The Business Edge Blog

December 20, 2012

The 4 Presents I Would Put Under Your Tree This Christmas

Christmas Presents

If you own or manage a business there are 4 presents that I would put under your Christmas tree this year. Successful business owners would agree that if I could box these up and put them under your tree you would be well on your way to growth and prosperity.

Present  #1: Clarity

Clarity of your Vision, Mission and Values.  A clear vision of who you are, what you are and what you stand for is at the core of every successful business.    Of the four packages under your tree, this present would be the largest one.   It is the foundation upon which everything else in your business is built.   Before you open any other gifts, open this one.   Until you establish clarity for your business it is hard to move forward with a purpose.

Present  #2: Focus

Focus on what matters most. As a business owner you probably feel like you are being pulled in 10 different directions at times.  Once you have clarity you can begin to focus on what is really important and what path you need to be on to reach your goals.  Stopping to analyze if what you are doing is the most important thing for you to be doing at that moment will help you to prioritize and decide which of those directions you are being pulled is the right one to focus on.  Decide what your goals are, then write down the action steps you need to take to get there.  Set achievable goals in terms that you can measure progress along the way.  Define dates for reaching the goal and identify who will be responsible for monitoring progress in a fun way.  Think of the charity’s Christmas stocking thermometer billboard with a clearly defined goal and updating along the way to clearly show what has been achieved and how much more work needs to be done.  Find something that works for your goals.

Present  #3: Momentum

Momentum to achieve your goals. Avalanches start from one small section of snow breaking away from a slope.   Something causes the first section of snow to break away. Focus can be the start of the tremendous growing force in your business.  The focused momentum that you start ignites excitement in your employees and customers and is contagious.

Present  #4: Accountability

Accountability for success. Your fourth present is the one that can sit in the back of the pile and get overlooked.  If you don’t open it and implement it with the other 3 presents, all the presents may as well be packed up with the Christmas ornaments and not be looked at again until next year.  Without accountability, all the gifts and all your work can lose their luster and end up collecting dust on a shelf somewhere as a partially implemented project.  You have great intentions for the year, but without accountability the year flies by and before you know it the Christmas tree is up again and the year is almost over.  This may be where you are right now as 2012 is ending.  Don’t let it happen again in 2013.

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As you open the gifts under your tree this year, remember that you can give the biggest gift of all to those that are most important to you – a thriving growing business that fulfills your dreams and theirs and makes a positive impact on the world.

Let me know how I can best help you achieve your dreams for your business in the comments below.

December 6, 2012

#1 Critical Ingredient for Sustainable Growth

growing plantSustainable Growth

There is an almost magical component to sustainable business growth, but it’s not obvious, and most business owners are not spending the time on it to reap the greatest rewards.  The key word is “sustainable” – you can have growth without this component, but it won’t be easy.

When you think of business growth…what comes to mind?

Great marketing?   Really effective sales?  New products?  Super flashy advertising?  Signing a huge new client?

All of these contribute to business growth, but there’s a more fundamental attribute found in sustainable, successful businesses. It can make the difference when it comes to taking your business beyond the brute force stage (where you’re putting in a lot more than you’re getting out).

That secret ingredient is Systems!

What are Systems? Simply put, effective Systems are a combination of written processes, tools, automation and applications that allow you, the business owner, to get things done the right way without actually doing it yourself.  A successful business is made up of a whole series of systems that work together in a seamless way, generally without any direct input or oversight from the owner.

Want to get a quick read on how well you’re doing when it comes to Systems in your business?  Here’s a short quiz you can use to judge your progress in Systems.  Score yourself from 1 to 10 on each statement…10 if you are in alignment with the statement, 1 if you aren’t even close.

#1 – As the owner of the business, I fully understand that my primary role is to ensure that the business is run by systems (step-by-step processes and procedures).  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#2 – All of the functions necessary to successfully run my company have been clearly identified and documented in a company operations manual.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#3 – We regularly consider outsourcing options to reduce expenses and increase efficiencies.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#4 – We regularly review our systems to ensure they are as efficient and effective as practical in delivering the desired outcome.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

#5 – I’m confident that my employees would know what to do if the leadership team or I were not present for an extended period of time.  Score _____ 1 to 10.

What’s your score?

How did you do?  This quick quiz certainly isn’t comprehensive, but it will give you a pretty good idea of where you and your business stand from a Systems perspective.  There are several key ideas represented here:

  • Do you view your primary role – where you spend the most time (as the business owner) as purposely building your business…and the systems that run your business?
  • Are you documenting everything down to a level that a new employee could jump right in?
  • Are you and your team consistently looking for ways to improve?

So how did you score?  If you scored above 40…then you’re in pretty good shape…keep up the good work!

If you scored between 30 and 40, then there are some things to work on, but at least you’re headed in the right direction.

If scored between 20 and 30, you at least understand it’s important, but you have some work to do.

If you scored less than 20, then it’s a good bet that you feel that you don’t have time to read this post and you are working really, really hard all the time…and your business is at risk!

When you’re ready to unleash some magic and start building systems into your business, the best bet is to carve out some time – schedule it – and identify the big components of your business (where your business comes from, how you close business, how you fulfill your sales, and how you collect business income from sales).  Once you’ve got this defined, in writing, then you can start digging into the details of each over time.

Make sure you get your employees involved…they probably know the details in a lot of areas better than you do and they’re going to have to live with whatever system or process is developed – so include them in the solution.

Get an outside perspective – consider hiring a business coach or joining some kind of advisory board like The Boardroom to help you focus and get some insight that might be hard to come by on your own.

What is your experience with developing business Systems?  I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comment section below.

October 19, 2012

For Sale: Your Business – but for how much? Part 1

In the beginning it was just you – and maybe a partner or two.  The business ran on blood, sweat and tears, with some heart and soul thrown in – and a chunk of your personal financial resources as well.

It’s no surprise that when the time comes to sell the business and retire, some owners just aren’t prepared.

The emotional investment is why it’s so difficult for most people to sell their business.  Sometimes a valuation produces a figure that is only a percentage of what the owner is expecting and needs for retirement.

How can you increase profitability and make it more desirable for a buyer, make it more transferable, and help convince the buyer that the business will remain intact post-transfer?  Front Range Business Inc, a Boulder-based brokerage firm that facilitates selling owner-operated businesses suggests engaging a business coach.

They cite many examples where a business coach has helped to double the value of a business over a twelve month period.  The work I do with my clients – either for their own growth or in preparation for sale – includes the same work Front Range Business Inc recommends; formalizing and documenting processes; creating employee, service and other procedure manuals; staff training; and most important of all, working ON the business, not FOR (or IN) the business.  Owners typically are so caught up in the day-to-day operations that they overlook the big picture.  Owners need to focus on marketing, training and where they want to take their business, then plan the route that will get their business to the final destination: a successful and profitable sale.  I suggest that my clients keep their exit plan in mind as they make decisions years prior to their planned retirement date.

When owners start thinking about an exit there are a number of big questions to consider.

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Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll cover these questions and other considerations!

Feel free to comment on your thoughts about preparing your business for sale by posting your thoughts below.

Until next time – Remember to mind 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…..

November 22, 2011

Sharing Discoveries

Discoveries From Other Business Owners

I belong to an Alliance of Professional Business Coaches.  One of my fellow coaches asked his Peer Group Advisory Board members:  “What’s the best advice you would give someone who’s planning to start a business now?”  There is great wisdom in their responses.  In no particular order here are their top 25.

1.  Enjoy the upside of owning your own business – you’re in charge and you get the freedom and control to do what you want to do.  Additionally you have the opportunity to build something that’s all yours.

2.  Building a business is complex and you aren’t going to be an expert in everything – don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.

3.  Find a mentor.  Someone you can bounce ideas off of, who can help you get perspective and hold you accountable.

4.  You’ve got to be flexible…the market will change and your understanding of the market and your business will change as well.  Be prepared to adjust your course.

5.  Do what you can to find multiple revenue streams, more ways to generate money.  If you only have one product or service, it’s likely you’ll get stuck and it’s good to have something to fall back on.

6.  Even though you’re in a hurry to get started, take the time up front to really plan things out.  Your upfront costs and decisions can make or break you.  Take the time to make sure it’s money well spent.

7.  Understand your financials and get accounting and payroll help as soon as you can afford it.

8.  Have patience; things will take longer and cost more than you think.

9.  Make sure you have enough financial runway so you’re not panicked or have to shut down if things take longer than you expect to get off the ground.

10.  Whatever business you’re in, you’re in the business of marketing first – if you can’t position and market your product/service effectively not much else matters.

11.  Make it your focus to add value with every contact you have (clients, networking contacts, pretty much everyone).

12.  Be clear on what you’re getting into when you start a business; long hours, challenges outside of your comfort zone and a lonely path.  It’s a tough challenge (but worth it when you succeed).

13.  Get comfortable with risk and uncertainly.  It will be a while before you can count on a regular paycheck (possibly 12 to 18 months).

14.  Make sure you’ve got family support and they’re excited about what you’re doing.

15.  Build connections (real relationships) – networking and building the right win-win relationships is crucial to long term success.

16.  Give yourself a clear go/no-go date to help you manage the bumps in the road.  If you have a bad month early on, you still have time to recover because you haven’t hit your date yet.

17.  Be clear on why you want to create your business – if you’re not excited about what you’re doing, no one else will be either.

18.  Make sure you create and work off a written business plan (it can be as simple as a couple of pages, but a plan that covers where the money comes from and where it’s going).

19.  Starting something isn’t easy and it isn’t quick – it takes hard work to succeed.

20.  Have faith in yourself, when things get tough you have to push through.

21.  Your business has a gestation period… despite your full commitment, few will take you seriously until you’ve been around at least 9 months, sometimes much longer.

22.  Read the E-Myth and be aware of your mix between Entrepreneur, Manager and Technician (and understand what that means).

23.  Setup an advisory board for your business – people you trust who will tell you hard truths and encourage you.

24.  Figure out if you have the disposition to be an entrepreneur.  Look for clues in your past – if you’ve never taken ownership and pushed to make money independently it will be tough to succeed in your own business.

25.  Passion trumps perfection.  You can’t wait for it to be just right.  You have to get out there and start making things happen.

There is nothing as challenging or as rewarding as creating your own business.  A big part of that challenge is getting your new business off the ground.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  The advice listed above can help you succeed in the critical first year.

What advice resonates with you?  What advice would your share with others?  Let us know in your comments below.

November 8, 2011

Don’t Forget You’re Not Alone

 You can’t know it all!

Every once in a while I run across a business owner who feels badly about the things they don’t know.  But how would they know?  An attorney is taught about the law in law school.  Accountants are taught about the rules and regulations and GAAP in classes and studying for the CPA exam.  You are taught how to be a subject matter expert in your field.

One day you decide to start a business.  This is a whole new field of study.  You are still the subject matter expert in the business, but perhaps don’t know how to build or run a business.  How would you?  That’s a whole new field of study that you may not be an expert in!

You’re not alone.  Think of the people you do business with.  Your dentist, your doctor.  Do you want them to be experts in dentistry and medicine, or in running a business?  Where did they learn to run a business if they are out on their own?  Chances are they hired others along the way to help them in areas they were not experts.  Why should it be different for you?

You’re not alone.  A lot of business owners have questions along the way.  A strong business support team includes your attorney, your accountant, your business insurance agent, your business banker and a business coach.

Do you learn best in a group?  Consider joining a MasterMind or Boardroom group led by a business coach where business owners can ask their questions in a safe environment and share best practices with other business owners.

Do you work best one-on-one?  A business coach typically offers individual coaching also – one of the fastest ways to get direct answers to your questions.

Don’t forget you’re not alone.  There are other business owners out there with the same questions, facing the same issues that your face.  A business coach can help you find solutions.

You’re not alone.  What topics would you like feedback on?  Submit your comments and questions below.

September 27, 2011

Open Letter to Millions of Small Business Owners

Is Your Mindset Growing As Quickly As Your Business?

Dear Business Owners –

Congratulations on your business success!  You’re doing things right.  Maybe it hasn’t been as easy as you thought it would be when you were just dreaming of owning your own business, but you’ve overcome the obstacles to get to where you are.

Has your mindset grown as quickly as your business, or is your entrepreneur mindset one of the obstacles that you still need to overcome?  My clients benefit from changing their outlook.  Let me explain –

>  When you first began your business you were probably personally involved in every aspect of the business, every decision that was made, and every dollar that was spent.  As your business has grown, are there areas of the business that you are still reluctant to delegate to anyone else?  Make a list of these.

>  You probably have line items in your financial systems that help identify what you are spending.  Do you have budgets set for those line items or are you just keeping track throughout the year?  Can you describe guidelines for expenditures in some of these areas?

>  Look at your personal physical location in your business.  Is your area positioned so that you are always working “in” your business when you are there, or have you moved away from the center of the activity to a location where you have the ability to work “on” the business as well?

I challenge my clients to try on a new mindset – the mindset that a corporate Chief Executive Officer (CEO) would have. In a corporate setting the CEO has delegated work to others, provided guidelines and budgets so that others can be responsible and held accountable for making good decisions in their areas of expertise.  The corporate CEO keeps a pulse on the business but works in an environment where they can work on strategic planning and growth plans to take the business to the next level.

Try on the CEO mindset today.  Look at your business as a corporate CEO would.  What would you change?  If you can’t make the changes today, define the steps that you can begin to take to get to where you need to be.

I promise the time you spend will be well worth it.

Respectfully,

Holly

P.S.  The next time you print business cards, think about whether you have become the CEO of your organization!

Blog readers – what do you think?  Where has your mindset held you back?  I look forward to hearing from you!

September 6, 2011

The #1 Business Lesson from Not Having A Barbie

Business and Barbie

When I was growing up my Mom decided that she did not want me to have a Barbie.  She felt it set unrealistic expectations of what I would grow up to be and the life I would desire.  She probably was right.

Some business owners (regardless of Barbie ownership) don’t understand that it takes hard work and a good plan to get to the point that there is a red convertible in the drive, closets full of clothes, a house with many rooms, an RV and endless other toys for time off.  Sometimes they get frustrated and quit because they are not reaching the expectations they had for their business success fast enough.

Do you have a business plan?  Seriously – even if you have been in business for a decade or more – do you have a sense of where your business is compared to where you planned it to be at this point in time?  What expectations do you have for the future?  How will you get from where you are to where it is you plan to be?  Some business owners “make it” and it looks easy, like Barbie’s life.  The rest of us need to know where our customers will come from, how to reach them, how to serve them well, and how to set up systems and procedures as we grow so that we are not the limiting factor in the business.

It’s starting to feel like the end of the year with the fall weather.  Reflect on where your business is relative to where you had planned for it to be this year.  If you are not where you hoped to be, there is still time to make a difference.  In planning for next year, set aside time to develop a business plan.  It does not need to be as formal as a banker would like to see, but something that helps outline action steps you need to take and that you can refer to throughout the year and make adjustments as you go along.  Need help?  Let me know.  This is where a Business Coach can help!

August 30, 2011

#1 Measurement of Success for a Business Coach

It’s all about the client reaching success!

That’s what a business coach does – we measure our success by the ability to help our clients reach their goals.  I know that I’ve been successful when a client comes to me with an issue or concern and after we brainstorm strategies and solutions they are able to solve the problem and move forward.  It’s great when we meet again and I check in with them on the issue and they tell me that they have solved it and we move on to another topic.  Wahoo!

Sometimes the solution is to make a great connection for a client.  I’m making a connection today.  One of my clients is an expert in his field and has the dream of creating a board game to expand the range of people he can reach with his expertise.  I met with a gentlemen last week who develops strategy board games as a hobby!  What are the chances of that!  So today they meet.  The connections the board game developer has in his circle of board game friends is just the piece of the puzzle that my client needs.

I’m working with a very successful business owner to move from running the business like a solopreneur – being involved in all the decsion making – to running the business with budgets and expense categories so that he does not need to be involved in every decision, even when he’s on vacation!  His success will be measured by his ability to enjoy his time away without being interrupted to make decisions that others can make based on the budgets defined.

How do you measure success?  Can a business coach help you get there faster, with less stress?  Share your definition of success below.

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