Tag Archives: Business planning

3 Secrets to Business Success and Achievement

 

Many times career professionals fail to achieve their goals. Even though they stay ‘busy as all get out’, they aren’t accomplishing the substantive things that will truly make a difference in their careers, lives and businesses.

Why is it that some people seem to have all the ‘luck’?

I have found over the years that some people just make more progress, have more ‘wins’ to show for their efforts, have more ‘toys’ to show off.  It’s not that life is really at all about the toys, but a few of them with personal significance to the owner help validate that something was working right.

So what is the key to having things go well? I say there are three. Read them and see if you agree. Leave a comment either way.

Cover of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effectiv...
Cover of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

 

1. Have a plan

I hear all the time how busy everyone is. They are working on the ‘urgent’ things that Stephen Covey identified in Habit 3 of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. How much time are you spending putting out fires? How many of those fires could have been averted or prevented?

Being proactive and setting aside time to SET GOALS and ANTICIPATE BREAKDOWNS will keep those fires and breakdowns to a minimum. If you think you’re too busy to plan, think again. You, especially, need to devote some time to getting ahead of the curve.

2. Work your plan

It does little good to have a plan and never look at it or never work on it.

Some people who DO make plans, fall victim still to getting hung up in short-term emergencies. Their plans sit in a binder, on a shelf, in a drawer or their PC.

You must confront your plan – DAILY. Make sure you take at least one action on it each day. Do something that will make progress on your short term goals as well as a long term goal. If you have long term goals that you aren’t actively working on, they aren’t goals, they’re pipe dreams. You’re not really serious.

You’re just hopeful. But after a few months or years of inaction, you’ll be embarrassed and depressed. ACT TODAY on your dreams for the ‘morrow.

3. Assess your results against the plan

Things happen. Plans don’t go as expected. Unexpected things arise. You’ll learn more and become more effective when you look at what you said you would do, compare that with what you DID do and then evaluate how it all turned out.

What did you learn? What would you do if you could do it over? What would you NOT do? What resources did you need that you didn’t have? Whose help would you enlist?

Even though you may never have that particular goal again, you’ll still learn something about yourself, your environment and the process of ‘ACTION‘ that will be applicable to future endeavors.

Have a plan. Work your plan. Assess your results. Those are the keys to success.

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Manage Your Top Line & Your Bottom Line Will Take Care of Itself

SAN FRANCISCO - JANUARY 27:  Apple Inc. CEO St...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

“Manage your top line and your bottom line will take care of itself.”

I heard Steve Jobs say this in a previously recorded video that was resurrected shortly after Steve announced his resignation as CEO of Apple Computer.

I worked for Apple for almost 8 years – during the time that Steve was not there.  I heard stories of his genius and his temper and experienced first-hand, the most fun and innovative culture I’ve ever worked in.

His statement “Manage your top line and your bottom line will take care of  itself”, really resonated with me.

I’ve been focusing recently on what it takes to land larger, higher-paying clients and the positive impact that can have on a company‘s profitability.

Steve cited 3 things that must be attended to in managing your top line.

The 3 things are strategy, people & products.

Here is my take on how to focus on those 3 critical elements.

1. Strategy
A strategy is an overall plan to achieve specific, generally long-term, goals. It’s an approach, a broad, general roadmap, a way to go about doing business.

A strategy defines how an organization intends to get from where it is now to where it wants to be in the future, perhaps three to five years out.  Pursuing Whales to grow revenue is a strategy.  Going global is a strategy. Penetrating a specific industry is a strategy. Increasing visibility to raise awareness about a product or service is a strategy. A strategy may include time frames but typically they are ‘end point’ dates.

Focusing on strategy charts the course for the organization. It helps yes/no, go/no-go decisions get made in the short term. Positioning and pricing are outcomes of strategic decisions about what markets to pursue and how.

2. People
The best strategy in the world will fall flat on it’s face without competent people to carry it out. Implementing strategy requires a multitude of interdependent decisions to be made. Discerning judgment (a human skill) is a combination of intellect, knowledge, values and intuition. Having the right people in the right positions doing the right things right, can make a strategy come to life and catapult a company to wild success or oblivion.

3. Products
The third leg of this stool is comprised of the products an enterprise offers. Great strategy and great people can make the most of mediocre products. But great products can overcome (at least for a while) weak strategy and ordinary people. Of course, it’s hard to produce great products with mediocre strategy and people.

Apple likely wouldn’t have designed and produced the iPod, iPhone and iPad without great people. But there was a time, pre-‘i’ era, when those great people churned out lackluster ‘also-ran’ products.

When all great components are present, revenues rise because the company is delivering what the marketplace wants. great people make wise decisions about marketing, research, manufacturing, administration and financial matters. Great products continue to be delivered positioning the company as innovative with a commitment to quality.

Profits rise.

Jobs brought a unique perspective and vision to Apple.

So the questions are, What do YOU bring to your firm?

What’s YOUR strategy? Do you have one?

Are  you staffed with the right people in the right roles doing the right things right?

Is what you’re offering a match to the market as it is today or tomorrow? Are you even in touch with market needs or are you developing offers in a vacuum and wondering why sales are lagging?

As I’m finishing up this article, I see a tweet that Apple’s stock hit an all-time high today: $411 and change.

Clearly the strategy Jobs espoused is taking the company in the right direction.

Make sure your three legs of this business stool are sitting on solid ground.

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The 7 Essential Lists Successful Businesses Must Have

Running a successful business requires more than a good idea.  It requires structure and processes to keep things and money flowing.

1. Long-term goals list
If you’ve been following me for any time, you’ll undoubtedly heard me talk about the importance of goals.  Goals that stretch beyond today or this week, will help you prioritize your time in the most productive manner possible.  They will motivate you and your staff.  They will keep on focused on what’s truly important.

2. Daily to-do action items list
Just as important as knowing where you’re going long term, is knowing (and doing) what’s most important RIGHT NOW.  Sometimes unforseen emergencies have to be dealt with.  But more importantly, you need to decide each day what the most productive use of your time will be.

I always have a to-do list and never get through everything on the list on any given day.  I do always decide what the priorities are for the day and then get to work on them.  Last week, I lost my list and I was lost without it!  Thank God I found it a couple of days later.  I remembered some of the critical items, but had forgotten one that needed to be addressed.

3. Prospect list
This is one of the biggest mistakes business owners make.  If you don’t have a list of potential prospects, you’re definitely leaving money on the table.  If you’re a retail establishment, people make a purchase the very first time they discover you.  However, if you don’t and you haven’t captured their contact info, you may never hear from them again.

You’ll increase your chances of doing business with them if you’re able to proactively reach out and remind them that you exist.  So if you aren’t already capturing either a physical address or email address from your store or website visitors, start that now! You’ll probably need to give them some sort of incentive (not just an offer for your newsletter) in order for them to part with their contact info. But capturing that valuable data must be your goal.

4. Customer list
Just as important as a prospect list is a list of your customers. These are people who have demonstrated interest in your product or service by making a purchase.  It takes more time and energy to make a sale to a stranger or prospect than to someone who has already bought from you and been satisfied.  Treat these people well, but don’t neglect offering them the next thing you offer that can help solve their problems.

5. Process list
Every business needs a set of processes that help the business run efficiently.  You probably have them even if they aren’t documented. You need to document them.

Start by making a list of all of the “Here’s how we do things around here” topics in a variety of areas such as answering the phone, identifying prospects, converting prospects to clients, taking on a new client, invoicing clients, processing payments, asking for a referral, publishing our newsletter, paying the bills, making minor changes to your website, etc. Then write out the steps involved in each process.

This compilation will be an invaluable tool in defining roles and responsibilities, delegating tasks and training new employees.

6. Resource list
This list includes the tools and systems you use to run your business and make your life easier.  It’s slightly different than the Process List which may reference certain resources: things like your accounting system, your website host, tools on your blog, new tools you plan to invest in, an employment agency or temp service, online portals for which you have memberships or accounts.

Having a list in a binder along with a brief description and access (login) or contact info will save you countless hours of trying find the information when you desperately need it.

7. Diversions list
After all of this work, you must take time to relax and enjoy life.  It’s challenging for some business owners to ‘work in’ time for play, but this list is essential as well.

Your list should include things you enjoy doing, that bring you peace of mind, that obliterate your stress.  Possible candidates are listening to a certain kind of music, playing music, painting, playing with your pets, children, spouse and friends.

Make sure you know which kind of ‘play’ you thirst for.  Is it board games, exercise, meditation, video games, outdoor sports, movies, ballet, opera, cards, TV, dancing, vacations, weekend getaways?

Whatever ‘floats you boat’, schedule it. That may sound weird but if these activities aren’t on your calendar or at least on a list you review regularly, they will get trumped by those emergencies and daily tasks.

Creating and using these lists will improve your productivity, keep your business soaring and maintain your sanity.

How to Accelerate the 3 Stages of Business Growth

For the last several months, I’ve been constructing a model for building a highly successful business.  Based on what I’ve done to build mine over the years and harvesting the wisdom of brilliant mentors I’ve studied with, I’ve outlined a comprehensive, yet simple model for success.

The model extends well past theory and includes 7 practical steps business owners must take if they want to thrive and enjoy life rather than being consumed by the ‘job’ they’ve created for themselves.

Today, using the metaphor of how bamboo grows, I’ll share with you the 3 stages you must master to enjoy massive business growth.

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet, spurting at times, almost 4 feet in a single 24-hour period!  At the beginning though, it appears to be growing (on the surface) quite slowly.

There are 3 stages of bamboo (and business) growth: sleep, creep and leap.

1. Sleep
During the first year of a young bamboo plant’s life, most of its energy is devoted to

laying a strong foundation via the root structure.  Plant shoots peak out above the ground and underground rhizomes shoot out horizontally.

2. Creep
As the foundation builds, the plants continue to grow but most of the ‘work’ is still being done underground.  The roots branch and spread even further.  They provide water to the leaves and the leaves use sunlight to produce food that the roots need to expand further and stock up on energy for next year’s shoots.

3.  Leap
Once the foundation has developed (and this may take years) the above-ground plants grow rapidly.  Each year, as the stand of plants matures, the diameter of each new cane that develops, is generally larger than those that were ‘born’ last year.

So, as with your business, the huge bamboo stand of plants isn’t built in a single year.   But once the foundation is laid, growth seems almost miraculous.

Here are a few of the steps you must take to enjoy miraculous business growth.

In the Sleep phase, you dream.  You envision and clarify your ideal clients, your ideal work day and your overall ideal day.  Without this step, you’ll feel unfocused, frustrated and stressed.

You also clarify what you’ll be offering to the market place and how to best distinguish you and your business from all of the other vendors with similar offers.  You work on branding and understanding exactly how people or companies benefit from working with you.

You define your ‘product mix’, create revenue goals, set prices, deterimine sales channels and schedule your major marketing activities.

In the Creep phase, you launch your marketing efforts in a focused and aggressive manner.  You identify what you need to run a successful business from an internal perspective and from an external marketing perspective.  You implement your marketing plans and measure your success.  If you skip this step or do it poorly, you’ll feel scattered and leave money on the table because you miss opportunities that are right there in front of you.  You’ll use the wrong approaches and waste precious time and money.

In the Leap phase, you work on leveraging your success. You work ON your business not just IN it.  The focus here is on time mangement, automating and systemitizing. You document and delegate, work to continually delight your customers and build internal financial metrics and controls.

You also start to convert your ‘secret sauce’ into products that you can use to build revenue that is not dependent on you actively working with clients.  You build raving fans, referrals, affiliates and perhaps joint venture partners. You enhance and expand your online marketing efforts. NOw that you’ve got your systems in place, you aggressively drive traffic to your website to generate qualified leads.

During this phase, you’ll probably encounter more leadership challenges so you’ll also work on improving yourself while managing the issues of leading a team of employees or contractors.  You may even decide to pursue bigger, better and more well-heeled clientele.

If you don’t Leap successfully, you’ll survive but miss out on the mega-growth that you probably dreamed of when you first launched your burgeoning empire.

While I’ve laid out these 3 stages sequentially, you’re almost always working on some aspects of each of them.  At various phases of your own evolution, you make focus on different aspects of this model. You may elect to restart the process at stage 1 if you decide to revamp your business.  You may jump in at Stage 2 if you love the clients you have and the work you do, but the model isn’t generating enough cash.

And as you grow, you’ll need to work on Stage 3 to Leap into an even more prosperous future and create the lifestyle of your dreams.

How to Take Action When You’re Afraid Or Confused

It’s tough to move forward when you’re confused or immobilized by fear.  The natural tendency is to lay low and do nothing, but that just keeps you stuck.  When you confront a big hairy goal, the secret is to move forward even if you’re not sure how you’re going to get there.

I experienced something yesterday that illustrated this point.  I wasn’t confronted by a BHG nor immobilized by fear but was mildly confused about a relatively mundane process.

I was heading to the Arizona State Fair (check out my Facebook album) on a route I’d never taken before.  I wasn’t sure what the most direct path would be but decided to get on the nearest highway and figure it out from there. (It would have been

Well, sure enough after driving just a mile or two, I realized exactly how to reach my destination.  Here’s the lesson, if I had sat in the parking lot or even consulted my GPS, I would have wasted a few moments (or perhaps a lifetime).

Here’s what to do instead.

1. Know your destination
Be crystal clear about the end result you’re aiming for. If you don’t know where you’re going, it will be a fluke if you get there.

2. Take one step in what you think is the right direction
Any step is better than no step at all.  Just as my path unfolded as I drove, your path will become illuminated as you move toward your goal. It won’t if you stay.

3. Course correct along the way
Once you start moving toward your goal, you’ll get feedback that will tell you what to do next.

Pay attention, trust your gut and go with the flow.

The secret is to stay in action.  Move toward your goal.  Don’t let your fear or confusion immobilize you.  Identify one tiny step you CAN make, then make it. Repeat.