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.

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.

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.

Help! I Want to Dissolve my Partnership

dissolve partnership photoA client, we’ll call her Susan, had a business that was struggling financially and operationally. She was totally disgusted because her partner of 10 years was no longer carrying his weight and didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation. She was so stressed she was seriously considering liquidating the business if things couldn’t be changed for the better in a very short time.

What to do? Her first commitment had to be to herself. Susan was able to realize that it was up to her to take command of this situation. She was coached to create some measurable goals with time frames. She decided she wanted to give the business and her partner one last chance. Susan knew she must bring her partner, and eventually her staff, into the picture in order to get their buy-in.

She created Job Roles for herself, her partner and each of her staff (Office Manager, Buyer and 2 Salesmen). Because of the longstanding relationship between her and her partner, we agreed it was best if I met with the partner and her to present things up to this point. Preparing for this was anxiety-producing for Susan, but [Read more…]

8 Steps to Set Your Business on Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Community: A Closer Look

One of the phenomena I’ve observed in producing and hosting the Small Business Summit, http://smallbiztechsummit.com, over the past 5 years is the business community that has built up around this activity. In addition to attendees we have a number of loyal sponsors who have come back year after year to support our efforts and take advantage of the growing small business community interested in business and technology.

At the Summit you get to reconnect with old friends and have the opportunity to make new ones. We have heard time after time that great new business connections are made at the Summit each year. That’s the bottom line value of the Summit. I hope you will join me at this year’s Summit and experience what I’m talking about.

The Summit is an example of an Informal community; people in a variety of tech and other businesses who come together annually to be updated on technology for small business, make new connections and reconnect with old friends. In this year’s afternoon Summit panel you’ll be hearing from three ladies who have built business communities, “Building Community: Three Successful Women Share Their Stories”. [Read more…]

Is it time to save your business?

Save your Business?The economy is in the tank and there’s no sign of when things will get better. Some small businesses are doing well…and some are not. To do well now, or even survive, every business must review its market, its business practices and its finances. Big changes may be needed to realign the business for success in this market. And if the down economy has compounded previously existing problems, it may be time to save your business…before it’s too late.

I say before “it’s too late” because I feel really bad when I have to tell someone I can’t help them. They’ve waited too long. Sometimes it’s just too late – and there’s nothing left to work with. You don’t want to find yourself in that situation.

It’s important for business owners to identify the Warning Signs that spell trouble ahead. Unfortunately, many don’t recognize these signs early enough to take corrective action…before it’s too late.

So tell me: what is not going well for you right now? Would you answer “yes” to any of the following questions? Be honest. This is meant to help you take a hard look at your business. [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…]

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 n0w 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…]

A Small Business Community’s Success Story

I’m still high from the energy and positive feedback we’ve had from the Third Annual Small Business Summit 2008. Support and enthusiasm about making it happen was apparent from last year’s Summit, but we didn’t know we’d have a sell-out and fill the house. Last year we had 360 attendees and this year it was 450.

As a small business community in one of the nation’s major business centers, it’s clear that we are a vocal and expanding group. The Summit concept and community now has a life of its own. People tell us they look forward to attending each year and many ask what else we’re doing. Here’s a quick glimpse at how it happens and why it’s a success.

It all started in the Spring of 2005. I had read articles and posts by Ramon Ray, http://smallbiztechnology.com, for several months and finally decided to attend an event where he was speaking. I was impressed by his presentation and the fact that he focused on small business technology. It’s a critical element of any small business, but not really my strong suit. I wanted to know more about his work, so we decided to meet for coffee. [Read more…]