An operations HEALTH checklist for SMEs
As a business-owner, your time is constantly stretched between good corporate governance, securing revenue and funding, and (if you’re lucky!) having a personal life.
Making sure that you have the funds to cover your outgoings is crucial to keeping your business solvent, but ignoring the less glamorous operational tasks can lead to time-consuming and costly consequences.
Here we have made a list of the basic operational HEALTH checks that all UK companies should perform regularly to ensure that your business is operating at peak performance.
H is for House-keeping
Before jumping into your operational health-check, make sure to:
- Make a plan! Project manage your health-check by listing out the tasks and assigning an owner and time-frame for each task
- Consult your team during the planning stage to ensure no tasks have been neglected
- Dedicate time for this process to ensure your team has capacity to complete these tasks alongside their day-to-day work
- Make time for a retrospective. Once all of the tasks are complete, ensure to have a meeting where you can evaluate the success of the process. What could have been done better? What improvements can be made for next time?
- Decide how often you need to execute these health-checks and put in a reminder to schedule the next operational health-check
E is for Equity
You should have all documentation related to your shareholding stored securely and accessible. This should include:
- Share certificates
- Articles of Association
Keeping your cap table up-to-date
It’s important to at all times understand who owns what shares in your company. This is typically represented in a capitalisation table (known as a ‘cap table’) which visually displays the names of shareholders and the number of and terms associated with their shares.
Not agreeing and finalising this early on can lead to an increase in the amount of tax owed, disputes with your shareholders, and a very painful and expensive legal process to remedy the mistake.
This should be a simple task, but many companies find managing their cap table to be an administrative headache, with 63% of UK SMEs stating that cap table issues have “impaired their ability to run the company” and issues managing equity have caused a large percentage of companies to lose out on vital funding, experience delays in projects, or limited their company’s growth (source).
Keeping your investors happy and informed
Ensure that you have a system or process for keeping your investors updated in a consistent and informative manner. How is their investment performing? What information do they need and want to know?
Trial QCap (for free!) to automate the management of your cap table, equity documentation, and investor communications.
A is for Access Control
One of the most common conflicts in business is striking an appropriate balance between security and accessibility.
Consider creating a physical or virtual “Battle Box”, including all your most important corporate documents. Start by making an inventory of all your most important information and documentation. Here is a list to get you started:
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Company number
- Registered office address
- Memorandum of Association
- Articles of Association
- Companies House login details
- Government Gateway (HMRC) login details
- Corporation Tax Number
- Employer Reference Number
- SIC Code
- Bank account details
- Business licence (if applicable)
- Trade mark or intellectual property documentation (if applicable)
- Board Meeting Minutes
- Brand assets – logo, artwork and graphics, font and typefaces, brand colours
- Branded template documents – NDAs, employment contracts
- Client documentation – NDAs, agreements/contracts
- A list of the systems you use (see below Technology)
- Insurance – there are many options that you may require as a business
There are some helpful solutions out there, such as Deputi that can assist you by automating the process of storing your business’ most important information.
Once you’ve assembled your Battle Box, you can review each of your key documents, applications, services, and solutions.
- Are there any key-person dependencies? You should consider having at least two administrators to de-risk the chance of an admin being incapacitated, resulting in a disaster recovery situation. source
- How securely protected is this information? Are you using two-factor authentication? What happens if the two-factor authentication device fails or is lost?
- How do you ensure your employees abide by your policies around physical and digital security?
You should also consider your building access.
- Do you need to have a presence on site to collect mail, facilitate deliveries, or maintain the operation of your business?
- Do third party services such as cleaners, utility staff, or emergency repairs still need access?
- Do you have remote access to building control (door access, etc.)?
- Do you have a security solution that you can remotely access or has a third party service provider to facilitate cover?
L is for Liquidity
Ensuring that you have a solid understanding of your assets – liquid or illiquid – is crucial for making strategic decisions as a company.
If you are using accounting software, this should be relatively easy. If you are still handling your finances manually then seriously consider the range of free and paid options available to you. Dedicate some time to setting your accounting software up properly to get your money’s worth – there are plenty of instructional resources available to guide you through the process. Ensure you understand how to use each of the features and dedicate man hours every month to keeping this system up-to-date. You may also want to consider using other services alongside your accounting software to outsource tasks such as receipt scanning and bookkeeping, inventory management, payment processing, payroll, CRM, and time tracking. Before deciding on an application, make sure that they integrate with your chosen accounting software (for example, see Xero’s App Marketplace).
Start by recording all company assets into tangible assets – split into fixed assets: property, equipment, vehicles, furniture, and current assets: cash and inventory – and intangible assets, e.g. patents, copyrights, and your company’s brand; see Investopedia’s summary of asset classes for more information on asset types and how you can add additional detail to these assets through depreciation and amortisation.
As you record these assets, consider whether you need to add information that can identify each asset uniquely, such as a device number. This can be helpful to have when setting up insurance for your company’s assets and ensuring you know where all devices are at any time.
Once you have this information recorded, you can start generating reports and most importantly your balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow – allowing you to understand if you are generating revenue and better establish where savings can be made.
T is for technology
The technology you use is fundamental to how efficient you can be as a team. By starting with an efficient, interoperable, and easily adjusted suite of softwares and hardwares, you can future-proof against the painful retrofitting of new technologies and processes.
First, take an inventory of all of the software that you use as a company – this is likely to include cloud document storage, payroll, HR, recruitment, office management, communication (internally, externally, marketing), banking, accounting, etc..
Do they fulfil the efficiency qualifiers as shown in the diagram below (source). Are there alternative solutions out there that would perform better for your needs and resources?
Are there pre-existing integrations between them that you can leverage to reduce your manual engagement with them?
- Are you using consistent labelling across all technology platforms, e.g. project codes, dating, tracking progress?
- Consider where your data is stored. Are users remotely accessing your servers/cloud services and saving their data or saving locally?
- How do you remotely manage your company devices should one become lost or stolen? If you have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, do you have adequate controls to remotely lockdown your data and can you ensure that users have the required level of security (using two factor authentication (2FA), for example)?
- If your operation relies on your own IT infrastructure, do you have enough skilled resources to maintain your systems? Can they gain access to remediate issues and do you have the correct level of service from the OEM to support hardware replacements (and installation) coupled with technical support?
- If you host your solutions, website, or data via a cloud solution, have you considered whether you need to backup and/or replicate your data?
- How often do you review your services, application and contracts to see what you really need can be key in helping you manage operation?
- Categorise all the services and applications based on how necessary they are to your business.
- For each of your applications, services and contracts, are you getting value for money? What is the usage of said services? Is there room to review these and potentially change the subscription to match your business requirements? Many online services now automatically adjust your tier based on fair usage, this is a quick way of reducing your managerial overhead but do take care to ensure you are aware of when the costs change as they may be going up rather than down!
- Do these technologies keep you up-to-date with key calendar events? For example, when are the terms of a contract up, when a trial period ends, horizon scanning for regulatory change, when you are due to report to the government or key stakeholders.
H is for HR
The backbone of any healthy team is your Employee Handbook. This is the behaviour bible for your employees, so getting the content right is fundamental to ensuring your team understands how you want them to conduct themselves while working at your company. If you do not have one of these or think it needs updating, take a look at this guide on how to build your own employee handbook. It should clearly detail your policies and procedures (including employee reviews, disciplinary proceedings, contract reviews, staff health and wellbeing, benefits and perks, working from home and flexible working, leave – annual, sick, parental, etc.). Ensure it is accessible, clear, and kept up-to-date with your needs and the regulations and guidance laid out by the UK Government.
Equally important is to ensure that you have all employee-related documentation stored in line with regulatory standards, such as GDPR. This includes but is not limited to P45s, P60s, right-to-work checks, employment contracts and contractor agreements, visa documentation, employee share schemes – see the Equity section above.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list and is not specific to any industry, this article should provide any UK SME with the basics to start your own health-check procedure.
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Please note that this article and all content posted on this domain is intended to inform rather than advise. As such, it should not be construed as financial, legal, or tax advice.