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Finding the obvious may lead to jobs…

What opportunities are you missing by taking things for granted?

I am not an expert in Microsoft Excel but I can use it competently and am aware of its capabilities even when I don’t use some features.

A graph produced in excel showing members vs unique visitors

This simple graph was produced from a table of data in excel for one of my clients. For me, it was an obvious way to produce a graph; for my client, it was a major challenge to know how to produce it at all.

And it hadn’t occurred to me that someone who uses Excel for various tasks wouldn’t know that you can easily create graphs from the data entered into Excel. It’s just obvious to me so I took it for granted that it was obvious to others.

Yet, that isn’t the case.

Graphs in Excel – not so obvious to everyone

A couple of weeks ago I did a presentation which included a simple graph on one slide. Afterwards, I was talking with a client and he mentioned wanting some graphs for a report he was working on.

 Long story short, he didn’t know excel would do that for him.

I set up that simple graph for him and now am managing a larger excel-based project for him. I say managing because it is a more complex graph so I have outsourced it to someone I know who is an Excel expert!

Missed opportunities

It has me thinking though. How many more graphs could my client have used, in reports or presentations or for his own use, if I had told him about excel graphs sooner?

How many clients could I have referred to my excel expert?

When we know something, it’s hard to remember that many others don’t know it or at least know it as well as well as we do.

Are there some obvious tasks or skills you aren’t seeing for your business?

I wonder what great opportunities you could find by spotting those obvious tasks and skills…

Procedures and opportunities

Have you thought about the lost opportunities in your business? Or linked some of those opportunities to the lack of procedures in your business?

Often because we are so busy or are comfortable, SMB people can miss opportunities to grow their profit margins. In Forbes this week, Bill Conerly wrote about two major factors leading to missed opportunities.

One factor is concentrating on revenue and forgetting margins. That is, worrying so much about getting sales and more money coming in that there is no assessment of actual profits (remember profits and turnover are very different terms, although related).

Bill gives the example of winning many jobs (so increasing revenue or income) at below-cost prices (so making no profit). My example is a freelancer who charges an hourly rate that doesn’t factor in costs such as running a website, electricity and administration – being the cheapest may win more work but doesn’t generate as much profit.

Written procedures and business opportunities

Further opportunities are missed through the lack of procedures.

Written procedures can be an efficiency tool, which means better profit margins,” wrote Bill with a personal example of improving his own working methods.

Bill also quoted me with the following issues relating to a lack of procedures:

  1. all the information in one person’s head means the business struggles if that person is suddenly unavailable – a struggling business can’t grab new opportunities or even cope with the current ones
  2. training a new person is time intensive for those who know the operations whereas a set of procedures can give the trainee guidance to work alone sooner
  3. a business is more valuable to a potential buyer if they can easily continue the service – it also looks more professional. You may not be thinking of selling just now but preparing to sell your business is a good strategy
  4. going through your operations to write (or review) your procedures can give a different perspective and highlight areas that can be improved. For instance, whilst noting the procedure for updating a client’s website, I was able to remove double handling by staff and show them an easier way to do the updates – the time saved was an opportunity to increase their social media presence.

Have you seen any improved efficiency relating to having good procedures in place?

Establishing procedures in your business doesn’t have to be hard – just work on one at a time as you complete important tasks. My preparing procedures eBook is designed to help you through this process, or contact me with specific questions and challenges.