Don’t Let Numbers Paralyze Your Business

document-3268750_1920Since profit is essential for longevity and overall success of a business, it can be difficult to not obsess over your business’s numbers. As a passionate business owner, you may find yourself spending a lot of time worrying about unmet sales goals, overspent budgets, or unforeseen expenditures. These are all valid concerns, but is fixating on them benefitting your business?

Probably not. Instead, I encourage you to look at your business’s big picture. I believe that numbers are better used as a point of reference for the future rather than as an immediate source of panic. To help free you of the burden that numbers place on many business owners, here is what I suggest:

Build a Detailed Plan

You may have annual or quarterly financial goals, but are they included in an in-depth plan that includes steps and strategies to reach those goals? It’s generally easier to reach a destination with a map. Consider implementing KPIs into your business plan to help you recognize that a poor financial quarter doesn’t necessarily mean your business isn’t growing in other relevant areas.

Re-evaluate Your Existing Plan

If you already have a detailed business plan, it can be understandably frustrating if you are not meeting your goals. You have big ambitions for your business, but every business moves at its own pace. Consider that perhaps some goals may be currently out of reach and can be postponed until next year. Aim for greatness, but ensure your goals are realistic for your current means.

Communicate With Staff

Part of re-evaluating your business plan may include confirming that individual staff and departments are aware of the specific part they play in achieving the company’s goals. Perhaps your employees are doing their best to play their parts, but their best could be better if offered the right motivation. Budgets are often tight, but there are ways to keep employees motivated without giving pay raises.

Remember, going over budget on one item or for one quarter rarely means that you need to stop everything. Businesses have their ups and downs, but you will remain on the path to success as long as you treat everything as a learning opportunity.

If you would like to discuss how to build an effective business plan, contact me today to join a TAB peer advisory board.

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Customer Retention: The Benefits of a Loyalty Program

Customer Incentive.jpgAt a few TAB meetings I’ve recently facilitated, the business owners around the table have asked how they can ensure their customers keep coming back. When the cost of acquiring a new customer is five times more than the cost of customer retention, we need to show our customers that we care.

Many of you may be familiar with loyalty programs in your personal life such as from your gym or a preferred airline, but loyalty programs are also relevant for those who sell B2B products and services. So, what constitutes a loyalty program?

Loyalty programs can encourage your customers to continue purchasing your products or services by providing them rewards for their continued business. Such rewards may include discounts or free products by spending earned points, advance notice of a new product, or participation in loyalty members-only sales.

I’d like to share with you four possible benefits of implementing a loyalty program:

Money Savings

Not all money-saving offers, such as frequent sales and deeper discounts, are likely to be ideal for your business, but some loyalty programs allow customers to earn their own personal sale so you don’t need to cut prices across the board. A good example of this is programs that give money back after spending a certain amount (Spend $X, Get $X Back). You could create service packages like this as well. The customers get the satisfaction of feeling like they are saving money, but in reality they tend to spend even more money at the time of reward redemption.

Loyalty programs can increase your sales without needing to lower your overall prices, giving your bottom line a valuable boost.

Promotion of New or Less-Popular Products

As a business owner, you might find that your business has difficulty selling certain products/services or getting customers to try something new. A well-designed loyalty program can offer greater rewards – and greater incentives – for specific purchases, which can compel customers to add or explore products or services that they would normally ignore.

Collection of Unique Customer Data

In order to sign up for your loyalty program, you’ll need your customers to provide you with some basic information. This is an opportunity to ask for more targeted information than what you may already have on your customer, which in turn allows you to customize future offers to them. You may ask them about their preference for certain services, packages, or types of offers they’d like to see. Keep the questions brief, and offer dropdowns with possible answers for a simple user experience.

Knowledge of Your Customers’ Spending Habits

Once a customer is registered for a loyalty program, you can track their activity with your business through an identification number or membership card. The more they use the program, the more data you collect on how often they make purchases, when they tend to shop at your business, and what products/services they buy and in what combinations. You can never know too much about your customers’ spending habits.

If you do decide a loyalty program is a right fit for your business it can become an integral component of your customer retention program, but it can also be a deciding factor for a potential customer to choose you over one of your competitors.

Building customer loyalty is just one of many solutions to help business owners grow their business. Contact me today to discuss the benefits of working with TAB and growing your business!


Ready to Unleash Your Inner Entrepreneur?

k-63-dsc5156355559-paint_1There comes a point in an executive’s career where most, if not all professional milestones have been achieved. It’s a point where I have found many executives start to become restless, looking for the next challenge. If you don’t share the same excitement your colleague’s have about their retirement plans and you are thinking about how you’ve always dreamed of being your own boss, then I’d like to share with you a great opportunity to unleash your entrepreneurial spirit!

As a franchise owner for The Alternative Board (TAB), you not only have the freedom to make you own decisions, have low overhead costs, and determine your own hours, but you will have the backing of an international franchise and be making an impact on small businesses and their owners.

As a TAB franchisee, you will:

  • Build and manage an advisory board of up to 10 non-competing businesses
  • Coach business owners to improve their leadership skills and help their business grow
  • Facilitate group meetings and discussions to propose constructive, powerful solutions to business problems
  • Guide and grow your business with autonomy, and with the backing and support of an international franchise

This opportunity is perfect for:

  • Executives with an entrepreneurial spirit, who have an abundance of experience in the corporate world
  • Business leaders who look to tackle a new challenge for the next 10-15 years
  • Those who would enjoy helping passionate business owners innovate and grow their businesses

Becoming a TAB franchisee allows you to be your own boss, make your own decisions, and help small businesses succeed. It’s the perfect opportunity for someone who wants to make a big difference in the lives of many small business owners and their ventures. If you’d like to learn more about being a TAB franchisee, contact me today!


How a Lean Business Plan Can Help You Focus on What Is Really Important

business-plan-images-1024x682As I have discussed with many business owners over the years, a business plan is your blueprint for success. It can help you manage your business more effectively, help support growth and secure funding. There are “Static Business Plans” and “Lean Business Plans”.

Since your business isn’t static, it doesn’t make sense to have a static business plan, which is typically long, complicated and never changes. Lean business plans assume constant change. They’re streamlined documents with no extraneous information. Instead of bloated paragraphs, lean business plans are written concisely with bullet points, lists and tables – easy to read and easy to revise.

A lean business plan is more than just a plan; it’s an ongoing process designed to optimize your business. This powerful tool includes strategy, a financial plan, action plan, tactics, milestones, responsibilities, performance metrics and tracking.

A lean business plan is a dynamic document that must be reviewed regularly and revised as needed. It’s something that can benefit every business. I’ve outlined below four important points of every lean business plan here:

  1. The pitch tells your story. Who are you? What do you do? What is your value proposition? What problem are you solving for your customers? How are you solving that problem? Who is your customer? Who is your competition? How are you different from your competition?
  2. The financial plan explains how you’re going to make money. What is your business model? What are your revenue streams? What is your sales forecast? Cash flow forecast? What are your major expenses? What is your budget to cover expenses?
  3. The action plan is how you’re going to do it. Who are your key team members and what are their roles? Who is your target market? What are your sales channels – online, bricks and mortar, third party distribution? Pricing? How will you be attracting customers – marketing, advertising, promotions, social media, messaging, public relations? Do you have partners or additional resources? If so, list them.
  4. Performance tracking measures the success of your plan. It compares results with expectations. List all of the specifics that you can track – money generated, products/services sold, number of new clients, milestones reached, web traffic, foot traffic, social media followers, conversions…

A lean business plan evolves as your business evolves. It will never be finished; it’s a process of continuous improvement. The cycle is constant – plan, run, review, revise. Review and revise your plan regularly to ensure that your business is on course with meeting goals, sales targets and operational milestones. In my experience, this plan can keep your business on track, and help you determine its success.

Are you using a lean business plan? Want more advice on lean business plans, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


How to Become an Agile Business

In today’s competitive landscape, it’s important for a business to be able to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes. “Agile” is the buzzword associated with this ability to adapt quickly to changing situations; but what is “agile” and how can a business become an “agile business”?

Agile is a philosophy, not a process. Although originally used for software development, it’s now used by companies large and small in any industry. According to the Agile Manifesto, agile refers to:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Becoming an agile business is a process that constantly needs work. Is it worth it? According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, agile firms grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits.

Here are some guidelines for becoming an agile business:

Create focus. Don’t be distracted. Get rid of a long list of priorities and instead replace it with a short, manageable list of three or four items that are “must dos”. As you complete one item, add another to your list. This will keep you focused.

Communicate your vision. Communication is the key to change and change-worthy behaviour. Communicate with employees often, be transparent and give them clear and compelling reasons to embrace agility and become agile champions.

Hire the right people. The success of your business rests on hiring the right people – employees who are aligned with your vision and your values. In order to be agile, the employees you hire must be results-oriented, not task-oriented. They must be able to work within an organization that gives them the freedom and the responsibility to accomplish their jobs without a step-by-step instruction manual on how to do it.

Create autonomy. You can’t maintain a stranglehold on your employees and micromanage every decision in an agile environment. Senior managers need to lessen their direct control over day-to-day activities and give their employees control over how they do their work. Give your employees the environment and support they need and have confidence that they’ll get the job done.

Be prepared for the unexpected. Although you can’t plan for the unexpected, you can be prepared for it. Agile businesses are flexible, adaptable and expect change. They are ready for all eventualities and can quickly pivot. Changing requirements are the name of the game.

Agile is motivating. An agile environment by nature is motivating. Instead of working on the same project month after month with little change, an agile environment empowers employees to respond to changes, giving them freedom to become more than their job descriptions.

How agile is your company? Want more advice on becoming an agile business, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


Focus on the Human Side of CRM to Improve the Customer Experience

The Customer Relationship Management industry (CRM) has exploded. It’s estimated that 91% of business with more than 11 employees now use a CRM system. CRM is a term that refers to the strategies, technology, and practices that companies incorporate into their business to manage and analyze customer interactions and data. However, many businesses are not realizing the full benefits of CRM because they’re entirely focused on the data and ignore the human side of CRM. The data will tell you how to manage customers, but not how to build relationships with them. Computers don’t build relationships; people do.

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, the success of your business depends upon delivering customer-focused experiences and processes. I have outlined below a few tips I’d recommend for staying focused on the human side of CRM.

Don’t overlook the human side of CRM

Helping is the new selling” are the latest buzzwords being bantered around these days. It speaks to relationships and a service-oriented mindset. Although CRM has the potential to provide deep insight into both individual clients and general trends, it’s imperative that you connect and engage with your customers in a meaningful way or you diminish the value of your CRM system. No amount of data can provide the human touch.

Implementing a CRM system doesn’t automatically deliver results

Databases full of client information are the basis on which to improve customer engagement, but never lose sight of the relationship-side of technology. The success of your business depends on the human element.

Being authentic

This is crucial in any industry. Your sales team are the ones that can help your organization achieve its revenue goals. The human interaction between your salespeople and your customers is what will ultimately differentiate you from your competition, and bring them back again.

Listening

This skill is highly underrated. Do your sales people listen? Do they understand what your customers value? Can they educate and inform? Can they close the deal?

In order for CRM to deliver on its promise, ensure that the data and the human element are fully integrated.

Want more advice on how to get the most out of your CRM system, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you.


The Best Managers are the Best Communicators

As a business owner, you dedicate much of your time to communicating with your clients. While this is crucial for your business, equally important is communicating with your employees. Internal communication touches every aspect of your business from announcing the onboarding of a new client, to introducing a new product to your business line. No matter the size, industry, or type of company you own, I recommend having an internal communications process embedded in everything you do.

An internal communications process allows for the exchange of information between all members of your organization, which will save you time and money. In fact, companies with effective internal communications processes experience 47% higher total returns than those that are not effective at communicating.

I’ve outlined below 3 key elements to help you establish an effective internal communications process.

  1. Have the Right Mechanisms in Place to Keep Employees Informed

Your internal communication mechanisms must be strategic, in order to be targeted and the most beneficial. Consider your company’s current mechanisms, from the methods of communication it uses, to the way your company engages with and seeks feedback from your staff, to the way it measures if the mechanism is successful and identifies any issues for future change.

Choosing what mechanisms to use depends on your size and budget. If your company has multiple locations, you may decide to invest in passive, large-scale communication options to disseminate information. Creating an intranet (a private network only available to a company’s staff) is one great option. If your business is smaller, consider using more conventional communication channels such as an internal newsletter, e-blast, Director’s blog, or notice board. I have even seen some companies benefit from using social networking sites as their primary means of internal communication. More directed options could include Breakfast Briefs for front-line staff, a monthly Director Communications Day, scheduled Director Q&A drop-ins, or Lunch & Learns.

No matter what mechanism(s) you choose, the bottom line is that employees have access to a platform where they can receive important company information so they stay abreast of the information they need to do their job.

  1. Creating a Two-Way Loop

Having great communication mechanisms in place is vital, but ensuring that they consistently generate engagement between management and employees is a key step. It is imperative that business owners and managers actively respond to feedback received and ensure a loop is created, as opposed to a top-down form of communication. By acting on the honest feedback reported by employees encourages more of the same – staff telling it “like it is”.

  1. Measuring the Mechanisms

To ensure that the communication mechanisms you choose are working effectively, incorporating measurement indicators, such as scheduled weekly face-to-face meetings with actionable items reported for follow-up, anonymous employee surveys offered at quarterly or annual company all-staff meetings, or through specific activity surveys through the intranet, could help identify gaps, what is or isn’t working, and what methods of communication work best for your employees.

Regardless of which avenues you choose, the main goal is to ensure employees have several effective paths available to them where they can communicate with senior management and feel heard.

Communicating with your employees is essential for the productivity of your business. Does your company have an internal communications process in place?