Strategy, innovation and planning crossword

Success in Business and Life Takes Planning

Nobody goes into business planning to fail.  Unfortunately, they may end up there because they fail to plan.  A good plan isn’t complicated.  In fact, simple works best.  But, if done effectively, it will keep you focused on priorities, so you stay on track and actually accomplish more.

6 Tips To Improve Planning

Action vs. Business Plan.  While a business plan has its purposes, bank financing among them, a concise action-oriented plan will serve most business owner’s needs.  It’s for your use – your road map or blueprint to success.

Keep it simple and short (5-7 pages at most).  Don’t strive for perfection.  Simply lay out your goals, the actions (tasks) you need to do, and time-frames for completion.  Don’t forget to incorporate ownership for critical tasks and measurements to evaluate success. When it comes to planning, consider the words of General  George Patton, ‘A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow.’  Sometimes simple is sophisticated.

Plan Annually and Review Quarterly.  It’s best to start a year with an annual plan, broken down into four quarters.  But don’t let your plan collect dust on the shelf.  Review it monthly or at least quarterly so you can make adjustments.  Assumptions you made earlier may no longer be valid.  Competitors and suppliers make adjustments.  Economic conditions change.  Staff and customers’ needs may change.  Your plans need to reflect this.

Look Back Before You Plan Ahead.  Know where you are today before you start planning where you want to go.  Look at your financials and key numbers.  How do they compare against your last year goals and your industry?  Then take a few minutes to write down your accomplishments (big and small) for the previous twelve months or last quarter.  It’s important that you recognize the things you did well.  Finally, make a short list of the things you didn’t accomplish and ask yourself what held you back and what lessons did you learn.  Don’t dwell on these, but apply lessons learned as you move forward.

Chunk, Chunk, Chunk.  Big goals are nothing more than a series of much smaller ones.  If a goal you want appears too big to conquer or takes a long time to accomplish, chunk it up into smaller ones over shorter time periods.

For example, if a business wants to increase team productivity by a certain percent this year, they will likely have a series of tasks such as developing and communicating productivity goals, document and streamline delivery procedures, create a team incentive, train the team on new methods, hold monthly team meetings, etc.  These smaller ‘tasks’ are much easier to handle and together will move them toward the bigger goal.  Remember, ‘By the yard, goals are hard; but by the inch, they’re a cinch’.

Think Big.   It pays to think big when setting goals.  The old saying ‘shoot for the moon, if you fall a little short, you’ll land among the stars’ explains why.  Often we set safe goals because we fear failure or simply can’t figure out how we can get there.  Sure it’s safe to set a 5% growth or improvement goal — but what if you chose instead a 30% improvement and asked for advice on how.  Employees, alliances, suppliers, other business owners and yes a business coach are all great sources for new ideas, but you need to ask.  What if you fall a little short and only grow 25%?   You are still better off than you would have been with a 5% improvement!  So think big, believe you can and ask for help if needed.

Measure, Measure, Measure.  Would you ever play a round of golf and not keep score?  Not likely, because you want to know if you improved or beat your previous best.  The same is true in business.  If we don’t link measurements to our goals, we have no way to evaluate how we are doing.  What we measure, we can improve.

So what are some of the things you should track and measure?  Revenue, gross profit margins, fixed expenses and net profit are obvious and most owners track these.  But depending on your goals, industry, and type of business, the others you track will vary.  Here are a few examples of some common Key Performance Indicators:  number of leads, sales conversion rate, average sale, A/R days, on-time delivery, quality percentage, customer and employee satisfaction ratings and labor as a percent of sales.

So now you have the recipe.  Start taking the steps you need to plan and achieve the success you want. For more help with planning, check out my Ultimate Goals and Action Plan Guide.

More Business Improvement Ideas.

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reach success

Are You Prepared to Reach Success?

The summer is in full swing and we officially hit the half-way point in the year. It’s the perfect time to reflect, re-focus and re-energize. If you developed an action plan earlier in the year, now is a good time to revisit and re-prioritize.

Are you on track to meet or exceed your personal and business goals? If not, what’s holding you back? Were your goals realistic or do you need to stop procrastinating? Do you need to shuffle priorities based on competition, customers, team or other issues and opportunities? Be honest.

Or maybe you didn’t bother to put your goals down and create your road map to get there? Well it’s never too late to start.

Planning is not a one and done effort. It’s an ongoing process that includes monitoring progress and making adjustments. It works best when you follow these simple steps:

  • Look Back. Before you start planning the next 30-90 days and beyond, take a few minutes to look at where you are today – in your business and personally. How do your sales, profit and other key results compare to the same period last year and your current goals? Are you ahead, on track or behind? What about your personal goals – financial, family, social, community, health/fitness, etc?
  • Acknowledge Accomplishments. Even if you are on track, a natural tendency at this point is to focus on what you didn’t get done or what you could have done better. It’s important to acknowledge your successes, big or small. Jot them down and pat yourself on the back.
  • Learn & Adjust.  No matter how much you plan or how well you execute, some things may not work out as you expected. We tend to view these as failures. If you learn from mistakes and make changes to improve it next time, you haven’t really failed. You simply delayed success! Don’t dwell on it – make adjustments and move on.
  • Reset Goals. What specific goals do you want to accomplish over the next 30-90 days? Be realistic. Start with 4 to 5 (not 10 to 20). It’s difficult to stay focused if you have too many ‘critical’ goals. You will want to track progress, so make your goals measurable and consider specific outcomes you want. Here’s a few examples. Acquire 4 new customers each month or increase gross profit margins 5% by October 31st, or arrive home by 6:00 pm at least 3 nights per week.
  • Identify Key Tasks. Results come from doing so for each goal you set above, list the 5-7 key tasks, activities or things you must DO in order to achieve the goal you set. For example, if you set a goal to acquire new customers or increase revenue, one of the things you may need to do is increase the number of leads you receive. What do you need to do to get more leads? Likely a combination of efforts such as — email campaigns, referral system, postcards, monthly website specials, promote via social media, targeted networking and prospecting calls. Be specific, include time frames and assign responsibility, where appropriate.

Take a glass half-full approach. You still have time to finish the year successfully. Decide what you want – and take the actions to get it.

SWOT Analysis

How to Use SWOT to Uncover Opportunities In Your Small Business

As business owners, we often develop tunnel vision about our business. We may become more removed from the daily operations, have certain beliefs that are outdated or are so busy working IN our business that we can’t see the big picture.

So getting feedback about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats is important as you develop your goals and plan your direction moving forward. Here is what you should consider:

What A SWOT Tells You

Strengths are those things that make your business stronger than your competitors and might include things like an established (loyal) customer base, a good reputation, a product or service that sells well, high-traffic location or quality employees.

Weaknesses are those areas in which your company could stand improvement. These make you susceptible to economic pressures, market forces, and aggressive competitors. Examples might include employee problems, lack of marketing and sales expertise, poor products or services, lack of capital or cash or bad location.

Opportunities are those things that have the potential to make your business more enduring and profitable. These might include new or expanding markets or products, mergers or acquisitions, strategic alliances, or competitors going out of business or leaving the market.

Threats are those things that have the potential to adversely affect your business. Threats might include changing market conditions, rising debt, cash flow problems, stronger competition, legal or tax changes, failing or weak suppliers or strategic partners or new technology.

How To Get Started

A SWOT analysis helps give you a very clear picture of the issues facing your business so you can take advantage of your strengths and opportunities and formulate a plan to address the weaknesses.

Keep your SWOT simple – but don’t do it alone. Ask for feedback from others. Here’s the steps to do a SWOT analysis for your small business:

  1. Identify the people you want to get feedback from, including employees, vendors, alliance partners, clients, investors, mentors or other ‘friends’ of your business.
  2. Send an email requesting feedback on your business. Include:
    • Brief explanation – example: “As part of our continuous improvement efforts, we are conducting an analysis that will look at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.”
    • Survey questions – example: What are the strengths of [company name]
  3. Recap the feedback into a summary document. List your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Don’t take everything as gospel, but look for some consistent trends or comments. Use this to help guide you as you formulate your goals and plans.
  4. Thank participants for their honesty and summarize for them what you learned – at whatever level of detail you are comfortable with.
More Ways to Grow Your Business

For new business improvement articles, exclusive tools and insights on entrepreneurship, click here to subscribe to my monthly eNewsletter. When you do, I’ll also send you my free eBook, How to Build Profit Through Leverage.