National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Business reporting and planning
The World Series is over. Football season is going strong and basketball is in full swing. I love this time of year. After going through many days of extremely hot weather, the cooling down is greatly appreciated. Do not eat too much turkey, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Sometimes running a business is like going to the bathroom. You are never finished until the paperwork is done. I received a question regarding that subject. I mean paperwork, not the other.
The question was, “What sales records should I keep?”
On a weekly basis, I kept the following records: marked in dollars by department, collected dollars by department, cash drawer over or under, number of orders by department, number of pieces by department, accounts receivable, accounts payable, number of new customers, and total number of customers in my database.
This is a very extensive report. However, you have to remember the records were for five routes and two brick and mortar locations with a very high annual sales volume in the millions. Every Monday afternoon I had a complete picture of what happened in my company the previous week.
You can go report-crazy so you have to consider what is important to you in the management of your business.
Perhaps a report like this would suffice if you complete it once a month. Perhaps you do not care about any reports and you just worry about how much money you take home.
The difference between those two companies — the one with reports and the one without reports — is the difference between a being a businessperson and someone who buys himself a job.
Another report I used was particular to routes. It included the starting mileage on the vehicle and ending mileage, the number of stops, the number of dollars delivered, and the addition or loss of any customer.
As I wrote, you can go report-crazy. I know, because I had many other reports.
The next question was from a person who made the following inquiry, “Why do I need a business plan?”
A 2013 business plan
Because the new year is rapidly approaching, I am going to suggest something very simple for any businessperson who does not currently have a business plan.
Before you start on your business plan for 2013, consider what you want in your life. Your life goals are more important than anything else. Your company should help you achieve your life goals. That means a balance between your business and living your life the way you want.
Look at these areas of your life: your family and home; your finances; your ethics; and your physical and mental health. If all of those are in balance, you are ready to start your business plan.
Step number one. Consider what you want your business to be like in the coming year. Attempt to visualize the perfect business and then think about your business being like that. Let your imagination take hold and enjoy this thought process. No negative thoughts are allowed. Remember, this is your vision of what your company would be like if it was like your dream.
Step number two. If you had goals for the prior year, did you meet them? If you did, I congratulate you. Chances are slim that you did, unless you had a written business plan.
Step number three. Determine what objectives you want to focus on for the coming year. Do you want a marketing plan? Do you want to increase your relationship with retailers? Do you want to focus on increasing your profits? Do you want to improve your website? There are many more to choose from. Write down the two you want to consider your main objectives for 2013.
Step number four. Create quarterly goals to fulfill your two objectives for the coming year. An example could be to increase the number of new customers in 2013. Your first goal could be 30 new customers per week in the first quarter. For the second quarter, you might set the goal of optimizing your website for search engines.
Set goals for each of the four quarters.
Step number five. Break down those quarterly goals into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. If you can do this on a quarterly basis, you have the foundation of an action plan.
Go to your friendly computer and make a list of those tasks. After you complete those tasks, check them off your list. Organize everything in a folder or notebook so you can find all the tools you need to accomplish your goals.
This five-step program should not overwhelm you. All you are doing is creating two themes and breaking them down into quarterly goals. Then you are taking those quarterly goals and breaking them down further so the accomplishment of your quarterly goal becomes easier. Other names for this kind of effort are strategic planning or learning to crawl before you start to walk.
If you find you are failing at doing these things, you need additional help. Consider contacting a friend in the industry. Consider joining a trade association and making new friends. If you cannot do any of those things, you can hire me to assist you in becoming a businessperson.
The bottom line regarding business plans is what Zig Ziglar said: “You need a plan to build a house. To build a life, it is even more important to have a plan or goal.”
If you do not know who Zig Ziglar is, use your friendly search engine.

Harvey Gershenson operates Sterling Drycleaning Consulting and is a former owner of Sterling Dry Cleaners. A second-generation drycleaner, he has been in the industry since he was in high school. He has served as president of the Cleaners and Dyers Guild of Los Angeles and has served on the boards of directors of the Drycleaning and Laundry Institute and the California Cleaners Association. He is also a guest lecturer for the California Department of Corrections. He can be reached by e-mail at or phone at (310) 261-2623. His web site is