Three Keys to Finding the Gold in Your Business

Gold is certainly a hot commodity in today’s economy. Any gold you have is worth more today than it was a year ago. I’ll bet you have some gold you’re not even aware of, right there in your own business. Let’s see if we can find it. If you could make twice the income in half the time, would that be as good as gold to you?
Would that increase the value of your business? Sounds like a marketing rant, doesn’t it? Well, there are three basic underlying truths that, once learned and applied, will allow you to make more money while you work less. Here they are.

Simplify

Spend more time on goal-oriented activities, less on non-essentials. You want your daily activities to be adding value to your business and taking you closer to your goals. Block out specific time on your calendar for these activities and make sure they get done first. E-mail, telephone and personal interruptions steal a lot of time. Dedicate specific time to these tasks also; just work
hard to keep them from interfering with your goal-directed actions and time.
Tasks get simpler when they’re broken down into “baby” steps. When approaching a big or long term project, break it down into small segments that can be worked on and completed within a short time period (a few hours). You’ll gain satisfaction from completing the small task, and will be prepared to take the next step forward.

Tip: One of my clients says it’s much better to start with the easiest step first. That makes the next step seem easy too. Working through from easiest to most difficult prepares him for the level of thinking required at that point.
He said “I used to start with the hardest first, but that didn’t work very well because I was overwhelmed immediately. I had a tendency to put off working on such a project. Now I just do what’s easiest and get started.”

Assignment: Identify at least 3 activities that you know are stealing your time or are non-essential. Plan to allot X amount of time each day (30 minutes to 2 hours) to handle low-priority activities. Focus and schedule your time on activities that lead to your goals. Break them down into tasks that can be accomplished in a short period of time.

Standardize

Standardize repetitive tasks so that much of the work is already done before you start.You use standardized accounting
systems, computer operating systems and communication systems. It makes sense that the rest of your business can apply these same principles also. Let’s say you want to reduce the time you spend preparing a report for clients, which frequently can take you 5 to 7 hours. What are the underlying consistencies that you do each time you complete this task? What interchangeable modules
are appropriate for different circumstances? For each report you’ll start with the basic template and simply apply your thinking and your material where appropriate.
Any function which is repeated frequently can be simplified by identifying its core elements and organizing them to expedite the process. Same money; less time spent. What would it be worth to save 2 or 3 hours of your time on every project?

Assignment: Identify all the “routine” tasks in your business. Determine how you can standardize these tasks so that part of the work is already done each time. Templates, forms and worksheets are a good way to organize and standardize actions. They also help provide assurance that nothing gets lost or dropped.

Systematize

Approach your business as an overall operating system.Is it working at its most efficient or are there bottlenecks and gaps
that steal time and money? Consider the operating systems of your business: marketing, sales, production, delivery, communication (internal and external), customer service/support. What are the core elements in each of these? What is repeated consistently? These core elements (when refined and applied) are the real value of your business. It’s what keeps your business functioning and doing its job. When the systems are working properly you can go on vacation
and know that the work is getting done. It’s what a potential investor or buyer will value. The simpler and more streamlined the process, the faster and less expensive to achieve the result. More for you in less time.

Assignment: Identify which systems in your business are working well? Which could use some attention and refinement? Take those random ideas and actions that happen on a regular basis in your business; corral them, organize them and put them to work in one of your operating systems.

Apply these three principles to your business and I’ll bet this time next
year your business will be worth a whole lot more and your satisfaction level
will be much greater. You’ll know you’ve found gold.

Got Goals? Here’s a System to Achieve Them

Which of the following scenarios describes you?

* You have specific, defined goals for next year. You’ve quantified and are prepared to carry out a written plan of action.

* You have mental goals that you think are going to take you in the direction you want to go, but you have not been taking consistent action toward.

* You know you should set goals and be working toward them, but you’re not really clear about what you want to accomplish or even what’s realistic.

If either of the last two describes you, I predict you could be in for disappointment come the end of next year. What I’ve learned in coaching business owners is that goal achievement is something everyone knows about and wants, but frequently are at a loss Brain Exchange about how to attain. Goal setting and achievement is a process with a beginning and end point with specific interim steps in between.

The game of football offers a good analogy; always seeking the end goal, but setting and achieving short term yardage goals that eventually add up
to a touchdown.

Continue reading in my blog…

Is it time to save your business?

Save your Business?The economy is in the tank and there’s no sign of when things will get better. Some small businesses are doing well…and some are not. To do well now, or even survive, every business must review its market, its business practices and its finances. Big changes may be needed to realign the business for success in this market. And if the down economy has compounded previously existing problems, it may be time to save your business…before it’s too late.

I say before “it’s too late” because I feel really bad when I have to tell someone I can’t help them. They’ve waited too long. Sometimes it’s just too late – and there’s nothing left to work with. You don’t want to find yourself in that situation.

It’s important for business owners to identify the Warning Signs that spell trouble ahead. Unfortunately, many don’t recognize these signs early enough to take corrective action…before it’s too late.

So tell me: what is not going well for you right now? Would you answer “yes” to any of the following questions? Be honest. This is meant to help you take a hard look at your business. [Read more…]

Planning: The Roadmap to Success

Think of a plan as a map. It’s meant to be a guide. The planning process helps us focus on the “how” of what we want to accomplish. It organizes our thinking, identifies the steps and gives us tools to monitor how we’re doing.

Those who create and write plans have a much better chance of success, yet so many people don’t follow through. Why not? We may think there’s little value in spending the time to create a plan. Also, it’s unfamiliar territory and we’re not sure what we need to do. We may carry the plan in our head, but it’s always in an abstract state. We want to take it from the abstract to the next stage of realization – putting it in writing.

Let’s assume you have taken the steps that lead you to the point of needing a plan.
After you’ve decided what you’re going to do (goals) and how you’re going to do it (strategy), you’ll need to decide the specific actions that will fulfill your strategy and lead you to your goals.

How do you know what actions to take? Keeping in mind your goals and strategy, together with the business intelligence you’ve gathered and evaluated, brainstorm a number of possible actions. You might review these with key staff and advisors; then select those that seem to have the most potential to produce desired results. At this point it might be a good idea to discuss your plans with the people who would be involved in carrying out the actions. This could save you money, time and unproductive actions. [Read more…]

How to Add Innovation to Your Business

Earlier this year a client in the executive search industry told me she was beginning to see the need for executives who can bring innovation to their position. Based on her research she chose to add innovation as a practice specialty. Her article summarizing findings are on my blog at http://primestrategies.com/?p=615 .
Innovation

Doing a bit of my own research I learned there’s an amazing body of knowledge on the subject.

Innovation is certainly not a new business concept. Jack Welch, former GE leader, was known for introducing innovation into the corporate culture there. His mission was to create the world’s most competitive enterprise. One of the ways he did that was through innovation.

The goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better; to increase value in some fashion. Today’s thinking is not just about managing change; it’s about leading change.

As the leader of your business it’s up to you to set the stage for innovation.

Research the market.
Consciously be alert for new ideas that might be applied to your business. Reading what others have done (in any industry) can often trigger your thinking. Surf the internet for innovative ideas. [Read more…]

The Keys to Finding Good Help

Audrey had been looking for a Field Supervisor for months. She’d taken referrals from friends and family, posted at the colleges and on Craig’s list. So far, no one had met Audrey’s expectations. I was concerned that she would become discouraged and hire the wrong person to fill the job or would give up and continue to spend her own precious time doing the supervisor’s job. So I helped her see why she wasn’t attracting the right candidates.

The first thing she did was write out exactly what she wanted from this person. From that she created a specific and clear job description that was able to attract the right candidates. Once she posted it she finally found someone she believes will meet her expectations on the job.

The success of a small business is dependent on having good help. Without it, the business just cannot go to the next level. [Read more…]

7 Strategies to Recession-Proof Your Business

We don’t yet have confirmation that we’re in a recession, but the media are certainly leading us to believe it’s imminent. I’ve spoken with a number of small businesses who are already starting to feel a slowdown.

That tells me every small business needs to take a hard look at the status of their business to make sure it can withstand a downturn. The secret is to have your Plan address spots where you may be vulnerable. Prevention n0w definitely beats fixing things after they become difficult to turn around.

Following are top strategies for weathering a downturn. They are actually good business practices in any economy.

1. Get your house in order.

Start by solving as many problems as possible n0w. Unresolved problems hurt even more in difficult times. Get your cash under control. Choose strategies that conserve and manage it. If you need help, get it ASAP. [Read more…]

Are You Operating From: IF or WHEN?

“The more clear and definite you make your picture, and the more you dwell upon it, bringing out all its delightful details, the stronger your desire will be. And the stronger your desire, the easier it will be to hold your mind fixed upon the picture of what you want.”
Wallace D. Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich (first published in 1910)

IF or WHEN? Two little words that mean so much. IF implies an uncertainty as to whether or not something will happen. WHEN implies it will definitely happen, it’s just a matter of timing.

When we’re operating in IF, we’re not committed. We’re still questioning, “can I reach my goal?” There’s no forward movement and it may actually feel like we’re going around in circles.

When we’re operating in WHEN we’ve made the decision to reach our goal. It’s just a matter of WHEN. We may not know exactly how we’ll get what we want, but the fact of having made the decision removes any doubt that it will happen. The “how” will come much easier because all future decisions will be taking us in the direction of our goal. [Read more…]

Business Reinvention: A Surprising Case Study

Business reinvention can happen for economic reasons, or to take advantage of new technology, or to reposition the business in the market. It can also happen organically, from life changes, as it did for Genece Hamby, a former packaging and branding specialist who reinvented her business as a digital artist and poet with a branded line of art and gift products.

I share Genece’s story with you because I think you’ll be inspired and encouraged as you consider the reinvention of your own business. Her story is a prime example of how life circumstances, when seeming to be negative, can actually help us to find and use inherent strengths and passions we can apply to our business.

Genece began her career in sales and technology, which later evolved into package and conceptual design. Using what she had learned about “branding” in her 30 year career, she became one of three initiators in the world of the “personal branding” concept in 2001.

Personal Branding DNA (what is Distinct, Notable and Authentic about you) was a 12 week intensive personal branding program focused on building a solid individual brand from the inside out. Genece enjoyed contributing to the development and success of her clients and individuals certified in her methodology throughout the world (Australia still remains a leader in Personal Branding DNA). Although her business seemed a success, her personal life was undergoing some critical changes that would cause her to reinvent her business in a surprising way. [Read more…]

Critical Success Factors

For the December 1999 issue of Small Business Leader I wrote an article called “Critical Success Factors for 2000”. In reading it over this week I realized the same success factors are true for 2008, so I decided to share it with you again. I’ve made minor updates, but the essence and factors are the same.

Each business has its own unique combination of critical success factors, but some are important for all businesses. Here’s my list for the year 2008.

1 – Identify and implement the technology needed to support your business and its growth.

Technology has evolved dramatically since 2000, and it’s needed even more today. You can’t afford to ignore technology. It can reduce manpower needs, increase efficiency, reduce overall costs and create the means to reach new markets, add new products and significantly improve your bottom line. The key is to know the technology that makes a difference for your business. Be careful not to take on technology for its own sake.

2 – Use the skills and resources of others to open growth opportunities and provide support outside the core mission of your business.

The virtual nature of today’s business means that you can tap into resources that previously would have to be purchased through capital expenditure, employee commitments or long-term arrangements. What you can’t provide through core capabilities can probably be better and more efficiently provided through strategic alliances where each alliance partner realizes a benefit from working together. [Read more…]