Specialist

Certified Lean Office Specialist Cynthia Marsh-Croll

As one of my hats I am the Program Manager for the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program at the Orange County Chamber of Commerce.  The students go through the course and finish the session with a completed business.  This helps to reduce the start-up failure rate a wonderful benefit for our students.  Another part of the class is existing businesses.  When existing businesses sign up, they usually are there to develop a plan that can help them obtain funding.  However, after completing the course they come out with much more.

So why is planning important?  Without it you will waist a considerable amount of money, time, and resources.  You can’t get where you want to go if you don’t know where you want to end up.  Working with clients I usually find businesses who have grown ad hoc and call me when their inefficient back office operations are hampering growth.  By developing a business plan you can prepare for growth and potential risk or problems.  Therefore you are responding to your environment not reacting.  Also, having a solid plan gives you a tool for making decisions.  I tell my EAP students “If it does not help you reach your goals don’t do it”.  The plan gives you a construct to determine if a new opportunity needs to be added.

What are some of the components of good plan:

  • The owner has to be involved in the planning process – you know your business like no one else.
  • The plan is based in reality – including the marketing research, projected sales and cash flow.
  • It includes what happens if things don’t go as planned – worst case scenario
  • The plan is achievable – goals are SMART( Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely).
  • The plan should be flexible enough to adapt if unexpected opportunities arise.  This also applies to problems.
  • Review the plan often.  This is the roadmap for your business.

Those businesses who have developed plans increase their success rate.  They are able to make better business decisions and have an action plan to reach their goals.  That is why it is imperative that your business plan be reviewed often.  Did you hit your sales goals?  If not, why?  Where your assumptions correct?   Was your research on the competition accurate, etc.  These are all things that are factors in your continued success.  Create your business plan to develop your roadmap for success.  If you need any help with developing a business plan visit www.OrangeNYEAP.com.  I would love to have you in my next class.

Croll Productive Synergy has been successfully helping diverse businesses operate better and   faster than their competition throughout the Hudson Valley.  By “creating the shortest path to success”,  Ms. Croll has been able to facilitate improved workflow systems, allowing clients to save time, focus on revenue generating tasks, prioritize for maximum cash flow,  effectively delegate and, consequently,  increase profits.  To learn more visit www.CrollProductiveSynergy.com.

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