Do you run a complicated business? I'm going to backtrack on that question for a moment ... probably every business is somewhat complicated. Publishing is complicated, and it's tax time. Let me backtrack even further as to why tax time this year is even more complex than usual for me. The operations manager position got left vacant. Why? After several "run-ins" with some mismanagement and some unpleasant revelations about that side of the business, as the company CEO I decided to take over operations for a while -- a kind of test drive for the position to be properly filled in the future.
As part of my "adventure" I am compiling all of the financials. In layperson's language it's like getting under the hood of the car and looking at the engine and all of the parts fitting together. I've also started looking at credit-card activities, banks statements, payment histories. So before I go on let me say there is nothing more revelatory about your business than getting knee-deep in the grease of it.
Since I've taken over operations, it has been one "enlightening" moment after the other. First, I'm going to say that every business owner should do this at least once a year. I know it sounds kind of tedious and unpleasant (especially if you don't like numbers), but it's truly the best way to understand your business and what's really happening vs. what you think is happening.
I have come to understand that there are certain areas that need major adjustments and/or eliminations. I'm going to write about one of those areas (national book distribution) tomorrow. A true examination of one's overhead will reveal the good, the bad, and the "get-rid-of-it" expenses. Overhead reduction and modifications should quickly follow.
Second, human nature and behavior from previous employees may come to light. Several times now in my exploration of company expenses and cash flow, my eye went to some rather unsavory information. A double-cashed check in particular caught my attention when going through my bank statements. Getting past the unpleasant idea that someone in charge of financials took some liberties, I turned my attention toward the real question: How do I put safeguards in place to prevent this kind of problem down the road?
The real value in getting in the dirt of your business is truly the lessons learned. Don't get mad, get smart. While I feel a certain amount of frustration about issues that have arisen by going through the granular parts of the business, I do feel overall even more enlightened. In everything we do it's about learning lessons not feeling bitter or even negative. Yeah, it's not so fun to discover things that are ugly, but it's important to first know it happened, and then to stop it from happening again.
Success is built in failure. Each failure is another opportunity to get it right. And sometimes it takes many failures long before the "get-it-right" actions result in your success. So, don't let the unpleasant realities of business get you down. Use it as an opportunity to succeed!