With the offices in good shape, Zuniga turned his attention to cash flow and asked Lista and her office manager, Maria Reyes, to dive into their finances. And this, as with many small businesses, is where problems began.
Zuniga found that Lista and Reyes managed the books enough to pay bills, but not much more. Lista knew expenses had risen with the cost of medicine, but hadnt plotted it out. A year-to-year comparison he requested didnt even list the same items.
I dont have a grip on the financials, she conceded, sheepishly admitting that she usually hands off the days revenues to her mother to deposit because she was more focused on the medical side of her practice.
The object here is not to get you to be a financial expert, Zuniga said. The object is to get you to look at your business and say, for example, Im spending too much on medical supplies.
Zuniga advised Lista to step back and make a serious decision about what she wanted from her business. Is she happy with its current size? If so, he suggested looking at costs to increase revenue. But if she wants to grow it, then shell need to focus more heavily on marketing.
Getting the cash flow under control is key for any business. But for a small business its really key, Zuniga said. Youre mostly concerned with the health of the pet, he explained to Lista, but this is still a business.
Over the course of the makeover, Lista considered sending Reyes to one of SCOREs tutorials on QuickBooks. But ultimately she decided to hire a bookkeeper who will visit the office weekly to organize and maintain her accounts and provide a regular revenue report.
Zuniga was relieved. It will release you from a lot of non-essential work, he explained.
Lista also decided to work on expanding her online presence, a valuable and virtually free marketing tool for small businesses. We want a really dynamic website that will show up in the right places, she said.
Zuniga explained that typically in the corporate world, businesses spend five to 10 percent of their revenue on marketing, including Internet marketing.
But it depends on your business. Proctor & Gamble sells vitamins by ads, but in your business, you dont have to spend more than 5 percent of revenues. The key is where you advertise.
Lista had been spending about $39 a month for a canned website format that provided information about her, the clinic, pictures of patients and other details about services. But she decided to hire a website developer to make the site more dynamic with an online pharmacy and other tools that allow customers to order medicine, access forms and reserve boarding space.
And while the practice has a Facebook page, Lista plans to make more use of it by doing things like posting pictures and videos of patients that she hopes will generate interest from customers who then share or like the postings. She has also signed on to Yelp and Angies List.
Zuniga warned her that once the website and other sites are created, they must be maintained, particularly her website.
Its a living document, he said.
Lista explained that in addition to marketing, she really wants to provide as much information as possible to clients.