The Monthly Checklist To Keep Your Small Business On Track

November 16, 2017

Are you running your business like an easy sprint or a tiring marathon?

With limited resources and so much to do, it is not uncommon for teams to lose sight of their original goals when they first initiated the project. Nothing is more demoralising than reaching the end of a quarter or year with no clue or consensus on whether your results indicate a success or a failure.

Every small business has many moving parts and as a business owner it can be a challenge to stay on top of all your tasks while keeping the bigger picture in mind. By tracking your organisation’s monthly progress diligently, you will be able to accelerate what’s working, cease what’s not working, and act quickly if there are any blockers impeding your month-on-month growth.

What should you be tracking? We’ve compiled the following list to help you get started:

1. End of month accounting reporting

Managing your business finances is definitely at the top of every business owner’s mind. This time of the month does not have to be panic-inducing if you have in place a fixed procedure to record your transactions correctly and review your results regularly.

On a monthly basis, you should be doing the following:

  • Balance your checkbook: Make sure your cash transaction entries are accurate and that you’re working with the correct cash position;
  • Review past-due receivables: At the beginning of the month, send out friendly reminders to customers, clients and anyone else who owes you money;
  • Analyse inventory status: Reorder products that sell quickly and identify others that are moving slowly and may need to be marked down or removed;
  • Process payroll: WIthhold, report and deposit the applicable taxes to the appropriate agencies by their due dates;
  • Review actual profit and loss vs budget: If you don’t have a budget prepared, compare your current profit and loss with the same prior-period year-to-date statements;
  • Review month-end balance sheet vs prior period: Compare current balance sheet with one from the same period in the previous year to see how you’re managing your assets and liabilities.

Source: Quickbooks

Settling all outstanding debt, taxes, and bills on time will earn you trust from your employees, investors and creditors, and contribute to long-term goodwill. If you are the one struggling to balance your books because of clients who don’t pay up on time, check out our post on the 5 must-have legal documents for cash flow optimisation.

2. Take stock of your company’s growth by tracking key metrics

How did you do this month? How did that fare against last month’s results? Which marketing channels worked and what types of leads were most likely to convert? What are the products that did best?

Apart from the requisite monthly accounting reporting to ensure that you’re meeting your bottom line, you should also review your company’s performance on certain key metrics to ensure that you are progressing towards your goals. These are some of the metrics that small businesses commonly monitor in order to track their progress:

  1. Sales revenue
  2. Customer loyalty and retention
  3. Cost of customer acquisition
  4. Operating productivity
  5. Size of gross margin
  6. Monthly profit or loss
  7. Overhead costs
  8. Variable cost percentage
  9. Inventory size
  10. Hours worked per process

Source: Forbes

Regular review of your input and results helps you to optimise resource allocation and gives you maximum return on investment. In the long run, tracking relevant KPIs will empower you to make important decisions about your company’s growth.

3. Assess where you stand in your industry

What new technologies have been introduced in your industry? What have your competitors done in the last month to improve their products, and what can you learn from them? Is there a gap in the market your competitors are not filling that you can take advantage of?

Given the fast-based business environment, you need to constantly be updated on industry news and where your business stands in order to take timely action. Waiting too long can often be detrimental to your efforts and goals. Staying updated on the latest trends will allow you to respond to your customers’ needs and help you build a sustainable business in the long run.

To make this as convenient as possible, simply subscribe to reliable industry newsletters and follow your industry’s leading thinkers on LinkedIn to diversify your source of information. One way is to sign up for Google Alerts and set an alert so that news for search terms relevant to your industry is delivered straight into your inbox. Once a month, set aside a few hours to consolidate the information you have come across and evaluate how this affects your company.

4. Check in with your employees

Apart from looking outward to see where your company stands in the industry, it is important to look inward to ensure your employees are aligned with the overall vision for the company. While you might have a grand plan for how to bring your business to the next level, it is important to ensure that everyone in your company is on the same page so that any strategy that is formulated can be successfully executed. According to a study published on the Harvard Business Review, one of the biggest reasons for the strategy-execution gap is the lack of employee interaction.

Instead of seeing strategy formulation and execution as two distinct phases, leaders should aim for participative execution. What this means is that as a business owner you should move away from one-way, directive communication from your end and instead engage your employees as stakeholders who contribute to shaping the way forward. This will help your employees feel invested in both your long-term and short-term goals and ensure they are committed to the success of the business.

5. Consult your business mentors

As a small business owner, the health of your business is dependent on your own well-being. If you feel like you’ve hit a roadblock, talking to a mentor can help provide a fresh perspective on the issue and bring clarity to your decision-making process. Consulting someone who has had more experience in the business world will make you feel less alone in your journey as an entrepreneur.

Of course, it’s important to ensure that any mentoring arrangement is a two-way relationship. Apart from seeking out your mentor in times of crisis, you should also set aside time to meet with your mentors on a regular basis to thank them for their mentorship.

What do you have on your monthly checklist?

Share with us in the comments below!

The High Cost of Multitasking

 

Multitasking – we are all guilty of it. Sending a quick text message during a board meeting, chatting with your colleague while keying in timekeeping records or perhaps using Facebook while reviewing payroll records. No doubt we are all used to multitasking, after all, you to get more tasks done within the same span of time – sounds pretty efficient right?

Likewise, we have all heard about the downsides of multitasking. However, did you know it actually costs us more than you think? According to the American Psychological Association, shifting between tasks (multitasking) can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time. That is almost a half’s drop of your efficiency simply when you try and juggle several tasks at once!

Here are some other negative impacts when you try and multitask within the workplace.

1. You take 50% longer to accomplish a single task

Given that multitasking would cost you almost half of your productive time, it is only expected that you will require to pay back at least half of that time in order to get your work done. And here, we are referring to completing a single task. Multiply that by the numerous deadlines and tasks that you have to meet. You end up spending more time on your work when you try to complete all them simultaneously.

2. You end up making up to 50% more errors

Making mistakes is generally frowned upon within the workplace. With the fact that you potentially might end up making up to 50% more errors when multitasking, it is best to stay focused and complete one task at a time. This is particularly crucial when you are involved in critical roles, such as dealing with employees’ salaries or payroll. One small miscalculation as a result of other distractions can be a costly mistake to the organisation. Of course, a simple solution would be to automate these critical roles. But do remember that even with automation, human error can and still do occur.

Related reading: 6 things you can do right now to improve workplace productivity

3. Heavy multitasking can temporarily lower IQ up to 15 points

A study at the University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experience a decline in IQ scores, which were similar to what one would expect if they were to stay up all night. Essentially, IQ drops of 15 points for multitasking men lowered their scores to the average range of an 8 year old child. So the next time you attempt to complete several tasks at once, remember that your ability might be diminished to the point that even a young child can complete that same task for you.

4. It adds on to your stress levels

While juggling several tasks can help you get more work done, it might not all be 100% accurate work. And when your boss asks you to redo, it simply contributes to your overall stress level as you try to complete multiple items at once and making sure that they are all well-executed.

If you are prone to multitasking, it is definitely a habit that you do not want to indulge. It clearly shows that multitasking impedes and reduces the quality of your work. Moreover, allowing yourself to juggle several tasks at one go simply fuels any existing difficulties you have with concentration and attention to detail.

This a guest post by RenQun Huang of Gpayroll. The views expressed here are of the author’s, and Dragon Law may not necessarily subscribe to them. You, too, are invited to share your point of view. Learn more about guest blogging for Dragon Law here.

About Gpayroll

Gpayroll is an easy to use, self-run online payroll service that will redefine and revolutionize the payroll industry. Its intuitive and automated system will help business owners focus on their core business without the hassle of managing payroll.

Want to read more articles related to payroll, HR & technology? Visit www.gpayroll.com

5 Takeaways From DragonCon

November 15, 2017

Last week was a huge week for Dragon Law. We celebrated our fourth birthday, and we did it with a bang – by kicking off our first ever DragonCon! We brought together investors, lawyers, our clients and legal tech enthusiasts under one roof, to bring our vision of Asia Pacific’s first legal tech conference to life.

In case you missed it, or just want a quick recap of the insights from DragonCon, here are five key takeaways from the event:

1. Embrace the wave of new technology

Lawyers often hear tales about how technology will ‘one day replace their jobs’, leading to their reluctance to engage with technology as they continue providing their services. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The advent of technology is one that is exciting, and has great potential to benefit the legal industry. To start the event off, our CEO, Daniel Walker, gave a talk entitled “Don’t Worry, Be Techy”, which encapsulates this spirit.

Daniel shared with us that 90% of the customers who engage Dragon Law have not, in fact, used a law firm prior. The proverbial business pie and demand for legal services has increased as a result. In other words, technology has made it easier for businesses to access legal services, presenting law firms with new opportunities for growth.  

The future looks optimistic though – according to Daniel, there exists a growing eco-system of lawyers and tech firms, and a growing understanding that technology will help these firms become more efficient, and build thriving businesses.

2. Technology can be a powerful tool in breaking down barriers to legal access

From point one, we see that technology can help increase access to legal services. This idea was explored in the “Solicitechs Assemble!” panel, comprising Darren Fitzgerald, Managing Partner of FitzGerald Lawyers, and Stephen Chan, Litigation Partner at Oldham, Li & Nie, and moderated by our very own Dragon, Alex Tanglao.

With technology helping to make a company’s current workflow more efficient, a law firm can now divert more of its time and energy towards figuring out how to make their services more accessible to a larger audience and deliver higher value services to their clients.

One of the key ways in which this can be done is to utilise marketing and online tools more efficiently to break down such barriers to accessing legal services. According to Sebastian Ko, Regional Director for Epiq Systems, technologies such as chatbots to challenge parking fines, and websites that summarise legal information in plain English are two such examples. All of this was mentioned in his talk, “The Rise Of “A2J” Technology: A Roadmap For Hong Kong”.

The effects of this are probably most clearly felt by owners of SMEs as well, as we saw in our Customer Fireside Chat. Here, users of Dragon Law shared with us the numerous ways LegalTech has helped grow their business, highlighting the lowering of barriers to legal knowledge as one of the most important parts of this journey.

3. One size doesn’t fit all

It may be tempting to simply fall back on tried and tested solutions to integrate technology with legal services, to widen access to legal knowledge. While well-intentioned, such acts could potentially go awry. According to Eric Chew of our very first white label product partner, ECYT Law LLC, in his talk ‘Embracing LegalTech’, it is important to take note of the needs of both your firm and client-base, so that you can best identify how to aid them.

For Eric, who runs a small law firm, moving his firm into the cloud meant that he was able to divert his energy to building his practice, and start building client bases in a larger number of countries around Southeast Asia.

4. The government is a key stakeholder

One of the key stakeholders in this entire process of integrating law and technology is the government. This is because the rules that they set are an inevitable part of operating within the confines of a jurisdiction. Charles Mok, Legislative Councillor, noted that a lot of areas of law in Hong Kong still need to be deregulated in order for new and existing business models to thrive. Along with society and existing firms, the government is an important driver of change – for example, the fact that the recent Hong Kong administration has acknowledged the need for changes in the legal framework has helped greatly in encouraging innovation.

5. Fail fast, fail often

In his speech, Emmanuel Pitsilis, an angel investor and board director at Dragon Law, emphasized the importance of learning to adapt and grow in the current legal industry and legal tech scene, as he spoke about his experiences with contributing to FinTech and LegalTech startups. This point was again mentioned by Noemie Alintissar-Mooney, Program Manager for the Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP) at the Singapore Academy of Law who noted that in order not to be left behind, the legal industry needs to learn from how the tech industry embraces failure as a point for learning. She also emphasised the need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, the new norm in a volatile and complex society.

We hope that all of you had an enriching time at DragonCon, and if you weren’t there, we hope to see you with us next year!

How did you find your experience at DragonCon?

Share with us in the comments below!

7 Tools For More Productive Collaboration in the Workplace

November 9, 2017

As companies increasingly work across borders, it is not uncommon to find teams working in offices in different countries. The lack of face-to-face interaction might hamper communication and limit collaboration across these different offices.

However, this does not have to be the case. There is now a range of collaboration tools for the workplace that help international teams communicate more easily and manage their workflows more seamlessly. Here, we give you the lowdown on the applications and tools you can leverage for more productive collaboration in the workplace.

Related reading: 3 tips for managing your virtual office

1. Brainstorming & idea generation

Idea Drop

If you’re simply looking for something that will help you take, organise and archive notes, Evernote easily does the trick. However, if you don’t want to

box yourself into an echo chamber of ideas and instead give everyone in the team an opportunity to have their ideas heard, this is where Idea Drop comes in.

Source: Idea Drop

Idea Drop touts itself as an idea management software that enables early innovators to organise and gather ideas, free from hierarchical barriers that we so often find in the office. Employees can drop in their ideas anonymously across the globe, their identities remaining a secret until they choose to unveil themselves. This ensures that the originator of the idea will be given credit and incentivises all staff members to share. All in all, this tool is effective at turning the most promising ideas into concrete, implementable actions.

elgugi’s IdeaJam & IQJam

Aside from Idea Drop, elgugi’s IdeaJam is also a great tool to help spot which ideas are the most promising and most supported by you and your staff. This tool drives innovation by helping businesses quickly realise which ideas are really worth pursuing and why. Once an idea is posted on the page, business owners and employees are able to “promote” or “demote” the idea, which allows the most promising ideas to bubble up to the top fast. Employees can also give reasons why they think certain ideas are better than others in the comments section.

As a small business owner, have you ever come across a question that you do not know the answer to in the early stages of idea formation? elgugi’s second dedicated collaboration tool, IQJam, allows businesses to harness the knowledge of all its employees and solve problems collectively. The premise is simple: a business owner or employee posts a question and another employee answers it. Answers are curated through a voting system, where incorrect answers are voted out and correct answers are voted up. IQJam lets you know who the experts in particular fields are in your company so you can go directly to them in the future to get your questions answered ASAP.

2. Project management

 

Trello

Trello is one of the best ‘to-do list’ apps available to help you keep track of the tasks you need to complete and streamline your workflows. It’s a good way to easily display and organise your to-do lists and discussions on a visual board.

Source: Trello

A board represents a project or a place to keep track of information. On each board, you can create lists that keeps cards organised at various stages of their progress. Each list is made up of cards that represent tasks or ideas. You can easily drag and drop cards from one list to another. This ensures there’s a clear workflow where cards are moved through lists from start to finish.

You could use Trello boards to organise a range of projects from HR to product development. As the the tasks can be viewed by anyone who is a member of the board, you can easily delegate tasks to members of your team and keep track of their progress, instead of sending emails back and forth.

Asana

Asana is another productivity similar to Trello that can help you organise tasks within your team. Asana lets you know who is working on which project at what time and what stage the project is at, which makes it easier for you as the owner to assign further responsibilities to your staff. Asana also lets you know how long an employee has been working on a specific task, so you are better able to gauge how much effort they spend working on it. These are all accessible from Asana’s dashboard. 

Source: Asana

Asana allows you to list priorities for multiple projects at once and communicate with your employees within the platform. In addition, there are integrations with other commonly used apps such as Slack and Google Drive, allowing you to streamline your project management workflow.

Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects will help your business grow no matter stage you are in. Similar to Trello and Asana, Zoho Projects allows for cross collaboration and task management. However, what makes Zoho Projects stand out from its competitors is that it allows you to create big picture reports of how your project is going. For instance, you can create a resource utilisation chart to see how each of your team member’s time is being utilised without having to manually calculate the hours.

If you see that you have been lagging behind in some areas of a certain project, you may decide to assign more people to the task. With Zoho Projects, you can cut down on internal meetings spent updating each other on the different projects everyone has been working on.

3. Document Management

Cloud Storage Solutions

There is a range of established cloud-based storage solutions on the market that help you manage your documents, including Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox. If the free versions of these software isn’t enough for your needs – if you’re perpetually running out of storage space for instance – you can consider an upgrade to the business versions:

All these cloud-based storage solutions have features that allow you to share and collaborate on work documents with co-workers.

Some common features of these include the following:

  • File versioning: Instead of overwriting your old files when you make changes, the software saves multiple versions of your files so you can retrieve the old versions if necessary;  
  • Automatic sync: This ensures that any edits you make are reflected in real time;
  • Collaboration tools: This enables you to share and edit files with other employees, whether via direct link or email;
  • Security and file encryption: The software encrypts your data at least once before it leaves your servers and gives you the option to set different levels of access for different employees;
  • Flexible storage capacity at an affordable price: If you’re perpetually running out of storage space, it is reassuring to know that you can purchase more space as your business scales up;
  • Reliable tech support: While the technical support varies from service to service, the best services respond promptly and have some available to assist you 24/7.

Adapted from Business News Daily

Do note that the features vary from platform to platform and it is best to check out the pricing plans to get a clear idea of what you get for what you’re paying.

Dragon Law

While generating legal documents might fall within the portfolio of your head of legal or the founders themselves, this may not be the most efficient way to manage your legal documents. Sending drafts of your legal documents back and forth might lead to confusion regarding versioning and become a time-consuming process that hinders you from closing the deal. This is where Dragon Law comes in. As a subscriber to Dragon Law’s cloud legal software, you can:

  • Gain access to a vast document library that you can customise for your needs with our simple-to-navigate Q&A interface.
  • Eliminate unnecessary face-to-face meetings or repeated back-and-forth over email with the e-sign function – simply invite the other party to sign the legal document via the platform.
  • Store all your legal documents in the cloud, where it is easily accessible even when you’re on the go.

What enhances the convenience is the range of integrations that make sure that managing your legal needs is more seamlessly connected to other business processes.  The Xero Integration allows you to easily generate invoices from certain documents, thus saving you time and reducing data entry. You can enable also the Google Drive Integration and OneDrive Integration in your Dragon Law account.

Do you use any tools that help your team collaborate more productively in the workplace?

Share with us in the comments below!

Opening A Corporate Bank Account in Singapore

November 7, 2017

 

There are a number of options available to companies who are looking to open a corporate bank account in Singapore. Although it is a relatively straightforward procedure, it’s important that companies consider the various features offered by the banks and make an informed decision about which institution best suits the needs of their enterprise. Different banks offer different corporate services such as credit cards, multi-currency accounts, and the freedom to move funds internationally and trade financing. Ottavia’s online guide provides an overview of the different options open to companies who wish to establish a corporate bank account.

As with all financial related advice, it’s important to double check all of the details with the institution themselves before making a final decision. Given the highly competitive nature of Singapore’s banking industry, the banks are always upgrading their services with new policies and offerings and its important to be well informed of these before you open an account at any one institution.

Requirements

There are a number of common requirements associated with opening a corporate bank account in Singapore:

1) Physical presence: many (but not all) of the banks in Singapore require the account signatories or principal directors to be physically present in Singapore when the papers are signed and the company bank account is opened. Some banks will accept documents which have been notarised or signed at one of their international branches.

2) Documentation: there are a number of documents which are generally required when a corporate bank account is opened. Additional documents may be requested by the bank:

  • Completed bank account forms which have been signed by the authorised signatories in accordance with the board resolution.
  • The Board of Directors Resolution which permits the opening of a corporate bank account and stipulates who the signatories to the account will be. This document needs to be prepared by the company’s corporate secretary.
  • A certified true copy of resolution which sanctions the account being opened. Generally each bank has their own format and the relevant persons simply need to sign it.
  • A certified true copy of Certificate of Incorporation which has been certified by either the company secretary or a director.
  • A certified true copy of the company’s business profile from the Company Registrar which has been certified by either the company secretary or one of the directors.
  • A certified true copy of the company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association (MAA) which needs to be certified by the corporate secretary or a director.
  • Certified true copes of passports (or Singapore IC) and residential proof of the directors, to my knowledge they don’t ask the UBO details. Those who are located in Singapore simply need to bring the originals into the bank which will then be copied.
  • If the Singapore company is owned by few layers of corporate shareholder, an organisational chart is required to identify the ultimate beneficiary owner

All of the major international banks have a presence in Singapore and there are some local banks which offer equally competitive rates and features for corporate accounts. Careful research is the key to making an informed decision about which corporate account best suits the needs of your enterprise. Generally speaking, banks are happy to open corporate accounts for both local and offshore companies provided the necessary due diligence paperwork is provided.

This a guest post by Ottavia. The views expressed here are of the author’s, and Dragon Law may not necessarily subscribe to them. You, too, are invited to share your point of view. Learn more about guest blogging for Dragon Law here.

About Ottavia

Take the stress out of running your business. Effortlessly ensure that your company is working at its best and is fully compliant with the law in Singapore with assistance from Ottavia. We understand the needs and goals of both foreign and local entrepreneurs and business owners, helping them get assistance that’s tailored to their unique circumstances. Whether you need a company secretary or a local director for a business managed from overseas, we can assist. Singapore is one of the most desirable locations in the world in which to start a business and we are ready to help foreign investors get off the ground.

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