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.

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.

BUSINESS CHALLENGES: How to Face Them with Confidence

If I say “business challenge” what comes to mind? Most people have a negative connotation of the word “challenge”. But we know that with every challenge comes an opportunity.

Think of meeting a challenge as facing a crossroads in your path. Take one direction and the outcome will likely be A; take the other and the outcome will probably be more like B.

In order to reach the best decision, you must be clear about your Long Term Vision and Goals. Only then can it be a sound point of reference for decision-making. If clarifying your Vision and Goals is one of your challenges, you might consider working with a trusted advisor or coach. Operating without a Vision and Goals is like setting sail without a destination port.

Considering Vision and Goals before reaching a decision will not only make the decision easier, it will become an opportunity to take an active, positive step toward them.

Here are the questions to ask when identifying a challenge.

–          How does this challenge affect my Long Term Vision and Goals for myself and my business?

–          Based on that, what are the most logical options to resolve the challenge?

–          What will be the probable outcomes of each of my options?

By answering these questions in sequence you’ll have the most critical point of reference at hand as you’re considering your options and their ramifications. You’ll obviously want to select the option that will most favorably affect realization of your Long Term Vision and Goals.

Sometimes challenges are such that your Vision, Mission and Goals will need to be rethought.

Faced with a challenge to go out on his own when his partnership fell apart, John Douglas, had to rethink his Long Term Vision and Goals. He was one of two architects who had built their business on mutual interests, without consideration of how each would function in the business. When they realized they were at an impasse, they decided it was better that each go his own way.

By taking the time to review what he wanted for himself and how the business could be a vehicle for him to express his best self, he found it easy and rewarding to clarify and write out his Long Term Vision and Goals. He now can face other challenges with the confidence that he’ll have this as his guiding light for making any decision.

The final decision for any challenge, of course, is just the beginning of the next phase – Goal Setting, which is then followed by Planning, Taking Action and Evaluating Results.

As you can see we’re bringing the challenge into the Planning Cycle.

By considering the challenge against a meaningful outcome, we now know what questions to ask and how to determine what needs to happen in order to keep on track toward Goal Achievement. Use of Short Term Goals creates interim milestones that tell us we are on track toward our Long Term Goals and Vision.

Identify the challenges you currently face. Write them out, prioritize them and consider the likely options against your Long Term Goals and Vision.

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TALK ABOUT YOUR CHALLENGES:

Are you serious about resolving your challenges with a positive outcome? Are you open to discussing how coaching might accelerate your progress?  Let’s spend half an hour talking about what your want for yourself and your business. Just talking about it will bring things into focus and help you get on track. There’s no charge and no obligation. Send me an e-mail and we’ll schedule a mutually convenient time to speak.

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…]

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…]

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…]

​Are you Suffering from “Entrepreneuritis”?

Today a client introduced me to a new term, “entrepreneuritis”. Since I hadn’t heard the term, I asked her what it was. She said it’s that syndrome that says “I can do it all myself; I want to do it all myself, I have to do it all myself. These are all my ideas, my way of doing things and no one else can do it as well. And I’m feeling overwhelmed because I need to grow my business but I’m so busy doing everything myself, I don’t have enough time to do the things that bring in business.”

Being curious, I decided to do some research myself. There seem to be varying definitions of entrepreneuritis. Robert Sher in his blog article, The Path between Entrepreneuritis and Myopia. says “Entrepreneuritis is where you can’t stop yourself from jumping on every new business idea that pops into your head. Having a clear definition of your business will aid you in steering the course between entrepreneuritis and myopia”. He also warns, “avoid being too rigid in your niche. If you’re not growing your business in some way you’re in trouble”.

The Blue Jeans Virtual Assistant in her blog article, Do You Have Entrepreneuritis? says, “As a small business owner I must learn how to do everything myself (spending countless hours learning it sometimes) and must grab on to each new idea that comes my way or through my inbox, learn it and move on to the next thing. As a result most likely I have a list of unfinished projects on paper, in an idea journal or on the computer.”

Donna Maria calls it Entrepreneur’s ADD and defines it as 1) too many ideas at one time, no execution of any; 2) can’t think what to do with an idea. In her article, 3-Step Cure for Entrepreneur’s ADD, she actually offers some tactics she used to cure herself.

I think all entrepreneurs occasionally have bouts with entrepreneuritis, even if they didn’t know what to call it. Of course, when it becomes chronic, it can become a problem and really hold back your business. Part of the argument I often hear is “I can’t afford to hire someone to do other tasks”. They don’t have the money to pay someone else now, so they just keep doing it themselves. Bottom line: you can’t grow your business until you can begin to hand off tasks. It’s like the chicken and the egg.

I remember the first time I hired someone to help with my e-mail communications. I didn’t really have the money to pay her, but I decided to make the investment in my business. I quickly learned how valuable it was to be able to hand off tasks that had taken me hours to do. Now I had more time to spend on what only I could do in the business.

For some alternatives to doing it all yourself, read my article, Delegation and Teamwork, for some ideas and examples of how to start letting go a little bit and giving yourself the solid support you need to grow. If you’re really serious about getting your business to the next level, don’t let entrepreneuritis keep you down.

Planning: The Roadmap to Success

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

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

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

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

How to Add Innovation to Your Business

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

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

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

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

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

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