Avoid these inventory management mistakes

Business success is heavily dependent on knowledge. That is, the more we know, the more we can do and the fewer bad mistakes we make. Key to this is proper management on all levels. This means managing not only staff, but also products and projects. But management can only get so far if we don’t put other systems in place to aid it.

One key area businesses overlook is how they take on their inventory management. It’s so often glossed over, most of us only realise the importance when it’s too late.

What is inventory management?

Businesses often overlook a key component to their own existence. Defining inventory management helps to outline precisely why this area should be of concern. Barcodes Inc. defines it as:

“the process of efficiently overseeing the constant flow of units into and out of an existing inventory. This process usually involves controlling the transfer in of units in order to prevent the inventory from becoming too high, or dwindling to levels that could put the operation of the company into jeopardy.”

You can see the importance: if you don’t have an idea about whether you have too much or too little of a product, this can lead to trouble. In order to properly respond to this, businesses must take an active approach to finding efficient management solutions.

Two common inventory management mistakes and how to avoid them

Ideally, your business will have some kind of inventory management software, to help mitigate the burdens of data gathering. Machines and software are more efficient than we are these days. But they only get us so far.

First, businesses can’t leave this for the last minute. Many don’t make plans for slow inventory turnover, for example. You need to plan by examining cycles and understanding the landscape. As Small Business Chronicle notes: “If you don’t take sales cycles into account, then you could be stuck with product on your shelves for longer than you expected.”

This can jeopardise your business, since it means you’re using up space with an item no one wants. It also means your investment in that product isn’t being paid back. Inventory management is part of trying to eliminate these kinds of scenarios from occurring.

Second, don’t rely on more space as a solution to more products. The only people that benefit from you hoarding unsold product are shelvers and storage space renters. Instead, consider donating or reducing the price for staff.

 

The advantages of e-signatures

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The digital age we’re living in is allowing electronic signatures to gain momentum across many industries. This efficient way of signing documents is the advantage you need to be a cut above the rest in your field. Here’s why you need to get excited about this new technology that is taking the working world by storm.

 

As easy as putting finger to keyboard

 

Electronic signature software is intuitive which means there is no training involved in the process of signing. This simple technology has made it easy for employers, employees and customers to create legally binding contracts in a fast and efficient manner.

 

A speedy business process

 

Not so long ago, people had to wait for documents to be sent by courier from around the globe. It would take weeks, if not months, for the documents to finally reach their mailbox. Years later, technology was updated and that’s when the fax machine was conceived; a simple piece of machinery that would relieve humanity from the long waiting period of a courier. However, the fax machine also had its flaws. It had a lack of security and the possibility of hardware failure.

 

With the advancement of the internet, the fax machine had taken a step back. Documents that needed your signature could be printed from your email, signed and then scanned back to your email. But what if you don’t have a scanner? Electronic signature software allows you to securely sign a document in a matter of seconds. And this software has the added benefit of security checks.

 

Improvement of document accuracy

 

It can be rather frustrating to receive documents, only to realise the person signing has missed a page. Electronic signature software allows the sender to enable mandatory fields. If the fields are left empty, the recipient won’t be able to submit the documents. The recipient can then be 100% sure they have signed all the attached documents. This cuts out re-sending or re-signing incomplete documents.

 

Saves time and money

 

Businesses use many reams of paper printing documents to be signed. E-signatures can save time and money by cutting out the need to print and courier. Within a matter of minutes the signature software will allow you to send a document that requires a signature. It can track a document’s progress and store the document in a file for future reference.

 

No longer do contracts have to be built around shuffling paperwork. Now, business people can spend more time on building relationships than signing documents.

Businesses must help millennials

The world has not been kind to young people trying to obtain independence. With a massively problematic global economy, job instability and too few opportunities, the average millennial will not have as many opportunities as they might expect. Despite the world obviously improving thanks to more freedom for more people – regardless of race or gender – it still does not mean acceptance into those areas benefitting young people financially.

Further, they find themselves looking after both the older and younger generation. This means, for example, caring for their parents and younger siblings or children. Since millennials will be the next generation of business owners, it is important to consider how they can escape this trap.

How young people’s finance trouble affects business

The reason so many millennials find themselves trapped is due to what occurred in the past. For example, obtaining a degree should be the beginning of becoming financially independent. Instead, many young people find themselves in debt thanks to student loans. Thus, they need to spend much of their working lives paying back money that allowed them to graduate in the first place.

This creates a barrier to financial freedom. They cannot afford to save or invest too much, since most of their income will be devoted to paying back a loan. What should matter to the business world is how this prevents growth.

As the Guardian reports:

“[In 2013], the CFPB reported that many believe the burden of the student debt is costing the US startup jobs.

“One advocacy group, Young Invincibles, has reported that debt has made it all but impossible for almost a quarter of graduates to hang out their own shingle, with 8% claiming the Small Business Administration has turned down their loan requests.”

In order to make money, you need to have money. Yet for young people still in debt, this becomes impossible. Young people are unable to grow their finances, focus on investments and take steps toward improving their lives. This leads to business sectors suffering, since no new blood enters, fresh ideas never arrive and no one can afford to apply to vacancies.

How do we escape?

Businesses can do a lot to help young people. More effort should be made to reach out to qualified young people. It’s not enough to merely advertise or create vacancies. Young people are not the ones in positions of power.

Businesses can appeal to millennials by stressing they understand their overall situation. They can offer a reasonable salary, in addition to loan repayments and tuition assistance. Importantly, businesses must offer health care incentives and, perhaps, travel opportunities. Due to studies, most young people have not been able to travel the world. This is not only due to how expensive travel is, but also how much time is required. Time is not a commodity young people have while studying.

By responding to these sorts of needs, businesses can help lift young people out of their financial traps, bringing in a new generation into the business world. Everyone benefits.

3 steps for a good stock taking procedure

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It takes an organised mind to take on the task of stocktaking. If administration work isn’t your forte, but you’re still driven to tackle it, then you need a game plan before taking on a pile of admin work. Stock taking comprises of good organisational skills and a head for numbers.

Stock taking is like a puzzle. You need to figure out where each item in your itinerary has gone, while still trying to look at the bigger picture. In the end you need to have an accurate account of stock movements and the stock in your backlog.

 

Round up your tools for the job

These may be basic stationery to you, but to a stock taker it’s the equipment that will get the job done. Always have extra stock sheets at hand in case you have any slip ups. You may come across a few errors on your first try. As for calculators and clipboards, these are especially handy while you’re walking and checking on items on your list.

There’ll be a bit of back and forth, but this is where patience comes in. You can’t do stock taking if you aren’t patient with yourself. Use different coloured markers to mark off what you’ve checked and haven’t checked. Doing a thorough inspection of your inventory requires a clear mind and the willingness to do a double check, if not a triple check.

 

The inspection process of your inventory

The box may state 60 items, but there could actually only be 58 items packed in the box. Be sure to do a count of all the items to avoid having an inventory miscount. Minor mishaps like these have cost people their jobs. Your miscalculation could let supervisores think there was a thief in the stockroom. Keep record of any mistakes from your supplier and do the necessary follow up.

 

Keep a record of updates

The point of sale in your store will keep an updated list of stock on its system. Ensure there’s a backup of your data that links to the cloud, to recover any data you may lose during a blackout. Take the necessary measures to update all records and note any changes that will allow you to make informed business decisions.

Businesses must recognise the future of cities

The growth of smart cities isn’t limited to places like Europe and North America. Africa is getting involved too, taking large steps toward investing in this future. To catch up, local businesses must recognise what this will mean.

First we should consider what smart technology in general means.

What is “smart” technology?

Technology’s progress is about doing multiple tasks more efficiently. In other words, it’s about using fewer resources to accomplish the same or more ends.

For example, phones today can run entire businesses, create videos and more. Who would’ve thought a device which only had one function would be doing this?

Similarly, we are developing functions for cities that seem to come from science-fiction. When it comes to the general notion of “smart” technology, it’s about relying on technology to do a great deal of tasks, simultaneously. As one technology expert put it: “What ‘smart’ really does is to take some input from somewhere, apply some ‘brainpower’ and take some actions.”

Smart is also about a piece of technology being connected to the internet. But, primarily, it’s about being informed. Smart devices inform users about their status as well as the status of other things they’re connected to. For example, a smart fridge can tell you when it requires cleaning, as well as when you’ve run out of milk.

How does smart apply to cities?

Everything in cities can be improved, according to city planners. Consider traffic lights. Today barely anyone realises these devices help maintain the ebb and flow of traffic, preventing congestion and build up. While not necessarily smart, it shows how cities have increasingly become automated, depending heavily on technology.

Smart cities are not different in kind, they are merely the logical end of this progress. As we’ve noted, what matters for smart technology is the ability to inform. This is what primarily will make up a smart city. Computer World highlights some tangible examples of what a smart city could look like:

“using sensors to monitor water mains for leaks (and thereby reduce repair costs), or to monitor air quality for high pollution levels (which would yield information that would help people with asthma plan their days). Police can use video sensors to manage crowds or spot crimes. Or sensors might determine that a parking lot is full, and then trigger variable-message street signs to direct drivers to other lots.”

This means everything in a city will be focused on for smart technology development. Whether it’s scrapyards or parking lots, progress means these will be increasingly automated and improved.

Africa is also investing in this, with a summit being held in October, in Rwanda. We can expect to see major African cities, like Johannesburg, take the leap to smart in a few decades. Businesses must be informed and begin transforming themselves to work in a smart city, too.

3 ways we need to think differently about money

Money is central to all our lives. Unfortunately, managing it is also one of the most complicated things we do. We can’t predict the markets, the economy, job security and other factors. While there are financial professionals, we need to take a stand ourselves. We should begin looking at money and how we interact with it in new and more refined ways.

Money depends on planning

Consider when you get your salary, when you get billed and when the time comes for spending. If you’re ignorant about how these intersect, you will punish yourself and hurt your finances.

Creating a calendar of your money’s movements is essential. By knowing where you stand in relation to its flow, you stand a better chance of controlling it. This is also what makes budgeting essential.

Laura Shin, a personal finance expert, notes in Forbes:

“I have come to prefer a simplified method of budgeting that uses [a method where] a certain percentage of your budget is allocated to certain large categories, and weekly allowances to keep you on track.

“This strategy allows you flexibility while also making sure you reach your financial goals and that your spending aligns with your personal values.”

Despite the turbulent nature of money in general, this should not stop us gaining control of it where we can. We should speak to experts, use tools like home loan calculators and anything else allowing us control and knowledge of our finances.

Credit can be prioritised

The overall secret to understanding money is controlling it. Another key area we can control are parts of our loan repayments. While we don’t control the amount owed, we can decide which loan to prioritise.

For example, you may be able to pay off entire short-term loans but still manage a long-term one. You don’t want to your name to be associated with being a bad debtor, because you merely forgot to budget your time and money correctly.

Get what you need, not what you want

We are all tempted by sales and special offers. Whether it’s a new phone or car, we often think because we have the money we should go ahead. But, especially if you’re a business owner, such frivolous spending can be damaging. When it comes to spending, we need some rules to stick to.

A good one is to always believe there’s something better to spend money on. Of course, sticking to this would mean you never spend. The goal isn’t to maintain it dogmatically but use it as a yardstick for your purchasing decisions.

Money doesn’t have to control us and we don’t have to feel overwhelmed by it. We can always do better and the time to start is now.

What can small businesses do to improve security in 2016?

The number of issues businesses need to concern themselves with seems endless. You need to contend with unstable markets and an unpredictable future. Who knows what tomorrow’s interest will be or where the market will lead us? Yet there are areas still affecting business which we do have control over. One of these is security.

What does security mean for small business?

Often people consider the only major difference between big and small businesses is the number of employees. This is true on one level, but it also means fewer responsibilities and concerns. You usually don’t have multiple properties, large scale employee concerns and so on. However, business size should not dictate security.

As Microsoft Tech Center notes: “Security is just as important to the small and medium business as it is for the large enterprise. The difference is that even a small security breach or incident can have major impact on a small and medium business.”

While the business might be small, impact can still be large. Impact can be good or bad. This means no matter the size of your business, we should be concerned.

How can small businesses improve security?

It may help to begin with a professional assessment of your premises and your network. This means focusing on physical as well as digital space.

Start by creating and implementing security policies, especially those focused on staff. This could mean restricting access to certain areas of the property or the network. Teach staff to care about their access. Passwords should be handed out, but changed regularly and staff advised not to give passwords out.

You might find it necessary to employ security guards, especially if you are on premises requiring knowledge of who can and cannot enter the property. In addition, maybe consider a video wall controller to expand on how secure your premises are.

Cybersecurity really will become your priority. As Network World points out:

“Cyber-criminals in particular target SMBs to compromise the PCs they use for online banking and payments in order to commit fraud in a big way by emptying out business accounts.”

You don’t want to create a false sense of security just because you believe it won’t happen to you. This also means employees’ guards are down, leading to them accessing or activating mechanisms allowing foreign access into your accounts or networks. We must always be vigilant.

Even if we’re small, that doesn’t mean the risks aren’t large. We must care about security regardless of our business’ size.

How to tell your boss they’re wrong without losing your job

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You present a brilliant idea to your boss that will increase productivity and company profits. All you need is the okay from him to implement this strategy. To your surprise your boss shoots down your idea with a vague reason as to why. Do you stand up to your boss and tell him he is wrong for not giving it proper thought or are you so taken aback you’d rather leave it?

 

You can respectfully tell your boss that he is wrong without insulting him and potentially losing your job. Here’s how:

 

Don’t keep quiet

 

Your opinion counts. Learning to speak up is vital to your success and career growth and by doing so you will be making an impact in your organisation. For those who have difficulty confronting others, this might be a challenge. However, once they overcome their fear, speaking to an authority figure will come naturally to them. It’s vital for any organisation to create a platform for employees to voice their opinion. Even though your boss is seen in high regard, he is still human. Don’t feel intimidated to voice your opinion. By creating a mature dialogue you are able to easily share thoughts, ideas and even criticisms. .

 

Before you express your thoughts

 

Not every situation needs to be handled by your CEO, you can also speak to your manager about a project or strategy you would like to implement. Similarly, if you currently work in the sales department but would like to head over to the accounting department, then you could speak to your manager about your aspirations and show initiative by applying for bookkeeping courses in the interim. If they see that you’re invested they are more likely to take you seriously. Bosses who’re constantly bombarded with interpersonal matters may feel like they’re doing more babysitting than delegating. Bring any concerns you may have to the attention of your line manager first before heading off to the big boss. Concerns such as your personal work performance or the performance of the company need to be forwarded to your boss.

 

Talk in private

 

Never have a disagreement with your boss in front of others. You’ll be questioning his authority and that could set off fireworks. Your intention may not be to make him look bad, but people may perceive matters differently to you. But sending off a heated email to him is not the way to go either. Rather, ensure that you feel calm and level-headed before you send him an email asking when he is available. Thereafter, go and speak with him face-to face and raise the concerns that you may have.

 

Project management skills businesses need

Every business is focused on producing projects. Taking it from concept to execution is a difficult but rewarding career path. The question we should ask is what kind of skills do businesses need and look for when considering someone to manage their projects.

What is project management?

Before we can go into the specifics of what businesses want, we should consider a raw definition of what the job entails.

Project Management Institute, Inc. (PMI) defines project management as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to a broad range of activities in order to meet the requirements of a particular project.”

Given the variety of businesses, we can’t have a strict outline of what each project means. But we can give a general outline of projects as having a goal and deadline, within a strict budget. Being able to manage these dimensions is beneficial to any business. Some businesses want specific skills from their project managers, gleaned from wider experience as well as project management training.

What skills employers want

There are a number of very specific aspects employers want. Employers are very keen on project managers having a keen understanding of technical aspects to the business. Specifically, Project Manager AU suggests that skills include scheduling, resource allocation and understanding risk management. Delving into the risk assessment and understanding possible negative responses to projects is essential. This helps inform the business if they’re making the right choice in this particular direction.

Leadership is also in demand. Employers want to see someone who can handle being in charge of a diverse group of people. Leadership isn’t merely barking orders, but also taking responsibility and being able to understand the strengths and limitations of the group.

Businesses also recognise the importance of communication. They want managers who not only can comprehensively convey an idea themselves, but be able to listen and communicate others’ ideas too. This is also essential for leadership, showing precisely how this fits into a pattern of a well-rounded individual.

Moira Alexander, writing in CIO, points out employers want those who can be a rock amidst changing seas:

“Anyone who has ever managed a project knows there are always issues that cause stress, ambiguity and conflict.  Employers want project managers they can rely on who can easily adapt to change, and are unflappable during uncertainty and crisis. These traits are particularly valuable at times when there is a need to keep others calm because most people will struggle when uncertainty or crisis strikes.”

In summary: businesses want a strong, capable and adaptable leader, who has the wider interests and concerns of the business at heart. They must be able to withstand the blows of change and adjust where necessary, but not too easily. These are skills we should all want, anyway, but it is more essential for those taking the lead in major business projects.

Finance course ideas that actually work

 

We would like to think education is, by its nature, valuable. Yet, not all things taught to us will be useful and some of it could even be incorrect. We should consider what is worth knowing in the finance sector, despite what is often taught in courses around the world. After all, just because something is taught around the world doesn’t make it true.

Personal finance problems

We might think the way to improve our finances and being able to manage our money is through taking courses. Yet, there has been some research indicating this is not actually the best way. As NPR notes, “There’s no clear link between taking personal finance classes and saving more, paying off debts or raising your credit score.”

The issue is the skills being taught are unhelpful to the real world, but also due to people’s inability to follow through. Due to the unpredictable nature of the market and finances.

As the article continues:

“Since financial products are always changing and people are prone to forget the specifics from class lessons, researchers suggest it might make sense to focus on teaching high schoolers how to find the financial facts they’ll one day need.”

The question then is what to do.

Personal finance solutions

Though when we think of education we think of young people, there’s no age gap to who should be educated. Everyone can benefit from a finance course, even people in businesses, like non financial managers. The focus can be directly on finances, but then it should be a specific section.

For example, instead of focusing on mortgages, rather educate yourself in loans. By being more specific, you allow yourself to have practical responses. This was found to be more useful than broad, sweeping attempts to understand entire categories.

Improving your mathematics skills also helps. As Lifehacker notes, more people would be making better investment decisions if they understood concepts like compound interest. The difficulty in understanding it is due to not fully understanding mathematical concepts. Such concepts are difficult, but they still remain important to many financial aspects of the world.

If we are going to engage in the financial world, it is better we do understand the concepts informing them.

By being more specific, focusing on more practical aspects affecting us and narrowing our focus, we can learn about the financial world in better ways. Ideally, this will make us better investors and business people.

(Header image source: Link)