Information drives communication in the workplace, and communication in turn allows all the members of the organization, from entry-level people to the CEO, to work in harmony toward accomplishing the company's goals and to maximize productivity. A company uses internal sources of information -- its own employees and managers -- as well as outside sources including customers, vendors, industry experts and the news media.
Make Better Decisions
Having more in-depth information from a variety of sources leads to better decision-making because managers gain a heightened understanding of the business environment in which the company operates. Important information when preparing the company's business plan, for example, includes sources of forecasts about the general economy and the growth of the industry. The more complete and accurate these forecasts are, the better they will guide the company's decisions about how aggressive or conservative to be with their strategies in the upcoming year.
Fill Knowledge Gaps
Everyone you work with can be a source of information. They have knowledge, training and experience that are different from your own. They can fill gaps in your own knowledge base. The most effective small-business owners know the importance of listening to all the members of their teams. A CEO is seldom a master of all functional areas of the business. Soliciting others' opinions and tapping into their experience gives you a broader perspective; you see the challenges the company faces, and the opportunities for growth available, from different angles. A finance-oriented CEO, for example, can begin to see the company from the marketing department's point of view.
A company must develop sources of information regarding trends in its industry, emerging trends in consumer taste and preferences, and demographic trends such as changes in income and age. This information is critical to the company identifying opportunities arising from these emerging trends -- new markets the company could enter, new customer groups to sell to, and potential new products or services the company could offer. Without reliable sources of information, the company is guessing about its strategic course. With the information, the company's strategies have a firm foundation in marketplace reality.
Better Understand Customers
A business owner should develop a system to gather information about customers. You can conduct formal surveys, such as sending out a survey to an email list of your customers, but you can also make it a priority for every member of your staff to ask customers how satisfied they are with the experience they have with your company and how you can better serve them. Customers are a vital source of information because in order to be successful you must tailor your products or services to precisely fit their current needs.
Spot Competitive Threats
A small business absolutely must have sources of information regarding what its major competitors are doing -- including changes in strategy, expansion plans, and new products or services they are introducing. Sometimes called competitive intelligence, this information must be collected on an ongoing basis, not just once a year, when the company's annual business plan is created. Having information about competitors allows you to devise strategies to counter actions taken by competitors that may be threats to your business before the threats negatively impact sales.