Audit and Assurance

How to effectively engage Senior Management in internal control of a Healthcare Industry

How to effectively engage Senior Management in internal control of a Healthcare IndustryShare on Facebook

Most industries today are faced with a variety of obstacles in achieving or remaining profitable. The healthcare industry is no exception. Profitability is enough of a challenge under normal circumstances, but especially so during fragile economic times. Uncertain revenue streams and rising costs have many healthcare organizations understandably apprehensive.    

Traditionally, hospitals were more focused on managing revenues rather than on costs to insure profitability. But this focus on revenues has become increasingly more difficult to plan, execute and manage due to confusing healthcare reform, complex insurance reimbursements, Rejections, community perception, government red tape and political concerns. Conversely, effective internal controls in the healthy industry in  East Africa has been a challenge but has not been a priority due to limited administrative resources toward cost management:

In my previous article in the Today’s Accountant magazine of ICPAU last year, I clearly stated that without sound internal controls that are linked to cost management function; the health care sector cannot achieve its desired objectives. A hospital cannot set rates and charges which are realistic and related to costs unless the cost-finding system accurately allocates both direct and indirect costs to the appropriate cost centers.

Cost management defined:

Cost management can be defined as the process of collecting, analysing, evaluating and reporting of cost information that is used for budgeting, forecasting, pricing, profitability analysis and performance reporting. Accurate cost information affects both financial and non-financial decision making. Inaccurate decisions often result in unprofitable service offerings, incorrect pricing, inefficient allocation of personnel and low return on investment on equipment purchases.

In Uganda, unless Hospitals quickly realise that there is limited control over revenue sources, and the costs associated with increasing those revenues only result in incremental losses. In comparison, cost management often results in each cost shilling saved, contributing directly to net income. Technology and costing techniques have now greatly evolved; so there is a real motivation to shift the focus to cost management linked with sound internal controls.

In its simplest form, costs consist of direct and indirect (overhead) components. Direct costs are easily identified and assigned to products and services. Examples of healthcare direct costs include: physician and procedure specific staff services (labor), supplies used to deliver services and easily assignable service related equipment costs. Assigning the supporting overhead, or indirect, costs to these same services to arrive at the total cost is far more complex and at times may appear ambiguous. In Uganda little healthcare organization can afford the cost of the skilled labour to effectively design/monitor the internal controls because even the national budget allocated to the healthy sector is less than 5% if compared to other sectors in the country.   

Costing example with needed sound internal control to be in place.

A typical service offered by a healthcare facility is heart surgery. The direct costs would include the cost of the surgeon and procedure specific staff, along with the supplies required for this particular operation. The indirect (overhead) costs would include, but not limited to, general support staff and related costs, insurance, taxes, utilities, facility and administration. It is estimated that these indirect costs can be as high as 60% of the total costs of a hospital service. This is a significant portion of the total cost; so it only takes a slight deviation in such a large component of the cost to paint a startlingly different financial picture. This subsequently leads to inaccurate or misguided decision making if controls are not in place.
Healthcare organisations can improve the quality of their cost information to dramatically reduce the risk of inaccurate financial decisions if senior management is fully engaged in internal control. This includes the ability to better measure efficiencies and capacity utilization. Better information for all of the key stakeholders, including hospital administrators, physicians, or policy makers, will result in a far more efficient and cost-effective industry. But few accountants/ policy makers ask themselves if, really, the Ugandan healthy sector is profitable and management effective: Questions like why healthcare organizations do not participant in the ICPAU FiRe Awards will soon come to stoplight.

The bottom line: need for increased effective internal controls.

Healthcare organisations are finding it increasingly more difficult to improve profitability by focusing on revenues with increasing stock losses due to weak control systems. Refocusing resources on cost management linked with internal control will allow these organizations to achieve increased performance without sacrificing existing service levels.  Understanding the total costs of services will allow the redeployment of resources which provide a higher payback, or will facilitate the elimination of those resources altogether. The bottom line: increased profitability may be achieved.  

How to Get Senior Management to Take Internal Control Seriously

Top managers in hospitals have many calls on their time and attention. Vying for their attention will be patients, suppliers, employees, consultants, and many others. Internal controls can easily be squeezed out of their agenda. The problem this can create is that if senior management does not take control seriously, the “tone from the top” will be wrong—and if the people in charge don’t care, then why should anyone else in the organization? Right or wrong, this is the message that will be perceived across the healthcare industry, and internal control will suffer.

So, as a professional auditor, how can you push internal control up the priority list? Showing clearly to management the benefits of strong internal control on the one hand, and the consequences of failure of internal control on the other, is one path to this goal. This can only be achieved if all Certified Public Accountants fully understand the needful to the development of the sector.

Benefits of Control to the healthcare industry

A key message to communicate to management is that, effective and active controls give positive benefits as well as avoiding negative outcomes. Having controls that are effective will ensure that the directions of the board and senior management are implemented as intended; that operations and activities are carried out efficiently and meet their objectives; and that the assets used in a hospital are not only properly accounted for, but also that they are used effectively and efficiently for the benefit of the hospital.


For example at St Francis Hospital Nsambya, Procedures which follow sound control principles have enabled people to carry out their work in an environment that is orderly and satisfying to work in. Good internal controls have protected the hospital and its staff against the temptations of dishonesty, fraud, and theft. In the end even our service delivery has significantly improved if compared with other health care organizations.

In a nut shell, hospitals that have sound internal controls will know where they are, and where they are going, because management information controls will tell the organization’s management what they need to know when they need to know it through the heads of departments and ward managers. If the first imperative of most organizations is survival, then good internal control can play a major role in achieving that objective.

The impact of control failure inside the healthcare industry:

All too often, internal control only becomes a concern to top management after it breaks down. Out of the blue comes the sudden discovery of a massive fraud or a major hole in the accounts, or a business segment that was thought to be profitable is dramatically discovered not to be. There is a myriad of such possibilities. Management discovers, painfully, that when there is such a breakdown of control, almost everything else has to be thrown out of the window while the breakdown is investigated particularly when it is on drug management. It has to engage with internal auditors, external auditors, consultants, and specialists to uncover the root causes of the problem, as there is no cure without first making a diagnosis. The managers responsible for the failure must immediately be identified and a conclusion reached on their degree of culpability. And if someone has to be fired, who is going to take on their responsibilities?

Then, senior managers have to make up their minds on what to do about the underlying problem. What changes have to be made to ensure that it can never happen again? Should they commission reviews in other similar parts of the hospital to gain assurance that the problem isn’t endemic elsewhere? Are major investments in systems or capital items needed to fix things? Should procedures be revised? Do staff need retraining or reorganizing? If so, who is going to implement the changes, and where is the money going to come from?

Control breakdown can have external implications to a health care industry:

Another vital aspect is the impact of a breakdown on external relations. Do investors and the owner’s have to be informed? Is a loss warning necessary? How will stakeholders react? What will the (inevitably negative) impact be on the directors, and therefore the value, of the organization? Often such an announcement will create a loss of shareholder value that is many times the original operating loss. At times like these, an executive director may be lucky to keep his job; at the very least, there is a major risk of loss of personal and corporate reputation. Let all healthcare operators be warned.

The opportunity cost is great

On top of this, in a serious case the opportunity cost of the time that management will lose in attending to the consequences of an internal control breakdown can be massive. Strategic issues, tactical issues, business development—all these and many more normal concerns of senior management will have to take a back seat until the problem is resolved. Add to this the loss of reputation and of confidence, inside and outside the organization, because news will inevitably leak out however carefully those involved try to prevent it.

Getting Management Backing: Where to Start

If the benefits of sound controls are so tangible, and the aftermath of a failure of internal control is so dreadful, how does the auditor make a start on obtaining top management’s backing for a regime of sound internal control? Corporate governance regulations in Uganda, and best practice, now require organizations formally to analyze and record the risks they face. The purpose of this requirement is, first, to ensure that organizations actually understand their risk profile, as only then can they seriously and properly consider whether they have the right mitigation arrangements in place. Often a management team, in making explicit the risks they face, will discover that initially they do not have a common view as to what the risks are. Only when they have a unified vision can they expect to come up with a coherent and balanced response. Only then can they hope to design and develop a comprehensive internal control system that meets the needs of the organization. The auditor can assist by becoming involved in the risk identification process, by emphasizing to senior management the immediate impact of failure to mitigate the risks for example, by pointing out that the accounts will be incorrect.

It is not least by confronting management with the consequences of control failure that it can be helped to take internal control seriously. The internal auditor can help to create an understanding and appreciation of the consequences of control failure by making presentations and having one-to-one meetings with influential people, such as the medical director, chief executive, chief financial officer, audit committee chair, other board members, and senior managers. The objective is to create an awareness of internal control in the organization and, through that awareness, to change the attitude to it.

While some risks may be external to the hospital and not susceptible to internal control, many can be mitigated by internal controls. In healthcare setting, management is reluctant to accept the need for internal controls, believing that staff should be trusted. Internal auditors should point out to such management that trust is not a substitute for internal control.

A proper system of internal controls should be considered a force for moral good, in that it effectively removes temptation from employees by ensuring that undesirable behaviors will be promptly detected and corrected; if employees understand this, they will be less likely to attempt to defraud their employer.

How you can Make It Happen in the healthcare industry

      Collect evidence about the state of internal controls and any opportunities that exist for improving them.


      Present the benefits of better controls in terms with which management can identify.


      Review the organization’s code of conduct or similar document; if none exists, it is worth raising the issue.


      Seek a meeting with the head of the hospital and influential members of the board. Have a clear but short agenda. Aim for some specific goals from your meeting. Go prepared with a succinct presentation and some practical recommendations.


      Use the opportunity to argue for the importance of tone from the top where internal control is concerned; if the top people in the company take internal control seriously, so will everybody else. Ask whether they like unwelcome surprises and what they are prepared to do to avoid them.


      Point up the risks facing the organization, and show how a well-designed control structure can help to avoid or mitigate the worst consequences.


      Don’t expect everything to be achieved with just one meeting. Be prepared to keep going back with the same messages until they are not only accepted, but also acted on.


Management’s role in ensuring effective internal control is vital. Management sets the tone from the top. Unless management engages and commits, the rest of the organization will not take internal control seriously. The internal auditor can help management to appreciate the importance of internal control by demonstrating its value—not least, the efficiency dividend to an organization if good, cost-effective internal control systems are in place—and by making management aware of the consequences of failures of internal control. The internal auditor can further assist management by highlighting the need to set tone from the top, to allocate sufficient resources for internal control, and to ensure that internal control processes are suitably designed for the needs of the business.



Random news



Cycle time refers to the period required to complete one cycle of an operation; or to complete a function, job, or task from start to finish. Cycle time is used in differentiating total duration of a process from its run time.

It is the average time between successive deliveries. In other words:
Cycle Time = Operating Hours per day / Quantity per day
For example, assume that the plant operates for 10 hours per day and need to produce 60 computers each day. The Cycle Time is 10 / 60 = 1/6th of an hour,which is 10 minutes. In other words, on average every 10 minutes a computer rolls off the assembly line.
“Quantity per day” is the same as Throughput for a day, in the example 60 computers per day.
As the old saying goes that time is money, critical business processes are subject to the rule of thumb that time is money. Such processes are usually carried out through resources that often result as bottlenecks. Unfortunately, the products derived from these processes are usually the ones that matter most to customers; therefore, the products need to be delivered as fast as possible. This cuts across both to the internal and external clients, manufacturing and service industries.

    Competitive Advantage:Business and service delivery has changed over recent years, and competitors threaten in almost every market. Reducing product cycle times increases the potential to develop and deliver innovative products and be first to market with them. This is especially true if you compete against multiple providers that offer similar products or close substitutes. Every day you reduce your cycle time is a day you gain in meeting or beating competitor product launch dates.
If company A cannot supply the desired product at the desired time, a competitor will.Inthisnew environment, cycle time reduction provides a key competitive advantage.

    Customer satisfaction: Reduced cycle time can translate into increased customer satisfaction. Quick response companies can launch new products earlier, penetrate
New markets faster, meet changing demand, and can deliver rapidly and on time. They can also offer their customers lower costs because quick response companies have streamlined processes with low inventory and less obsolete stock. According to empirical studies, halving the cycle time (and doubling the work-in-process inventory tums can increase productivity20% to 70%. Moreover, quartering the time for one step typically reduces costs by 20.05%.

    Improves quality: With reduced cycle times, quality improves too. Faster processes allow lower inventories which, in turn, expose weaknesses and increase the rate of improvement. After eliminating non-value added transactions (as opposed to value added transformations), there are fewer opportunities for defects. Fast cycle time organizations experience more rapid feedback throughout the supply chain as downstream customers receive goods closer and closer to the time they were manufactured.

    Cost savings: Cycle time reduction saves costs.

Typically, optimizing efficiency in production processes helps you cut down on cycle time, which saves you money. This often results from thorough analysis of every step of the development and production process, refinement of inefficient steps and removal of steps unnecessary to the process. Each hour or day cut from the product cycle time saves money spent on labor, equipment and utilities used in production.
For example, if manufacturing cannot respond quickly and if a high service level isdesired, then the organization must either keep high inventory or lengthen the promisedlead time. Also consider a service industry: Suppose the central store spends less time on internal clients, they will save on deterioration, pilferage and insurance if some of the inventory is insured. 

    Distribution Channel Benefits
Within a traditional distribution channel, manufacturers produce and then sell products to distributors or retailers, which eventually sell goods to consumers. Maintaining close relationships in your distribution channel is important to manufacturers, and reducing product cycle times helps you meet the needs and requirements of distribution channel partners. This strengthens your position and makes you more attractive for other resellers looking for efficient producers.
Cycle time reduction results in simplified processes with fewer steps. In most cases, a process that has fewer steps will yield fewer mistakes. Simpler processes produce fewer errors.

Common methods to reduce cycle time
There are several efforts suitable for reducing cycle times. Streamlining multiple efforts, however, can yield a much more efficient process resulting in cost and time savings and customer satisfaction. When reducing process cycle time, consider a combination of the following ideas.
Perform activities in parallel. Most of the steps in a business process are often performed in sequence. A serial approach results in the cycle time for the entire process being the sum of the individual steps, not to mention transport and waiting time between steps. When using a parallel approach, the cycle time can be reduced by as much as 80% and produces a better result.
A classic example is product development, where the current trend is toward concurrent engineering. Instead of forming a concept, making drawings, creating a bill of materials, and mapping processes, all activities take place in parallel by integrated teams. In doing so, the development time is reduced dramatically, and the needs of all those involved are addressed during the development process.
Change the sequence of activities. Documents and products are often transported back and forth between machines, departments, buildings, and so forth. For instance, a document might be transferred between two offices a number of times for inspection and signing. If the sequence of some of these activities can be altered, it may be possible to perform much of the document's processing when it comes to a building the first time.
Reduce interruptions. Any issue that causes long delays and increases the cycle time for a critical business process is an interruption. The production of an important order can, for example, be stopped by an order from a far less valuable customer request--one that must be rushed because it has been delayed. Similarly, anyone working amidst a critical business process can be interrupted by a phone call that could have been handled by someone else. The main principle is that everything should be done to allow uninterrupted operation of the critical business processes and let others handle interruptions.
Improve timing. Many processes are performed with relatively large time intervals between each activity. For example, a purchasing order may only be issued every other day. Individuals using such reports should be aware of deadlines to avoid missing them, as improved timing in these processes can save many days of cycle time.
A case study in streamlining
Consider an electronics manufacturer receiving customer complaints about long order processing times--a cycle time of 29 days. An assessment of the order processing system revealed 12 instances where managers had to approve employees' work.
It was determined that the first 10 approval instances did not yield detailed reviews because managers felt the activity was an interruption when there were other activities that needed to be addressed. Those initiating the orders, therefore, were given authority to approve their own work. This saved an average of seven to eight days in the order processing activity.
Many subsystems had interfered with the process--each performing the same or similar tasks. The logical step was to perform redundancy elimination, and a detailed flowchart of the process was created. At closer inspection, 16 steps proved very similar to one another. By changing the sequence of activities and creating one companywide order document, 13 of these steps were removed.
Over a period of four months, the order system was totally redesigned to allow information to be entered once and become available to the entire organization. Due to this adjustment, activities could be handled in a parallel manner. After a value-added analysis, the manufacturer was able to reduce cycle time from 29 days to 9 days, save cost and employee time per standard order, and increase customer satisfaction.
The good news is that almost every company is a good candidate for cycle time reduction.


Why you can’t assess auditing software just the same way as accounting software.

Why you can’t assess auditing software just the same way as accounting software.

As a representative of a popular audit software product, I often get asked by audit practitioners whether I could avail them with a demo copy of the software so that we can ‘play around with it’.

Since financial audit and accounting are related, how different can the respective software be? The self-check procedures accountants use to decide whether an accounting system is working are quite simple and straightforward in their design: You put in a piece of data at one end and check to see if the information that has been crunched through the system and that comes out at the other end meets your expectations. A simple example of such a procedure would be taking a pocket calculator and adding up the column of numbers your assistant gave you to see if it agrees with the total at the bottom of his schedule.

However procedures like these only tell you whether the accounting softwareis able to properly process information that has been fed into it according to the rules that you specify. It’s the sort of procedure where because you know in advance, what the results should be, you can test it quite easily using that input vs. output model.

The real job of an accountant however, is not merely entering a transaction in the records but rather of knowing how to classify transactions. For example, which engineering items are repairs and which ones should be treated as new fixed assets instead? Is the value of the motor car as shown in the accounts still valid or does it need to be marked down – or even up? The accountant is also responsible for summarising the transactions in the way that most suits the people who need the information and presenting it in a way that makes sense. Seen in this light, it is not possible to create “accounting” software as these accounting judgement roles cannot be played by a computer program. What we refer to as accounting software should really be referred to as bookkeeping software.

Auditing, on the other hand, is the checking process. Confirming that data going in at one end of the system comes out the way it should at the other end, is just one audit objective and frankly, it isn’t even the most important one. The most important objectives of audit are to determine whether the financial statements (a) contain all the information they should contain, (b) contain only the information they should contain and (c) are reported in a way that conforms to a pre-agreed standard.

It does involve the arithmetical accuracy checking that most accountants do in the first place. However it also involves checking that the basis of classifying and summarising information was properly done – a test of judgement(because so-called accounting programs will execute incorrect instructionsto summarise or classify information just as faithfully as they will correct ones.)It also involves checking that there is no information missing  - another judgement test.It also involves checking that the information is not overstated – also a matter of judgement. That’s not all however. International Standards on Auditing now actually pay attention to the process that was used to evaluate the accountant and it requires certain mandatory steps to be taken and documented, no matter how certain the auditor may be of the correct situation.

This leads to an interesting question then; is it possible to create software that can meet all of these requirements of the audit? Data interrogation and sample selection software could go through the accounting information and try to extract information that makes sense but could it tell if the classification method used by the accountant was wrong? How would it decide if the evidence provided was acceptable? This is a trickier proposition and indeed, nobody has yet been able to design software that actually “audits”, much in the same way that nobody has been able to design software that does “accounting.”

What does this mean for a practitioner thinking about buying audit software? Audit software doesn’t have transactions that you can insert at one end and click to see if they have been properly classified at the other end. Instead it provides what amounts to very a long and sophisticated checklist (or series of checklists) of the all the procedures an auditor needs to carry out to determine the three objectives and comply with the mandatory procedures mentioned above. These are extensive and run, at present to nearly 800 separate mandatory procedures in the International Standards on Auditing. And that’s not counting the steps in the audit programmes in each section of the audit file. There is only one way to tell if this collection of checklistsworks properly; carry out an audit with it and submit the results of the audit to an independent quality reviewer to determine if the work was done properly.

People who aren’t skilled enough to know how to use the checklist will not be able to gauge whether they failed or passed the quality review due to an inadequacy of their checklist or due to their failure to use it properly.

Also, although the ISAs prescribe the approach to the audit to which all auditors should conform and in some instances even stipulate the exact tests to be carried out, they are not precise enough about how to do it. For example, there are more than a dozen ways to develop a sampling frame that produces a truly random sample. Which one is most appropriate? What’s a reasonable maximum or minimum sample size? If your sample contains an error, by how much should you extend your tests if at all? What’s the best way to calculate materiality? How many levels of review should there be in a particular assignment? The ISAs just don’t say.

Audit software helps by providing handy computation tools for sample design and selection and guidance on developing materiality. They even provide specific program steps for various areas of the audit. They also nudge you, (by blocking access to particular file areas and questionnaires), into using the work flow sequence that is most efficient or effective. These features, in the aggregate, comprise the methodology of particular audit software.

Without training by a person with proper experience on the specific methodology of a particular piece of audit software, it could be difficult to understand how all the questionnaires, computing tools and checklists work together to achieve efficient compliance with the ISAs.

For these reasons, taking a demo copy of audit software to try it out is unlikely to be helpful unless you are also willing to undergo not just “demo” training in the methodology but also a “demo” quality review – all lengthy and costly steps.

I would suggest that a more reassuring route would be to work through a presentation with an experienced user and ask to be shown all the features that you consider to be key in your existing methodology to ensure that they are present. Another, perhaps more important source of reassurance would be to look at the number of other practitioners relying on the same software to carry out their work successfully. The more there are, the more likely that it is the right product for you.

 Joe Gichuki

Joe, a member of ICPAU, is the CEO of Kawai Consulting, a firm that specialises in providing technical and capacity building services to financial auditors. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Managing Successful SMEs


Like David Richards says, it is not an easy time to be a “small or medium sized enterprise (SME)” owner since the cost of living is high, people are spending cautiously and investors are becoming increasingly conservative. Being an entrepreneur requires worrying about cash flow management among other things to compete effectively.
SME is a business segment term used differently in different countries, sometimes differently in different industries in the same country. In the US, any firm from a small-office home - office (SOHO) to a large corporation may be called a SME.
The European definition of SME follows: "The category of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is made up of enterprises which employ fewer than 250 persons and which have an annual turnover not exceeding 50 million euro, and/or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding 43 million euro."
In 2008, the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) introduced the first Small and Medium Enterprises Business Guide. This guide provides information and contacts on business licensing, access to finance, entrepreneurship skills training, business development services, and taxation/incentives.

Challenges of running SMEs
Sometimes in most employees life one gets frustrated at the hustle and bustle and mind-numbing regularity of paid employment. You just want to take initiatives and responsibilities that would bring about a successful enterprise – “your enterprise”. The dream is to be your own boss. But then, it’s one thing to dream, and another to see such dreams materialize to reality.
One of the biggest challenges is the fear of failing. It’s important to appreciate the regularity of salaries/wages and consider scenarios if “your enterprise” doesn’t make it quick or in the intended direction.
Truth be told, being a business owner comes with challenges unique to the size and function of the business. The small business owner, for example, has to handle all the challenges of selling, delivering, financing, managing and growing the business with little or no staff, while trying to make it a success at the same time. This can often prove to be intimidating but not altogether unachievable. No one ever said it would be easy running a successful small business. But then, when you get it right, the rewards can be hugely amazing and remarkable. It should interest you to know that most big, successful and legendary businesses today started off as small businesses.
It is important to retain the interest of all stakeholders like customers, partners, vendors, your best staff and team to build momentum in a short span of time. This takes vision. It also takes courage and belief – belief in your ability to steer your ship to success.
Here are some of the secrets to run a small business that can make these challenges easier to handle and make a successful business venture.
Secrets for SME Success
Secret1: Have a clear vision of what you intend to do and the business you wish to run.
Vision is a key hallmark of success principles in business and other aspect of life. Vision gives you a vivid picture of what you want to accomplish. It makes you see the end from the beginning. This picture will illuminate and motivate your mind throughout the course of your business journey. By having a clear vision for your business, the mission takes shape and business objectives and goals emerge.
Secret2: Define clearly what you sell and also to whom you sell or render service
Defining what your business does from the word GO, as you set out into the business world, is always one of (if not) the most important step to running a successful business. This makes it a whole lot easier to manage your company going forward. In addition, this enables you to explain your business clearly, without ambiguity, to investors or partners when the need arises.
Secret3: Source for funds security and sustainability
Running a small business requires financial backbone, prudence and efficiency. Explore all available financial options open to you, such as family, friends, business associates, investors, banks, etc. However, the choice of the right financial option for your business' financial plan and support is vital. Also, bank with the right financial institution that will give you the best deals, helps you stretch every shilling and provide for financial prudence in management of the business.
Secret 4: Get business information and technical guidance/advice from Small Business Development Consultant(s)
Today, a number of businesses and professionals give expert business advice and services at a token fee for individuals and groups wanting to go into new businesses or diversify their existing businesses into new areas or line of products and/or services. These professionals provide help and sound business support and solutions services during all stages of the business life cycle.
These include legal advice and consultation, business development and strategies, recruitment and management of staff from business psychologists, and so on. Their business support and development services help business to mature by making the right business calls that won’t only serve in the immediate and short term, but would strategically assist in positioning the business for long term success.
Secret 5: Create a workable business and marketing plan for your SME
One of the keys to running a small business enterprise is having a detailed and workable business plan that outlines the objectives, goals, target market and projected growth. In addition to having a concrete business plan, ensure that you work out a detailed business marketing plan to go with it. Without this, it’s necessary to rethink why you are in business in the first place.
Secret 6: Go ahead and start a business
Once you have established the vision and mission of the company, defined clearly what type of products and services your business wants to offer, contacted your financial sources for funding and secured your business funds, consulted business professionals for necessary legal and business strategy building aspects such as registration, documentation, business structure processes building, then finally built a creative and detailed business and business marketing plan, to drive and carry the business, it is now the time to start! Don’t waste another moment idling and wishing. Just start!
Secret 7: Build a strong brand identity that will stand the test of time
Actually, branding the business should start the very moment you articulate and conceptualize the business idea. This involves creatively building a business identity that would appeal to the target market in a continuous manner. It includes but is not limited to the choice of business name, type of business engaged in; and the personality you want the business to have. Be very creative and innovative with graphic designs, business colours, taglines, business logos and other communications. Everything must be organized and attractive to the targeted customer to bring about more sales and continued business patronage.
Secret 8: Prioritize on making profit
It’s amazing how many times people start up business enterprises and then forget how to make profit. It is a known rule in economics that the chief aim in business is to make profit. When that is no longer the case, it becomes difficult to sustain or grow business. Therefore, the moment a business is set out to be successful, it’s important to understand the golden rule of money - “make sure more comes in than goes out”. Once this is achieved, there will be enough to re-invest in the business and to make you feel it is all worth it going into business.
In addition, prioritizing profit making also involves optimising cost management to minimise waste, maximise productivity and profitability. Where you can’t seem to get it right yourself, hire or consult an accounting professional to help you keep your books in order, manage your finances properly and professionally to ensure your business remains profitable!
Secret 9: Network and connect with other businesses and business minded individuals as much as possible
To grow business for a wider reach and approachability, ensure you network with other local small businesses and small business owners on overall business vision, shared business strategies and opportunities. Attend regular business events; they present great opportunities and avenues for small businesses to come together, rub minds, share business ideas and experiences. Also, join small business associations and participate in local events to raise awareness, promote your business and its brand.
Secret 10: Never leave a single customer dissatisfied
It may be very difficult to keep every one of your customers happy. That is a business fact. But you must try to keep every one of your customers satisfied. That should be your business reality. Having a pro-customer orientation – whether you run a small business alone or have employees working for you – is as vital a decision as the decision to go into running a business in the first place. There can be no business without customers. The more customers patronize your business, the more the chances of making a profit, and actually building something successful and wonderful. Therefore, businesses must emphasise customer satisfaction through effective customer service and relation. Make use of positive and negative feedback from customers to improve the quality and desirability of your products and/or services.
Secret 11: Be Passionate about your business and commit to continuous improvement
Never settle for less. Always go for more. Renounce average. Beware of comfort. Avoid complacency. Live by belief. Every day you should desire your business to be in a better position than it was yesterday. This mindset should permeate through you to your staff. Even when hiring, ensure focus on those who can do more, bring more, create more, live more, give more, sacrifice more, believe more, support more, relate more and accomplish more. Emphasis should be on more, more and more - constant improvement, no room for stagnation and redundancy. Remember, most of the iconic businesses you see today like Coca Cola, Apple, etc. didn’t start big. In fact, most of the Fortune 500 companies started small. But they made it to the top because they keep going and keep improving and wanting to be better. They still do today, and some of them are over a century old. You too can do it, if you try and believe you can!
Secret 12: Feel the winds of change in the air
To be a successful business, you need to be able to change and adapt your products and services as situations dictate. What was successful last year may not work for you this year.
Be ready to try new ideas, expand your business and bring in new people. In order to fuel such radical changes, you may well need to consider exploring new avenues of funding in order to enable your growth. A measured risk often pays off in business growth.
Secret 13: Taste the exotic fruit of unexplored markets
If you are looking to grow and expand your business, you may not find enough clients with money to spare in the existing markets.
This could be the year in which you reach out to new markets, bringing in eager new clients and taking your goods and services into territories you’d never considered before. Consider expanding geographically as well as into new niche areas of business.
Remember, running a successful small business may be tasking and at times just plain frustrating, but the eventual rewards of running a business successfully are too numerous to mention. The benefits you reap ultimately will be boundless. And the financial rewards? Well, you may just turn out to be the next Aliko Dangote or Bill Gates!

Today's Accountant Magazines