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Monthly Archives: December 2015

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Five: Small Business Series – Business Plan

Category : Web Stuff

bus-plansIf you are preparing to write your business plan, it’s important to give yourself plenty of time.  You need to have some foundation pieces ready in order to cover the critical aspects of your business.  This is the time to pull together the unique business value of your product or service, where you will find your customers and how you will market your brand. It should be a working document since most businesses remain dynamic and things do change. We all make assumptions in the beginning of a start-up that don’t necessarily have the same meaning after 1, 3 or 5 years in business.  It requires you to assimilate the different parts of the business into a well organized  document.

This is the time to put in writing everything that you know and even some of the things “you don’t know… you don’t know”. This is the time if you have partners, to solicit feedback from everyone involved. In fact, you can delegate to other members. It makes the work go much faster if you have more than one set of eyes on this business plan. Even if you are the sole owner of the business, you can reach out to your mentors and possibly investors to gather different perspectives.

The business plan will  establish a point of reference that you can use in the future to gauge your progress.bus-plan3
It is kind of a game plan and will help you to monitor the successes and keep you on track. I have developed numerous business plans over 30 years. The first one I did was recommended by my mentor and I didn’t even realize the significance at the time.  I was quite accustomed to planning after ten years of experience with Motorola and yet I did not see the importance the first time around. When I reviewed the plan I had put together after 6 months, I discovered that I had strayed from the “plan”. In this case, I was somewhat lucky as I had fortunately launched a company at the best of times and had two large contracts to feed the business.

In the third year, things changed quite a bit and once I had more employees, a range of contracts and became very busy, I lost track of the premise of the business. I was noticing that decisions were being made that were not in the best interest of the company. When I looked back on the original business plan, I was able to re-evaluate the core competencies and fix some of the things that were not working efficiently. In fact, I realized that I had started making decisions based on whatever was influencing my company at the time instead of what was best for the principles of the company.

The interesting thing was that parts of the business plan were naive and did not make sense because the industry was changing. Instead of sticking with the original concept of the strategies for success, I had made decisions based on the influence of other people. The end result was that I had to pare down a couple of product lines and focus on the core, the ones that the company was founded upon. Fortunately I was able to do so without much blood-letting and my original contracts were saved and started to flourish again.

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A business plan may be one of the most important documents you will create for your business. I would recommend, based on twenty years as an entrepreneur and four companies, that you overhaul your business plan at least every six months. This is where the “work in progress” aspect comes in. If you expect your business plan to continue changing you won’t be disappointed. This document is meant to flow and move with the “ebb” of your business. Constantly changing, you need a foundation piece to measure success, and failure.

 

As you review the projected revenues for your business against the real or actual numbers, you can determine what may be working and what may need to change. It can be considered a kind of “report card” and every semester representing, one Quarter. Your original thoughts as you wrote them down when you started will more than likely have changed a fair bit. The question is whether the changes are positive and worthy of blending them into a revised business plan or it may be time to make changes so you continue to align with the reasons you started the business in the first place. Are you on target or not and what needs to change?

There are numerous documents available that you can follow. I’ve seen two-page business plans that are very basic but in some cases work to help you focused on what’s important. I’ve seen very extensive and formal business plans that are 60 pages long and would be required for presentations to investors or to borrow money. It depends on how you perceive your company in the sort term as well as the long term.

As a business coach and entrepreneur with four company start-ups, I’ve lived through one that was wildly successful, in part to both timing and a little good luck. I’ve seen a business fail, in part because a large contract that was expected to fund the company disappeared and the owners decided the model would not work. Fortunately, I prefer to take baby-steps with the companies I consult to and the losses were minimal for that owner. It all depends on how you plan your business and how you depend on your business plan.

StudioIMI is a private company owned for twelve years by Craig Montgomery, serial entrepreneur, business coach and experienced sales and marketing expert (in-training for 25 years).

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Four: Small Business Series – Learning from the Competition

Knowing your competition will help your business succeed. It educates you to more successfully deal with your own clients and puts you forward as an expert, giving customers confidence in making a purchase. Understanding how your competition prices and markets its services can make your own business run more effectively.

Recently I visited two nutrition stores with different results. The first store I went to had fairly knowledgeable staff who were able to help me with the location of the products I was looking for and provided me with some written documentation on the supplements I wanted. It seemed like a good interaction. The store was clean and well organized and I only waited a few minutes before I was asked if I needed help.

I would rate them a 7 out of 10 which made me feel good about the experience. The second store however, knocked the ball out of the park! The staff who spoke with me was able to list the critical ingredients in 2-3 different products and he also took time to ask me questions about my needs. This person knew the products very well, was well trained and asked “me” for more information. They knew the competition and they took time to make me feel like they cared. They definitely scored a 9 out of 10 and I ended up buying over $200 from them on that visit.

Seems simple however, this is the way businesses should conduct themselves. I would go back again and expand my purchases. This is what you want as a business owner. Research, training and knowing the competitive products on the market, makes for a great engagement with the store. Your own business can handle customers the very same way. It does require a lot of extra work and yet the results speak for themselves.

I used to train our distributors on Motorola technical products. I spent a lot of time at “lunch and learns” or after work, educating the sales team and it paid of very well. I won many awards at Motorola as a result of a highly trained third party sales force and the engagement process was a lot of fun at the same time… though I did eat an inordinate amount of pizza!!

Even the circumstance of a nutrition store where they have hundreds of supplements as well as food and maybe related health and exercise products, it’s worth the effort to be more knowledgeable.  As a business owner, I always watch for the approach of the sales staff. I’m looking for experience, friendly and a soft sell. This is not the time to hover over the customer. I leave the store when this happens as do others. Asking the right questions of a customer can lead to that all-important engagement, they become a buyer and ultimately a return client.

The next time you make a purchase, visit a store or check out a website, consider the things you like, write them down and start to implement them into your own business culture, whether its retail, commercial or on-line. We learn from the best. Shop your competition and you will position yourself to be better at customer service, presentations and customer experience. We’re all consumers after all. We all buy from the same store when we can and return to the same restaurant where we have good food and service.

Knowing competition takes time and can be hard work. What have you got to lose? You are expected to be an expert in your field and you can differentiate your self like the second nutrition store did. Never try to bs your way through a sale. If you just don’t know, say so or engage the client in the learning experience when you can. At that point in time, no matter what else you can to do, the customer in front of you is the most important person in the world. They are the reason your business grows and every client is precious.

Please contact us if you have comments or other questions, thanks.

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