The Team at NOW bring you topics of interest to owners of small businesses. Please feel free to leave a comment or let us know if there are particular topics you'd like us to cover.

Happy New Financial Year Part 1

The Team - Wednesday, July 07, 2010

This is our first "guest" blog!

It comes from Gillian Knight at Shape Up Business Solutions. Gillian and her staff specialise in Book Keeping and Troubleshooting, MYOB set up and systems, procedure manuals, training packages and workshops. Gillian can be contacted at shapeupbiz@westnet.com.au or on (08) 9279 5715 :

"Well it’s that time again, so let’s look at our annual checklist:

1.   Make sure all of your records are up to date:
a.   Bank reconciliations done to 30/6/10.
b.   Balance of Superannuation for the year.
c.   Process final payroll up to 30/6/10.
d.   Complete car expenses and have them ready to submit.

2.   Preparation of PAYG Summaries for ALL employees. These need to be given to employees by the 14th of July and to the Tax Office by the 28th of August.

NOTE: There’s a change this year in the preparation of PAYG Summaries.
Reportable Employer Superannuation Contributions (RESC) have to be shown on 0910 Summaries. The link on the ATO website is: www.ato.gov.au/content/00189411.htm
If you’re unsure, please contact your accountant for advice.

3.   Review all assets and inform your accountant of any equipment to be written off.

4.   Pay Superannuation before the 30th of June if possible or by the 28th of July at the latest to avoid penalties."


Gillian Knight.




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Improving The Bottom Line - Small Changes, Big Outcomes

The Team - Sunday, May 30, 2010

Nobody wants to leave money on the table. On the other hand, for most products (the exception is a so-called prestige good), the most basic rule of economics is:

Prices up = Less sales

Prices down = More sales

This means that, when you have lots of customers, some questionnaires and some mathematics can be applied to determine a price at which you will maximise profit (talk to us if you want to do this).

Some businesses discover that there is more profit in raising prices, while for others the reverse is true. Of course, lowering a price can have other consequences, such as giving the impression your company is in trouble and/or driving competitors to lower their prices and reduce everybody’s profit to unsustainable levels.

However, there are other elementary steps that a business can take to increase profit. Small changes can lead to large cumulative results. In the following example, Sales are increased by 5% (a small amount), Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)text are reduced by 5% and Overhead Expenses are reduced by 5%:

  Before After
Increase Sales by 5%
Reduce COGS by 5% (67% to 62%)
Reduce overheads by 5%
Net Profit


Initially, let’s just look at increasing sales by 5%. In a later blogs will look at reducing COGS and overheads.

The ways that we can increase sales are: an increase in the number of customers; an increase in the number of average sales; and in increase in the number of sales by each customer.

Our goal is an increase of 5% - right? What would happen if we achieve a 5% increase in each of the ways in which to increase sales? Here is an example of what can happen:

  Before After
Increase customers by 5% 1,000 1,050
Increase Average Sale by 5% $1,000 $1,050
Increase repeat business by 5% 20 21
Gross Revenue 2,000,000 2,315,250

That’s nearly a 16% increase in sales.

Pick just one of increasing the number of customers; increasing the number of average sales; or increasing the number of sales by each customer. Will you:

  • Use a new means of getting new customers (a website? social media?).
  • Increase average sales by up-selling or cross-selling.
  • Stop offending customers with a resultant increase in sales by customers.

Good business is applying basic business principles. That’s just part of what we do at NOW Business Mastery to help our clients increase their profitability.

Sarah Mitchell commented on 11-Jun-2010 04:39 AM
Thanks for the good reminder about other ways to improve your bottom line. As a small business owner I know from experience putting your rates up is the most obvious thing to do. Increasing a single sale (the hairdressing salons are experts at this) or building a relationship that promotes repeat customers in easier strategy.

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Back In Black - Are Small Business Owners Celebrating After This Week's Budget?

The Team - Thursday, May 13, 2010
The Main Budget Issue

The main deliverable from this budget is a return to surplus in 3 years instead of the forecast 6 years.

However, this budgeted result is dependent on the strength of our trading partners - something over which the Government has no control - and the belief that the new resources rent tax will deliver a whopping increase in revenue within 3 years, without reducing economic activity by causing the miners to head elsewhere.

Responsible Economic Management or Luck?

As no one was expecting much in the way of handouts from Tuesday's budget, apart from all the usual interest groups who feel compelled to put out a press release following the annual budget, no-one was particularly surprised or disappointed.

The main message the Government wants to spread is its claim to responsible economic management. And it is now removing the stimulatory measures which pump-primed the economy during the GFC (and which may have protected Australia from the kind of economic basket case much of Europe has become) and reducing the budget deficit so that Australia is forecast to be back in the black within 3 years

Forget about smokes, $8 extra take home pay and all the marginal issues, the main game is the elimination of the current budget deficit of $57bn within 3 years instead of the 6 years previously forecast.

Although the economic cards may have fallen in Australia's favour, whether this is due to the stimulus package or largely because we are a resource based economy with a strong banking sector, many commentators believe that the Government's inability to transact basic business (insulation, school building program) without reeking havoc will not be easily forgotten of forgiven.

So what's in it for small business?

Directly, not very much:

- Company tax for small businesses will reduce from 30% to 28% from the 2012/13 tax year
- Also in that year, there will be some accelerated depreciation benefits, the main one being the ability to write-off assets under $5000 in one hit. This is not a cash benefit as such, but has a cash flow timing advantage.

Employment Costs Will Increase

Commencing on 1 July 2013, superannuation contributions are to gradually increase from the current level of 9% to 12%. Meanwhile wages are expected to grow by 3.75% in the 2010/11 year and 4% in the following year. The theory is that employees wear the cost of the increased super contributions in lower wage increases. In the real world, where small business is competing for quality employees, the cost of employment will go up.

In addition, unemployment rates are forecast to be around 5% in the coming 3 years which means a tight labour market for most small businesses

Of course, the health of the small business sector is largely in the hands of big business and small business owners rely on big business continuing to grow, invest, employ and spend.

Finding and retaining qualified staff remains a major problem for many small businesses. The proposed investment in training and apprenticeships is welcome but any benefits are likely to take several years to percolate down to you as a small business owner.

Still Waiting For the Government to Provide Real Small Business Assistance

Overall not much direct help for you in this budget.  As a small business owner we're sure you that you have never expected much from any government. Your business fortunes rise and fall based on your strategic insight and your ability to provide quality goods and services at the right price to a willing market. And you have to be expert at all aspects of running a small business in order to succeed!

There are some niche businesses which stand to benefit. These include training, primary health care, renewable energy and education and if you can see some tactical advantage in aligning your business with the potential winners from this budget then there may be some long term gains to be made.

The best any of us can hope for is that successive Governments will get out of the way and allow us to continue to do what we do best with a minimum of red tape and interference.

We would welcome your comments below on how the current economic climate and the budget initiatives may affect your business.

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Lies Small Business Owners Tell Themselves

The Team - Wednesday, May 05, 2010

They're not really lies, they are the stories we all tell ourselves from time to time which stop us breaking old habits and developing a truly successful independent business:

1.  "Once I've got over this busy period I'm going to have a serious look at where my business is going."

The mountain of work rarely goes away and so much of a small business owner's week is spent fighting unanticipated fires.

Can you really remember a time recently when you paused to sit and seriously think about:

a) where your business is going; and

b) whether things could be arranged more efficiently?

Success follows business owners who have realised that effective planning and designing great systems gives them the opportunity to work on the business rather than in the business.


2. "I can't get good staff."
For many businesses finding, retaining and managing quality staff is one of the most significant potential restrictions on growth and success.

Firstly, you need to pay for quality. Assess the nature of the job you are offering, is it boring and repetitive, or is there scope for an employee with skill and brains to show initiative? If you want initiative and brains, you are going to have to compete sensibly with other businesses that are offering more money.

Have you got more to offer than high wages? Access to transport, free parking, a friendly work environment, proper tools for the job, a career path - all these things may persuade a prospective employee that money's not everything.

Secondly, train them, train them again and never stop training them. Make sure they understand your business, how you want them to treat fellow employees and customers, and how the job is to be carried out. A written job duty description is a minimum.

Thirdly, never stop communicating. Make sure they understand your business values and culture.  Give your employees regular feedback and listen to their complaints and suggestions.

Finally, finding experienced staff can be an expensive nightmare and sometimes you need to re-assess your requirements and find a keen talented junior that you can train, coach and mentor.


3. "I'd be able to do a lot more work if I didn't keep getting interrupted by the phone ringing every couple of minutes!"
We hear this one quite often and we wonder how business owners would feel if the phone stopped ringing.

Hopefully those calls are from customers wanting to place orders, invariably they are customer complaints and queries!

If you are getting repetitive complaints or requests for information that "only you" can handle then you need to look at your business systems and processes - and your ability to delegate.

It's a great idea to keep a log of incoming calls over a couple of days and analyse the complaints and queries. You may find that you can make changes to your systems and eliminate the causes for many of these calls and free up time for yourself to work on your business.

If you have a high number of calls from customers asking repetitive questions, why not have a look at your product documentation or your website? The FAQ (frequently asked questions) page on your website, if properly set up, can sit there and answer customer queries all day every day - and after hours.

"Lies" are the repetitive behaviours that stop us having a great small business. Sometimes we need to give these sacred cows a prod and see whether there really is any truth in them or whether they just serve to keep us in our comfort zones.


4. All this talk about vision, mission, values and planning - that's just for big business.

In fact, it is so much more important for the operators of small business to get this right.  When you went into your business you had a vision.  It may have been forgotten or become blurred over time.  However, unless you really have a vision; a truly meaningful aspiration for what you want out of the business then it ceases to be your business – it becomes a job, albeit one with longer hours and less money than the equivalent role in big business!

Keeping an eye on the main game and planning accordingly is what distinguished successful small business owners from the also-rans. 

Having a clear vision and a proper plan feed your motivation and lack of motivation is one of the major reasons small businesses fail to prosper.

Think about how energetic, creative and productive you can be when you're motivated. Re-kindling the inspirational spark that you had when you first went into business could transform you and your business.

So when are you going to make a start?

Rhys Nagas commented on 07-Jul-2010 01:07 PM
All to true From Good staff to "Interruptions" Yeh turn the phone off if younhave to mute it Forward calls to message bank with a informative message advertising or marketing your need for quality staff use your answering machine to market your business and get a bit of work one at the same time Provide an email adress to leave their details and you'll get back to them........... I love your suggestions their excellent

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Planning for more fun, cash, time and success

The Team - Monday, April 05, 2010
As the owner of a small to medium business, you may have heard it before – construct a Business Plan.

But you know where you’re going – right?  You know what you have to do – right?  Sitting down and writing out what’s in your head is boring – right?

A Business Plan is the most important tool you will ever develop for your business.  It’s not boring because it is the way for you to have more fun, more cash, more time and more success.

Let me deal with three myths around Business Plans:

1.   I already know my path to the future
Your human mind has a habit of agreeing with you.  When you don’t write down and share your plan, when you don’t do what you ‘thought’ you were going to do, your brain tells you that’s OK because you weren’t really going to do that yet.  

The result is often procrastination and non-achievement.

2.   I want to be able to follow opportunities
Think of a Business Plan as the route for a journey given what we know before we start.

Let’s take our own boat to Bali (not as hard as running your own business).  You know where you want to go, you know where you are now and you will think about the route for the journey.  You will include issues such as how far from a coastline will you travel, what are the hazards, where will you refuel, what permits are required.

Then, along the way, you decide that a couple of days in Broome would be great.  That’s OK – just check the change against the plan.  Will I accept a shorter stay in Bali?  Can I change my refuelling plan?  Are my permits still OK?  If everything checks out then go ahead – have more fun, cash, time and success.

3.   Business Plans just gather dust
Yes – many do.

At NOW Business Mastery, the difference is that we add N-Gauge that prompts you periodically (choose weekly / monthly / quarterly) for feedback against your plan.  Using N-Gauge, your Business Plan becomes your process of managing your business.

As an essential management tool, the Business Plan becomes a living, working pathway.  No dust, just more fun, cash, time and success.

So get out your pad of paper (or clear your computer screen) and start by:
- Capturing your Aspiration;
- Determining where you are now; and
- Constructing (in writing) the planned route for your business journey.


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Problem solving

The Team - Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Problems, problems! 

It seems the more business we do, the more problems arise. 

If your wonderful little gem of a small business idea has now resulted in you becoming the chief fire fighter in your business, you will appreciate the frustrating nature of problem-solving.

Now, we could tell you that problems are just challenges or learning opportunities – but, let’s face it,  that’s not going to be of much help to you when the PC has given up the ghost, you can’t find that important document and your trusty office assistant has telephoned in sick for the third time this month is it!

So, is there a practical way of approaching problems and reaching a viable solution? Well, we think there is. 

However, what you need to do when facing problems is to remember and appreciate this one important fact – you know the answer and just need a process to get it out from your subconscious filing system.

If you have accepted this premise (and why not, you are a business owner when all is said and done) then take a deep breath, find a quiet place and ask yourself these 5 questions:

  1. What exactly is the problem?
    Define it precisely, accurately and objectively.  Just the facts now – emotions can cloud your judgement.
  2. What is the cause of the problem?
    Detail all the underlying factors as you see them.  Try to list everything!
  3. What are possible solutions?
    Don’t think too deeply here.  Be spontaneous.  On a blank sheet of paper brainstorm 6 or 7 potential solutions (or use NOW Business Mastery’s Aspiration/Brain pad).  When you have exhausted the alternatives look at them more closely and then rank them in terms of how you perceive their effectiveness, numbering them accordingly.
  4. What methodology or resources should I use to fix the problem?
    List people, technology and approaches that should or must play a role in the solution.  Put a time-frame around the solution to make it real.
  5. What is the ultimate goal?
    What will you accomplish by fixing this? What does the ideal solution look like?  Is it really worth correcting or can it just be avoided?  Listing these factors also helps you to really celebrate when you have the problem licked.

Approaching problem solving in this way makes seeming insurmountable problems easier to understand and provides clear focus.  Suddenly the overwhelming fog clears and you are free to getting back to doing what you want to do – building and growing that thriving business.

Dave commented on 30-Mar-2010 02:17 PM
In point 3 you mention Now Business Mastery's Brain Pad. Is this on the site somewhere?
Jon Elbery commented on 02-Apr-2010 09:54 AM
Click on the link in the blog to download


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Surprise Your Customers With Unexpected Levels of Service

The Team - Thursday, March 25, 2010
One of the main features of marketing and branding is how customers evaluate your service. Why not surprise your customers by exceeding their service expectations?

Go on, do it! It's not that hard to do because most of us have been battered into submission by years of mediocre service.

In his book "Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable," Seth Godin says that the key to success is to find a way to stand out--to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins. And when you stand out in the crowd your customers talk about you, they spread the word, they make remarks about the great experience they had and you become "Remarkable".

One way to be remarkable is take your customers by surprise and offer superlative customer service - well in excess of their expectations.

We are so used to expecting customer service to be lousy or insincere and corporatised (Coles - "Have a Nice Day"). So when we get good friendly customer service, personal attention, and an unexpected "something extra" - it is so surprising that we tell our friends and colleagues.

I had a remarkable customer service experience recently with Kalamunda Dental Care. The exemplary greeting and courtesy at reception was an indication of their special service culture. Coupled with the care and attention I received whilst being drilled and filled was  enough to make me recommend this dentist to my friends and relatives. But a couple of days after the visit I received a thank you letter for my custom and 3 scratch lottery tickets. Now that was unexpected, remarkable in fact, and here I am raving about it. What a surprising thing! A business that took the time to thank me and reward me for my custom.

Now, it's not that hard to do but someone had to think it, plan it, make it someone's responsibility and execute it.

One of the tickets was a winner by the way!

Imagine what it would mean to your business if you spent time each week planning and tweaking your customer service. How would you be able to pleasantly surprise your customers.

Think about ways you can build a remarkable customer service experience in your business:

Stop and think about what you want your customers to experience.

Write down all the ways you and your staff come into contact with your customers -this includes telephone, face to face contact, letters, invoices, website, email, advertising.

From your marketing through to your after sales service, plot and write down the things you are your staff can do to make your customers rave about you.

Pity the supermarket check out staff who are instructed to mouth "how are you today?" and "have a nice day" and end up so flat and phoney - the big corporations so often fail when it comes to understanding personalised service.

Recruit people that are capable of understanding your culture and can absorb your training  - if you need to pay a bit more to get the right people then do it - the cost of inadequate staff will cost you far more than the extra wages you may have to pay to get someone remarkable.

Ensure that you quickly assess the capability of new staff and if they cannot deliver the customer service excellence you want move them on quickly or take them out of a frontline customer role before they do any more damage to your business.

Amongst the many results of customer service is the fact that customers often don't think about price - and you are now differentiating yourself on the basis of service, whilst your competitors are competing on one thing and that's "price."

Why not share your thought and successes with others? Drop us an email at team@nowbusinessmastery.com and we'll publish your tips here or, better still, leave a comment on this page.
Dave commented on 26-Mar-2010 07:48 AM
I can count my experience of great service on the fingers of one hand. It is so important to stand back from your business every now and then and really think about whether your customer experience could be improves
Anonymous commented on 30-Mar-2010 05:24 PM
This has been a great reminder of how important this is and will be certainly attending to it in my current project. To create a remarkable customer experience in OZ will certainly provide advantage as it is so rare.
Jon commented on 30-Mar-2010 07:44 PM
Maybe we should start a NOW Customer Service rating service and shout about businesses that give exceptional service

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New Unfair Dismissal Rules

The Team - Tuesday, March 09, 2010

It's a common misconception that dismissing employees is somehow illegal. This has never really been the case. It has always been possible for employers to sack employees - it's necessary for the process to be fair and reasonable and not harsh. No matter what the law says from time to time (and successive governments will continue to change the rules) employers should follow some simple processes:

    • Make sure you employ the right people in the first place!
    • Make it clear there is a probationary period for new employees
    • If an employee is not performing, talk to them about your concerns and set out clear steps they must take to improve (including a time frame) - document this discussion and ensure the employee has a copy of these notes
    • If things don't improve, issue the employee with a letter of warning referring to the previous discussion, noting that improvements have not been made and making it clear that if things don't improve that the employee may be dismissed. It is essential that you make it perfectly clear that dismissal is a real possibility.
    • Ask the employee to acknowledge the letter in writing (they can initial a copy) and invite them to respond in writing if they so wish.
    • In the absence of an improvement, then one more "warning letter" may be appropriate making the dismissal and the timing clear, and then proceed to dismissal.

 Employers often ask about time frames and there are no hard and fast rules for this - it really depends on the nature of the job. If the employee is flipping burgers then one could reasonable expect an improvement in performance within the hour! However, if the employee is a divisional manager it may take much longer for improvements to manifest. You have to judge what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

 On 1 January 2010 the new law came into effect and there are some new rules applying to small business (broadly defined as a company employing less than 15 employees). These rules are known as the Small Business Dismissal Code. Under this code there is:

  • a minimum employment period of 12 months instead of 6 months (employees can’t make an unfair dismissal claim in this 12-month period)
  • a simple Fair Dismissal Code to help employers ensure dismissals are not unfair
  • a specialist service for small and medium sized businesses from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

There is a lot of useful information on the Federal Government's Fair Work Australia website (www.fairwork.gov.au) There’s also a helpful checklist that small business employers can follow to ensure the dismissal is not unfair and you can download this from the Fair Work site.

If any small business owners want help with employment, remuneration or dismissal procedures drop an email to team@nowbusinessmastery.com and we'll show you how.



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Small Business Owners Deserve More Fun, Cash, Time and Success

The Team - Tuesday, March 09, 2010
This is the first ever posting to the NOW Blog!

The Team at NOW Business Mastery will use this blog to provide you with useful, relevant information that you can apply to your business and generate more fun, cash, time and success.

“Business owners deserve more fun, cash, time and success” is a mantra of ours, and when you think of all the things you do in a working week, if you are spending time on tasks which don’t lead to more cash, time, fun and success then maybe you shouldn’t be doing those things!

The topics covered in this blog will range from mindset to bookkeeping, from inspiration to hiring staff and from motivation to marketing. We will present a range of articles to keep you inspired and motivated as well as nuts and bolts suggestions about ways to improve the your business.

Check out our forums too. You'll find small business owners similar to yourself asking questions and discussing issues of interest.

Business improvement comes from an alignment of mind and action and consists of hundreds possibly thousands of small steps. There are no silver bullets but if you start NOW, you’ll look back in 6 months or a year’s time and be amazed at how far you’ve traveled.

We’d very much like you to tell us what you’d find useful on these pages. Whether it’s a practical, business operational issue or a tool to keep the inspiration from flagging, contact us at team@nowbusinessmastery.com and we’ll get on to it.

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