The Business Edge Blog

October 16, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 7 – Presenting

How do you know what to focus on day-to-day?   Presenting may help.

Sometimes business owners come to me when things aren’t clear to them about what they should be doing next.  I ask them to present their company by answering questions about each of the six points already covered in this series.

Often the light bulb quickly goes on when they realize which of the areas they are not doing much or anything at all in.  “Maybe that’s the answer,” some have blurted out.  I may have known it was the answer, but it’s always best to have someone discover it themselves. Presenting brings it all together because you have to truly understand something to present it.

What do you think? How do you present your organization to your employees, the bank, vendors, investors, or the general public? You’re probably better than you think, because if you weren’t doing some version of these 7 Keys to Success well, you would have been out of business a long time ago.  Perhaps you could use some fine tuning in a few areas or maybe a complete makeover.  I’ve been through just about any scenario you could imagine with my clients.

Your homework assignment is to revisit your Vision, Profit Plan, Marketing Plan, Organizational Plan, Leadership and Cash Flow Forecast.  If you have someone to present these to, do so.  Give them permission to ask you questions about what is not clear.  In the presenting it may become very clear what you should be doing next.

If you’d like to present your business to me, email me to schedule a conversation at coach@thebizedge.biz.

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I look forward to hearing from you.  You can join in the discussion and post your thoughts below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

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September 11, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 6 – Cash Flow Forecast

How come my CPA tells me I’m profitable, but there’s no money in the bank? How do I know if we can dig our way out of this hole? How can I handle all this credit card debt? There’s those darn numbers again! I thought we covered this already 🙂

Some clients that meet with me think they are about to call it quits because there is not enough money in their business.  The key is to help clients understand where the money goes, analyze Return on Investment for their dollars, find ways to reduce expenses, and hold their hand every step of the way.  The first step to get out of a hole is to stop digging.  It’s simple – not but easy!

I also have clients that want to grow!  What they are looking for is the money to expand.  It can be expensive to borrow the money.  What if they can find the money they need in their own business?

The focus is to develop a short-term cash forecast for the next 90 days.  Don’t think this is only for businesses that are in pain.  Developing a Cash Flow Forecast is good for all businesses.  It will sound a lot like developing a household budget so it will not feel like a foreign language to you.

Start with what you know.  What are the expenses you know will come due during the next 90 days?  Rent?  Utilities?  Payroll?  An annual insurance renewal?  If you don’t know the exact amounts, look at your historical expenses and make an educated guess.  You don’ t need an elaborate software package, a spreadsheet will do to develop the list of items and your estimates and the actuals as the bills come in.

Be diligent.  Enter all your expenses, yes, all of them.  Find out where all the money goes.  Typically there are expenses that have been added over time that may no longer be providing a Return On Investment that they originally did.

Once you’re tracking the expenses, get critical.  Look at everything.

Look at your utilities.  The bigger the bill, the greater the potential reward for making small changes in your usage.  Do you have the option of working with a reseller for your electric or gas?  Check into programs that are offered in your area.  Does your utility offer free energy audits?  Have you had one?

Take a critical look at the expenses for maintenance of your equipment.  Can new equipment end up being less expensive and more productive?  Look at anything you lease and recognize when the lease is up.  If there are more productive options available for less, it may be worth paying a small exit fee to upgrade early. There may be other expenses that you have not had re-quoted for quite some time where you can find cost savings.

It does take some time.  I promise the updated knowledge about your current expenses and the review of expenses that you have taken for granted is well worth the time you spend.  Some of my clients have found more than enough money to pay off their debts over time, or ways to update their equipment and get more productive, and some found the money they needed for growth without increasing their debt load.

What did you find?  Share your findings with the rest of us!  Questions?  Ask away….

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I look forward to hearing from you.  Join the discussion and post your thoughts below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

August 27, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 5 – Organization and Leadership

Organization Plan
How do you let your people help you run and grow your business? Who is responsible for doing what in your business? Does everybody know who does what and would they provide the same response if asked?

In the book by Michael Gerber The E-Myth Revisited there is an assignment to develop an organizational chart that covers every element of your business.  From keeping the light bulbs replaced to paying the light bill, every element of your organization should be covered within a box on the organization chart.  The next step is to fill in the names of the people responsible for each aspect of the business.

If your own name appears on too many of the boxes it’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed or like you can never take a day off.  Are you micromanaging your people, or are there things you still need to delegate?  One of my solopreneur clients has hired two virtual assistants that will be doing work she does not personally need to do.  I’m excited to watch her grow as she focuses on the areas she must personally address to move forward.

Take time to draw your own organizational chart.  Enter the names of the people responsible for the boxes.  Make certain that you are allowing your people to help you grow the business by giving you freedom to work on the things that requires you to personally do.  The time you free up should be focused on working ON your business instead of IN your business.  Now make sure that everyone in the organization knows who to go to for what.  It will save time and help your business run smoothly as you move forward.

Leadership
How do you even know what to focus on to become a better Leader? Nobody really tries to be a poor Leader, do they?

Do you know what your natural leadership style is?  Do you know the strengths and weaknesses of that style?  Do you know the leadership and learning style of your team members?  If your leadership style is misunderstood, it could be that you are leading in a style that is like a foreign language to those you are trying to lead.   Do you know how powerful knowing your style can be in not only getting the most out of yourself, but also your team, your clients, your vendors, your life?  If you have never done an Extended DISC analysis that introduces you to your natural leadership style and how your style works best with other styles, invest the time and money to learn more.  I can help you with the analysis and understanding how to use your natural leadership style to become the best leader for your team.

I can’t remember the last day that went by that I haven’t utilized this information on how I lead to help me understand the world around me. A big part of Leadership is not only knowing what to say, but also how to communicate it to different audiences.

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What does your organizational chart look like?  How well have you delegated by putting other people’s names in the boxes? Does everyone know who is responsible for what in your organization?

Do you know your leadership style?  Do you know the styles of your team members?  Are you speaking the same language?

I look forward to hearing from you.  Please add your comments below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

August 15, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 4 – The Marketing Plan

Every once in a while I meet a business owner who says they don’t need to market their business. I congratulate them and ask them how they know that they don’t need to market.  Usually they have as much business as they can handle currently and think that more marketing will only increase the number of people wanting their product or service.  They are probably right on both accounts.  So, what about the option of expanding the capacity of the business?  Why choose to stop marketing?  I like the saying –

“Don’t wait to dig your well until you are thirsty.”

In my interpretation this means don’t stop marketing because your business is at capacity now.  If anything happens to the current clients you’ll be looking for more.  If you decide to increase the capacity of the business, you’ll need the additional clients/customers to fill the new capacity.  In most businesses marketing today does not mean new customers tomorrow.  Prospects need to know about you, grow to like you and trust that you will meet their needs.  That means you should be marketing your business all the time.

I ask my clients to create a Marketing Pie.  Draw a large circle on a piece of paper.  Divide the pie into quarters by drawing a big + through the middle.  Then divide each of the pieces in half by adding a large X through the middle of the pie.  You should now have an 8 slice Marketing Pie.  Each section of the pie will represent something you actively do to market your business – active marketing, not passive marketing like an ad in the phonebook.  If you represent your business in a BNI group, or attend other networking groups where you promote your business (and not just chat with friends) label one slice of the pie Networking.  If you have a booth at quarterly business tradeshows, label a slice of the pie Tradeshows.  If you educate your prospects by giving seminars, label a slice Seminars.  If you consistently write a blog promoting your business, label a slice Blog Posts.  Consider all the other marketing you do and if it is active, label a slice of the pie to represent the activity.  If you have more than 8 active marketing strategies, don’t make your slices smaller, create another pie!  If you have unlabeled slices in your one and only pie, let’s talk!  We need to fill the empty slices with something you will add to your marketing strategy.

You should have at least 8 active marketing strategies identified on your pie.  The next step is to schedule the activities (each slice of pie) on a calendar so that you know when, where and what you will be doing to actively market your business.  This becomes your Marketing Plan.  If you are blogging or giving a 60 second commercial for any of the marketing activities, you can enter the blog topic or perfect referral that you want to mention in each of the calendar entries.  One of my clients has developed a spreadsheet with the months across the columns and the weeks down the rows as well as room for the topics for each of the social media sites he uses.  He plans his marketing activities a couple of months in advance so he can keep an eye on his marketing plan.  Click here to download a copy.

What does your marketing pie look like?  How well did it fill a calendar and create your Marketing Plan? How many hours a week do you spend actively marketing your business?

I look forward to hearing from you.  Share your comments below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

July 31, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 3 – The Profit Plan

The Profit Plan –

How do you know if your business is going to make money this year? How do you make sense of all the numbers? Maybe nobody warned you that this is a big part of running your own business. How do owners “run their business by the numbers?” Doesn’t an owner need to be there to know what’s really going on?

A fellow coach had a client who caught someone stealing food from his restaurant when he was living 1,800 miles away because he runs his business by the numbers. He noticed a dip in his gross profit margin and installed cameras that caught the thief red-handed.

Not sure what a gross profit margin is or how to calculate it? Don’t worry, most other business owners don’t know the answers either. Some clients are near tears as they talk about how dumb they feel about their business numbers and that they “can’t get it.” What a bunch of hooey! Business owners are not stupid. Nobody ever took the time to teach them in a way they could understand and relate to.  For most owners the numbers just create more confusion and stress. It’s like learning a new language and here you are staring at the answers on your financial statements but something gets lost in the translation from your accountant’s lips to your ears.  My clients become comfortable with their numbers as we work together.

Do you know how much money you are going to make in your business this year? Do you know if your business was profitable last year? Do you know how to make a profit on purpose?

Give yourself some breathing room and start planning beyond today, this week, and this month. Let’s start looking out at the next 12 months with confidence that you can reach the goals you have set for your business. This is The Profit Plan.

Are you ready to get started?  Share your comments below on your business numbers.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

Holly Hanson
Licensed Professional Business Coach
The Business Edge
The Headlights and Guardrails for Your Business

July 17, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 2 – From Vision to Action

From Vision to Action –  In the last issue I introduced you to the 7 Keys to Success that successful business owners focus on as they grow their businesses.  The 7 keys are:

Vision, Profit Plan, Marketing Plan, Organization Plan, Leadership, Cash Flow Forecast, and Presenting

The exercises in the last issue included drawing the diagrams to formulate the overall vision for your business so that you could describe it to someone.  More specifically, refining your vision to the point of defining details of your business 3 years from now including:

What are your offerings?
What does the organization look like?
What is your role in the organization?
What rewards are you enjoying?
Who are you working with?

My business coaching clients enjoy doing the exercises.  It’s fun to look into a crystal ball and dream BIG.  How did it feel for you to envision the growth of your business?

Now it’s time to define what it would take to get your business from where it is today to where you envision it could be.  Regardless of what your vision is, or what your business is, I guarantee that it takes ACTION, often different action from what you are doing today.  Albert Einstein said it well…..

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein

I know you are busy.  I know you are working “IN” your business every day.  But it’s time to start working “ON” your business.  If you keep doing the same things over and over again, you can’t expect different results.

Look at each of the areas in your business vision that are different from where your business is today.  What ACTION do you need to take to move forward toward your vision?  Start a brainstorming list.  You’ll think of more things as you spend more time on this.  Often you can define big steps you need to take, but they can be daunting.  List the big steps, but then begin to list all the small steps that it will take to reach the big step.  Let me give you an example –

Let’s say your vision includes moving to a different location.  What are the big steps involved?  At a minimum you’d need to find the location and build it out to suit your needs.  Huge steps.  Start with the first one, find a location.  What steps do you need to take to get to that point?  Define your space needs?  Look at existing spaces or building sites?  Determine the cost?  Explore ways to pay for it?  Once you start breaking the big step down into smaller steps you can start to define the ACTION that you need to take to get from where you are to where you’d like to be.  One small step at a time.  If a step feels too big, break it down again into smaller ones.

What are the ACTIONS that you need to take in your business?  If you don’t start doing something differently, where will your business be 3 years from now?  In contrast, if you DO start taking ACTION, where could your business be even one year from now?

I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

Holly Hanson
Licensed Professional Business Coach
The Business Edge
The Headlights and Guardrails for Your Business

June 26, 2012

7 Keys to Success for Business Owners – Part 1

7 Keys to Success –  Many small businesses are stuck in a state of how.  If you are working hard at the right things, your odds of getting unstuck increase dramatically.  But how do you know what to focus on?  There are seven things that all successful business owners focus on to run their companies

I will introduce you to the 7 Keys to Success and highlight one of the topics in each of the next few blogs.  The 7 Keys to Success are:

Vision
Profit Plan
Marketing Plan
Organization Plan
Leadership
Cash Flow Forecast
Presenting

Vision:  He had been in business a few years when he asked me, “How do I open my second location?  I see 12-15 locations when I’m done, but I don’t know how to open that second one.”  I knew he had the hard part down already.  He knew where he wanted to go!

Where will you and your company be in 3, 5, 10 years?  Can you see it and paint a picture for me in a couple of minutes?  Or are you at a total loss for where you and your business are going, but you work hard week after week and each feels like a repeat of the week before?

Why does it seem so easy for other owners?  What are they doing that you are not?  How do they do it all?  They don’t work any harder than you do.  The answer to these questions starts with knowing where you want to go, your Vision.

Take out a notepad and begin to write your thoughts and draw the diagrams to formulate what your overall vision is for the business.  Get a fairly clear picture so that you could describe it to someone.

Leap forward 3 years from today’s date.  Grab a journal and write that date on the top of a clean page.  Describe where your business is on this future date – 3 years from today – using the present tense, not future tense.  Answer these questions:

What are your offerings?
What does the organization look like?
What is your role in the organization?
What rewards are you enjoying?
Who are you working with?

Keep your journal handy as we work our way through business topics that will be presented in this blog.  I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!                       Holly Hanosn, Licensed Professional Business Coach

June 12, 2012

Technology Tools Help You Run Your Small Business – Part 3 – Time Management Software

Remember the days of being an employee, working for someone else?  Did you ever have a day when you were just counting the minutes until the end of your workday?  If you are like many small business owners, time ticks away at the same rate as it did back then, but before you know it you look up at the clock and you’ve worked far beyond the time you thought you would once again.

Time Management applications may help you manage your work and your day.  First of all let me share a personal pet peeve with you.  I do not believe there is such a thing as “time management”.  None of us can influence the passing of time, so in my mind we can’t manage it.  What we can manage is what we DO with OUR time.  In my book that means doing the right thing – the task that will create the greatest value in your business – as often as possible.  I call it “the critical path”.  If I have something to get done for my business or a client I make a list of the tasks and try to stay focused and avoid distractions.  Every time something comes along to take my attention away from the task at hand I stop to check “is it on the critical path?”  If not, I make a note to get back to it later and get my focus back on “the critical path”.

Back to Time Management Software….find out what it is that you need to help you manage your time and there is probably an application for it.  Many business owners use an electronic calendar and schedule time to do the work they need to get done.  For many if it does not get scheduled it does not get done – and time passes by anyway – so start to schedule time to do your work.  There is also software to create employee schedules, manage virtual to-do lists, generate customer invoices based on the time you spend on a project, and even programs that will block your email notifications for a period of time so those distracting new email notices won’t appear while you are concentrating on something you need to get done.  If you need an application that limits the time you spend on time-wasting websites, there are apps that block your access after you reach a pre-determined daily time limit.

Time Management?  No such thing.  Personal Time Management, absolutely!

What one critical path item would benefit your business the most if you could concentrate on getting it done without interruption?  Does it appear on your to-do list for today?  Is there time actually marked off on your calendar to spend working on it?  What can you do to minimize distractions while you concentrate on getting it done?  Are those things put in place?  OK then, what’s keeping you from doing it?

Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.  I look forward to reading them.

The next topic in this series is Social Media.  Stay tuned…..

June 5, 2012

Technology Tools Help You Run Your Small Business – Part 2 – Accounting Software

Technology Tools – Accounting Software

If you don’t have a good handle on your finances, beginning with the money you spend (expenses), the money you receive in the course of doing business (revenues), how much your business is able to keep (profit) or how much you are in the hole (loss), how do you know how you are doing?  I’m amazed when potential clients tell me – “There is still money in the checking account” as a response to my questions about their business financial situation and they are serious, not just kidding!  If you are still keeping a box or a file of receipts hoping that at tax time you will find a great accountant who will work with you to translate the collection into a tax return, chances are you are not watching your cash flow as closely as you should be.  It’s time to get serious about your business.  It’s OK if you like keeping track in your own spreadsheet if it gives you the information you need as a business owner.  For most small businesses QuickBooks is the most widely used although there are many other low cost (and even free) online accounting applications that let you track your finances from anywhere.  Many banks and business credit card services let you download your recent transactions directly into your accounting program.  Some will even categorize your expenses into spending categories to help you with the record keeping.

You and that great accountant that you work with will appreciate your step up into an accounting system.  You will be able to keep your finger on the pulse of your business and start to do some analysis and answer questions like: What is your typical sale?  When do your customers buy?  What products or services are the most popular?  What is your business income? What is your profit margin?  Can you afford XYZ?

What would be helpful for you to know about your business financial systems?  Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

Stay tuned for Part 3 – Time Management – in the next issue of this blog.

Read prior blog topics and visit my website at www.thebizedge.biz to find solutions to your business issues.  Enjoy your business!

May 29, 2012

Technology Tools Help You Run Your Small Business

Technology Tools

How do you grow your business when you’re bogged down in day-to-day operations? How do you find time for the big tasks when there seem to be fewer hours in every day? How do you maintain efficient communication between yourself and your employees? How do you continue to drive new business (and keep up with your competition) on a tight marketing budget?

Smartphone and Tablet

Most of us have been tethered to a cell phone of one kind or another for more than a decade, and as small business owners, we take it for granted that we’re always “on call,” even on our rare days off. A smartphone or tablet device picks up where cell phones leave off, helping you check in with the office when you’re not there so you can stay abreast of ongoing issues and avoid coming back to an inbox full of emails.

With the wide range of apps available for both iPad and Android devices and the emergence of cloud software and services (that is, applications and data that are accessed over the Internet, rather than hosted on your computer), tablets have become true productivity tools, enabling small business owners to get work done on the road, make presentations, demonstrate products, and even complete point-of-sale transactions, all while traveling light.

How have you incorporated your Smartphone and Tablet into your business?  Share your ideas below:

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