The Business Edge Blog

February 5, 2013

Every Business – 5 Key Parts

5 parts of a business“A business is a repeatable process that makes money.  Everything else is a hobby.” – Paul Freet

Josh Kaufman in The Personal MBA provides the following definition of a business.  It is a repeatable process that:

1.  Creates and delivers something of value…
2.  That other people want or need…
3.  At a price they’re willing to pay…
4.  In a way that satisfies the customer’s needs and expectations…
5.  So that the business brings in enough profit to make it worthwhile for the owners to continue operation.

At the core, every business is fundamentally a collection of five interdependent processes, each of which flows into the next:

1.  Value creation – discovering what people need or want, then creating it.
2.  Marketing – attracting attention and building demand for what you’ve created.
3.  Sales – turning prospective customers into paying customers.
4.  Value Delivery – giving your customers what you’ve promised and ensuring that they’re satisfied.
5.  Finance – bringing in enough money to keep going and make your effort worthwhile.

If you take away any one of these five parts, it’s not a valid business any longer.

When planning a new business or analyzing an existing venture, always begin with a review of the five parts – they will help you discover any major issues or gaps quickly.

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If you can master the concept of these processes, you’ll be well on your way to being ready to present your business to potential investors, bankers, mentors or your board of directors.

Questions for Consideration:

Think about the business you’re in:

  • What are the five core processes?
  • Can you describe or diagram them in detail?
  • How do they fit together?
  • Where do you need help?

Please share the five core processes in your business using the Comments section below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

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January 22, 2013

How to Engage in Conversation with Your Customers

love customers

How to Engage in Conversation with Your Customers

We know that it is important to build a relationship with our clients and customers.  People do business with people they Know, Like and Trust – the KLT factor.  People also feel better doing business with people that care about them.

Clients have asked me to help their new employees, sales people and service people learn a few new tips to break the ice and engage customers in conversation.  After our workshops I follow up and ask what new approaches worked well for them.  A few that work well for many types of businesses include:

1.  Ask a Different Question – (other than “May I help you”)

“How are you today?”, ” What brings you here today?”,  “What is on your schedule today besides this?”

Cautions:   Be prepared to participate in the conversation, not just fire question after question.  Don’t press for more if their responses are short.  You still get points for trying.

2.  Extend a Compliment –

If appropriate, comment on how cute a child looks or how well behaved they are.  Extend a compliment on something that looks attractive – purse/briefcase, phone cover, glasses, shoes.  If you are in their home, find something to compliment them on.

Caution:  Avoid coming across as someone in dating mode.  Stay professional.

3.  Use a surrounding object as an anchor –

If you notice the car they drive, ask how they enjoy owning that model of car.  If they are carrying a shopping bag from a store, ask if they enjoyed shopping there.

4.  Ask for their help or advice –

Ask if they have tried a restaurant you’re curious about.  Ask for their input on something you’re working on like determining a great spot for a vacation.

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Please share what works well in your business. I look forward to hearing from you.  You can email me at coach@thebizedge.biz or join the discussion below.

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

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.

November 13, 2012

Five Things to Consider When Hiring a Virtual Assistant

What is a Virtual Assistant (VA)?  Possibly the answer to the problem of not being able to get everything done you need to get done.  If you hire the right VA they can become a true business partner and help you grow your business. They are service providers – not employees.  You describe what your goal is and what you need to have done and by when, and if it is within their area of expertise, they go to work on it!  Some VAs work on an hourly basis, some on a project basis.  Some offer prepaid hour packages that provide you with a discount for a block of hours you use as you need them.

How do you get started finding a VA? A simple Google search is not enough to find the perfect fit. There are many things to consider, some particular to your industry.  Contact me if you need help developing the profile of your ideal VA, but here are five general items to consider before hiring a VA:

1.) What do you need done? Do you need someone to help you with your website, social media, blogging?  Do you need an expert with shopping cart knowledge and strong writing skills? Or are you are looking for a bookkeeper?  Be clear about what you need done and how you want the finished work to look. VAs have a difficult time meeting your expectations if you are unable to communicate what they are.

2.) Know the skills your VA will need to have to provide what you need.  What type of experience and training does your VA have? How long have they been working in the VA environment? What software programs do they need to know? Make sure to qualify your VA candidates and have a conversation about your business philosophy so that you are both on the same page.  If you qualify your VA well you’ll have a much higher chance of success than if you just hire ‘someone you know’.

3.) Ask for references of satisfied customers who the VA has done similar work for.  Check on the references.  Don’t limit yourself to people in your own area of the globe.  Great VAs are available around the globe and with technology the distance may not be a factor.  Language or understanding of US business issues may be, so ask to see a sample of their work.  Time zone differences can work in your favor if your assistant works while you sleep at night!

4.) Availability and response time.  Ask what hours your VA will be available.  Do they have a back-up in place in case they become ill?  Find out if there is someone you can speak with if you are not satisfied with the work your VA provides, or if the resolution is strictly between the two of you. Depending on your requirements, you may have better success using a VA sourcing group that has back-up plans in place if a particular VA becomes unavailable to meet a critical deadline.

5.) Know what the work the VA will be doing for you is worth. You do need to have a budget to hire a VA, BUT…if you hire someone matching your needs in the four areas listed above, budget should be a consideration, not the only one. The goal of hiring a VA is to take items off your plate so your focus can be on revenue generation. As you develop your budget keep in mind the savings you could realize compared to hiring a direct employee (vacation time, benefits, taxes).  There is a time for hiring an employee but until that time a VA can be very valuable.

Do you have questions about finding a VA, or additional tips you used for finding a great VA? Ask your questions or share the steps you took to ensure your VA was the right one for you in the comments section below.

P.S.  I found a video that provides a good overview of what one VA firm provides their clients.  I have not used this company, but I like the information they shared.  Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U0ljUTTjNY

Until next time – Remember to mind your business!

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!

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 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 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

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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