Sales: Database managementWhenever the subject of database management comes up, this is the image that springs to mind. Banks of computers in low-lit warehouses humming away quietly and efficiently, stashing endless amounts of information ready to be accessed at any time. Whilst your small business may not need the football fields of storage that Apple requires, the same approach to data management is required: organisation, accessibility and rom for growth.
As your business grows, so does the amount of information you accrue and whilst some of it you may never need again, it’s important to disseminate and categorise so you know where to find the valuable bits. You will be annoyed if you cannot find it and have not kept it in a safe place.
With an active client, there are a few historical lessons to be learned from how they have interacted with your business:
Schedule of work. Over time it may be possible to glean a rhythm of when they make their purchases and how this impacts on your business. If, for example, you can correctly predict their patterns of behaviour, you may be able to order your own raw materials at a more efficient level or make contact with them in a timely fashion.
Contacts. There may be several different contacts at your client or they may well operate from different locations with separate contact details. People are always moving to new jobs and different people may need to access your information when you’re not around. Keeping this kind of information up-to-date is a good habit to get in to.
Invoicing. Perhaps the most important part of managing your client is keeping the finances up-to-date. Creating, sending and chasing invoices is a critical part of running a small business and being able to see a clear timeline of this activity makes life easier. Cashflow is king.
Here’s a quick guide to the do’s and don’ts of choosing and maintaining a good database:
Regular updating. The longer you leave updating, the harder and more time-consuming the system is to maintain. Things can get forgotten or lost in time. Little and often is the best way.
Allocate resources and time. Like any other part of the business, this is an area that needs to accounted for in terms of time spent and have the right software and hardware in place for it to be effective.
Clear out the dead wood. As mentioned before, there will be information on there that you will most likely never use again. Don’t delete it but archive it just in case you need to reference it.
Periodically back up. This may seem obvious but ensure there is a failsafe in case your primary computers fail through power outage.
Don’t forget to upgrade. Technology quickly goes out of date so when you buy, try to invest in a powerful system that won’t look out of place a few years down the track. Similarly, keep an eye on advancements and be honest with yourself when it’s time to upgrade. Remember, buy cheap, buy twice!
Test drive and ask the experts, it’s the best way to get the right fit for your business. If you can get a complete solution that looks after all aspects of your business, that can be easily upgraded in the future, then you will benefit from the efficiency. Remember, all these costs can be offset as an business expense.