You may have heard the saying, “Knowledge is power,” and nowhere is this more true than in business. Accurate and timely information can make or break a business, affecting your ability to plan, make, sell and react to changes in the marketplace. Creating information resources you use on a regular basis will help keep you current and avoid missing problems until they are too late.

Sales Data

Sales data is the lifeblood of any organization. Detailed sales information includes more than total numbers. Analyze your sales by product, margins, geography, sales reps, distribution channels and length of time it takes to sell specific items. This information can help you determine what products you should drop, promote more or modify. You might find that certain sales reps or retail outlets are hurting or helping your business. Keep up-to-date, detailed sales data at your fingertips.

Financial Information

Financial information resources include bank, credit card and investment statements, budgets, profit and loss statements, ledgers, balance sheets and other reports related to your finances. The more detailed your budgets, the better you can respond to overspending or take advantage of opportunities presented by excess profits. Split your expenses into operating and overhead expenses to determine the costs of creating and selling products.

Website Statistics

Website stats provide myriad information about your customers, products and web pages. The quantity of visitors you have to your site is not valuable information if you don’t know who they are, what they are searching for and who is buying what. Add website stat programs to your pages and analyze this valuable information on a weekly or monthly basis.

Industry Reports

Many industries and professions have trade associations that conduct ongoing research and disseminate this information to businesses. Look for reports that provide information on recent trends, future market projections, consumer trends and government, climate, commodity, materials or other reports that can affect your operating costs.

Customer Feedback

Your customers and clients should be key sources of information for you. Integrate surveys, focus groups and other customer feedback programs into your operating plan. Use phone, online and mail surveys to gather and analyze data. Research industry sales by customer type using figures provided by government agencies, business analysts and nonprofit trade associations.

Internal Data

Hold monthly meetings with your department heads and require regular reports from each department to provide you with information that keeps you abreast of any improvements, problems or potential changes your staff believe are important. Share information among all departments to ensure they use this information to understand how they affect the rest of the company.