Monday, October 29, 2012

Preparing a Business Plan - Components of a Business Strategy

Who do you want to help or serve with your business? What issue or problem does your product or service solve? What is the composite of the profile of the members of your target audience? What do these questions have to do with business planning?

In Starting to Plan

All of the above questions need to be answered directly or indirectly in some part of the plan that identifies your business strategy. At some point, the plan needs to be as detailed as possible and written even if it is not written initially. A record needs to be made of ideas that are attempted that were unsuccessful because of market timing or lack of resources.

Start a checklist that is expanded from the executive summary draft. On the checklist, make sure that you include information that is needed for funding sources. Information needed for making decisions for starting, developing and growing the business should also be included. "As texts that represent a given organization's strat­egy, strategic plans are of course specific to that organization, and yet the notion has a generic quality that draws on shared institutional understandings of what such a text should include (its substance), how it should be structured (its form) and what it is intended to achieve (its communicative purposes)" (Cornut, Giroux & Langley, 2012, 22). Keep in mind that time spent in business planning could make the difference between a successful business venture and one the struggles and eventually fails. Be prepared to do research to find needed information. Remember if all you do is copy what everyone else is doing you may risk ending up with only the level of success of everyone else.

Identify the personal brand of the CEO in order to insure that it is in line with the business brand. The vision and mission should show its relationship to the target market in the marketing message that is cohesive on the web and in printed materials like mailing pieces, letterhead and business cards.

Plan Inclusions

The master copy of the business plan will include information and sections that may not be contain in other versions for some audiences. The purpose of having a plan that includes everything is to create a resource to be shared with specific audiences for specific purposes at the appropriate time. There may be a risk in sharing the entire plan to the wrong audience. Therefore, it will be necessary to cut some of the information out of the plan according to the audience for which it is intended.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The One Mistake That Is Stopping You From Being Successful

In this day and time where there is so much information around, I rarely go to a meeting where I don't hear people say these two words, "I know". Most of us know a lot, but what is amazing is how much we know, but how little we actually implement.

For instance, we know that if we don't take care of our bodies they won't last, we know that if we don't exercise we may not have good health. We know if we don't work our businesses there is a good chance they might fail. For most of us, it is not the knowing that's the problem it's the doing.

Most of us have really good reasons for not doing what we need to do, we're busy, we've got a lot on our plate, etc. We know we need to get it done, but we just haven't made the time. Many people have the same challenges my clients have they know what to do they just aren't doing it.

What I've found in my own life, as well as those who I serve is there is never a perfect time or a good time, there is only the time we make. Most of us had to get started in the most inopportune times, after a job loss, sickness, during times of uncertainty. The only thing that was clear was that we knew we had to get moving. The cash flow won't ever be perfect. The time won't ever be clear. The budget may never line up. Yet the right time for each of us is now!

What's required?
We have to take the bull by the horn and move. Progress requires stretching it requires us to become uncomfortable, and make changes. If we're waiting for the right time, we will be waiting forever. Most people find that they are able to move forward not when things are perfect, but when they make the decision to move. They don't wait around for the right time to come they create the right time.

The biggest change we must make is the change in our thinking.
We must be willing to believe the unthinkable, to do the unbelievable, and to trust that everything will work out. If we don't, we will be stuck at the status quo, where nothing moves and everything stays the same.

Leaders make changes they think ahead and then go forward. They have to think about what could happen, but they plan for both the ideal and the realistic. Leaders know what they should do, and then they actually go and do it! How does this compare to your thinking?

The kind of choices we have to make.
We have to be willing to make decisions that make sense, not just short-term, but long-term, as well.We may not want to do something right now, but in order to move forward we have to do it whether we want to or not. Short-term thinking allows us to stay in the same place, it makes us think everything will be fine if we hold off, there is always tomorrow, etc. Short-term thinking is detrimental, and it is one of the most difficult things for most people to stop doing, because it is comfortable. Short-term thinking causes long-term problems. If you are going to be successful long-term, you are going to have to trade in those habits for some that are more productive.

Here are three steps you can take, to move from knowing to doing.
1. Be willing to change your thinking! Is your thinking accurate or based on assumptions and limitations? You need to analyze you thoughts, some of us have spent too much time worrying about what's happening around us, and we've allowed it to shape our future. Things change, so you can't look at a situation based solely on the past and get caught up in the reality that it will ultimately become the future. If any of those factors change, there's a good chance that the outcome will change, as well.  When you change your response, you create a different outcome.

2. Make your motto, if there's a will there's a way. I've seen people close so many doors because they don't know how this could work out. Program your brain for the possible and not the impossible of life.  Yes, it's true that things might not go according to your plan, but that doesn't mean they won't work.Look at every situation knowing there may be an option, you haven't considered. Review every solution, and look for alternate ways to get what you want. Start your brain off with an exercise like this, "I'm not really sure how but I know that there's a way to do this, I just haven't thought of yet". When you start your thought process out that way you give yourself options, and you give your brain a chance to look things creatively. It gives you a chance to think up options that could work, instead of focusing on the 1000 options that won't.

3. Be willing to take some risks. Ultimately when we move from knowing to doing, we have to be willing to take some risks, and we move forward because some of the risks we took, paid off. If we do things the way we've always done them, there is no chance for an alternate opportunity to open up. We have to believe that there is always something that we have not considered, or may not of seen.Growth requires us to open up our mind to the possibility that there is another way and that we can find that way if we look for it. A lot of amazing companies exist today because they believed there was a different way to get things done, and then they worked until they found it. Believe that somewhere inside of you is the solution, and you can discover it, if you are willing to work diligently until you find it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How Has the "Great Recession" Impacted Your Company?

When the economy goes through the tough times it has recently, a number of things start to change both inside and outside your company. First, review your strategic plan, to account for the changing business conditions. As a part of this, you look around to see what can be trimmed without harming your service levels and your products. Next you look to see what technologies can replace your current processes and people, and if it is affordable at a time when you are tightening your belt and not spending money unless there is excellent justification for doing so.

You make every effort to do more with less, as is everyone else. Maybe you do less promotion, go to fewer trade exhibitions and shows, cut your advertising budget, send one person on a sales call when in the past you might have sent two.

But what effects will these changes have on your culture and processes going forward, once the recession is behind us, and the economy is more robust?

Will you continue to be thrifty, as you are now with the recession so close behind us? Will your prior habits take over again, or will you continue your closely controlled ways? Good questions, and only you and your people can answer them for your company.

Are there some longer term effects which may remain with you for the foreseeable future? For example, one possible effect of your tightened control on expenditures may have had both short term benefits and longer term impacts which may or may not be favorable to your company.

The short term benefits are usually pretty obvious: Better utilization of cash, more people contributing to the effectiveness of your company by working additional hours, taking on additional responsibilities, doing more with less, etc.

But at what price for the long term? How have your company's relationships with customers been changed? Has this been for the better, or is there a negative impact possible if you do not go back to more personal contact? How has technology impacted these relationships? Are your customers willing to accept less personal contact during the slow times, but expecting to increase that type of contact when things improve?

Do your customers like the effects of technology, or are they merely putting up with it during the slow times because they know everyone is keeping a tight rein on expenses? What will be the longer term use of technology that will help your relationships with your customers?

Inevitably, some will do just fine with the new levels of contact, less personal and remote. Others will want to resume the more intimate, personal service that they enjoyed prior to the recession, and will resent not getting it if you do not respond to their needs as they were used to having them met.

Your challenge is to determine what each customer needs and to meet those needs. And, don't expect them to tell you without your probing to find out. If you don't change to fulfill their expectations, they may drift away, and you may suffer because of your insensitivity to their preferred mode of communication. We suggest you work with your people to help them determine the best way to communicate with each individual contact so you meet their needs and preferences for communication, both formal and informal, so you nurture the relationships. Your business will be healthier for it, and so will your customers' businesses.