So, you are working away dealing with queries, answering emails and calls, meeting clients and trying to engage new prospects. There is a long list of activity you have tried to complete over the last few months but you never seem to make any tangible progress. Every so often you think about your early days when you had all that excitement of running your own business, all those hopes and dreams of independence, making a decent living and being in charge of your own destiny.
With your head down fire fighting it becomes more difficult to see how, even if you could you can change the path you’re on, what you can do about this in a practical way that will work.
This is where the process of planning has its value, I am not just talking about ‘writing the plan’ – I am talking about taking an opportunity to put the brakes on for a while, stepping back and taking a good hard look at your business and how you run it. You might be very pleasantly surprised at what can happen. So what is business improvement?
The way you work can include some bad habits and unless you stop, take stock and review you just don’t notice, sometimes until those bad habits lead to unexpected challenges that seem sudden but have actually been bubbling along under the surface for a while. Like losing a customer or staff member, sometimes you might be offered a business opportunity and it’s hard to decide if you should take it, just because you don’t know if it’s a good fit? or you may be trying to develop a marketing campaign but not sure where to begin.
All of these business events are entirely normal – how successfully we respond to them depends on how much preparation or planning we have done.
So, how do you set about planning.
Here are some suggestions:
- Set aside some quality time – preferably away from your business environment where you can think more clearly without distraction
- Divide your time into specific areas – Big Picture thinking – your vision – what you want the business to achieve, the actions that you need to take to make that happen, the resources you will need to support the plans and how you want the business to run – your unwritten rules and then operational areas like, operations – how you deliver your products and services, marketing and sales, finance, admin and legal, systems and processes, people/HR and contingency planning.
- Have someone with you – you can do this with your partners, team or an independent person you trust to give you good feedback.
- Allow yourself the freedom to browse ideas without limitation
- Use flip charts or mind maps for recording ideas – there is enormous value in seeing ideas become tangible by writing them down
- Understand what is happening in your business right now – the good, the not so good, the opportunities that are there waiting to be developed and the actions you can take to safeguard your position.
- No. 6 is important because you are developing key information about your business performance that provides a benchmark for where you are right now – which means that you can measure your success in changing your business over time against that data.
- Highlight some key priorities for change, document simple actions steps to address them and schedule them against a timetable. Select 2-3 for immediate action and timetable lower priorities accordingly. Use a format that you are comfortable, excel spreadsheet, word document or project planning tools if you prefer.
- Take action – do it….. any time you invest in planning is a complete waste of time if you don’t do anything as a result.
- Monitor what happens and tweak as necessary.
- Instil this way of working so that review and continuous improvement become a way of life.
- Make better use of the specialists you use to help you in your business, for example discuss with your accountant what extra management information can be provided that gives an up to date financial snapshot of your business?
- Outsource activity that you identify you really shouldn’t be spending your time on
- Look for quick wins, these are very motivating and help you stick at change! An example would be to review your client list and make contact with any that you haven’t spoken to in a while, or go back and follow-up on interest shown that you have just let slip.
The process of planning can seem daunting but the steps outlined are quite straightforward and can add huge value to your business. Once you take back control you will find that you can make more informed judgements about your business, your decision-making will become easier, you will identify opportunity to make more money, to look after your customers and clients better, motivate your team and work more efficiently. All of which makes for a successful business and a much happier and motivated owner!
If all this still seems daunting then I have developed a new service!
Improve your business in less than 120 minutes for only £99, guaranteed value or your money back! No quibble….
We will cover all areas of your business and some! For information: Visit frozenps.co.uk or call Patricia direct on +441582 733327
You will be required to complete a questionnaire about your business online (60 Minutes), this will be reviewed, analysed and recommendations prepared and we will discuss in a SKYPE call (Minimum 60 Minutes), so that you can implement the outcomes with ease .
Sometimes when I start working with a new client who runs a business that employs people, they will ask me questions like:
- Why is it that I can’t seem to motivate my team?
- Why is it that my people don’t seem to care about the business the way I do? (Yes – I have been asked that)
So, what do you need to consider if you own a business that is dependent on your people to deliver its success with you:
- Hand on heart – have you talked to you team about your plans for the business?
- Do you regularly meet with them to discuss progress, opportunities and challenges you are facing (headlines are OK – you don’t have to discuss details)
- Are you confident that what your team hear from you, is what you thought you said or intended to say?
- How much do you really know about your people, their skills, achievements, characteristics that you are not aware of that could add value to your business?
- Are you able to confidently delegate or do you keep everything to yourself because it’s quicker and easier?
Some of the answers to these questions provide the raw material for looking at how you work first – Inspiring Leadership starts with you – its you as an owner to create the atmosphere in which you will encourage your team to excel.
So, steps to take:
Develop a vision for your business and SHARE it and involve your team
Plan to have regular ‘Strategy/Planning Updates with your team and ask for feedback from them
When you issue instructions – seek feedback immediately so that you check what you are asking for is what has been heard
Plan to do skills audits so that you gain an insight into team members abilities and organise occasional social events to learn about them ‘off duty’ and very importantly celebrate successes.
When planning to delegate work:
- Select team member for their skill
- Ensure that you give full instructions (rather than a quick briefing and then be disappointed when the task isn’t completed the way you wanted)
- Ensure that they have ALL the resources they need to be successful
- Set deadlines
- Seek feedback
- Debrief after the task
And then keep delegating because the more you do the easier it becomes, you will find your team will become more confident and more engaged.
If this blog describes you, then try some of these ideas and post comments on the blog to share your experiences.
It really doesn’t matter what size your business is – all owners have to learn to be great managers and leaders
‘Release The Power of Your Ps’
Here’s a question for you: Do you enjoy your business?
- Yes – absolutely
- Most of the time
- It has its moments
- Not really
- Can’t stand it but have to get on with it
This is a question I ask all my new clients, it may surprise you that many business owners actually find themselves struggling to enjoy their work. Many of the challenges we all face are because of business issues, rather than related to the skill, training or passion that your business is based on.
Generally we start a business based on those skills and tend not to be trained in understanding the key functions of a business and understanding how to make them work effectively. So, winning work, cash flow, dealing with difficult situations and people and lack of planning and resources become obstacles to greater success.
So, here are my top 5 tips for business success this year by helping you refocus your efforts , boost confidence and revive your energy for 2011:
- Business Planning – set aside at least 2 hours a week for ‘bigger picture’ planning, consider what it is exactly you want to achieve, what resources you need in place to make it happen, a timetable allocating activity, who will do it and deadlines. Break the activity down into small actions steps – so that you know what you have to do today to bring your goals closer and make what seems impossible, POSSIBLE.
- Marketing and Winning More Business – review how you won your work best since you started out and then repeat and do more of what works, avoid over complicating your activity. Many opportunities for business are lost because we focus on chasing new work in isolation, rather than prioritising looking after the customers you already have- why not ask your existing customers for referrals?
- Manage Your CASH – implement a simple easy cash flow system, Keep a tight control on costs, invoice more quickly, follow –up late or slow payers and if you are uncomfortable doing this – OUTSOURCE this.
- Market What Makes You Different – consider seriously, why your customers choose to buy from you, obtain constructive feedback about how you are really different from your competitors. Regularly use case study and testimonial to sell your services, they are much more powerful.
- Manage Yourself – analyse how YOU spend your time, a real wake up call for me early in my business life was checking how many hours a week I was actually being paid for! I had a diary full of meetings scheduled and none of them generated income. Consider any bad habits you may have developed and prioritise the time to do work you love and outsource everything else. Don’t forget to celebrate success and keep learning. Build a trusted support network around you and COMMIT TO TAKING ACTION…..
Today’s BBC Business news highlighted Monarch Airlines revealing its re-branding initiative. This doesn’t mean new logos and new uniforms but is more about improving the customer experience and help differentiate the business, as it operates in a highly competitive industry. Having a strong and consistent ‘Brand’ message is just as important for small business owners and links the owner, the business and the way it is perceived in its market place and beyond.Co-incidentally, I have just had a great conversation with Ruth Edwards of IMojo – who explained perfectly how she helps business owners develop simple clarity in their Brand messages.
Small business owners, often constrained by limited resources will not prioritise development of a brand and will see it usually as the creation of a logo they like.
Developing a brand that reinforces your credibility and quality of service takes working at and will add value to your business. Unfortunately, small things can undermine the strength of your image. As human beings we all make snap judgements no matter how unfair! Poor quality business cards, personal email account addresses at one end of the perception chain and a poor or inconsistent social media strategy at the other end can undermine your business reputation.
It is well worth spending time on your personal / business brand to maximise its potential for you and your business future.
Release the Power of Your Ps!
Love to hear from you – what have you done to develop your brand identity?
Many owners have ideas and plans for how they believe their business will develop over time and sometimes the reality of setting up a business doesn’t match those original ideas. There are many factors that impact progress – some positive and some negative: Here’s a few
- Unrealistic expectations
- Unclear message
- Lack of difference
- Lack of market (products or services that you are convinced will sell and yet no sales)
- Lack of resources
- Unexpected growth
- Timing delays
- Cash flow
- Initial expenses exceed your budget
The process of planning and developing a business plan is a good way of looking ahead and planning for the development of your business. It can help you stay on track when distractions come your way.
I have outlined some key areas of management information that may help you manage your business more effectively. See how many you can agree with!
- I know the business /market I am in
- I know what I will sell
- I know who will buy and why
- I know why those customers will choose my business
- I know exactly the opportunity there is for me and my business – where my potential customers will come from and why they need my products or services
- I have researched and understand what my market place will look like over the next couple of years
- I have planned an effective method of retaining my customers loyalty
- I have implemented a method of ensuring the highest levels of customer service in my business
- I have established a way of capturing data from prospects and customers so that I can market and communicate with them effectively
- I can clearly define my ideal customer
- I have researched and understand my competitors – how they operate, add value, differ from me and the way they charge for their products and services
- I have a resource team around me to help provide me support and specialist information that will enable me to manage my business well – for financial and legal guidance.
- I have set up systems to manage cash in my business
- I have set targets and will monitor progress against these
If you are starting a business, or managing an existing business – this checklist is a great starting point for ensuring that you are on the right track. If you have some observations/suggestions and ideas about items to add to the checklist then please do get in touch.
Release the Power of Your Ps!