Lesson 1: Buy the Best Equipment you Can Afford

Here is the initial installment of my Sailing Lessons Series. In this article, I will discuss the most important equipment you must invest in for your successful enterprise.

In this series I explore a few good management lessons I’ve learned sailing my small boat. A small boat is like a small company. A bigger boat is like a bigger company (you get the idea). The things that make a voyage go well are similar to the things that make a company navigate its own journey well. But remember, like any voyage, there are many factors you can not control and that is really where the fun is anyway.

There are three critical business systems you must invest in to avoid disaster in the sea of competition. Like any voyage, its too late to discover you need these tools when the storm arises. Invest early and grow into the capabilities.

There is a law of nature that any possible failure will occur at the worst possible time.
Certain critical pieces of a sailboat are worth investing in to get the best possible performance and safety. Purchase high quality sails and lines (there are no ropes on a sailboat, thank you). Install sturdy wenches and cleats. Use tinned wire for all your electrical work. These assets will pay dividends in performance when it counts. Notice that some of the most important equipment are very sexy. They are the working bits that get the job done and are often invisible.

Here are three things to make sure you have built into your company to make sure it can weather the storms of growth and competition.

Number 1: Accounting is BI.  Invest in a solid, scaleable accounting system is the backbone of your enterprise. A top end accounting platform that has been expertly configured and properly maintained not only produces reliable financial statements, but become the source of vital business intelligence. An accounting system with a good reporting interface will readily supply you with insight about product performance, customer behavior, and operational effectiveness.

Number 2: Forget Print. Get Digital. No modern enterprise can afford to skimp on digital presence, which includes websites, but also all manner of social media. Customers will make judgments in seconds based on the quality of websites. The website itself is a combination of marketing tool and transactional platform. The experience must be expertly designed and continuously evolving to be effective. There is no substitute for professional management of these assets.

Number 3: Systematically Manage Customer Relationships. Every enterprise beyond a popcorn stand must invest in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. Efficient growth with out a CRM is impossible. A CRM will coordinate client interaction from prospect to implementation, to relationship expansion. But the big boost to performance from a CRM comes from automation and business intelligence. The CRM must, I say must, integrate with your accounting system. This is an ongoing investment that pays off big.

A good CRM system will allow you to automate workflows like marketing campaigns, contract execution, and invoicing. It becomes a repository for all prospect and customer information, as well as marketing data from which you will be able to develop indispensable metrics to manage every phase of the business. These three tools; accounting, digital presence, and CRM combine to form the critical data infrastructure of the enterprise. Do not skimp on these.