BSA LEADERSHIP Articles

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.

8 Steps to Set Your Business on Fire

All too often I hear comments like “I’m tired of putting out business fires on a regular basis. There must be a better way.”

Well, of course, there is, and we want to convert the energy that’s being spent on putting out fires to a more constructive use. Let’s talk about setting your business on fire – on purpose – by being smart. Set those fires yourself and plan in advance how you will leverage the energy that’s released.

If the energy is organized and has a mission or target, the chances of hitting the target (goal) will be a lot greater. (Consider a bullet in the cylinder, awaiting the trigger to release its energy). We want to get you and your business organized and focused so the energy you release will propel your business forward in the direction you choose.

Following are the steps that seem to work best if done sequentially, all with the specific purpose of setting your business on fire. Literally translated that means bringing in more revenue, more customers, more brand recognition.

1 – Get your foundation in place
Without a sound business structure, you won’t be prepared to handle the surge in activity when your business takes off. Start by being really clear about what value you bring to the marketplace and making sure you are clearly communicating it in a variety of ways that put you in contact with your target market. Set measurable, realistic goals and create a strategy and plan to achieve them.

2 – Focus on Sales
What’s the most important part of your business? Sales, of course. How much of your time are you spending on Revenue Generating Activities? I find I need to spend at least 50% of my time on staying in touch with my market and interacting with clients and potential clients. A specific marketing plan with timeframes will keep you focused and allow you to assess the results of your actions.

3 – Commit to being responsible for and accountable for your business results
Set goals based on research and strategic decisions. Commit not only to yourself, but to a coach or a colleague. This adds fuel to your commitment. Communicate your goals and make sure your team and staff know their role and responsibility in achieving desired results. Get their commitment as well so everyone will be adding to the focused energy.

4 – Develop Strategic Alliances
You know you can’t build a business without help from others. Strategic alliances are how smart business people are leveraging their connections to reach beyond what can be done alone. I use my connections to add expertise beyond my own for many of my programs. This helps both of us reach new targeted connections where we can share our expertise. I also use marketing and technology alliances to open new networks. Every time you add an alliance you are expanding your network exponentially.

5 – Showcase Your Expertise
Every entrepreneur has expertise in something. The key is to identify and showcase yours. Your combination of training, experience, knowledge and resources makes you unique. Who cares about that expertise and how can you best share what you have to offer? Some people look for speaking opportunities in front of their target market; some who like to write will create articles, newsletters, books, CDs. Give freely of your knowledge; share your unique perspective, focus on helping others accomplish their goals. You will attract those who relate to what you say and do.

6 – Use the Web strategically
Most businesses today can benefit from using the web. This may or may not include a web site, but e-mail is definitely a prime means of communication for most businesses. It’s important to learn e-mail etiquette and to stay current on use of e-mail for marketing. Search Engine Optimization has become a key strategy for web sites. Changes happen so rapidly for anything that’s web related you’ll want to consult with a web marketing professional before undertaking any campaign.

7 – Support Yourself
You want to focus the majority of your time and energy doing what you do best in your business. That may mean product development, marketing and sales or overall management. Enlist the support of others whose expertise complements yours. Consider whether you’re better off doing that by adding to staff or through a strategic alliance. Sometimes bartering services can be a great way to get what you need and generate a client/customer at the same time. Keep adding to your team until you’ve covered all the gaps.

8. – Begin to act “as if” your goal (target) is already achieved
Thinking and acting “as if” magnetically pulls you to your goal. Success becomes easier when you’re operating in success mode. And success begets more success. Jill Ammon-Wexler’s article offers more on why acting “as if” is so powerful.

Focus, like a laser, can set your business on fire. Follow through with these steps and watch your business heat up.

Prepare for Recovery: Think Like a Leader

As most of you already know, my mission is “transforming business owners into business leaders”. As the economy moves into the next phase of recovery, it will be those who think and function as leaders who will be the winners. Leaders will have identified pertinent opportunities and prepared themselves for advantage as things improve.

Are you thinking like a leader? Let’s see.

1 – A leader accepts responsibility for business results. As a leader it’s your job to recognize and solve problems, make good decisions and take effective action. The more you can systematize the process the easier it will be. But the final outcome, success or failure, is up to you.

2 – A leader is Vision/Mission driven – Do you know what you want for your business? Do you have a clear mission? If not you’re just flapping your sails in the wind. You won’t be going very far very fast. The clearly thought-out vision is the magnet that pulls you forward. And the clearer, the better. You’ll be less likely to get off track, but when you do, the vision will be there to help you get back on track.

Your mission is what you do to achieve your vision. Business leaders have strong missions that take into consideration accomplishing something of value beyond themselves. [Read more…]

The Call to Leadership

Business Leadership NOW is the cry across the nation for businesses both large and small. As a business owner, by default, you are the leader of your business. You can either ignore the impact of the role and bear the consequences or grab the reins and choose your destiny.

The problem I see far too often is the business owner who feels overwhelmed because things are happening too fast and there’s not enough time to follow through. Or at the opposite end, sales have dropped off drastically and all attempts to turn things around have failed.

What can be done to bring these challenges into perspective and gain control? The answer is: think like a leader.

As a coach working with small business owners for 13 years I’ve seen the difference it makes when entrepreneurs consciously choose to function as leader and learn to apply the fundamentals of good business practice.

I base my work on what I call the Prime Strategies. These are the strategies [Read more…]

Business Leadership NOW!

Are you the owner of a small business? A professional in private practice? Or an executive in a small company? If you are any of these and you don’t think of yourself as a “business leader,” shame on you.

By default, when you have decision-making responsibility and authority, you are the leader.

A recent Entrepreneur Magazine cover text reads “Who are America’s future business leaders? You are. So what does it take to succeed? The best leaders combine bold new strategies with time-tested values. Are you up to the task?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. This is the message I continue to communicate. NOW is the time to accept the role. Allow it to challenge and motivate you.

The leader’s old role of charismatic superstar has been redefined [Read more…]

7 Questions to Ask If Your Business Is Struggling

Are you one of the many small businesses whose market has dried up? Some industries that I’ve seen hit particularly hard are financial advisors, consultants, graphic designers, event planners, photographers, catering companies, esoteric retailers and many others that depend on discretionary expenditures. For some entrepreneurs it may mean cutting both their business and personal expenditures to the bare bone.

Continuing to pursue a declining or over-saturated market is only going to put you closer to the edge. When there are a lot more suppliers than there are customers something has to give. It’s time for some strategic decisions and action.

Many are taking creative, and sometimes drastic, actions to stay alive. They have recognized it’s time to save their business.

If it’s time to save YOUR business, ask yourself the following questions.

1 – Where else can I cut short term expenses now to conserve cash?
Make a projection of your cash needs on a monthly basis over the next 6 months. Use historical financial information to help you decide about the future. Keep in mind, however, that if revenue is down variable expenses may be down also. [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 now 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…]

How Are You Managing the Economic Downturn?

Over the past few weeks I’ve received quite a few cold calls and introductory e-mails from small businesses. I wondered if this was in response to the economic downturn. So I decided to ask a representative sample of small businesses by contacting my LinkedIn network to ask “how are you managing the downturn?”

Less than 20% have responded so far, but I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned as soon as possible. Hopefully you’ll gain some new ideas and perspectives to help you in strategizing for your own business.

The primary strategies initiated by early respondents fall into three basic categories: rethinking, leveraging and streamlining. I’ve organized the responses accordingly.

Rethinking

Many companies are not just being more aggressive, they’re being strategically aggressive. Some are offering new monetary or other incentives. Some are focusing on a redefined or diversified target market. [Read more…]