# Excel Formula To Calculate Number Of Paychecks Left In Year What is Business Intelligence? A Primer For Small and Medium Sized Businesses

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## What is Business Intelligence? A Primer For Small and Medium Sized Businesses

What You Don’t Know Hurts You Imagine that you are the owner of a successful wholesale company that is growing really fast. Retailers big and small are beating a path to your door to buy your product. Things are looking good. You predict that sales will increase by 50%, so you plan the purchase of your supplies accordingly.

Suddenly, a year passes, you have no cash to pay next month’s payroll and your warehouse is full of unsold items. This situation hits you like a ton of bricks from left field (sorry, I can’t think of more clichés to add to these two). what happened What you didn’t realize was that while sales were only growing by 20%, your inventory was growing by 50%. You’ve lost track of your numbers. A similar situation happened to a client of our friend Ken Kaufman of CFOWise.

This is the case with hard-working entrepreneurs all over the world. It has probably been with your business, your labor of love. You worked your tail off to build your company from scratch. You worked 10-15 hour days, literally living on smoke. Your company got to where it is today based on the strength of your will and your vision for the future.

But now that you’ve reached a certain level of success, you’ve plateaued. Cash flow and profitability still seem elusive. Customer service calls are increasing. Your inventory is stacking up. Your kids are wondering when they’ll be able to take that big vacation to Costa Rica you tell them “when we make it.” But you’re still working as hard as ever.

The problem is, things are moving so fast that you don’t know your company’s basic numbers. Despite warnings from your accountant, you can’t find the time to sit down and figure out what the numbers are telling you. You’ve got another proposal to write, a new vendor to negotiate with, and a new marketing campaign to launch. That’s where business intelligence comes in.

You Can’t Improve What You Can’t Measure: The Case for Business Intelligence The entrepreneur’s dilemma is that the skills that get you where you are today are not the skills that will help you grow into a viable, sustainable business. It requires an “indispensable you” to operate on a daily basis.

Basic numbers like:

1. Revenue.

Track revenue, cost of sales, gross profit, gross margin, revenue trends, sales per sales executive, top 10 products, sales by region, sales per customer, etc.

2. Expenses.

Track payroll, utilities, travel, actual expenses vs. budgeted expenses, expense trend analysis, expenses by cost center, expenses by type, etc.

3. Inventory.

Track inventory days remaining, inventory by product, fastest moving inventory items, slowest moving inventory items, overstocked items, etc.

4. Accounts Receivable.

Track expected payment schedules, early payments, late payments, payment trends, etc.

5. Accounts Payable.

Track past due payments, categorize vendors by payment terms, check payables trends, determine who to pay first and who you can delay paying.

6. CRM data.

Track details on sales reps, best customers, worst customers, customer complaints, customer loyalty, defections, referrals, etc.

7. Human Resources.

Track vacation days, employee efficiency, employee complaints, employee retention, compliance, etc.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Here are more things you can track to grow:

• Technical Support Calls: Time to Resolution, Issue Tracking, Common Complaints, Preferred Features.
• Route driver efficiency: miles driven, time to delivery, visit time per customer, site invoicing.
• Product Optimization: Most Popular Products, Least Popular Products, Most Profitable Products, Least Profitable, Product Returns
• In-store sales: most profitable days of the week, most popular specials, least effective specials, most effective point-of-purchase displays
• Logistics: best delivery companies, slow delivery companies, number of items lost during shipping, number of damaged items
• Medicine: Most expensive procedures, most beneficial procedures, most complex procedures, procedures requiring least skill
• Software Development: Developers producing the most bugs, most skilled developers, best development environments
• *Insert your essential items required to be measured here*

Keeping it simple, have we lost you yet? still here? good Now you know what you need to take your company to the next level.

But the big question is: who has time to analyze all this? Who has time to organize all these numbers in a spreadsheet and try to figure out the best way to organize the data? Your accountant? maybe…

How about a simple-to-use business intelligence tool?

The terms dashboards and analytics are often thrown around as terms related to business intelligence, but here’s a brief explanation first:

Dashboards These are tools that visually display data such as performance indicators and key performance indicators through tables, charts, graphs, etc. Dashboards allow you to customize what is displayed or build from scratch with the information you want to see. Dashboards also allow you to “drill-down” into data, such as by region, department, product, and sales executives, for example looking at revenue.

Analysis The practice of looking at historical data to gain insight and understand business performance. Through analytical capabilities, users can dissect business data to fully understand and answer the “how”, “what”, and “when” questions. For example, you can use this data to plan the best-performing mix of products and special offers, and predict with precision what the outcome will be.

Sounds complicated, right?

Here’s the beauty of dashboards and analytics: they’re now available in pre-built, easy-to-use visual displays. With simple points and clicks, you and your employees can actually do it see How are your products or expenses trending?

Drill down and click on some interesting metrics to find out: Which customers really have late payments? Who are my top 5 hot-shot sales guys? What was my best retail day and why? What was the actual product that sold the most that day?

Want to see how things are different now than they were 3 months ago? View a visual timeline to see how your spending or inventory statistics are trending. Want to quickly correct something you didn’t know was going downhill, going fast? Start a project with your BI tool that will fire off emails to your people to take immediate corrective action.

How to get the information into the tool is fine, now I can see all my company data visually, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to make sense of the numbers. I can see where I’m bleeding red ink and I can take action (you like taking action more than crunching numbers).

But how do all those numbers get there?

Most BI solutions today have simple tools to help you. There are Extract, Transform and Load (ETL) tools that can connect directly to your accounting system or CRM, providing a tunnel for your information to get from one place to another on a scheduled or manual basis. There are also Excel templates so that when you export information from your accounting system you can organize them into the right columns with the right column headers and then upload them to your BI tool.

It wasn’t always this way. About 3-4 years ago these types of tasks required highly paid data analysts with expertise in databases, data integration tools, and DTS scripts to get data from point A to point B. These gurus need to build the reports and dashboards you need to see the data that’s actually useful to you. Ugh!

You are actually lucky that you are in business now. A lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into making these tools easy and affordable for small and growing businesses to use. The cost of BI tools seems expensive, right? Well, it was.

Traditionally BI tools were reserved for the Fortune 500 and below. They really They needed tools to maintain their upward growth momentum (and some of them didn’t do very well. Maybe they spent too much on their BI solution???). They were complicated, the equipment was expensive and cumbersome, and implementation took longer and sometimes cost more than the equipment itself.

But now BI applications are essentially websites. You use websites to run your business. If you use Google Analytics, you’re using the simplest, most commonly used BI tool delivered in a software as a service (SaaS) model. The software of SaaS is actually a website.

The advantage of using BI tools, or any software for that matter, delivered as SaaS, is that the cost can be broken down into easy to consume monthly payments. All maintenance costs and hosting are absorbed by the software vendor. For literally the daily price of a latte you can access a web-delivered, powerful tool so you can measure all your company’s key numbers and get a handle on your business. You can focus on growth, and empower your employees to examine important company metrics and take corrective action if needed.

Conclusion – What does it all mean? It means nothing without you, the entrepreneur, and your growing business. Business Intelligence is for hard working men and women who run small and medium sized businesses to help them grow into medium sized and large businesses.

What are your next steps?

Further reading: How to work on your business, not on it.

By Fernando Labastida, Communication Specialist

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