George and Mary-Lynn

Danger: 10 Warning Signs of Trouble Ahead for Your Business

By Bigg Success Staff
03-19-08

Bigg Success in Business

danger

We’re told that diagnosing a medical condition early greatly increases the chances of successful treatment. The same is true for your business – seeing the warning signs early gives you the opportunity to solve minor issues before they become major problems.

Cash to a business is like blood to our bodies. It has to continue flowing or we won’t survive. The bottom line is that you can’t run out of cash. So you have to know how to diagnose and treat the source of the ailment before it spreads.

With that in mind, here are ten signs that your business may be heading for trouble:

#1 – Lost market share
Your sales may be growing, but your share of the market may be falling. Market share is precious – among other things, it provides leverage to raise prices as your costs increase. As competitors enter your market, you have to work even harder to maintain (and hopefully increase) your share or your business may get into trouble.

#2 – Declining customer counts
Your sales may be holding steady, but fewer and fewer people are making purchases. Your remaining customers are spending more, possibly because of price increases. You have to find a way to attract new customers or your business is headed for trouble. 

#3 – Low repeat and referral business
You need a healthy percentage of repeat business because it’s much less expensive to keep a customer happy than to get a new one. It also shows that your product or service is still meeting the needs of a core base of people who will refer other people to you. If your customers aren’t coming back, your business may face trouble.

#4 – Declining sales

If your sales are falling, you’re definitely headed for trouble. It may have nothing to do with you – it may be your industry that is experiencing trouble. Isolate whether it’s a problem with your business or the industry as a whole to know your best strategy.

#5 – Disproportionate sales to a small group of customers
Picture this extreme situation – all of your sales come from one customer. You’re totally at the mercy of that customer. It’s like being an employee without the safeguards that go with employment! Generally speaking, if more than ten percent of your sales are to one customer, you may face trouble at some point.

#6 – High employee turnover

When you lose employees, customers are affected – they deal with less experienced people who don’t know your business or the customer’s needs as well as long-time employees. The costs of training people so they’re fully productive are also significant. If you can’t retain employees, your business will likely face trouble.

#7 – Costs rising faster than sales (declining profit margins)
Costs rise for a number of reasons. As your sales rise, so will your costs. If they don’t, why do you need that cost at all? So rising costs are expected. However, costs that rise faster than sales means you will face trouble at some point because you’ll have less and less profit for each dollar of sales. 

#8 – Disproportionate purchases from one vendor

You don’t want to be dependent on any vendor for purchases in any category. That gives that vendor too much leverage in your business. They’ll be able to pass on costs to you that you may not be able to pass on to your customers. If you don’t have a diverse base of vendors (or at least a back-up plan), your business will probably face trouble sometime.

#9 – Unwarranted increase in receivables
It’s great to make sales, but not if you don’t get paid! That’s worse than not making the sale at all because it costs you money to make a sale. Slow paying customers also create problems because you can’t pay your bills with receivables. If you don’t control your receivables, your business may be headed for trouble.

#10 – Unjustifiable inventory build-up
Depending on your business, inventory may be even less liquid than receivables. First, you have to sell it; then you have to collect on the sale. Inventory that’s not turning over is dead-weight. So if your inventory is building up too fast, your business will likely experience a cash crunch at some point.

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(Image by Craig Rodway, CC 2.0)

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