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.

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.

4 Things to Do Before Starting Your Own Business

Starting a business of any kind comes with its challenges, but if you’re passionate about what you’re offering, meeting your initial challenges will be easier. Even better, these actions will help give you a better understanding of your product or service, thus giving you more confidence as you head into this new adventure. Here are four things to do before starting your business.

Understand the Law

There are some general laws that apply to any new business, but your particular industry may have a set of its own as well. Determine what kind of insurance or licenses you will need, the tax information you’ll need to file and grasp the necessary details of human resources if you’ll be hiring staff. Be sure you understand the practical, legal and  strategic aspects now rather than later.

Write a Business Plan

Putting your overall business idea, marketing intentions and future goals on paper is a great place to start. Are you filling a void in the market, allowing customers a shopping experience or product they wouldn’t get otherwise? What will make your business different than others that may offer the same product or service? Answering these questions and organizing them into a business plan will provide an “operating plan” that will be a solid foundation on which to build a strong and profitable business.

Get Help

Entering this new world alone is tempting, but it may not be the best idea. There are many things to factor in to creating a business and it might be best to seek the help of an expert, someone who’s been there before and has helped others build successful businesses. Think of the time and money you’ll be saving by having things in place from the beginning.  There will be lots of questions. Having someone who has been there to help you identify what’s important and how to make the right decision will keep you from making costly mistakes.

Choose a Location

Luckily, technology today makes it easier for businesses to operate without a physical location. But that all depends on what type of product or service you offer. Consider the financial aspects of overhead; rent, utilities, taxes. If you don’t need it, look into how you might be able to set up shop online and ship your products. Maybe for your business, a healthy combination of both is needed. Don’t skimp on the research, make sure you’ve examined all of your needs and options before making a choice.

Addressing these starter challenges will put you in prime position to get your business off the ground on a good foundation. Remember that many have come before you and it’s a good thing to seek the advice of someone who can help you tackle problems before they start. Good luck!


If you’re just starting a business and would like a reality check as to whether you’ve covered all bases, send a Contact request and I’ll be in touch.

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!!

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.

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…]

Business Leadership NOW!

Are you the owner of a small business? A professional in private practice? Or an executive in a small company? If you are any of these and you don’t think of yourself as a “business leader,” shame on you.

By default, when you have decision-making responsibility and authority, you are the leader.

A recent Entrepreneur Magazine cover text reads “Who are America’s future business leaders? You are. So what does it take to succeed? The best leaders combine bold new strategies with time-tested values. Are you up to the task?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. This is the message I continue to communicate. NOW is the time to accept the role. Allow it to challenge and motivate you.

The leader’s old role of charismatic superstar has been redefined [Read more…]

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…]

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…]