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.

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.

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.

Risk vs. Success

risk vs. successAs an entrepreneur you expect to fail every once in a while, but what about risk?  New, brilliant and unique products/services/strategies don’t get tried any other way.  In some cases, avoidance of risk can lead to a total business failure.  So what is the right amount of risk?

Some business owners play it safe by watching others succeed and follow their lead with a few creative differences; this can lead to some success without the risk.  But did you really start a business to be a follower, to be left in the dust, or shown up by your competitor? I have learned that this strategy of succeeding in others footsteps robs you and your company from the invisible lessons (and accompanying knowledge and experience) gleaned from taking risks. You won’t share in the glory, praise, or energy derived from the success.  Taking risk is a good thing, if you do it with your eyes wide open.

Being able to discern acceptable risk vs. crazy or time wasting risk is the key.  You don’t have to follow in anyone’s footsteps to learn from them; [Read more…]

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…]

How to Create a Strategy: A Case Study

Clients often tell me they’re not really clear about the concept of Strategy. It’s a lot easier than you might think. Strategy is one of the steps in the planning process and cycle. The sequence in the business planning process is Vision, Mission, Goals, Strategy.

Vision is where you start and is the most abstract. Once clarified it become the guiding light toward which all your activities will be directed. Your Mission is what you do in your business to carry out your Vision. Goals are specific measurables that define what will exist when you’ve realized your Vision. The Strategy step is the thinking through of how you will achieve those Goals.

Start by considering the resources you have and the direction you want to go. Evaluate various scenarios and steps and predict how they will turn out. An analogy that makes it easier to understand is the game of chess. Various moves are considered with predicted outcomes BEFORE the actions are taken.

Some examples of Strategy might be:

– identify and develop an untapped market (based on observed trends);
– provide staff training and coaching (to strengthen customer service)
– redefine our brand (to fit our updated target market)

Developing a clear Strategy is critical because you’re going to base your Plan on your Strategy. As you know, it’s the activities you carry out in your day-to-day operations that produce the results you see at the end of the month. It is likely that you will have more than one Strategy because you’ll probably have several Goals.

There may be more than one Strategy for each Goal. An example might be to “create a contact database” and “hire a part-time assistant to manage your database”. You’re not actually at the Plan level until you determine the steps you’re going to take to hire that assistant (seek employee referrals, network word of mouth).

Bill Sipes, CPA, is founder and CEO of a community-based Accounting Business, which provides Tax Management, Write-up, Financial Services, Financial Support Systems and Business Valuation. He sees opportunities to add even more services and products and has decided to take on the persona of a Financial Advisor. I’d like to share the story of how he recently developed his Strategy for this business because it clearly exemplifies the process.

When there was an economic downturn in his local community, Bill realized he needed a new Strategy that would “turn his clients into cheerleaders” and turn around his bottom line. He decided to find out where his business had been coming from in the recent past.

He found out he got most business from 3 sources: mailing to professionals, new business/product mailing, and new sales to existing clients.

He called together his staff to discuss his findings and to ask for their help in determining a new Strategy. Following the meeting he sent out a summary of “what he heard” and asked for their continued thoughts. The staff were acknowledged and given a role in the process.

Here’s Bill’s memo to staff.

“Thanks to all. I think this is the most important meeting we have ever had. This is what I heard.

1. We need to separate ourselves from the other CPA firms.

2. Several ways to do this were mentioned. Speed of service was one. Another was building relationships.

3. We are going to develop a system of building relationships with our clients. Jane is going to write a rough script to follow whenever we get with a client…..The Moment of Truth.

4. I am going to ask Annette to print a few banners that say…..The Moment of Truth.

5. Jeff is going to check with the software people about Telemagic and Act.

6. We are going to spend more time “showing our face” in the community and to our clients.

7. When with a client always ask……How are we doing?

Thanks again for a great meeting……which I am sure will lead to a great system that will turn our clients into cheerleaders.”

Here’s Bill’s Strategy.

– Develop a plan to cross-sell existing clients.
– Continue to use Marketing Assistant to carry out marketing campaign to targeted list.
– Make Customer Service visits with our commissioned software salesman to cement relationships and try to cross-sell.
– Hire a commissioned insurance sales rep with a benefits background to sell Long Term Care Insurance as a new service (to cross-sell).
– Redefine our “brand”. Develop our new image to support our updated profile.

He’s building his redefined brand on “trusted relationships”. The staff is very enthusiastic and willing to support each other’s efforts. He also plans to have “Moment of Truth” banners made up to keep the staff focused on what’s important.

Bill is utilizing a Strategy that’s based on research into information about his own business and he has buy-in from his staff. He not only knows where he’s going, he has a Strategy to get there.

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…]

Ask for Help!

In a recent interview I was asked what I thought was a common thread for all my clients. Without thinking, I answered, “They’re ready and willing to ask for help”. I knew it was true before, but I hadn’t put it into words. Understanding and acknowledging this I can now focus on finding those who are ready to ask for help. That’s a great insight. I can simply ask prospects if they are ready to get help.
Entrepreneurs by nature don’t like to ask for help. An independent and sometimes stubborn lot, we tend to think we can do it all. There are many kinds of help we can ask for, from getting administrative support to calling on expertise beyond our own to accomplish something that would require ramp up time for us. That includes getting feedback on our ideas, helping us monitor our milestones and keeping us focused on our goals. The place to go for help is where the payoff is the biggest. If we haven’t clearly defined exactly what results we want, we may want to start there and get help to define them.

It’s much easier, and certainly more pleasant, having someone help us sort out the issues, get focused on goals, offer solutions, function as a partner and be a friend. Enter — the coach.

How do you know if you’re ready to ask for help from someone like a coach? Here are a few responses I’ve heard more than once.

– Tried unsuccessfully to do it myself
– Feel stuck and tempted to give up
– Want to grow my business but don’t know how
– Finances are out of control
– Staff is not productive; I end up doing it all
– Have great ideas, but don’t know how to develop them
– Want to create a strong brand; need guidance
– Frustrated with my business partnership or family business

With those kinds of answers you can’t afford NOT to get help. Humans were meant to help each other. It’s an honor to be asked for help. It reinforces our sense of being valued.
Asking for help does not imply weakness. I’ve found that those who ask for help when they need it are much more likely to succeed than those who keep putting it off, continuing to hope they can do it themselves. That can lead to total frustration and could be the beginning of an unwanted downhill spiral.

Is it time to get help in making critical decisions or setting a strategic course of action? Don’t be afraid to ask. I’ll bet you’ll be glad you did.

Go to the Contact Page, and tell me how I can help.

If you’re ready to cut through all the “stuff” and move your business onto the fast track to success, join us for the 9 week Fast Track Intensive, starting April 27th. First session is F*R*E*E.

What is a Strategy? 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 learn. A strategy is an informed decision that provides a framework for actions.

From “How to Create a Marketing Strategy That Delivers“.

Are you prepared to lead?

LeaderTo lead is a verb. It implies action. The leader acts, the follower reacts. The leader is the one who steps out in front and says “Follow me; I know a better way.” If he’s convincing or trusted, those who relate to the message will follow.

There are those who say leadership can be learned — and I definitely agree with that. There are, however, natural strengths and talents within each of us which are not the result of learning.

If given the opportunity to make our choices without outside influence, we’ll select certain activities on which to spend our time and dedicate our undivided, disciplined attention for long periods just for the pleasure of the experience. These are the points from which we can learn to lead. This is where we really are the experts and where we do have something to offer.

Leading from our strengths and passions is the soundest foundation upon which to build a business. It’s extremely valuable to be able to call upon these personal qualities for a level of credibility that can’t be achieved from anything that we’ve learned externally. [Read more…]

The One Page Marketing Plan

I’m so excited about this new One Page Marketing Plan I want to share the first part with you now. If you begin to see what it can do for you, I hope you’ll get it for yourself.

The purpose of the One Page Marketing Plan is to simplify the steps of creating a practical plan you can put to use immediately. It can be used to support a marketing campaign or to carry out your overall business plan.

We start by gathering pertinent information and answering specific questions. We give you explanations and examples to direct your thinking plus simple tools that provide a structure you can use over and over again. You are both learning and doing at the same time.

When you actually put the Plan to use, you’ll not only see positive Results, you’ll have started a new habit that will prepare you to reach the next level in your business. [Read more…]