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.

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.

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.

Understanding the @Reply

The @ symbol used to be a casual way to leave notes on post-its:

Dinner @ 7! Meet me there.

In addition to being the symbol that connects your email address to your mail server, the @ symbol is now used as the ultimate tool to connect users online on various social media platforms. But it is used differently on Twitter than on Facebook.

On Twitter    

When you want to write a Tweet to someone, or about someone, you would use the @ symbol as a way to address them. Find out what their Twitter username is and then proceed:

@marianbanker Business is great, thanks for your help!

You’ll notice that the text immediately following the @ symbol has become a link which sends you directly to the user’s page.  Additionally, the person you’ve written to (or about) will get a notification that you’ve done so, thus opening up the potential for conversation.

On Facebook    

Facebook uses the @ symbol slightly differently. It also links a person’s name within your post but you can only tag people you’re “friends” with or public pages that you’ve “liked”. Additionally, Facebook changes the format of the text while you’re typing so the final result excludes the @ symbol. Here’s what I mean.

I’m writing a Facebook status on my personal profile about something I love and I want to share it so that more people can find out about, so I begin typing my status. When I get to the part where I want to link to a Facebook page, I start typing @PrimeStrategies. But the @ symbol prompts Facebook to start generating suggestions for me.

Once I select the appropriate page, it will post the page name without the @ symbol with a blue box around it to indicate it has been linked.

Then, once I post it, this is the final result.

Now my status update will allow those interested to click on the link and be directed to the Prime Strategies Facebook page. Additionally, depending on the settings of the company page, my post will be included on their page as well.

Don’t get too hung up on symbols. They may seem silly or even overwhelming but they’re simply useful tools to improve social media interaction. Take it slow and remember to try it all, you can always delete it if it doesn’t work out.

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If you’re a late-life entrepreneur seeking help with marketing strategies and management techniques, Prime Strategies can offer the necessary guidance and expertise to help you reach your goals.

Cloud Computing: A Technology for Business Growth

Setting about to grow a business is a task easier said than done. Whether you’re part of a large enterprise looking to expand, or running your own small business and trying to get off the ground, the process will always be different. The new technology, cloud computing, can make a complex process much easier. We posted an article not long ago about “Business Fitness,” and how to assess the foundation of your business with regard to growth potential and efforts. But in this article we’re going to discuss how this particular technology and set of services that is becoming more and more prevalent in business can help you grow.

Specifically, we’re talking about cloud computing online, which is the ability to store digital data at off-site, online locations, rather than in your office or on company computers and mobile devices. The benefits to implementing this sort of service are numerous and significant, but here are a few specifics of the main advantages you stand to gain by adopting cloud computing.

Online Backup for Your Data

With a cloud computing network in place for your business, or even for an individual company branch, you immediately gain automatic, secure backup for your sensitive work files. Storing these files in printed form, or on company equipment, leaves them somewhat vulnerable – to theft, loss, damage, etc. However, having your sensitive data backed up in the cloud means that even in the event your office or work equipment is compromised, your files will be safe and accessible.

Increased Potential for Collaboration

Having the ability to upload files to the cloud also gives you unprecedented ability to collaborate on projects and share files quickly. When a given file is uploaded to the cloud, anyone in your business with access to that cloud can view it, download it, edit it and save progress. This allows collaboration and file sharing regardless of physical proximity or timing.

Regulated Working Environment

Cloud service has become so popular that even if you aren’t using it in your business, your employees are likely using it on their own – and this can be a security risk for your company. Instead of allowing employees to save business files on various cloud providers, regulate your working environment by providing a cloud computing partner that everyone can share. With the right service, you can even gain control over employee file sharing. Sharefile is one example, as it offers an “Enterprise” service that allows company IT directors to track communications and enjoy “centralized management and control.”

Remote Access to Work Files

We covered this in a way in the section on collaboration, but it’s also worth noting that individual flexibility increases with cloud computing. A cloud in place allows you and any employees you may have to work from anywhere at any time, provided there is Internet service and cloud access.

Cloud computing is already being implemented in businesses large and small around the world. If you’re in growth mode now may be the time to consider upgrading to this outstanding new technology.

10 Common Mistakes Made When Handing Down the Family Business: Part 1

Family Business Handoff helpIf you’re beginning to plan for the days ahead when you finally retire and allow the next generation to take over the family business, take heed to these first 5 of 10 common mistakes business owners make during the handoff.

1.  Not planning early enough for your succession

Passing down your family business is something that needs time and attention in order to run smoothly. You might be anticipating retirement, but to ensure a successful transition, plan even further ahead in case of illness, disability or even death. Since the success of your business handoff relies heavily on your family’s participation, experts suggest planning several years in advance.

2.  Assuming your kin will mobilize automatically

You can’t jump to conclusions about the next generation’s desire to take over the business. They may want to break from tradition and start their own business, or enter a new field entirely. Avoid presumptions and have open talks about all of the possibilities well enough in advance.

3.  Not seeking professional guidance in your exit planning strategy

As a business owner you should know when it’s important to seek out advice from professionals or people who may be better equipped to handle such circumstances. The end of your career as the owner or president of a company should be treated with the same delicacy and attention as any other part of it. There’s a lot to consider for yourself, for the business and for the family members who will continue to run it. Consult someone with experience in this spectrum who can help guide you through the transition making sure all your bases are covered.

4.  Filling key positions based on family politics

Deciding who will fill what role won’t be easy. This is where family life and professional life collide and it’s a tricky situation to be in. You want to be open to peoples’ differences and allow their strengths and weaknesses to find their way into the perfect role to help move your business forward.  Don’t be shy about making your choice based on what counts: who’s right for the position. Your son may want to be president but he might not have what it takes. Don’t let emotion overrun your professional thinking.

5.  Expecting the same passion as you have

You built this business from the ground up with your own blood, sweat and tears. This business consumed every aspect of your life and your dedication went into making it the success it is today. Your family might be excited to step in and continue the tradition but they may not have the same fiery passion that you have about it. While it won’t be easy, you’ll have to be accepting of that. See things from their point of view and trust that what they can bring to the table will be enough.

Handing off your family business is something that takes time, planning and a lot of consideration, but you’ve come this far so you know you’ve got what it takes. There are more mistakes to be wary of during this adventure so join us next time as we complete the list.


If you’re a late-life entrepreneur seeking support in business planning and management techniques, Prime Strategies can offer the necessary guidance and expertise to help you reach your goals.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP SERIES:

BUSINESS MANAGEMENT USING OPERATING RESULTS

OK, now it’s time for your report card – your business operating report card, that is.

Not only have you planned, you’ve acted on your plan and calculated how you would cover the cost of these plans by creating a budget that included: Directly and Indirectly Related Expenses, Overhead, Timing and Projected Return on Investment (ROI).

Now that you’ve taken the actions that were on your calendar and you’ve budgeted for them accordingly, you’ll be able to see how well these actions produced the desired results.

The intent is that everything will come together as planned. In the real world, we know that doesn’t always happen – sometimes not even often. Your challenge is to see if you can determine why things didn’t go as planned and to come up with a way to do better next time. By continuing to improve your planning and budgeting skills, your chances of achieving the desired results go up accordingly. That’s when you’re truly LEADING your business. You can say this is where I want the business to go, how much profit I want and have a strategy and plan to make it happen.

As you begin to monitor and manage your business operating results you’ll probably see a change in your perception of yourself and your role as business owner/leader as well. You’ll be amazed at the confidence gained in being able to make sound business decisions.

Here’s what I suggest you do.

1 – Take an in-depth look at your business report card – your financial statements. We’re operating on the assumption that you have a system in place that will provide you with accurate, timely financial reports. I recommend a monthly review, a quarterly review and an annual review. You have to do the quarterly review for tax purposes anyway, so it’s a great time to consider the quarter as one-fourth of your operating year. What has happened in this period will likely set the framework for future quarters. Make adjustments to your plan as needed based on results achieved.

2 – When doing your monthly review, check back over your calendar for the past month. How much of your plans were actually accomplished? Is there a need to make budget changes because plans fell behind? Why did that happen? What impact will it have on revenues and costs? Question each finding that is different than expected.

3 – Compare each line item with previous months as well as next month’s projections. Look at increases and decreases. Three months in a row of increases or decreases may indicate a trend. Be sure you know why this is happening. If it’s not what you want, create a plan and take action to alter the trend.

4 – Adjust next month’s plans after determining how much of the old plans should be brought forward. Make any budget changes and transfer your first two week’s plans to your weekly calendar. Then each week break the plans down into specific actions by day. Actually give a time slot (can be an hour or a whole day) to actions that will require time. How can you expect to get things done if you don’t schedule for them?

5 – It’s this monthly review, planning and action that allows you to stay on your toes and nimble enough to make changes before negative trends become hard to reverse. It’s how you know what’s going on in your business and it’s a solid foundation for daily and periodic decision-making .

6 – Transfer each Quarterly Budget to an Operating Summary Spreadsheet. Many accounting packages can provide this for you or you can create something yourself. You want to compare three months’ results with corresponding monthly projections. You’ll be able to see right away where you were off and can zoom in to look for what happened.

7 – Compare Quarterly Reports and then look at all of them sequentially for the past year. This gives you a lot of valuable information for creating next year’s strategy, plans, actions and budgets. Having accurate documentation in this fashion not only helps you make better business decisions it shows any outsider (investor or lender) that you are in fiscal control of your business. It goes a long way toward building your credibility and the confidence of the outside party.

8 – It can be very helpful to have someone who’s knowledgeable walk you through it the first few times until you become familiar with what is included in each item and report. That’s a great role for your business coach to play. Having a mentor through some of the details can make a big difference in how quickly it falls into place for you. The important thing is that you become comfortable with what your numbers are telling you.

It’s wonderful to watch clients’ reaction when they finally “get it”. They’re much more confident in their decisions and actually look forward to their monthly financial statements to see the results of the decisions they’ve made. The bottom line is the ultimate report card and that’s what we’re all trying to improve.

Once you’ve changed your involvement in your business from being reactive to being proactive you are truly a BUSINESS LEADER. And you’re now in a great position to enjoy the rewards!!

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP SERIES:

Action:  Following Your Plan

Wow! Look how far you’ve come. You’re actually ready for action. Let’s just do a quick review to see how we got to this point.

You started with the abstract concept of your business – your vision. You were able to see it with your mind’s eye. You identified and quantified what it would look like as a mature business. Then you took a snapshot of where you are now and how you are operating. Since there was a difference between the two, we determined the size of that difference and how long we thought it might take to get from where we are to where we want to be.

If our timeframe realistically is five years we’ll need to work backward from that place we want to be in five years. The more this can be quantified, the better, because we need some benchmarks along the way to show us how we’re doing against our ultimate plan. These benchmarks correspond to our goals, which we set on an annual basis in an order that gets us closer to our vision with each passing year.

From the goals comes the strategy for how we’ll accomplish them. From the strategy comes the specific task list – our plan. In order to support carrying out our plan we need to know when we will undertake each task, what resources will be required and what the expected result/reward will be – and when we can expect to see those results. That was the subject of our last article on financial planning.

At this point, you’ve got an operating plan and a financial plan, both of which have addressed the timing issue. From your financial projections you know when your expenses will occur from month to month. So the next step is to apply your plans to your daily calendar on a month-by month basis. It’s good to include your revenue, expense and projected profit goals also. It helps to have the list available to help keep you on target.

Then you place each task in one of the four weeks of the month, where they seem to be most logical. Obviously you don’t want to pile them all in the same week. Consider the time each will take and use your best judgment about where to include them. Once you’ve transferred to the weeks you will be ready to transfer to the daily calendar as each week comes up. Now you’re at the day-to-day operating level. This is where your plan is being carried out. If you aren’t doing it here, it isn’t happening.

It isn’t hard; it just means taking the time at the beginning of the month and each week. At the end of each week, see what you accomplished from your list and what has to be carried forward or dropped. Make any adjustments to your monthly plans based on what has transpired during the past month.

Using our plan to increase gross income (revenue) by $60,000 for the year, let’s see what happens on a month to month basis. In June, we pay for our sales materials. (June projected expenses are $10,000).

We’ve projected $10,000, so we know that’s our budget. In the planning phase we would have probably started working on our sales materials and finding someone to provide them in April. That’s how we knew how much to include in the financial plan for sales materials. We put that plan into action by adding “finalize sales material provider” as the task to be completed for week one of April. Then week two might be to check initial drafts and return for changes. Week three will likely be sign off on proposal and week four or five would be when we’d receive the materials.

Based on this we’re ready to start our training in May. That means we’ll have to start preparing that in April also.  We’ll be paying the provider of our training in July in accordance with our plan. We plan to do a campaign in August and September also which we’d include in our sales costs in August, September and October.

Now you can break up the tasks in each of these months by week and you’re implementing your plan.

We’ve translated our plan into action and have a way to check to see how we’re doing. Next we’ll look at the management aspect of the business. That’s where we see if what we planned actually happened and if not, why not? We can also see how close we are to our projected budget. Now it gets interesting.