I recently attended a festival at the local airport, where people from around the world displayed their artistic talents. I wanted to share one of the many photos I took, as they had just uncrated this beautiful carving of a Pelican standing on a piling. I had to take the photo from just the right angle so-as to hide the fact that everything in the photo, with the exception of the two young ladies on the right that appear to be standing on a stump, is actually painted on the flat surfaces of plywood.
I wanted to share this example of something that appears to be one thing if it is looked at from one specific angle when, in realty, it is something totally different if viewed from another perspective. When you analyze the information in your business, make sure that you look at it from more than just the one angle that makes it appear to be how you want it to appear.
On behalf of Red Wing Software, I want to thank all the brave men and women that are dedicated to keeping us safe and free. This is a special time of year for many people around the world. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a prosperous New Year to our customers, employees, partners, and suppliers.
If this information looks familiar, it’s because I repeat it every couple years and I think it’s so important. We are fast approaching the end of 2015, and I want to point out some important information that needs to be considered before year-end, or shortly after the beginning of a new year.
Even if your company operates on a fiscal year, there are a few things that may need to be considered to prepare for the new calendar year:
- How is your budgeting process going for next year? Will next year be the same as this year, or should you be planning some much needed changes to make it better?
- Have you installed all of the latest versions of your software? You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) wait until after the first of the year to get up-to-date. Doing it now saves pressure later.
- There are new Affordable Care Act reporting requirements for 2015 that need to be considered for many companies. Have you collected all the information needed to complete the forms? Did you know CenterPoint Payroll helps maintain this information and can fill in the forms and file them electronically?
- How about retirement plans, and other items important to you and your employees? It is harder now than ever to find good employees, and we need to remain competitive in the marketplace to keep them.
- It is a good time to remind employees to update their W-4 information for changes that have occurred during the year like getting married, having children, buying a house, or anything else that might change their withholding needs.
- How is your budgeting process going? Oh, did I already ask that? I read once that “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you already are.” Is it time for some changes?
So, update that important technology today, review procedures and policies, help employees be better managers of their information, and plan for the New Year.
- Ken Hilton, President
Instead of telling you what I think this month, I will just ask some questions to provoke some thought. I think you’ll likely know what I think by reading the questions I ask.
- Are you running your business, or is your business running you?
- Do you control the expenses in your business by operating from a budget, or do you operate by the “seat of the pants”?
- Do you have processes in place (and documented) for internal job functions, or do you assume everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing?
- You know that everyone in your organization has certain responsibilities. Have they been clearly communicated, and do the people in your organization know they have these responsibilities?
- Do you know the true cost of items that you produce or buy for resale, including indirect costs?
- Do you know what your most profitable items are and those items that are not so profitable and maybe should be discontinued?
- Do you know your businesses key financial ratios, what they mean, and where the danger levels are?
- Do you analyze the return on new asset purchases before the purchase has been made?
If you think you have good answers to all of these questions, ask them again. I challenge you to continually ask these questions throughout the year, and improve operations through better management. At Red Wing Software, we evaluate our position and try to answer these questions regularly. Once we think we know all the answers, we stop improving.
- Ken Hilton, President
Just two months ago I wrote about summer storms and having a disaster recovery plan. Well, the Red Wing, MN office had a chance to experience this very problem, and try out our plan.
Last Saturday evening, we had an electrical storm that knocked out power for a few hours. When the power to the building came back on, not everything restarted the way it should have. Our file servers that hold all our database information needed to be restarted. All individual computers had to be manually turned back on, which prevented employees from logging into their computer from remote locations. And, the computerized phone system would not reboot at all.
Larry, our “computer wizard” and IT Manager, worked Sunday and had almost everything back up and running by the time everyone arrived at the office Monday morning. He had a technician arrive at the office first thing Monday to repair our phone system. Knowing that the repair would take some time, he already connected an old analog telephone to our fax line and rerouted our incoming phone numbers to all ring in on that line so we could at least take incoming calls.
While Roxie could take calls and log them into our customer service software for support technicians to return calls when the system came back up, with only one line, we didn’t have a way to make outgoing calls to answer support questions. Not wanting to make our customers wait an unknown amount of time to receive a call back, our support staff took it upon themselves to use their personal cell phones to make the return calls and take care of our customers even before the phone system was fixed.
This certainly doesn’t qualify as a major disaster, but it does show the importance of having the right people in place and a plan to get things back in operating condition. Thank you to our entire staff for pulling together and minimizing the effect of this temporary problem, and to our customers for being patient through this process.
Ken Hilton - President
Sometimes what seems to be an insurmountable problem can have a simple solution, if only we look at it from a different perspective. Here are a couple examples that I have been directly involved with. The first happened at a recent event I attended in Indianapolis, and the second happened early in the development of the ratio/index analysis functionality in our software and forever affected how we look at new software features.
I was recently at a conference attended by a large number of Certified Public Accountants. They were all highly educated, extremely sharp people. At the final break, the sponsors of the event provided milk and cookies as an afternoon snack. The cookies were large, and the milk was in individual serving bottles with a small opening in the top. I was talking to one of the participants as he stood with a cookie in one hand and milk in the other, when he said, “It sure would be nice to be able to dunk this cookie, but it won’t fit in the top of the bottle.” I just politely suggested he dump the milk into one of the glasses that were neatly stacked next to the big bowl filled with milk on ice, and he could dunk the cookie.
Over twenty-five years ago, I was having an intense discussion with our (then and current) Development Manager on how the data in our Ratio/Index analysis program should be displayed. This was as close to a knock-down, drag-out fight as we’ve ever had over a software feature. I thought the trend information on the reports should be presented in reverse chronological order so the most recent information was closest to the line titles, and he thought that was crazy, because financial information should always be in chronological order. One of our partners, at the time, entered the conversation at about the breaking point and after hearing just a small portion of the discussion, he suggested, “do it both ways and let the customers decide how they want to see the data,” totally ruining a perfectly good argument.
Next time you are confronted with a problem that seems to have no solution, step back, take a breath, and look at the issue from a different angle.
- Ken Hilton, President