15 Nov 2016
Order! Order! How an order book can help keep your business in line
Written by Doug D'Aubrey

Some may think it’s an outdated practice, but keeping your order book in order can really help you keep your business in check.  It may be seen as an ‘old way’ of doing things, but my argument has always been – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

On my initial visits to clients, I often hear they have no order book system in place.  Very much like the sales board I advocate for tracking your sales pipeline, an order book is essential to track and plan your operational delivery.

Whilst updating the order book is still seen as an essential process in the manufacturing industry, to keep a check on how much output you need through the production line each month to fulfil your orders, it is often overlooked in the service industries.  Keeping an order book, however, is a useful tool in any business.

Here are just some of the ways it can help you:

1 – Scheduling client work
One of the worst things you can do with client work is over-promise and under-deliver.  This often happens when we set unrealistic deadlines for completion of client work – and are left struggling to fulfil orders as promised.  But there really is no excuse for mis-scheduling!  An order book allows you to check your current workload in any given month, so you can schedule new orders around it.

2 – To do list
An order book will help you plan your task sheet, or to do list.  Let’s face it, if you have no easy way to see at a glance what jobs you have on your books each month – how are you going to plan the delivery of the work?  Instead of writing a day-to-day to do list, and risk missing tasks in the process, an order book will help you plan your work production in advance.

3 – Forecasting cash flow
An order book helps you predict your company’s income – a necessity to ensure you have enough work to sustain you.  It allows you to see exactly how much you should be able to invoice in any given month.  As long as you understand your break-even figures, you can work out whether you are meeting that as a minimum each month.

4 – Marketing and sales activity
A glance at your order book will tell you in an instant where you need to focus your marketing and sales activity.  You might find you’re stacked out with work for the next three months, but then have nothing – or you’ve pre-booked loads of work for three months time, but have nothing now.  Use this information to focus your marketing and sales activity.  Run a marketing campaign that encourages orders in your quiet months, maybe running a short-term offer, or prioritise the sales calls you think will bring work in when it is needed most.

5 – Invoicing
Your monthly invoicing will be so much easier if you have a record of work completed each month.  When work is signed off as delivered successfully, mark your order as complete in your order book and date it.  This then becomes your working document to charge clients for finished projects.

These are my top five reasons, but I’m certain that once you start using an order book system, you will discover many more benefits.

Doug’s book ‘Getting Down to Business’ includes a more in-depth look at how to set up and maintain an order book – as well as covering other essentials of business success. Buy it here now!