Always be ready for sale

June 9, 2022 By    

A few years ago, we adopted a mindset that our business always is for sale, even if it’s never for sale. The reason for this mindset is analogous to longtime homeowners who fix up and clean up their homes when it’s time to sell: “We should have done this a long time ago so we could have enjoyed it” often is the lament.

The same principle applies to your business. We, not surprisingly, use technology to do this. A few examples:

⦁ Tank ownership: We have a signed lease for every customer. That digitized document is attached to the customer record in our software and may be viewed when we bring up that record. We also began adding photos to customer records that include the tank’s data plate and its location on the customer’s property.

⦁ Gas check records: Our completed gas checks are attached to the customer record in our software, which also notifies us when it’s time to update a gas check with a new one. Our more recent gas checks include photos of the appliances and their locations in the home in addition to the general appliance information. We’ll know if a customer replaced or moved an appliance without a follow-up gas check.

Technology can help business processes run more smoothly and efficiently, ultimately leading to better results.

Technology can help business processes run more smoothly and efficiently, ultimately leading to better results.

⦁ Customer contact information: We have working email addresses for over 90 percent of our active customers and work hard to keep customer records up to date. When we have important phone calls, we often also will attach a copy of the recorded call file to the customer record, along with customer correspondence.

⦁ Software records and updates: Our software tracks the age of regulators, tank maintenance visits – we try to visit every tank we own at least once a summer – monitor installations and similar activities.

⦁ Financial records: We strive to have supporting documentation for every entry in our general ledger, including invoices, statements and supporting notes. A person reviewing our financial statements should be able to click a line item on the chart of accounts, then drill into specific general ledger entries and click and review a scanned copy of the invoice or statement.

⦁ Other documents: We maintain digital copies of all documents and maintain original copies only of those documents that legally must be maintained as an original – such as fleet vehicle title documents. These files, in turn, are organized in a cloud storage system. In addition to fleet documents, this includes employee records, government returns and filings, vendor agreements – all of the paper it takes to run a business or is required by an insurance company or a regulator.

⦁ User manuals and instructions: We diligently have been documenting all of our processes for years, including screenshots and explicit instructions. Additionally, important recurring deadlines and activities are entered into the digital calendar maintained for the business.

Now, using these examples, let’s examine the “always for sale, even if it’s never for sale” mindset:

Whether your business is always for sale or never for sale, technology-supported, documented business processes reduce “fire drill,” last-minute projects, reduce stress and anxiety, and ultimately lead to better business results – whether it’s your periodic profit distributions or the multiple the buyer pays you at closing.

Christopher Caywood is a co-owner of Caywood Propane Gas Inc. 

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