Ask Questions. Listen & Learn.

On an average day, Leo Sanftner will drive to his job at Cottor Farms in northern Wisconsin drinking a Mountain Dew and catching up on phone calls. Once in the office, he’ll oversee the mill’s manufacturing process and prescribe customized diets for his customers’ livestock operations. The rations Sanftner mixes are for species including cattle, horses, goats, sheep, hogs, rabbits and chickens.

In afternoons and evenings he’ll make product deliveries. Some customers are 30-40 miles away, but through his personal show ring connections, Sanftner also delivers orders up to 200 miles away from the mill’s home base in Osceola, Wisconsin.

His passion for helping breeders do well is second to none. Every day, Sanftner says he listens to his customers to learn about their unique situations. He asks them to share specifics so he can help find the right information and formulate a ration. Sanftner says he wants customers to trust him to treat their animals like his own and realize they can call on him whenever the need arises; daytime, nights or weekends.

His days are long and his to-do list is lengthy, but he doesn’t mind one bit. He says he’s living his dream of helping breeders improve the health of their operations through his position at Cottor Farms.

Cottor Farms is a family-owned business, owned by brothers, Rick and Dan Cottor, that raises its own crops to put through the milling process. Sanftner has known the Cottor family for two decades and was brought on as a sales agent six years ago, thanks to his show ring and livestock connections. He credits his success in both his work and in the show ring to BioZyme® products.

Cottor Farms also supplies and grinds 90-percent of the feed for a nearby mill, and Sanftner says he makes sure to include Amaferm® in all of the mixes.

Prior to joining Cottor Farms, Sanftner was familiar with the Sure Champ® brand as he experienced the impact of this supplement when he purchased cattle from Star Lake Herefords in Skiatook, Oklahoma, years ago. He knew the product worked on cattle and kept it as a part of his own feeding program.

“People have high quality animals, but they may not bloom and take off,” he says. “BioZyme products are formulated in the diet for them. For example, Digest More® will take calves that have been really slow to develop and give them what they need to take off. If they have a good start it’s unbelievable how they eat at the bunk. I’m amazed when I see them a few months later.”

Sanftner can share numerous success stories of his customers using Digest More and Vita Charge®, specifically. One customer who raises chickens for ethnic groups wants his hens to have all black shiny feathers. Sanftner recommended adding Amaferm to their diet. Not only do the chickens now have the desired physical traits, but their eggs are harder with stronger yolks.

He also says the farm has not had problems with chickens that stop laying nor any molt season issues in the past year.

When a new customer discusses an issue with Sanftner, one of the first products he recommends is Vita Charge paste. He says he’ll give them a tube to try, and it will always trigger more business.

“We have some small farmers that the minute their pigs and calves are born they give them Vita Charge even before colostrum,” he says. “I’m overwhelmed with the success of the product and how it works for everything I put it in.”

Another testimonial Sanftner shares about the effects of Vita Charge is from a family with show hogs that last year developed a staph infection. Among other treatments, he encouraged the use of Amaferm through the products Digest More and Vita Charge. Sanftner believes these products saved one out of their four show pigs.

Sanftner says the products are not a hard sell because once the breeder has experienced Amaferm in their diet, they see improvement in overall herd health. His customers’ bragging points include enhanced immune systems and minimal issues with sickness.

“They feel like their animals are getting the best quality,” he says. “The first thing customers might ask is ‘How much more will it cost me,’ but we add it into the whole diet and it all comes out as price at the end.”

On a personal note, Sanftner and his son T.J., raise Hereford and Red Angus cattle. They are active in the show ring and proudly pass their love for showing to Sanftner’s granddaughter, Racthel. As the fourth generation of Sanftners to show cattle, Racthel, has seen show ring success that Sanftner credits to Sure Champ and Digest More. She showed the Reserve Grand Cow-calf Pair at the Minnesota State Fair last year, and his son exhibited the Reserve Grand Get-of-Sire.

Sanftner’s passion for livestock, people and BioZyme is a package deal. By visiting with various breeders, he can learn how the animals are doing on the products and tailor to their needs. “I treat all animals as if they’re a champion,” he says. “Like they’re my own family and not just a number on the wall. It’s just how I do business. I hope to give them a good protocol with the right products then step back and let it work.”

Passion is the Only Way to Reach Peak Performance

Which of the following types of people would you prefer to have in greater numbers working with your business?

A. Happy, Low Performers
B. Unhappy, Low Performers
C. Unhappy, High Performers
D. Happy, High Performers
E. All of the above.

The obvious preference would be “D.” Makes sense as mounting evidence suggests that happy, high-performing workforces correlate with greater employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, profits and productivity.

One of my favorite books is All In by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. It says productivity is driven by the equation E+E+E. The Es stand for engaged, enabled and energized. Engaged means the employee is attached to the company and willing to put forth extra effort. Enabled means that the company environment supports the employee’s productivity and performance. Energized means that the employee feels a sense of well-being and drive.

Yale psychologist, Amy Wrzesniewski, interviewed hundreds of workers in all professions and found that people have one of three work “orientations” or mindsets:

  1. They see work as being a “job” or a chore and use the paycheck
    as its reward.
  2. They approach work as a “career” and strive to advance and succeed.
  3. They see their work as a “calling” and find work fulfilling because it gives them feelings of meaning and purpose.

Wrzesniewski then showed that people with a calling will work harder and longer simply because their jobs are rewarding.

After reading all of this, the conclusion is simple: we need happy, rewarded, engaged, enabled and energized workers if we want them to be the high-performing type that result in greater productivity and profits for our businesses.

But wait. According to Deloitte University Press, up to 87.7 percent of America’s workforce is not able to contribute to their full potential because they don’t have passion for their work. Less than 12.3 percent of America’s workforce possesses the attributes of worker passion. This “passion gap” is important because passionate workers are committed to continually achieving higher levels of performance.

So passion truly matters, and here are three ways to find and support it in your team:

1) Look for where your preconceived notions about the profile of a passionate worker are stopping you from identifying talent both externally and internally. Passionate workers come from all age groups, educational levels and backgrounds.

2) Recognize that passionate workers out earn and outperform their peers because of their internal drive for sustained learning and performance improvement. Take risks to cultivate these dispositions, and passionate workers will take risks for you in return.

3) Cultivation of passionate workers internally is probably the most effective way to increase the proportion of passionate workers in your organization. Organizations should evaluate their work environments to understand where they cultivate or discourage passion.

Who Are Your Customer Advocates?

Are you generating new business from existing customers? Customer advocates are the heart of any successful, growing business because they help send you referral leads – for free.

Referrals are warm leads that convert better than leads using other marketing initiatives. Creating customer advocates and harnessing their passion to drive more referrals is a key component to all successful, growing businesses.

According to a study by Wharton School of Business, 83 percent of satisfied customers are willing to refer products and services. But, only 29 percent actually do. So, let’s amp up that 29 percent and create some real growth from customers who share passion about the products and services you provide!

Why is customer advocacy so important?

  • A referral customer costs a lot less to acquire and has a higher potential for retention and loyalty. In fact, a referred customer has a 16 percent higher lifetime value. (Wharton School of Business, 2012)
  • Word of mouth is a primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions. Its influence is greater when the products or services being bought are relatively expensive or need people to conduct detailed research. (Mckinsey, 2010)
  • People trust friends and family more than other information sources; they pay twice the attention to recommendations from friends than other sources. (Mckinsey, 2010)

It’s easy to understand why creating customer advocates is important in driving success. Here are four ways you can turn passionate customers into advocates.

1. Build stronger customer relationships

Building relationships is important in showing that you value your customers’ business. Stronger relationships increase trust between you and your potential customer advocate.

When it comes to referrals, your customer’s reputation is on the line. If someone recommends your products and/or services, and you don’t deliver, guess who loses? Yes, you might take a hit, but more importantly, your customer will have their reputation damaged. Through stronger customer relationships, you can build trust with customers and earn their referral.

2. Use customer satisfaction surveys to identify potential advocates

Identifying potential customer advocates is a challenge. Customer satisfaction surveys can serve as a tool to identify advocates.

As discussed in previous newsletters, these surveys give you the opportunity to ask customers what they really think of your service. To determine if a customer is a potential advocate, ask this question in your survey:

How likely would you be to recommend us to your friends or colleagues?

  • I would go out of my way to recommend <dealer name>
  • I would recommend < dealer name >
  • I wouldn’t recommend < dealer name >

If someone would ‘go out of their way to recommend your services’, you could assume they were very satisfied with your service or product. Leverage this insight to reach out to specific customers and identify potential advocates.

3. ‘WOW’ your customers by focusing on the experience

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh demonstrates this best when he says, “We really don’t think that customer service is an expense that you should try to minimize, it’s really an investment in your brand. The telephone is one of the best branding devices out there. If you wow [customers] during that interaction, that’s something they’re going to remember for a very long time and tell their friends about.”

Creating an experience that WOWs your customers is something money can’t buy. People value service that goes above and beyond their expectations, and they tell others about those experiences. In order to WOW your customers, first think about what your customers expect from your product or service. Then, exceed those expectations. Think about some initiatives you can implement today that will make your customers say, “Whoa, that was great.”

4. Don’t be scared to just ask for referrals

Asking for a referral can be intimidating. Even with all the strategies in the world, some of you will still sit back and not identify your advocates and ask them for referrals.

Pick five loyal customers you feel might have some peers interested in your services. Next time you have a scheduled call or are delivering product, challenge yourself to simply ask for the referral.

Use this line if you’re stuck for words:“Hey Bob, do you know anyone or any operations that would find our products or services valuable?” 

Turning customers into advocates doesn’t have to be hard. Studies show that customers want to send you referrals but just don’t know how. Your passion for this industry is contagious, and you have customers who want to help you grow your business. It is up to you to leverage that passion to create more opportunity!

Fly Control – Start Early

An early start is the key to a successful horn fly control program. It is estimated that horn flies cost North American cattle producers more than $1 billion each year. Fortunately, BioZyme offers a variety of products that contain Altosid® IGR Feed-Thru. This additive disrupts the life cycle of horn fly larvae in manure.

Horn flies can cause “blind quarters” and reduce milk intake by beef calves because horn flies may carry S. aureus, a major cause of mastitis. Research at Louisiana State University and the University of Georgia indicates that 75 percent of all heifers have mastitis before they have a calf.

The irritation and reduced milk intake from horn fly infestation can cause 20-25 pounds lower weaning weights as compared to cows treated with Altosid®. With calf prices at $200/cwt. the lost weight can dramatically decrease the income of cow/calf producers.

There is also an impact on these weaned calves as they grow. Horn flies can reduce gains on yearlings grazed on pasture by 30-35 pounds per season. With feeder cattle prices in the $170/cwt. range, reducing horn flies in 2016 can result in an extra $50 to $60 per head while the additional cost of feeding an IGR VitaFerm® mineral with Altosid® is only about $8 per head more than a general VitaFerm mineral.

Q. HOW CAN I TELL IF I HAVE A HORN FLY PROBLEM?

A. Horn flies are an ectoparasite and tend to stay on the backs and sides of animals throughout the day. Despite their name, horn flies do not congregate on the horn and head area. Horn flies are about half the size of the common housefly and lay eggs exclusively in fresh manure.

Q. WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO CONTROL HORN FLIES?

A. Most horn fly control strategies require you to either gather cattle on a regular basis for treatment or replenish the various systems that dispense products for horn fly control (dust bags, backrubbers, etc.). While these methods are labor-intensive, an insect growth regulator (IGR) allows you to provide horn fly control right in your feed or minerals, letting cattle do the work.

Q. WHEN SHOULD I BEGIN USING AN IGR PRODUCT, AND WHEN WILL I SEE RESULTS?

A. It depends on where you live, but 30 days prior to the last frost is the standard recommendation. You can start later, but you will definitely need to incorporate a knock down spray to kill adults that will be present if you choose to start later in the fly season. To effectively break the horn fly life cycle, a feed-through program utilizing Altosid® IGR Feed-Thru requires three to four weeks for significant reduction in adult horn fly numbers.

Q. I USE THE PRODUCT BUT I STILL SEE A LOT OF FLIES. WHY?

A. What you may be seeing are fly species other than the horn fly. The horn fly will only lay its eggs in fresh manure patties. Other fly species such as the common house fly, face fly and stable fly will lay eggs in any damp, decaying material such as sewage, near stagnant water or in old silage. Another reason might be lack of (mineral) consumption. Don’t let your mineral feeders run out! It only takes a few days without Altosid® for the level in the manure to drop below effective levels.

Q. HOW DOES ALTOSID® IGR FEED-THRU WORK?

A. Horn flies lay eggs in manure. After the eggs hatch, larvae (maggots) must molt as they grow. During molting, insects produce biochemicals to aid in the growth process. As the final growth stage, the pupal stage, occurs, the IGR provides a jolt of extra biochemical that interrupts the growth process. As a result, adult flies never develop from the pupal stage.

Q. IF I’M USING ALTOSID® BUT MY NEIGHBOR ISN’T, WILL I STILL GET  FLY CONTROL?

A. The horn fly will not migrate. The female only leaves the host animal to travel a very short distance to the fresh cow patty, lay her eggs, and immediately return to the animal. Therefore, there is little opportunity for your neighbor’s horn fly population to cross over to your herd. Obviously, if there is shared shade or water along the fence line, there will be some cross over, but not significant.

Q. CAN I USE AN IGR WITH OTHER HORN FLY CONTROL PRODUCTS?

A. Yes. A complete program should include face fly control, along with adulticide products, depending on the level of initial infestation.

Q. HOW DOES THE VETERINARY FEED DIRECTIVE AFFECT IGR?

A. Products that contain antibiotics such as CTC (Chlortetracycline) are regulated by the FDA. In January 2017 all products that contain an antibiotic will require a prescription under the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). Since, many of our stock products contain CTC and IGR these products will require a VFD. Those products that do not contain an antibiotic, but do contain IGR will NOT fall under the VFD, but they will have to be registered with a state before product can be sold into that state. BioZyme is working on this process and will have more information in the coming months.

Q. WHAT STOCK PRODUCTS DOES BIOZYME OFFER WITH IGR?

A.   VitaFerm Cattlemen’s Blend IGR & CTC 1.4G
       VitaFerm Concept•Aid® 5/S IGR & CTC 1.4G

Product Focus: IGR Minerals and New Concept•Aid® Power Tub

The key to a successful horn fly control program is starting early. BioZyme® offers two in-stock minerals with IGR: Concept•Aid® 5/S IGR + CTC 1.4G and Cattlemen’s Blend IGR + CTC 1.4G. No matter which product you choose, it is important to start feeding IGR 30 days prior to the last frost for the product to be most effective.

Concept•Aid® 5/s igr + CTC 1.4G
Key Selling Points

  • Highly fortified vitamin, mineral and organic trace mineral formula
  • Targets early cycling, egg production, conception and bull fertility
  • Contains a high level of vitamins to help the reproductive tract heal after calving
  • Nutrient dense to compliment low to good quality forage
  • Should be fed a minimum of 30 days prior to calving through breeding season

VITAFERM® CATTLEMEN’S BLENDTM + IGR + CTC 1.4G
Key Selling Points

  • Economical solution to provide ample mineral and vitamin fortification to compliment a wide variety of forages
  • Contains organic copper to support immune function in the presence of antagonists

We are very excited about the newest addition to the VitaFerm Concept•Aid Power Product line.

The 50 lb. Concept•Aid Power Tub offers all of the benefits of the larger 200 lb. Concept•Aid Power Tub, but in a much more convenient size.

50 lb Concept•Aid® Power Tub
Key Selling Points

  • The smaller size is more convenient for moving and lifting
  • With a 5-15 head per tub feeding rate, this product is better suited for smaller groups of cattle
  • Contains 20% natural protein in addition to Concept•Aid mineral. When using this product, your cows get their daily mineral requirement in addition to a high quality protein
  • Feeds like a 54% protein product due to Amaferm®’s research proven increase in the natural protein produced by the cow (microbial protein) by an average of 34%.

February – Letters From Lisa

Passion is defined as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something. 

Whenever I think about passion, I immediately think of my family’s Westie, Lucy. She has a passion – actually an obsession – for tennis balls. She will fetch a typical 2.5-inch tennis ball until she is physically not able to move or you have gone crazy throwing it for her. She will fetch it out of water, a cactus or a basket. Even when the ball ends up in a place where things won’t go well, she finds it and brings it back. She perseveres. This obsession doesn’t stop with a 9-inch tennis ball. Remember, she is a Westie (9 – 11 inches tall). She responds to this ball like a cutting horse with a calf. You move the ball right, she goes right. You move the ball left, she goes left. It’s truly hard to throw it past her. She can move it through an entire 4,000-square-foot house going around, through or over any obstacle and ALWAYS bring it back to you.

In business, they say you cannot teach the intangible
quality that separates average business people from
inspiring leaders . . . they are obsessed with what they do. Lucy would agree. She would tell you the things you are passionate about won’t leave you alone. They’re the ideas, hopes and possibilities your mind naturally gravitates to, the things you would focus your time and attention on for no other reason than that doing them feels right.

So what is your tennis ball? This same question came from a terrific commencement speech given at MIT last year by Dropbox founder Drew Houston. Houston explained, “The most successful people are obsessed with solving something that matters to them. They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball.” To increase your chances of happiness and success, Houston said, you must “find your tennis ball—the thing that pulls you.”

So this month, find that thing that pulls you and let it drive your work. If your work is your tennis ball – it won’t be work; instead you will have to force
yourself to go to bed because you will be chasing it without even realizing
the time on the clock.

lisa-norton-signature

Marketing Multitasking

While many studies lay claim that multitasking can actually reduce efficiency, I will argue that ‘marketing multitasking’ is a no-brainer. Unlike mobile devices that are distracting and often prohibit productivity, finding ways to inject marketing into tasks you are already performing is quite the contrary. In fact, marketing multitasking is an excellent opportunity to multiply your effort.

You wake each morning with a standard routine that must happen in order to operate your business. You get dressed. You go over important tasks with your staff. You communicate with your customers during the sale, at checkout, and hopefully, you follow up. You invoice clients. Perhaps, you spend time driving to deliver product. You attend events, such as stock shows, where you simply visit and support your customers. Because you are accustomed to this routine, it is possible that you overlook marketing opportunities that can be easily injected into those everyday tasks at little to no cost.

Let’s touch on a few marketing multitasking ideas that can be incorporated into your normal business routine:

Staff Dress Code. You should never underestimate the value of apparel or wearables. Next time you are at the mall or large event, take a look around. Count how many shirts you see with brands like Nike, Under Armour, Carhartt and other popular brands. You’ve just been marketed to – many times over. Outfitting your staff with branded apparel creates walking advertisements for either your company and/or the brands you represent. Clothing can be used as conversation starters and magnet for potential customers, and they work overtime! How is that? If you invest in attractive apparel that your employees or customers like, they will wear them everywhere, even when you don’t ask. Being strategic about getting dressed in the morning is a cost effective, fun way to market.

Invoices. For dealers who snail-mail to send invoices or statements to customers, consider adding a product stuffer to the envelope. This is a small piece of paper designed to fit perfectly in an envelope and tells your customer about a new or related product they could benefit from. While you’re spending money on postage, you might as well include something that could spark interest and generate additional sales. For those who utilize electronic billing systems, you can also take advantage of this by attaching a PDF flyer in your email or, better yet, including a coupon for your customer’s next purchase.

Checkout Chatter. The short period of time a customer stands at the counter to check out is a perfect time to introduce them to upcoming promotions, new products or simply ask them if they are satisfied with the customer service they received. It’s the perfect time to up sell or receive feedback on their experience.

Vehicles. As a feed dealer, it is a given you spend much of your time on the road or have a vehicle out and about on any given day. A great way to increase brand awareness is with a vehicle wrap to advertise your dealership or a magnet that has your contact information, creating a traveling billboard.

Show Sponsorship. You will likely attend a stock show at some point throughout the year, whether with your family or to support your customers. While you’re there, wear your branded apparel and consider a sponsorship of product for class winners or champions. Ask if the show will announce your sponsorship over the microphone throughout the event and let people know where they can purchase product. Signage at these events is always a great way to increase awareness, and depending on the event, can come at a low cost.

Employee Time. If you have employees who have some downtime throughout the day, ask them to utilize that time writing thank you notes to your customers. You can never thank your customers enough, and a simple note will pay dividends.

As business owners, you face two important challenges each day:
1) feeling as if 24 hours is not enough to get everything accomplished and 2) engaging with your customers on a level so they know they are important and that you care. Our world is becoming more demanding of our time, and communication space is more cluttered. Rather than revolutionizing your marketing plan and falling short because you don’t have the time or resources to pull something big off, evaluate current activities to know if you are being fully efficient in the tasks you are already performing. And, more importantly, understand your customers’ worlds are just as cluttered as yours. Personalize your marketing efforts to speak to customers about what specifically interests them. By respecting their time and catering to their needs rather than cramming them into a one-size-fits-all plan, you will create engaged customers who appreciate your effort and who will remain loyal to your business.

How They Work: CJ Feed & Supply

Charlene Rein-Murphy 
CJ Feed & Supply, Paola, Kansas
Owner, operator, jack of all trades

One word that best describes how you work: Constantly

Current mobile device: Samsung Android

Current computer: Dell screen, HP hard drive, Dell laptop

First, tell us what you feel separates your business from other feed supply operations?
The relationship we build with our customers.

What websites, apps or tools can’t you live without?
A calculator because I’m always running numbers.

How do you keep your to-do list? Every morning I put major tasks on post-it notes. But it changes instantly and constantly.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? My dog, Summer.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? I don’t worry about things I can’t control when it comes to dealing with everyday stuff. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

What’s your secret? I am good at being level-headed and not worrying about the B.S.

What are you currently reading? A John Grisham book.

How do you recharge? I go to my horse barn late at night.

What is your favorite and least-favorite task at work? Being on the floor and dealing with customers is my favorite.
My least favorite is collections.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? When someone tells me I can’t do it or tells me I will fail then I go for it. That’s my own personal advice.

Why do you love this business? I love animals, I love people. I love the challenge. A lot of it has to do with people that I grew up with and showed with, they are the friendships and relationships that I still have.

How A Simple Question Can Improve the Customer Experience

When a person enters a store they usually have a budget in mind. For a business owner the amount the customer is willing to spend is very important to his or her sales pitch.

At CJ Feed & Supply, Charlene Rein knows how to profile a prospective customer.

She developed a question years ago that lets her analyze just how much people are willing to spend on their animals.

“When they walk in the door I introduce myself then ask, ‘Do you like your animal, love your animal or is it a yard ornament,’she says. “This question applies if they own horses, cattle or a cat.”

Rein says the answer to this question tells her how committed customers are to their animals and what price point she should pitch. She says if they love their animal people are going to buy the best product for it and are committed to keeping that animal around for a long time. If they like their animal then she offers a middle-of-the road product. Answering “like” tells Rein the owner wants his or her animal well fed, but is also price conscious. And if the customer replies, “Yep, I own,” one this means they consider it a yard ornament. Rein believes the customer likes taking care of its animal but won’t go for the all the bells and whistles. She’ll show this potential customer the lower end of products.

CJ Feed & Supply is located in Paola, Kansas. Rein owns and manages the store, as well as her own herd of horses and cattle. As a dealer for BioZyme® she orders products she has used and can attest to, along with Sure Champ® products, which she sells in her store.

First impressions are everything, Rein says. When she asks the customer her intro question she is working to be more efficient. Understanding right away what they have and what they are willing to pay for means meeting their needs more quickly.

In the case of a customer who has a small budget, Rein says she tries to help them understand that they get what they pay for. If they are price conscious and want cheap feed, she is also prepared when they come back to the store six months later stating their animal looks rough.

“I tell them if you want your animal to look better here’s what you need to do,” she says. “I want people to understand they need to look at the label and see this is the nutrition in bag A versus in bag B. If it’s something they are keeping around for a couple of weeks and are just maintaining it, that’s fine. But if you’re going to show your animal, feed it show feed. And still for the child’s sake, please do the best for the animal and at least feed a show supplement like Sure Champ.”

Besides asking the profile question Rein says also keeps track of every customer. Each person is input into a computer system so her employees know their name, animals and previous purchases. She teaches her sales people to learn this information so when the customer walks in they automatically know what they purchased on their last visit. Then she prompts her employees to ask, “Do you want the same?”

Keeping track of customer information is another form of efficiency because if they want the same amount of feed, supplement or vaccine the order can be put together for them quickly.

“We try to know people’s names, their animals and what they do,” she says. “We build relationships with them.”

Rein, her two full-time and five part-time employees all work to make CJ Feed & Supply stand out. They send Christmas cards and thank you notes. They also host a large open house for nearly 400 attendees and serve chili or roast a hog, all in an effort to show appreciation for their customer base. Rein wants to
be able to recognize a customer by the car or truck they just drove into the parking lot so by the time they hit the doors she can be ready to offer a greeting and meet their needs.

Still, Rein says the feed store is a business, not a bank. She has to be willing to call in accounts receivable and make sure the books are in order. Rein buys many products in volume so she can keep prices low. She also encourages her employees to look at price sheets each time they come out so they know when prices increase and are not surprised at the register.

Profiling customers is a natural fit for Rein, and it helps her understand the commitment and the investment a customer is willing to give to their animal and to her store. Asking the right question at the start keeps her efficient, and she knows when to push forward as well as hold back with her customers.

“You have to know how to manage and when to draw the line,” Rein says. “From time to time, I get into a rut but I take a step back and reevaluate. I believe it’s best to take care of those who will take care of you.”

Accounting Software Increases Awareness & Efficiency

Accounting is the language of business. Not having accurate accounting information is like trying to get on the right train in Tokyo when you don’t speak Japanese. In the end, you will be lost and unsure of your business’ financial footprint.

Whether you’re just opening up shop or you own a thriving business, accounting software can make your life easier and save you hundreds of hours of time and stress. The best accounting software can perform most accounting tasks, such as keeping track of expenses and daily transactions, paying bills and employees, sending recurring invoices and syncing data across financial accounts. There’s no substitute for an accounting pro who knows the ins and outs of tax law, but today’s packages can help you with everything from routine bookkeeping to payroll, taxes, and planning.

When Business News Daily asked small business owners what made the “perfect” accounting software, there was one resounding requirement across the board. The best accounting software saves business owners time and doesn’t add to the already stressful nature of owning a small business.

The good news is there are more accounting software options than ever, including subscription Web-based options that don’t require their users to install or update software. Many businesses, however, including those that need to track large inventories or client databases, and those that prefer not to entrust their data to the cloud, may be happier with a desktop tool. Below are four of today’s favorite options among small business owners:

  1. Wave is a free, easy-to-use program that also has some surprisingly strong accounting and invoicing tools.
  2. Gusto ($29 per month) is inexpensive, has a simple and attractive interface, and incorporates the payroll tools most often required by small businesses.
  3. FreshBooks (from $19.95 per month) is exceedingly friendly, understandable, and attractive. FreshBooks is the site to beat when it comes to managing and tracking invoices, time and expenses for the very small business.
  4. QuickBooks Online ($39.95 per month) is a cloud-based accounting application that includes the most comprehensive set of features for small business. It’s easy to use, aesthetically pleasing, and has numerous integrated add-ons. QuickBooks can also be purchased as a desktop install.

Purchasing the right accounting software and then using it is one of the most important ways to know the financial state of your business. However, if you don’t take the time to extract information from the software, analyze that information and then use it to make decisions, the software is just another wasted purchase. Without knowing how your company has performed financially, it is impossible to predict where it can go. In addition to reviewing the monthly financial statements (profit and loss and balance sheet), consider adding these four items to your think time:

1. The Quick Ratio (> 1)
By definition, the quick ratio is found on a company’s balance sheet and is the business’ current assets (cash and accounts receivables) divided by its current liabilities. A favorite metric of every bank when considering a loan, the quick ratio is a measure of the financial stability of a business. It shows that the company has more cash available than the short-term money it owes. In most industries, a healthy quick ratio should be greater than 1.

2. Top 10 Customers
While all customers are important, not all of them are created equal. Who are the 10 most important customers that contribute to the success of your company? This is measured not only by revenue, but also the additional products they buy. In many companies, these top customers contribute 70 to 80 percent of the total revenue. Remember, it is typically easier to sell more to these established customers than find new ones.

3. Days Sales Outstanding (< 133%)
Days sales outstanding (DSO) is the average number of days it takes for customers to pay. The smaller the number, the better, since the business can use that cash more quickly. The number should be less than 133% of the payment terms with a customer. For example, if terms are 30 days, the DSO should be 40 or less. DSO can be improved by giving out less customer credit or collecting payments more quickly.

4. Operating Cash Flow (> $1)
How much positive operating cash flow did the business produce last month? Profit is important, but cash flow is king. By definition, cash flow is simply the sum of your monthly profit and any changes in accounts payable, accounts receivable and inventory. The higher this number is, the healthier the company is.

Striving to make smarter and more profitable decisions is the basis of financial success. Having an accounting system and using it to make those decisions is a great start.