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Here at EST we like table tennis. So much in fact, that we have a full size table tennis table in our office. It’s a chance for the team to loosen up and let off a little steam. For most of us, it’s just a bit of fun. Occasionally it does become competitive and we even keep score and have our own EST League leader board.

TabletennisCould this be a similar story to yours when you first became your own boss? Maybe that was a hobby, a passion or a calling. Something that you wanted to do so much, you decided to take the plunge and go into business. But then, without realising it, you too got a leader board and suddenly things started to get a little more serious…

When you’re an employee, things are a little easier. You do some work during the month and you get paid at the end of the month. You do that same work for a year and maybe you’ll get a cost of living pay rise at the end of it. You do a little extra and perhaps you’ll get a bigger pay rise or a promotion.

Running your own business isn’t quite like that. Rewards are not so easily come by as now you have a leader board. Reach the top and amazing things can happen but fall to the bottom maybe its game over for you.

Just like any competition, sporting or otherwise, your competitors are not standing still. You may win the league one year but you’ll have to do more to win it again the following year because now your competitors know the standard. They know your strengths, your tactics and your weaknesses. In business, staying still is not an option. As the old saying goes, if you’re not moving forwards you’re going backwards.

So what can you learn from our EST Table Tennis leader board?

The two serious contenders for the coveted EST top spot are Barry and Joel. Once you have identified which one you and your business are, you can take the steps to set up your training plan to work towards your own leader board top spot.

“New Boy” Joel

Joel was a surprise to Barry’s comfortable reign. But like any enthusiastic start-up, the climb has been both a learning curve and at times, a little erratic. Joel has had to build up a knowledge of his competitors from scratch and often doing so whilst playing the game. This is something that requires a bit of pre-planning but also quick thinking, fast reflexes and luck.

If your business is a Joel, then you will want spend time preparing a cash flow forecast. Try to plot out as best as you can when you think the money will come in and whether you can afford the money that is due to go out. Assuming that you are using Xero, Float is a great little add on to help with this. If time is tight, it will create a forecast for you using an average of your last three months figures, or you can manually enter a budget to follow. Then, as you add your sales invoices and purchases into Xero, Float automatically updates itself so you can see if or even when, money might run out.

We highly recommend taking the time to look at future cash flow. It gives you time to plan so you can go out and get more sales or look into reducing costs before the problem arises.

“Safe Hands” Barry

A constant at the top of the leader board is our Barry. Like a business that has left the start-up phase, Barry has weathered the storm. He knows how to play the game, he knows his competitors and he has the support of the crowd.

If your business is a Barry, you’re probably achieving your initial goals. Confidence has replaced that start-up nervousness and you feel comfortable. But the key is to control that confidence because every day, every month, every year, there is a Joel. The trick to being a good Barry is to keep improving.

Now that you’ve become Barry, your goal is to do enough to keep yourself at the top of the leader board. So it’s not as much about dealing with the erratic but more about fine tuning; monitoring your business performance and continuing to do what you do that little bit better each time. The Budget Manager in Xero is a great tool for this. You can set up a series of budgets, so one could filled with stretch goals and aspirations where as one could be a little more realistic. Either way, setting targets and working towards achieving them is the only way that you’ll stay on top of the game.

Stay on top of your game

So we all want to be more Barry. But Barry was Joel once and maybe Joel will be Barry tomorrow. The real question may be, which one is your business at the moment? Once you know, keep an eye on that cash flow, work on your profitability and don’t let expenditure run away from you. It’s very easy to create a bloated, slow and declining business but it’s the lean, fit and healthy ones that will win the awards.