How to Get the Results You Want!

One of the greatest enemies of getting the results you want is disorganized thinking and unfocused actions. Look at the image on the left.

What do you see?  Disorganized thinking and unfocused actions. When operating in this mode, there’s lots of activity, but little is accomplished.

To get the results you want, those assets and actions have to be aligned and directed, like the image on the right. Look at the strength and power these two elements add.

Entrepreneurs tend to have lots of good ideas, usually function at high energy and are often impulsive. But what has the potential for a solid business often falls apart for lack of organization, structure, focus and direction. Actions are frequently taken haphazardly and sporadic without a goal or a plan.

The objective is to align assets and actions so they all go in the same direction – toward your goals. The sequence of steps is to identify and organize your assets (the value you provide to the marketplace), create a clear message and then strategically plan and take calculated, directed actions designed to lead to your goals.

In order to get the Results you want, you must align your Goals, your Strategy, your Plan and your Actions. Actions implement the Plan, which carries out the Strategy, which leads to your Goals. Therefore, Actions ultimately should lead to Goals. To the extent that Results match Goals, your Actions have been on-target and successful.

Answer the following questions to begin organizing and structuring a framework that will get you on track toward producing the Results you want.

Goals:

What results do you want from your efforts?

Total Revenue?

Sell X Number of products/services?

Generate X% revenue from New Market?

Strategy:

How do you plan to achieve your goals?

Identify and develop an untapped market?

Redefine our brand for New Market?

Plan:

What are the specific tasks to be accomplished? Who is responsible? When does each need to be done?

Actions:

When do you need to start and complete these tasks?  What is the sequence? What is the timeframe for each?

Results:

What are the measurable outcomes from your Plan and Actions?

Compare actual Total Revenue to Revenue Goal

Compare actual Number of products/services sold by target date to Product Goal.

Compare actual percent of Total Revenue from New Market

How close are the Results to the Goals? What succeeded; what didn’t? Each time you repeat the process, you get better at producing the Results you want.

Let’s look at a case in point.

With a background in retail merchandising, Jennifer started her business by purchasing quality overruns from women’s plus size manufacturers and opened a small store near another retailer of plus size clothing. Her intent was to capture some of the traffic attracted by the other store. She took out expensive ads in local papers and the yellow pages, but after six months still wasn’t getting the traffic or the sales she had hoped for. She wasn’t even covering her expenses. She knew she had a product that was needed and desired by her target market; she just wasn’t bringing in enough business.

Of course, Jennifer didn’t really have Goals, a Strategy or a Plan. Her actions were sporadic and without research. She was feeling very frustrated and considering giving up when she made the decision to organize her thinking and focus her actions.

To help organize her thinking she created a Market Research campaign and learned where and how her target market could be reached. Based on this research she created a marketing campaign that included specific, measurable Goals, a Strategy and Plan and specific Actions to carry out the Plan. Here is an excerpted picture of her process.

Goals: (for one year period)

1 – $2,500,000 in revenue

2 – A customer database of 10,000 and 20,000 transactions at an average sale of $125.

Strategy (excerpt from Marketing Plan)

1 a)  Create incentive for existing customers to bring or refer a friend.

   b)  Add online catalog.

2 a)  Hold fashion show and invite the press.

   b)  Capture customer info, including e-mail address and send monthly promos.

Plan:

1 a)  Offer high end accessory item for one referral, 10% discount on merchandise for second referral.

   b)  Use existing online catalog service and start with top 20% of items in each category (to test online market)

2 a)  Select show date, assign coordinator and write plan for show (to include online show).

   b)  Offer raffle of high end accessory in exchange for attendee/visitor info.

Actions:

1 a) Jennifer selected incentive item, ordered enough for marketing purposes, wrote and sent an introductory promotion to a targeted e-mailing list and existing customers. The incentive promotion was added to all marketing materials and promo coupons.

   b)  Jennifer directed research to find a suitable online catalog. Upon selection, she hired a web designer to design the page layout and a developer to set up the shopping cart and manage the site.

2  a)  Jennifer assigned the Assistant Manager the job of coordinating the fashion show, which took place in the early Spring, prior to the Easter Holiday. The show plan included both an in-store and online fashion show of featured items.

   b)  Coordinator developed a data gathering form and had it created in print (for in-store) and online. Database was updated to capture info being gathered.

Results:

1 a) Total revenue the first year was just under $2,000,000. (80% of Goal)

   b) Total number of customers in the database was 9,800 (98% of Goal) with 15,500 transactions (78% of Goal) and average sale of $129. (103% of Goal)

2 a) The fashion shows (using customers as models) received some media attention and produced 380 transactions at an average sale of $115.. A fall fashion show using the same format produced 300 transactions at an average sale of $128.

   b) E-mail promotions using the customer database attracted increased web traffic to the catalog. 60,000 visitors produced 1,650 transactions and 280 new customers. 11% of revenue came from online sales.

Conclusions:

Revenue results were 80% of Goal. Part of the shortfall was attributed to the fact that the online catalog took longer to develop than planned. Catalog revenue (11%) was less than expected. Average sale tended to be very close to target, so this can be used as a good gauge for future revenue projections. With early positive results from the online catalog, expansion of the catalog items and the overall product line should offer potential for additional revenue.

Jennifer was able to get her business on a solid footing with strategies and plans that she knew could produce the Results she wanted.

You, too, can organize your thinking and focus your actions to get the Results you want. Let’s schedule a complimentary phone conversation to talk about your business, your situation and what you’d like to accomplish.

The Last Step Before Making a Decision

Are you searching for new ideas? Hoping to find something that will boost your business? Or maybe you’re at the point of considering known options, needing to make a decision soon.

We get caught up in the day-to-day and become ingrained in the culture of our business and our industry. It can be difficult to see beyond what we know. Of course, it’s critical to do your research and analyze possibilities. There is, however, another step we often overlook or dismiss because it’s not academic or scientific. After gathering all the pertinent information and analyzing the options, the next step is to remove yourself from the situation and environment and allow your mind to relax. From that place you can get a sense of how you “feel” about the choice you are about to make.

Business descision on a starry night.Those who have spent long periods of time on the sea say that time alone on the deck on a starry, moonlit night is a great place and time to allow the mind to wander. If you’re a business captain, without access to the real ship deck, the next best thing is to find a place where you can be alone, have the time to relax, and feel inspired by the environment. It might be as simple as the deck on your home or apartment, in the woods, or at the beach. The key is to be alone so you can relax your body and mind. Your objective is to relax and become as mindless as possible. No thoughts about anything. Some might call it a meditation.

To prepare for this time alone, think about the options before you. Ask yourself if there might be another option that you hadn’t thought of before? Ask if the decision you are about to make “feels” right. Then go to be alone for at least an hour. Just open your mind to your environment, relax and see what happens.

I talk a lot about structure, systems and analysis. That’s what the Prime Strategies are mostly about. These are definitely important aspects of any business. But for new ideas or making decisions, allowing your subconscious, your intuition, to kick in can produce some amazing results. If you don’t feel that an option is right, don’t go with it even if the analysis says it’s right.

Before I make any important business decision, I give myself time to look at all possibilities, then check to see how it feels. Checking with your gut is a wise step before finalizing any decision.

This technique works for finding new ideas and resolving problems as well as making decisions. In the Prime Strategies Captains School training, you will learn how to use this technique in your business development and decision-making activities. Once you learn to use it you’ll never be without it again.

Seeking Buried Treasure

Business treasure chestHistory and myth abound on the many buried treasures to be found deep in the seas of the planet. If you knew you were on a course that would take you close to where treasure is supposedly buried, would you try to find it? You probably would not because you have a mission to fulfill. But I would encourage you to pursue it because it could be the key to future fortune.

The buried treasure I suggest entrepreneurs seek is their own “buried” personal assets, and apply them to their business. Not only do I offer ways to identify skills, passions, talents and personality, I offer techniques to uncover qualities that may have been put under wraps because they weren’t acceptable, weren’t good enough or they wouldn’t provide a livelihood. The reward of recovering and putting our buried treasure to good use is life becomes much more fun and success comes with minimal struggle.

The first step is to recognize and assess our personal assets. Some of these are easy to find, but most of us have assets we’ve long forgotten. These are the “buried treasures” that will pop to the surface with a little prodding. Directed prodding is what I do. The problem with not retrieving these treasures is they will rear up their wayward heads somewhere down the road to stop us from having what we want. We must not only identify, we must claim and honor our assets or they will haunt us until we do.

The approach I take is designed to clear away old cobwebs before trying to move forward. Most of us have behaviors that were developed in childhood because they produced an acceptable result out of a state of chaos. Unfortunately, these are defense mechanisms – reactive, not proactive. They don’t serve us very well in realizing success and happiness. While not delving into analysis, I do suggest revisiting your childhood from both a negative and positive perspective. Who we really are can often be seen clearer if we reflect on early passions, desires and dreams.

Identifying

Identifying all our assets means knowing who we are, who we aren’t, who we’ve tried to be and failed and who we’d like to become –and why. Because the socialization process puts early restrictions on our personal natures, our strongest assets often get pushed aside and eventually buried deep inside. Sadly, this can set off a series of self-sabotaging behaviors because we’re not happy doing what we’re doing. I know this because I’ve done it to myself. In the early ‘90s I held a respected senior management position in a health care center, but because I hated it so much and couldn’t find my way out, I sabotaged myself by underperforming. That’s bad news, especially in times of downsizing.

I struggled for a while, glad to be free, but not clear about what to do. In seeking my way, I put myself through a self-assessment that wasn’t as refined as what I do now with clients but it was extremely helpful in reaching a clear decision about the road ahead.

It included what’s known as 360 degree feedback. I asked those who knew me well (including family members) what they saw as my strengths and weaknesses. I read about other recall techniques that helped bring to the forefront long forgotten memories of excitement, pleasure and satisfaction. I still use some of these techniques now and find them exceptionally effective in helping clients identify key assets they might not ever see on their own. I learned that identifying, claiming and honoring these assets can make all the difference in the world in how successfully we travel down our chosen path.

Claiming

Identifying our personal assets (along with recovering our buried treasure) is step #1. Claiming is step #2. Claiming means we consciously acknowledge all our assets.  We look at the value of each to ourselves, to our personal universe and our target market. Guided brainstorming helps to select and prioritize each asset. We may have assets we’ve previously thought of as barriers, but when evaluated in a new context they may be recast in leading or supporting roles.

I have a client who spent her early adult years traveling the world and hadn’t stayed with any one job or field in spite of having a good education in a highly employable profession. The truth is she didn’t want to be in that profession, but wasn’t encouraged to find out where she did want to be. She saw her gypsy behavior as a negative, but upon reassessment found she could call upon those experiences in developing a travel niche that creates vacations for people based on the experience they desire.

As a result of my personal assessments and soul searching with my own coach, I found that I’m a natural coach. Without realizing it I had been coaching family, friends and colleagues for years in both career and personal matters. They had often sought my advice and guidance. That’s a pretty clear indication a natural talent exists. I hadn’t realized I had this quality even though I had been using it for years. It took an objective outsider to help me “see” who I am. Only then could I claim it.

Honoring

Closeup of Treasure Chest with treasureWhen we put our innate assets to their best and highest use, we are honoring them. The process of honoring includes prioritizing each major asset and deciding how we’re going to use it in achieving our goals. It’s not possible to incorporate all to the maximum. The challenge comes in putting them together to our greatest personal and professional benefit.

A client who had always wanted to be an entrepreneur had tried unsuccessfully on two previous occasions. In taking the sequential steps of personal branding, he confirmed that his attitude, demeanor, personality and drive spelled entrepreneur. He was trained as an architect, but construction was his real forte. His task became restructuring his asset base to that format. Today he’s building a business in construction management and already in need of help to meet the demand for his services.

One of my clients has created a spiritual coaching program called Living Out Loud. Her work is about helping people connect with that inner spark at the core. It’s where our real treasure is buried. When allowed to shine, that spark will light our way as we travel on life’s journey.

It’s never too soon or too late to begin the process. The deciding factor is your commitment to making the most of who you are by identifying, claiming and honoring your personal treasures. If you choose to give it a try, look for the rise in energy level you feel as you think about or undertake any activity. Make note of these. Perform the 360 degree assessment and go through the steps described above. Then complete the foundation by integrating your personal treasures into your business and your daily life.

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If you’d like my expert guidance in identifying, claiming and honoring your buried treasure, drop me a note and we’ll get to it right away. I promise it will make a huge difference in the success of your business and you’ll find greater joy in everything you do.

How Can I Save This Sinking Ship?

Sinking ship with crew member bailing it out. Business metaphor.What causes a ship to sink? A leak in one of the systems? Too much weight? Hit by an unexpected object?

You’re on the high seas on the way to deliver a valuable cargo. Suddenly you get word from below that the ship has developed a leak that unless stopped could, over time, cause the ship to sink. What’s the most effective first reaction? Plug the leak? Find the source or cause? Protect your valuable cargo?

Or perhaps in your exuberance to maximize your profits you’ve taken on more weight than the ship can manage. It’s riding so low in the water that eventually it will be pulled down below the surface.

Of course, it could also be an undetected iceberg.

As captain of your business (your ship) you may be faced with similar situations.

A System Leak?

A business leak might be an employee skimming from revenue. I once had a client whose bookkeeper loved to gamble and would “borrow” money from the incoming cash, and of course, never pay it back. These kinds of leaks are insidious in that it’s often hard to even know there is a leak until things become bad. The business owner needs to have systems in place that match products and/or services provided to expected income. Yet, many small businesses do not.

Too Much Weight?

An overweight business has more expenses than income. It’s easy to forget that often the money doesn’t come in until well after the expense must be paid. If not corrected early, the business will find itself sinking deeper and deeper each month. At some point it’s too late. This business ship can be saved by preparing a monthly budget, observing expenses and income on at least a monthly basis. Considering the long term effect, it’s imperative that expenses must be brought down until the income can match them. Additional capital funding sources may be a short term answer, but eventually it has to be paid back.

An Unexpected Hit?

Then there’s the big lucrative client who had been buying from you for years. Suddenly, there’s a better mouse trap somewhere else and they are gone. Of course, you can try to get them back, but meanwhile the expenses go on. Having a strategy for dealing with the unexpected will help you get to the issue immediately.

These situations deal with systems, budgeting and crisis management. Every business at some point will likely experience similar situations. The answer to all of them is the same:  having a solid business management system. That means having time-specific measurable goals, a clear plan of action, consistent monitoring and decision-making based on results.

Now, don’t panic. This stuff is not hard to do. It’s just a matter of learning the techniques and tactics to run your business proactively rather than reactively. I’ve packaged a new six-month semester course called Captains School, which covers the gamut of what it means to function as captain. It provides the training, tools and support to give you the confidence to consistently make sound business decisions.

Aren’t you tired of bailing water?

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Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you’re getting that “sinking” feeling, send me a note and I’ll be in touch to schedule a phone call.

Rescue on the High Seas

Do you remember the story of Harvey Cheyne in Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous? Harvey is a 15 year old rich boy who is washed overboard while traveling on an ocean liner. He is rescued by fishermen on a schooner who are on a long sea voyage. He has no idea about the sea or what it takes to manage a seafaring vessel. But he is open to learning since the schooner will not dock for months. His nautical education includes being literally “shown the ropes”. By the time the trip is finished he has learned what he needs to know to be a good sailor and ultimately a captain.

As on a ship, there are certain fundamentals that need to be taken care of, certain things that need to be monitored on a consistent basis: fuel, supplies, weather conditions, water conditions, location, distance to port, etc. The same is true in business. You need to set a course with a strategy and a plan, then compare results to the plan. Depending on what you learn in doing your comparison, you will take actions designed to keep you on course with your plan.

Imagine if a ship’s captain prepared a travel plan for his vessel, then put it away and didn’t refer to it as events occurred. Reaching the target destination would be unlikely without checking to see that all actions were keeping the ship on course.

In business it’s the same thing: you need to not only plan you need to track how you’re doing against your plan so you can adjust your actions before they take you too far off course.

Grant had spent $5,000 to expand his market for wholesale prime meats to a new territory. But he didn’t keep track of inquiries, prospects and sales from this new territory. He only looked at the small increase in total sales and attributed the increase to the new marketing initiative. What had actually occurred was an active marketing effort by one of his major existing clients. When further evaluation was done he realized he had only received a few inquiries and no prospects from the new territory. This told him it was time to reassess his marketing efforts. He decided to visit potential prospects personally to try and learn exactly what they would most likely be able to sell. Six months later he had added another 14% to his business from the new territory and he knew why it had occurred.

Learning how to effectively monitor and manage your plan and actions is just one of the things you will need to know to be an effective captain. If you’re on the high seas of commerce, feeling like you’re off course, now is the time to make the decision to gain command of the situation.

How to Identify Your Brand

Man standing in boat on water outside of city, how to identify your brandThere are many components of your business that need to be hashed out before you even open the hatch or sign for a loan. From the initial concept, to the goals you wish to achieve, to creating an actionable plan, you’ll need to have at least a rough draft of your brand first and foremost.

Here are some questions to ask yourself while identifying it.

What’s my business mission?

If you were a ship owner your vessel would have a name and it would have a mission. It would carry cargo or people, or it might be an Arctic icebreaker, or a defender with tools to serve its purpose. It may be out to explore new places or gather information. Your mission will help you determine your brand.

Having launched your business, you must have a strategy to address the market climate and determine where there are holes to be filled. What has you excited about embarking on this voyage? What do you plan to offer? How will your customers be served?

Beyond understanding your own destiny, consider those of your customers: who are they and what are they searching for? Develop a customer compass that identifies their personalities and lifestyles, what they spend most of their time doing, what they like and dislike. Whatever is important to your business is what you should be seeking to learn about your market.

What’s my brand personality?

Your brand (ship) should have a unique personality to set it apart from others, the same way your personality sets you apart from other people. Start exploring what your brand will convey, remembering that it goes beyond what your business merely looks and sounds like, but in fact embodies the core values of what you offer your customers.

Choosing a name, a look and a logo for your brand will either be the most fun or the most stressful part of the journey. You’ll want to go with an image that represents your products and services well; something that catches attention, is easy to remember and tells the right story about your brand (ship) while being relatable to your customer.

How is my brand communicating?

Your brand (ship) will be the first impression you make on prospects. It also gives a long-lasting impression to returning customers. You want it to speak to them in a consistent tone of voice, serving as a constant reminder of your business’ character.

An elevator pitch can serve as an oral representation of your brand (ship); a 30-second-or-less statement about your business’ mission, goals and values. Strength is in the brevity of your pitch as you’re forced to narrow down your services to just the specifics. This will help you greatly when networking with others who may soon develop a great interest in your brand.

Your brand is important because it cultivates trust between you and your customers early on in your business relationship. Without it, there might not be a relationship to follow. It’s important to not gloss over the details, but to clearly understand what impact your brand will have on the future of your company.

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Are you seeking help with identifying your brand? Prime Strategies offers the necessary guidance and expertise to help you develop your brand and create a strategy to build it into your own fleet. Ask for a complimentary session to get you started.

5 Fundamentals of Business Success

We have discussed why it’s important to build your business on a solid foundation, but it’s equally crucial to maintain certain fundamentals throughout the life of your business.  As the captain of your ship you are responsible for reaching your destination. You need to be in command as much as possible, so it’s important that you know and can apply the fundamentals of business success.

Set your compass using these 5 basics which, with the right care, will assure your small business will reach its intended harbor and be prepared for many more profitable voyages.

  1. Accurate Finances

It’s okay to admit if you’re not the best with numbers. If this is the case, consider investing in a professional to manage the books because it’s one of the most important components of your small business. You not only need a good accountant, you need someone who can help you interpret what the numbers mean. Access to this information will significantly improve your ability to make good business decisions. Sailing without a compass and checking status along the way will surely find you off course at some point.

  1. Customer Values

In the early stages of your business, it’s important that you identify who your customers are and what they want. But once you find your target, don’t stop. Every sale is an opportunity to understand a little more what matters to your customers. What products and services do they need to improve their daily lives? What expectations do they have of your business? What would they like but don’t yet have?

  1. Strong Crew

Don’t skimp on attention to detail when it comes to your crew. Whether your staff is large or small, ensure that you’re giving it your all from recruitment to training, incentives and promotion. Hire a staff diverse in skills and experience and foster a positive onboard experience for them to thrive in. Ask them to share their observations. Employee feedback is as important as customer feedback so be sure you’re keeping eyes and ears open at all times.

  1. Identifiable Brand

Your brand should have a personality that fits with your corner of the market. It should be something that resonates with your customers and becomes an identifying representation of what you offer; not just your products and services but your customer service and business values. Read our article on “How to Identify Your Brand” to gain more insight on the steps involved in brand development.

  1. Outside Help

The value of outside help is being able to gain an objective perspective and possible suggestions which you might not think of on your own.You can seek help at any stage of your business.  Seek a “mentor” with similar business experience or a captain’s coach who can help you navigate around the shallow harbors and keep you on course.  Getting help to safely sail through potential storms will minimize negative impact on your customers, employees and products. Save yourself from making avoidable mistakes by asking for help before it’s too late.

Marian Banker, MBA, trains today’s Business Captains. She works with small business owners who want to learn and practice the skill of leading a successful business.

 

5 Critical Elements of Team Management

Business man team looking confidently in future, team managementOnce your business reaches the point where you’re building a team of employees, your level of responsibility changes. You now must lead your team to fulfill the mission of the business and keep them functioning within the framework of your solid business foundation.

Finances play a role in business expansion, but so do your team management skills. Here are 5 critical basics for building your employee-friendly business foundation.

  1. Synergy + Individuality

Entrusting your business into the hands of others can be a scary thing to do. As such, you should ensure you’re getting the right people for each role. Every position brings a different strength and purpose to your overall team, so be sure to select employees that have synergy with the whole as well as individual talents that match their assigned job.

  1. No Secrets in Operating Procedures

Standard procedures shouldn’t be a guessing game to anyone. Be clear about expectations and execution and keep all necessary details documented and easily accessible for reference. When changes are made be sure everyone is made aware and given explicit instructions as necessary. The more your employees understand your goals and role they play in achieving them, the better your results will likely be.

  1. Maintain Performance Measuring

As a manager, it’s easy to get caught up measuring the wrong performance metrics in effort to keep tabs on your team and their motivations, productivity and success. You don’t want to spend valuable time on the unimportant details, so be sure you’re watching cost, service and quality levels as the place to start. Top-level metrics will keep you focused on results. Sub-level metrics can help you analyze root causes of inadequate or inappropriate findings.

  1. Be Clear About Goals

Goals are much harder to reach when they are unclear. Don’t hang your team out to dry when have not clearly communicated expectations. Identify key targets, then join with your team in brainstorming the best roadmap to reaching your targets. By involving them they’ll not only understand your mission better but perhaps even improve upon it.

  1. Be a Good Leader

It’s important that you give your team the tools and training they need to succeed within the structure of your business. Be a positive force that they can trust and want to learn from. Be sure to not only challenge your team but also provide ample constructive feedback on their performance.

Your employees are crucial to the success of your business. You and your customers should be able to rely on their skills, ideas, strengths and ability to find the target and shoot for it. But the ultimate responsibility is yours. Starting out on a solid business foundation, with a plan and clear two-way communication, is the best preparation you can have to assure you will meet your goals and have both happy customers and happy employees.

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If you’re at the point of adding staff to your business, Prime Strategies can offer the necessary guidance and expertise to help you reach your goals. Send a Contact request and I’ll be in touch.

The First Step in Creating a Successful Business

Successful Business blueprints and 3-D chartBy now you know how important it is to create your business goals, strategies and plans as the precursor to taking action. But there is something that comes before all that; it’s your business Vision.

Think of it as if you were going to create a painting or build a house. You would envision what the end result would look like. You’d know what you are going to create before you started. You’d think through the details. The same is true in building the business you want; one that will satisfy your needs and fulfill your dreams. So how do you get started with that?

Close Your Eyes and Imagine… Five years from now, what do you see? An expanding, bustling empire? A business just as small as the day you started it? Do you have hundreds of employees or just one? Have you already cashed out to lay  on the beach, drink mai tais and reminisce about business ownership? Or are you actively working in the business either full time or part time? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’re not ready to move past this part, so get creative. Let your mind wander, see yourself and your business as you would like to be. Consider the kinds of services or products you’ll be offering, who will be your customers, your work environment, the support services you will have, the bottom line profit you will make. You might even consider writing yourself a personal letter from the future (5 years from now) detailing all of your business successes. Or just write freely about your hopes and dreams with regard to this venture and see what comes out that you didn’t already know.

When All Else Fails…Use the Q & A method. Entrepreneur.com suggests asking yourself some straightforward questions if you’re still having trouble with your Vision. Questions such as:

  1. How much am I willing to sacrifice to see this succeed? My own money? Long work hours and no vacations? No income for possibly years?
  2. If this venture doesn’t work out, then what?
  3. What annual revenues do I expect this business to make?
  4. Will this serve a niche market or sell a broad range of products and services?
  5. If I decide to delegate responsibilities, which will remain mine and which will I share?
  6. Could I work with a partner or investors? How comfortable am I under authority?
  7. Do I want to keep this business in the family and private or do I want it to someday go public?


Test Your Idea Against Two Major Components

Financial: If your business makes no economic sense now, it likely never will. Put your idea against financial challenges such as whether or not ( and when) you expect to see a return on your investment, what the projected profits over time might be and if you can devote yourself wholly to this venture monetarily.

Lifestyle: Your business will require a big commitment from you, but if you feel comfortable once you’ve figured out the details, you’ll know what you’re in for. Consider where you’ll live, what might happen if you get sick, if you’ll earn enough to maintain your desired lifestyle and if your family is on board with your choice.

Don’t Waver! If you can make it past this envisioning phase, then you’ll also have tested your commitment (and passed!), so remember that when things feel overwhelming. Having a clear Vision of where you are going with your small business can exponentially improve your odds of success, so take one step at a time and stick with it. Don’t lose sight of your Vision.

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Want professional guidance in creating a Vision with potential for success? In 30 minutes you will have a Vision that will motivate you and become the guiding light for your future success. Request your free 30 minutes here.

If you’re experiencing challenges in your business and not sure where your priorities should be, consider downloading the Business Challenges Checklist help you see where you need to focus now.

Getting Started on the Right Foundation

Business Foundation blocks with HELP at the top.The harsh reality of starting a business is that the odds of failure are very high. Forbes reports that nearly 80% of small businesses don’t survive past 3 years with that number rising to 95% in cases of online businesses.

This stark reality exists because many people try to build their own business in the hopes it’ll make them rich quickly without first building a foundation upon which to grow a lasting business. The stronger the foundation, the more likely the business will survive and thrive.

YFSmagazine walks us through three basic steps to take to build a solid business foundation and avoid becoming a statistic.

1. Divide Business Functions

To manage and grow a new business, you have to be a jack of all trades. This means knowing everything from payroll to marketing, customer service to HR and technology to product development. Since there’s so much to do, it’s important you don’t play favorites. Make sure you’re giving the proper time to each segment of your business and not neglecting the more stressful tasks.

You may want to delegate functions and tasks you don’t like to do or are not competent doing to a contracted specialist or a part-timer. They can help lessen the burden, but being in a position to do so probably won’t come overnight.

By compartmentalizing your business functions you’ll also grow stronger psychologically and be in a position to hand off elements as the business grows.

2. Develop a Comprehensive Business Plan

The research shows having a solid business plan can double your chance of success.

YFS says to begin with an executive summary before branching into a company description. Then refine your products and services, market analysis, marketing strategy, management summary and financial analysis. I believe it’s better to create your plan first, then go back and write the executive summary and company description. After working through all the elements it will be much easier to summarize into a comprehensive introductory document.

The financial analysis should make clear how your business is being financed now, and how it will be financed in the future. Getting a clear understanding of this early on will increase the odds of you meeting your goal .

3. Create a Realistic Budget

The Houston Chronicle reports that small businesses can spend $5,000 and up on one year’s worth of insurance alone. Your specific cost will depend greatly on a number of factors, including the type of industry you’re in, your location and how many employees you have.

Add the cost of marketing, product shipping and overhead like vehicle maintenance and office space rentals  and your budget can be consumed very quickly. Use social media and build a solid website to help lower your marketing costs; with the internet providing a much less expensive, often free, environment for you to reach your target market, you should use it whenever possible to cut down on costs.

You will  also want to invest in an accountant to help you get the most out of your budget, including expert knowledge on tax write-offs.

There is a lot to consider when taking the leap into small business ownership but the better foundation you lay down, the better your chances of long term success.

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If you’re putting together a business plan and would like help with creating a budget, I’m happy to help.