Tools & Tips

Simple Retailers’ Sales and Margin Template
The attached Excel spreadsheet is a simple way to track sales and gross margins by dollars and percentages for each brand and product category.  Hopefully, your point of sales system lets you produce a report that can give you this data without having to transfer data to this spreadsheet.  There’s no magic in this particular format.  The magic comes from having the discipline to collect and analyze the information regularly.

You might go to the Market Watch part of this web site and check out “Conversations with a Skate Retailer,”  “Business by the Numbers” and “Minding Your Own Business. They address the issue of collecting and using financial information.

This tool is a couple of years old.  In our current and foreseeable economic circumstances, I don’t think it’s enough to focus on gross margin percentage.  Gross margin dollars and inventory turnover deserve a big chunk of your attention.  Seek out the article “Gross Margin Return on Inventory Investment- A Tool for our Times” in the Market Watch Section.  The discussion of inventory risk in “Inventory Risk and Inventory Management” may also interest you.

Download Retailer Tool

Monthly Cash Flow Template
A cash flow is the most important management tool a business can have, especially when the cash isn’t flowing the way you’d like. This template is typical of those I have used. It’s kind of generic, and can be modified for use by either a retailer or brand. There’s no magic to the line items I’ve chosen to use. You have to figure out what works for your business and style of management.

The more you use it, the more valuable and easier to use it gets. You learn to internalize it and develop almost a sixth sense for changes. As your business grows, it becomes ever more important because you’re ability to keep everything in your head declines.

I’ve written about cash flow several times. Go to the article archive and check out, for example, the article called “A Living Breathing Thing.”

Download Sample Cash Flow Tool

Vision Worksheet
In the simplest things in our lives, we decide what we want to accomplish before we start doing. We do this unconsciously and instinctively because it’s the approach that works best.

With larger issues, like building a business, we often don’t take this approach. We start to work without deciding specifically what we want to have accomplished. The business draws us in. There’s so much to do that there’s no time to think.

How can you decide what to do if you don’t know where you want to be after you’ve done it? Begin with the end in mind.

A company’s owners need to share a common vision that will meet their goals. They need to specify what they want out of the company. All owners’ visions need not be combined into one statement, but it is important that they not conflict significantly.

The process of writing the vision forces you to think rigorously about your goals. In the process, you can expect some surprises, and to learn about yourself. Its hard work, but it will expand your perspective and help identify what is really important.

Writing a vision is a very individual activity. It can’t be rushed or done by a strict schedule. Come back to it as your thoughts evolve. Both your emotions and your intellect are important to the process.

The vision is the first step in the strategic planning process. It is the basis for establishing the company’s mission statement and goals. This clarifies how the company operates for the management team and is critical to developing a flexible, responsive organization.

The outline on the following pages will give you some ideas about what a vision statement might contain, but don’t be constrained by it. There are no right answers about what should be included. 

Click here to get the vision worksheet.