How Can I Fix My Business Partnership?

I’ve found there are lots of people in a long standing business partnership who are not satisfied with the status of the relationship. They may feel stuck, frustrated, angry…or all of these. They know they’ve been silent far too long, but just don’t know what to do.

What can cause such a change in a relationship that started out with high hopes and good feelings?

Here are some of the situations I see most often. Do any of these apply to your partnership?

One partner feels like he’s carrying the bulk of the workload.

This may have happened because there wasn’t an agreement about who would do what. Job roles, responsibilities and accountability have not been discussed.

Expectations are not being met. [Read more…]

7 Tips for a Business Partnership That Works

Business partnerships take on a variety of forms. They may be a long term formal legal commitment or a simple short term venture to test a market concept. The same principles apply in all cases.

Here are 7 tips to make sure the partnership starts strong and stays strong.

1 – Start by creating a shared Vision & Mission

As in any business, it’s critical for the partners to define the Vision and Mission of the venture as the very first step. If all brains aren’t going in the same direction in the same way, problems are bound to arise.

The motives for each partner can be different. The overall objectives and methods, however, need to be the same.

Tom chose to partner with Dominic because each saw the market need for a commercial kitchen facility. Tom was a commercial contractor who had worked on restaurants and catering facilities. Dominic was Manager of a cooking school and well connected within the food preparation industry. Their Vision was a 2,000 sq. ft. facility that would have 3 shifts of production, serve as a test kitchen for the cooking school and contract with other long term and project clients.

Tip: Take time to discuss your company’s Vision and Mission with your partners. Look for what energizes and motivates each of you about your business. Give it a purpose and define what the ideal business will look like. Put the joint Vision and Mission in writing and use it as the reference for everything else you do. [Read more…]

Five Questions to Help Create an Effective Marketing Plan

Questions can be a wonderful tool. In planning, the key to success is knowing the right questions to ask. That certainly applies when it comes to creating a Marketing Plan.

Answering the following questions will provide you with information needed to create the framework for an effective plan.

What is your value message?

This is the first and most important question you can answer. Until you know what value you wish to communicate about your product or service, attracting customers will be unfocused and difficult.

Consider how you’re different from your competitors. Your message must clearly state the value your customer can expect to receive. And remember, there is at least some emotion behind every purchase. Your value message might be that you are timely and accurate (you’re respectful), you offer a lot for a little (I feel smart buying from you), or your ingredients are top quality (I deserve good things).

“Simple fare, freshly and tastefully prepared” is the message a restaurant might want its prospective customers to get. When seeing or hearing the name of the restaurant, this is what we want them to remember. Likewise, when thinking of that kind of food, we want our restaurant to come to mind. The simpler the message, the clearer it will be. The clearer it is stated, the stronger and more “attractive” it becomes. Clarity is the key.

Of course, you not only have to sell it, you then have to deliver the value. [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.

Many owners have not had to hire or supervise anyone before, so they have no frame of reference for doing it the first time. It’s an art and a science, to which I don’t proclaim expert status, but over my years as a business leadership coach I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

Here are the steps I recommend for attracting and keeping good help. It doesn’t matter if it’s an employee or someone hired on a contract basis, the principles are the same. [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…]

How to Create a Marketing Strategy That Delivers

One of the most challenging parts of marketing is creating effective strategies. That’s because it’s impossible to be certain what outcome any given marketing strategy will bring. But there are ways you can increase the probability of success.

First, let’s define strategy and consider why it’s needed.

Wikipedia defines strategy as “A long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal, most often “winning.” Strategy is differentiated from tactics or immediate actions with resources at hand by its nature of being extensively premeditated, and often practically rehearsed. Strategies are used to make the problem easier to understand and solve.”

My definition is a bit simpler, and hopefully, easier to understand. I consider developing a strategy as the “thinking” part of the process. It’s where you gather all the pertinent information, analyze it, and then make “informed” decisions based on what you learned. A strategy is an informed decision that provides a framework for actions. [Read more…]

Want More Sales! Create More Value!

If you’re feeling frustrated with the results of your sales efforts, don’t give up; try creating more value. Of course, value will be different for each type of business. Your job is to determine what it is and how you can provide it.

Adding free bonuses and extras is a common way to add value. Barnes & Noble built its online business quickly by offering free shipping when Amazon.com did not.

An accountant friend added the service of setting up and training on the client’s accounting software making it painless for the client and much easier to obtain needed information for taxes and reporting. It was a win-win and many clients saw the value.

Depending on your business, you might include free upgrades for your software. Maybe add a complimentary financial assessment for a new investment client. Or a free car wash with an oil change. Consider where you can add value at little or no cost to you. The objective is to get the commitment from the customer. Once a customer they are a prime candidate to buy more if you have provided value. [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…]

Negative Relationships: Yes or No?

Like you, I’m a small business owner, blessed (or cursed) by the entrepreneurial spirit. Relationships are the backbone of my business.

Positive relationships benefit me. Negative relationships steal my precious resources. Recently I’ve had more than my share of the negative. As a result, I’ve had to look more carefully at all my relationships. One thing for sure: I will no longer put up with long term negative relationships.

We all face having to manage relationships. Relationships are what keep our business moving. They are the energy and life force of our business. Relationships are based on communication, of course. All kinds of communication: verbal, written, telephone, e-mail, web, operating systems, etc. I consider Relationships to be one of the key operating systems of a business. We need a way to deal with them so this important system doesn’t become disrupted.

Clearly we want to lay the groundwork for each relationship very clearly so expectations are known and agreed upon at the beginning. I have just had to apply my own criteria to a negative relationship I am currently facing personally. [Read more…]