Do SMEs gather enough data to make informed decisions?

While large companies tend to have systems that provide information for management to monitor activity and make informed decisions, small businesses tend to ignore these in the mistaken assumption that because the directors are involved in everything they know what is going on.

Many SMEs simply focus on profit and loss, where the directors monitor how profitable the business is. They will also certainly keep an eye on the bank account. This may reassure them about their cash position.

However, without a balance sheet and regular scrutiny of the current assets: book debts and work in progress, stock and short term liabilities: factoring, trade creditors and VAT/PAYE it is difficult to know the real situation.

It is common for small businesses to run out of cash because they simply haven’t been paying suppliers or HMRC.

The reassurance of cash in the bank is little comfort when liabilities are mounting.

We would argue that it’s essential to have a basic dashboard of key figures to review regularly, including some of those items listed above. This will give a more accurate picture of where the business is today, but even so does not necessarily tell you where it is going.

Monitoring performance also requires further information, such as debt collection, aged debtors or pre-payment by customers as well as sales related information such as inquiries, quotes and sales orders are equally essential for planning the future.

While every business is different, each should have a dashboard of information that will help it monitor performance and adjust plans to ensure it doesn’t run out of cash.

What information is crucial to your business future?

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