Archive for the 'Strategic planning' Category

5 year-end steps to take while you’re closing out this year

Fourteen hundred and forty - the number of minutes in a day.

Since we can make more money, arguably the greatest challenge of any small business owner is balancing the demands of the forces that compete for those minutes.

“What is the best use of my time right now?” is the constant management question on Main Street. And in no other part of the year are we more time-management challenged than in December, when we’re faced with allocating time to two very powerful management imperatives: The tactical focus on closing out the sales year as strongly as possible, while simultaneously taking strategic steps to set the business up for a fast and clean start on January 1.

In his book, Blue Highways, William “Least Heat Moon” Trogden said his Osage Indian grandfather once told him, “Some things don’t have to be remembered, they remember themselves.” It’s a natural law that the year-end sales push doesn’t have to be remembered, it remembers itself. But as we come to the two-minute drill in the last quarter of the marketplace game our business plays all year, committing precious time and energy to preparing for the future requires the discipline to remember it ourselves.

There are many areas to focus on this month to help you start the New Year clean and fast.  Here are five to get you started.

1. Throw stuff away

Even if you’re not a pack rat like me, you’ve accumulated stuff you don’t use anymore.  For example, one of the markers of a 21st century office is the digital graveyard. Unused or broken computers, monitors, etc., may have some value, so call a tech recycler and convert it into cash. If you can’t sell it, give it away or throw it away, because it’s in your way.

2. Empower producers - cut the dead wood

Year-end is also a great time to take stock of employees who’ve demonstrated leadership and engagement. Recognizing the performance of those individuals will motivate them to a fast start in the New Year.

The only thing worse than firing someone is letting an unproductive employee hold your team’s performance hostage for another year. A byproduct of identifying those who perform is it also shines a light on those who don’t. You owe productive people the most effective organization possible, which means you have to let the unproductive pursue their careers elsewhere.

3. Classify customers

Classify customers by gross profit into four groups, from the most profitable As to the least profitable Ds. Worship the As, cater to the Bs, encourage the Cs and teach the Ds about self-service. When the cost of a customer’s expectations encroaches on your profit margin too much, allow them to join your unproductive employees - elsewhere.

4. Purge inventory

As with customers, take a new look at your products and inventory by identifying the most profitable As to the least profitable Ds. Stock all the As, a few of the Bs and maybe a couple of Cs. But never let a D spend one night under your roof unless it’s paid for. Remember, profitable inventory management means just-in-time, not just-in-case. And write off obsolete and damaged inventory. Take the hit now.

5. A/R reality

Take another hit by writing off uncollectable accounts receivables now, so you can start January with a clean list. A/R write-offs are tax deductions this year, and if you wind up collecting them next year, it’s gravy. The only thing more troubling to a banker than uncollected A/R is a customer who doesn’t have the discipline to deliver a clean balance sheet.

Each New Year deserves to have the maximum opportunity to be successful, so don’t saddle it with obsolescence, waste and bad decisions. By taking these steps - and others from your own list - you’ll prove to yourself, your team you’re your banker that you have the discipline to make the critical decisions for which successful managers are known.

Write this on a rock … Have the discipline to set up your New Year for a clean and fast start.

Continuing education leads to more intelligent planning

The life of a small business owner is hectic, to say the least. Multi-tasking is the norm. So much of our day is spent reacting to the crisis of the moment, conducting the business of the day, and initiating our plans for the future. And once we acquire a level of competence in this life we’ve chosen, it’s natural to want to relax, settle in, and seek the ease that can come with familiarity and repetition.

But the marketplace isn’t a comfortable, lumbering vessel anymore, rolling along like a single screw trawler. It’s become more like a vibrant starship capable of warp speed. Indeed, it takes a much more knowledgeable person to successfully operate a business in today’s marketplace than it did even 10 years ago.

The great American revolutionary and legendary wordsmith, Thomas Paine, said, “I have seldom passed five minutes of my life, however circumstanced, in which I did not acquire some knowledge.” This from a corset maker who dropped out of school at 13.

You can’t anticipate everything, so react when you must. The business of the day, obviously, must be attended to. And what will you have tomorrow if you don’t plan for it?

But however circumstanced, before you succumb to the human tendency to rest on your laurels, make it part of your daily tasks to acquire some knowledge.

Make it your daily intention to learn something new that might help you react more effectively, operate more profitably, and plan more intelligently.

Entrepreneurial Telekenesis

Have you ever seen someone who moved objects with their mind, or bent a spoon by merely concentrating on it?  Telekinesis, as defined by Webster, is the power to move an object by psychic force alone. Mind over matter.

The idea of telekinesis has fascinated humans for millennia, including this human. Like me, you probably have a healthy level of skepticism about such claims. But what would you say if I said you are capable of telekinesis?

If you have ever done any physical training, you know that your body constantly sends messages to your brain that it’s ready to shut down. When that first dissenting word from your leg muscles hit your brain did you obey, or did you send back a message that those muscles would just have to tough it out? Sometimes one side of your brain, the side focused on your goal, has to have a word with the other side, the one that is a close friend with comfort.

At some time in our lives, most of us ran, jumped, cycled, lifted, swam, etc., at performance levels beyond which seemed possible to us in the early stages of training.We learned that building strength and endurance requires our body’s comfort to become subordinate to attaining a goal we had set. What is that if not mind over matter?

As small business owners, we perform a kind of entrepreneurial telekinesis every day. We accomplish things that marketplace pedestrians would say are impossible. And if you think I’m using the term telekinesis too loosely, what else would you call it when a small business owner defies the marketplace, the competition, and conventional thought by not only surviving, but actually thriving? Your entrepreneurial mind has the potential to defy the odds, the gravity of the marketplace, and matter, as we know it.

Will is an intangible force created by another intangible, desire. As you desire to move your business forward, whenever the matter is weak, you compensate with will. Mind over matter.

But don’t try this on spoons.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

Is a crowdfunding business loan right for you?

In my last column I introduced the concept of crowdfunding — the new word and online methods of fundraising and capitalization. The two crowdfunding examples I described were contributions and business transactions doubling as fundraising.

Let’s continue with the third type, which is, crowdfunding structured for loans.

Crowdfunding debt, AKA peer-to-peer and social lending, is like traditional borrowing: a request for funds comes with the promise of repayment with interest over a specific term. But the former is done online, and the latter is not. Individuals use crowdfunding for personal loans, but our focus here is for business borrowing, which typically involve four crowds:

1. Business borrowers

2. An online crowdfunding platform aggregating loan requests

3. A funding and underwriting source, likely a hedge fund

4. Individuals who invest with #3, knowing it’s for loans to small businesses

Remember the innumerable and anonymous crowdfunding factors from the previous column? These two are also in play with crowdfunding debt, because a large crowd is required to provide a pool of loan funds and dilute the risk, and investors are only known to the funding source aggregator.

Regardless of the funding source, crowdfunding or traditional, small business loans are expensive for the borrower because this sector is considered high risk for two primary reasons:

1. Most small businesses are undercapitalized and operate on a thin survival margin

2. Too many small business owners don’t track financial performance well enough to know how they’re really doing.

And since crowdfunding loans are unsecured, taking the risk to an even higher level, crowdfunding business loans are doubly expensive.

So is a crowdfunding business loan right for you? Here’s some context: If you can borrow from your bank, this year you’ll probably pay an average of about 6% annual interest rate. A crowdfunding loan APR will likely be 15% or more. Any questions?

Crowdfunding business lending has achieved some level of critical mass and is growing.  As I’ve said before, the future of small business capitalization will look a lot different than it does today largely due to this emerging alternative.

Next time we’ll wrap up this series with a tour of the good, bad, and improbable of investor equity crowdfunding. And more tough love.

Write this on a rock If you can borrow money from a bank, don’t borrow from a crowd

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

Success is not measured only by money and stuff

Believe it or not, much of the potential for success in your small business depends upon two things:

1.  Your ability to effectively function physically, mentally, and emotionally.

2.  How well you balance where the business stops and your personal life starts.

"The best way to be successful AND happy is to be able to define success in many ways, including having a life that’s balanced with richness outside of the business."There actually are times when being one with your business is not only a good thing, it’s essential. But extreme commitment weaves a fine seam between business and owner. And unfortunately, entrepreneurial single-mindedness will often result in the opposite of what is intended: a business in jeopardy run by an unhappy human.

The best way to be successful AND happy is to be able to define success in many ways, including having a life that’s balanced with richness outside of the business. Getting that new customer on board is an essential part of your business’s future. But making the time to attend a child’s activity in the middle of the day is also important to the long-term well-being of your business.

A small business is more like a patchwork quilt than a gilded security blanket. Some patches represent good things and some not so good. Some patches are about the business, others are about the owner, and some are hard to tell. Happiness will be found by those owners who can feel successful regardless of which patch is in front of them.

Having multiple touchstones of success, not just money and stuff, helps keep the rough patches in business and life in proper perspective. If you became a small business owner to find financial success, good for you; as a capitalist I admire that motivation. But if you think being rich will make you happy get your umbrella out, because I’m going to rain on that parade with these two truths:

1.  Wealth only provides options, not a guarantee of happiness.

2.  If you can’t be happy without money and stuff, you aren’t likely to be happy with it.

Now let’s talk about fun.

The most successful business owners I know are those who have learned that one of the keys to their success is to run a tight ship while encouraging their people to laugh and find joy in their work. Every day that goes by without some kind of joy is a precious opportunity lost.

Two final thoughts:

1.      Think of happiness as a business best practice and a success fundamental.

Write this on a rock —

Learn how to define success in more ways than just money and stuff. And don’t forget to have fun.


Jim Blasingame is the author of the new book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

A small business strategic plan for leading change

Most of us allow our minds to swing back and forth between dealing with the reality we see in front of us and nostalgia for the way things were. In the marketplace, spending too much time with the latter half of this pendulum swing is an indulgence at best, and dangerously delusional at worst. With change happening more rapidly than ever before, this increased velocity is challenging even when we like the new stuff, but it can be paralyzing when we don’t.

It’s a fool’s errand to just take the direct hits from the rapid-fire changes the world aims at our small businesses. Sustained success in our light-speed world requires developing a plan that identifies and establishes practices that help us anticipate change, manage it and actually lead with it.

Recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with change expert, Rich Horwath, about developing a strategic plan that will set your business up to function effectively regardless what the world and the marketplace throws at you. Rich is a new member of my Brain Trust, founder and president of the Strategic Thinking Institute and author of four books including his latest, Deep Dive.

Take a few minutes to listen to our conversation, and let us know about your plan for leading change. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Warning: fsockopen() [function.fsockopen]: php_network_getaddresses: getaddrinfo failed: Temporary failure in name resolution in /var/www/wordpress/wp-includes/class-snoopy.php on line 1142

Warning: fsockopen() [function.fsockopen]: unable to connect to (Unknown error) in /var/www/wordpress/wp-includes/class-snoopy.php on line 1142