Often, the best lessons are learned in your own backyard.
When my partners and I stepped out onto the back deck seven years ago to launch 360 Visibility, convinced the market was aching for a full-service IT consulting firm without the typically attendant full-service price, we had scant grasp of just how much our own firm’s operations would teach us of the pains of our clients.
Take cashflow, for one. Always a challenge, cashflow is more of a bugbear than ever in these belt-cinched times. Keeping a firm handle on your day’s sales outstanding (DSO) as they relate to your day’s payables outstanding (DPO) is crucial. How quickly you’re collecting cheques versus how quickly you’re writing them, after all, is a delicate balance, and one we — like our customers — had to come to terms with early in our feet-finding days.
Way back, there were periods when we let our DSO creep up into the 60- or 80-day mark, or when we found ourselves discharging our payables too fast — and it wasn’t comfortable. We’ve long since learned how to throw technology at this problem and make it stick. Our grip on cashflow today? Tight and clean and strong.
It’s been an education, too, coming to understand the profitable consequence of having a serious, smart customer relationship management (CRM) system in place as a kind of corporate rudder. More than ever, it’s vital to use technology to get an understanding of who your customers might be. A good CRM system helps you do that.
A good CRM system also helps a company anticipate its sales patterns. We discovered early on how important accurate sales forecasting is for effectively managing a resource pool (that is, the consultants delivering our services). Without it, we might have found ourselves swimming in a sad sea of underutilized resources and unexplored possibilities.
Customer relationship management software also keeps track of what prospects you’ve talked to, when you talked to them, what they’ve said about when they might be interested in buying and so on. It took a bit of our own early grappling with the business of managing a customer database to fully appreciate what the application of smart tools here could mean to our customers.
Every CEO needs visibility into his or her sales pipeline. A clever CRM system switches on the lights.
And so it is that today, in a backyard festooned with coloured lanterns and scented with magnolia, we can take stock of those internal lessons that have so abundantly added to our own professional proficiencies, and let their largesse round out the expertise we offer our clients.