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.

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP SERIES:

Business Strategy: The Framework for Your Plan

Business Leadership Series photo with charts and a strong cup of coffeeAs prologue to this article, the steps we’ve taken to this point are as follows.

We’ve clarified and documented our vision. We’ve based our mission on the business we’ll conduct in pursuit of our vision. We’ve assessed our business to determine how close we are to the definition of business fitness. Business fitness is an encompassing measure of dynamic stability, so it’s one we’ll definitely want to consider as we develop our thinking for the future.

Since all these concepts: vision, mission and fitness are abstract, our next steps should be actions directed toward manifestation.  In most instances it will take several years for us to realize our vision. It’s very helpful to define what our business will look like when we reach that level. This definition might include revenues, profits, market share, business scope and product portfolio. What’s important is that we create a mental image of this business and our role within it when the vision has been reached. As such, our longest term goal is to realize, materially, what we have envisioned mentally. We could be talking 3 years, 5 years or more. It’s hard to know how long it will take. We just need to use our best judgment.

If this sounds like a meaningless exercise, think again. Thought is the first step in the manifestation process. Anything created consciously by a human is based on a specific and clear thought. An artist must see the completed painting in his mind, an architect must see the building, an engineer must see the machine and envision its working parts.

Once you have a clear picture, write it out as your long-term goal and be sure to create a benchmark to acknowledge goal achievement. You’re saying “when ‘this’ occurs I will have reached my goal.” Of course, you’ll be moving your goals ahead over time, so it won’t be an end, just a benchmark to acknowledge that you’ve reached your goal.

Now, the question becomes, HOW do you get from where you are to where you want to be? This is where we enter the realm of strategy. Think of strategy as being the system you’ll use to frame your plan. In military strategy, it’s about movement of resources and use of intelligence. In business it’s pretty much the same.

I have a client whose long-term goal is to sell his business so he can retire to a different lifestyle and use the income stream from the sale to partially support his new lifestyle. One of his short-term goals is to maximize the value of the business prior to sale. So he needs two strategies: one to maximize the value, the other to sell the business. They will have different timeframes, but there is an overlap.

His strategy to maximize the business value is to identify and set a plan to increase high-margin clients while reducing low-margin clients.  His benchmark is a specific new high in revenue for fiscal 2013. How he plans to achieve that will be addressed in his plan.

His strategy to sell his business is to transfer stock over time to his senior associate, whom he will groom to move into the role of CEO. She’s already handling most of day-to-day operations. The plan will need to include specific actions that he and his associate must carry out with timeframes for each.

The strategies that you select to reach your goals will have a strong influence on the outcomes you will realize. In determining your strategies it can be helpful to call upon the knowledge of others who know you and your business. These can be your business associates (including strategic alliances), your coach and even your customers. And don’t overlook the value in gathering information from your front-line staff and supervisors. They have a wealth of knowledge that often gets overlooked and strategic planning is where it can be particularly beneficial.

Because vision is realized over several years of business operation, you’ll be setting annual goals and selecting specific strategies to help you achieve them. It’s the achievement of these annual (short-term) goals using strategy and planning that lead you, one step at a time, to realizing your long term goals and vision.

Next step? You guessed it – planning. Stay with us. We’ll pick up on that next time.

 

BUSINESS LEADERSHIP SERIES:

Business Fitness: What It Is, How to Get It and
Why You Need It Now

Business Leadership Fitness Checklist.Few business owners start their business with the leadership attitude. It’s more often a leap of faith based on past experiences, knowledge and interests.  Learning to think of yourself as a business leader is a process that takes time and directed intent.

Through the process of envisioning, you’ve refined and defined what you want your business to become.  Now take that vision and apply the fitness metaphor.  See your dream business in a state of being sleek, strong, stable, flexible and attractive.  That’s what we call “business fitness” and it’s the foundation for long term success.

In the first article we talked about refining and defining your business vision.  Just like a builder would envision the finished house or an artist would envision his finished painting before applying the first stroke, the business owner needs to envision what the business will look like when it’s mature.  Once this is clearly in focus, it’s important to write it so it becomes a reference as the business evolves.

In the last article, we analyzed your business to see where it is at the present time.  Using your vision and your analysis, let’s apply the fitness metaphor.  You’d want to be able to answer “yes” to the following questions.  If you can, your business is in a state of fitness and you are ready for growth.

Sleek 

  • Are you concentrating on the critical elements that determine the condition of your business – such as Gross and Net Revenues, Accounts Receivable, Inventory, Fixed and Variable Expenses, Unexpected Expenses, Cost per Unit Sold, Cash Flow, Net Profit/Loss, Cash Reserve or Debt?
  • Have you clearly defined your market and targeted your marketing efforts to the most likely groups?
  • Have you identified and eliminated all unnecessary expense?
  • Is your inventory and/or accounts receivable as tight as possible?

Strong

  • Are you consistently able to pay off debt?
  • Is your cash reserve growing?
  • Are your revenues and earnings increasing?
  • Do you cut your losses early because you are closely monitoring results of action taken?
  • Have you identified your strengths and are concentrating resources on them?  Are you well supported in your areas of weakness?

Stable

  • Do you do a monthly review of your income and expense statement and make decisions for future action based on bottom line results?
  • Does your monthly income always cover your expenses?
  • Do you have a feeling you are in control of your business?
  • Do you have the documentation necessary to show the strength of your business should you want to borrow capital or attract investors for expansion?

Flexible

  • Have you diversified your core business enough so you are not totally dependent on one product or service?
  • Are you aware of what’s happening in your industry and its position within the global economy?
  • Do you pursue joint ventures, partnerships and other alliances that will forward your business goals?
  • Are you open to new ideas and suggestions?
  • Are you in a financial position to take advantage of new opportunities?

Attractive

  • Does your product or service provide a real and clearly understood benefit?
  • Does your marketing and public relations activities make you look attractive to do business with?
  • Does your customer service reinforce your attractiveness?
  • Are your communications clear and on target toward your vision?
  • Can others see that your business is doing well?

Answer all these questions about your business and compare it to where you want to go (point B).  The question now becomes how do you get from point A (where you are now) to point B?  Guess what?  That’s the subject of the next article in this series.

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.

Five Questions to Help Create an Effective Marketing Plan

Questions can be a wonderful tool. In planning, the key to success is knowing the right questions to ask. That certainly applies when it comes to creating a Marketing Plan.

Answering the following questions will provide you with information needed to create the framework for an effective plan.

What is your value message?

This is the first and most important question you can answer. Until you know what value you wish to communicate about your product or service, attracting customers will be unfocused and difficult.

Consider how you’re different from your competitors. Your message must clearly state the value your customer can expect to receive. And remember, there is at least some emotion behind every purchase. Your value message might be that you are timely and accurate (you’re respectful), you offer a lot for a little (I feel smart buying from you), or your ingredients are top quality (I deserve good things).

“Simple fare, freshly and tastefully prepared” is the message a restaurant might want its prospective customers to get. When seeing or hearing the name of the restaurant, this is what we want them to remember. Likewise, when thinking of that kind of food, we want our restaurant to come to mind. The simpler the message, the clearer it will be. The clearer it is stated, the stronger and more “attractive” it becomes. Clarity is the key.

Of course, you not only have to sell it, you then have to deliver the value. [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…]

Want More Sales! Create More Value!

If you’re feeling frustrated with the results of your sales efforts, don’t give up; try creating more value. Of course, value will be different for each type of business. Your job is to determine what it is and how you can provide it.

Adding free bonuses and extras is a common way to add value. Barnes & Noble built its online business quickly by offering free shipping when Amazon.com did not.

An accountant friend added the service of setting up and training on the client’s accounting software making it painless for the client and much easier to obtain needed information for taxes and reporting. It was a win-win and many clients saw the value.

Depending on your business, you might include free upgrades for your software. Maybe add a complimentary financial assessment for a new investment client. Or a free car wash with an oil change. Consider where you can add value at little or no cost to you. The objective is to get the commitment from the customer. Once a customer they are a prime candidate to buy more if you have provided value. [Read more…]

7 Questions to Ask Before Launching a New Product or Service

The economy has been good to many small businesses this past year. Many are ramping up for expansion through the launch of a new product or service. This can be an ideal way to grow your business if you do it strategically.

To help increase your odds of success with a new product launch, I suggest you analyze your business and market history. Here are seven questions that will assist you in analyzing your information and creating a growth plan.

1 – Is my business already on a solid foundation?
If your systems, processes and personnel are not ready, efforts to expand will overload your capabilities and set you up for failure. Before launching a new product or service, make sure you are ready to handle the orders, deliver the product or service and collect your money in a systematic and timely fashion.

Also, make sure you have one or more strong indications that there is a market for what you plan to offer. Strong past sales of something similar or a part of what you are expanding are usually a positive sign. Be careful you don’t fall in love with an idea and disregard the warning signs that the market won’t support it.

2 – What is the size of the market?
Do a competitive analysis. How is your new product or service filling a market need? What will be your position within this market? Who is your target market and how will you reach them? You want to reach the conclusion that your efforts have the potential to pay off. If you are offering the same product to a new or broader market the same principles apply.

3 – How should I price it?
Pricing is an important consideration. When you do your competitive analysis you’ll learn how similar products or services are priced. You want your price to be attractive enough to sway people to buy; unless you’re pricing a luxury product and the higher the price, the higher the perceived value. The option for prospects to keep their money and not buy from anyone is always one of your competitors.

I find it’s better to start on the low side to make sure the perceived value is greater than the cost. You can raise the price once demand has been established.

4 -How much revenue can I expect to generate within a specified time period (usually one year)
This is an important question and is dependent upon the actions you take to generate sales. You’ll need to think through your Marketing Plan in order to come up with a realistic projection of how many widgets you can sell at $XX within a specified time period. Analyze your sales history to help you know what has worked in the past. If you have a long lead time for sales, that should be taken into consideration. This may mean hefty upfront expenses with corresponding delayed revenue income. To be conservative make your revenue projections and then knock off 30%.

5 – What will it take to realize this additional revenue and profit?
What additional resources will you need when launching a new product or service? Do you need to hire more people, buy more supplies or inventory, etc.? That additional cost must be taken into the equation. These may be in the form of fixed or variable costs.

Consider what the competition is doing and what market insights and trends you can utilize that will generate sales. Select one or two actions for your initial campaign and test on a small scale before committing major dollars.

At best, making a financial revenue and expense projection is always a guesstimate. Gathering and analyzing pertinent information is the key to accuracy.

6 – Where is the break even point and what is the potential profit?
The formula to determine how many you have to sell to start making a profit is Fixed Costs divided by (Revenue per unit minus Variable costs per unit). A quick and simple explanation of this can be viewed in the article, “Breakeven Analysis” . For some products or services the upfront investment is such that the breakeven doesn’t happen for more than a year. If that is your situation, you’ll definitely want to know how you’re going to capitalize such a project.

7 – Is this new direction in line with my overall Business Vision and Long Term Goals?
This is a good time to determine if your new offering will take you closer to (or further from) where you want your business to be going. One of the real values of having a clear Vision and Goals is to help you make this type of decision for every opportunity that presents itself. Think long and hard before starting something new that does not have an obvious fit.

Answer these questions and you’ll be a lot more confident about your plans and in a much better position to succeed when bringing a new product or service to market. Good luck with your new project!

Three Keys to Finding the Gold in Your Business

Gold is certainly a hot commodity in today’s economy. Any gold you have is worth more today than it was a year ago. I’ll bet you have some gold you’re not even aware of, right there in your own business. Let’s see if we can find it. If you could make twice the income in half the time, would that be as good as gold to you?
Would that increase the value of your business? Sounds like a marketing rant, doesn’t it? Well, there are three basic underlying truths that, once learned and applied, will allow you to make more money while you work less. Here they are.

Simplify

Spend more time on goal-oriented activities, less on non-essentials. You want your daily activities to be adding value to your business and taking you closer to your goals. Block out specific time on your calendar for these activities and make sure they get done first. E-mail, telephone and personal interruptions steal a lot of time. Dedicate specific time to these tasks also; just work
hard to keep them from interfering with your goal-directed actions and time.
Tasks get simpler when they’re broken down into “baby” steps. When approaching a big or long term project, break it down into small segments that can be worked on and completed within a short time period (a few hours). You’ll gain satisfaction from completing the small task, and will be prepared to take the next step forward.

Tip: One of my clients says it’s much better to start with the easiest step first. That makes the next step seem easy too. Working through from easiest to most difficult prepares him for the level of thinking required at that point.
He said “I used to start with the hardest first, but that didn’t work very well because I was overwhelmed immediately. I had a tendency to put off working on such a project. Now I just do what’s easiest and get started.”

Assignment: Identify at least 3 activities that you know are stealing your time or are non-essential. Plan to allot X amount of time each day (30 minutes to 2 hours) to handle low-priority activities. Focus and schedule your time on activities that lead to your goals. Break them down into tasks that can be accomplished in a short period of time.

Standardize

Standardize repetitive tasks so that much of the work is already done before you start.You use standardized accounting
systems, computer operating systems and communication systems. It makes sense that the rest of your business can apply these same principles also. Let’s say you want to reduce the time you spend preparing a report for clients, which frequently can take you 5 to 7 hours. What are the underlying consistencies that you do each time you complete this task? What interchangeable modules
are appropriate for different circumstances? For each report you’ll start with the basic template and simply apply your thinking and your material where appropriate.
Any function which is repeated frequently can be simplified by identifying its core elements and organizing them to expedite the process. Same money; less time spent. What would it be worth to save 2 or 3 hours of your time on every project?

Assignment: Identify all the “routine” tasks in your business. Determine how you can standardize these tasks so that part of the work is already done each time. Templates, forms and worksheets are a good way to organize and standardize actions. They also help provide assurance that nothing gets lost or dropped.

Systematize

Approach your business as an overall operating system.Is it working at its most efficient or are there bottlenecks and gaps
that steal time and money? Consider the operating systems of your business: marketing, sales, production, delivery, communication (internal and external), customer service/support. What are the core elements in each of these? What is repeated consistently? These core elements (when refined and applied) are the real value of your business. It’s what keeps your business functioning and doing its job. When the systems are working properly you can go on vacation
and know that the work is getting done. It’s what a potential investor or buyer will value. The simpler and more streamlined the process, the faster and less expensive to achieve the result. More for you in less time.

Assignment: Identify which systems in your business are working well? Which could use some attention and refinement? Take those random ideas and actions that happen on a regular basis in your business; corral them, organize them and put them to work in one of your operating systems.

Apply these three principles to your business and I’ll bet this time next
year your business will be worth a whole lot more and your satisfaction level
will be much greater. You’ll know you’ve found gold.