A business is so much more than a “job”. It’s a lifestyle, a world-view, a reflection of the type of person you want to be. It’s how you want to contribute to the community, where you see yourself in your future, and in some cases, it’s what you want to leave behind.
So many business owners tell me that they want to take their business to the next level, but they never define why. Everyone has goals, but they rarely take the time to write everything down and decide the “how’s” and “why’s” of what they want their business to be. In my experience, it’s not only helpful to carefully consider and record your vision – it’s essential.
These personal goals and business goals can be defined and followed by crafting a personal vision and a business vision. Here is a brief outline of both and not just how they are different, but also how they can work together.
Create your personal vision first. As the owner of the business, your vision is key to where you want to take the business.
Do you dream about being able to take your family on vacation to an exotic location once a year? How about a four-day workweek, or buying your dream home? These things could be part of your personal vision.
When crafting a personal vision statement, you’ll need to write down where you want to be in a year from now or 2 years from now. This could include considering your desired material lifestyle, your passion giving back, your ideal workweek, time with your family, and time enjoying the things you love (not your business). If you want to make sure that you are making enough money so that your children can have their college tuition paid for, this should be recorded in your personal vision statement too.
In addition to this, it’s important to include an exit strategy in your personal vision. This will detail how you would like your business to proceed when you retire, including whether or not you intend on naming a successor (e.g. a spouse or child), or if you would prefer to sell the business. Be mindful that your exit strategy is carefully considered, and entails what you plan to do in place of work. Some business owners find it hard to leave their business behind, and it can never hurt to plan ahead for how you will fill your free time in the future.
Once you’ve completed your personal vision, it’s time to concentrate on your company vision. The two go hand in hand. If for example, you want to spend only 6 months of the year working at your business, then part of your business plan needs to include finding a current or future employee who can take on some of your current roles and responsibilities. If your plan is financial freedom, then your company vision will be to increase your sales and marketing efforts, etc.
As the business owner, it’s up to you to set the company vision; it is not a team approach. Although you need to share it with your staff, the company vision statement needs to be synergetic with your personal vision so that the two can work together to create a business that benefits both you and your employees.
The company vision will also help you create a big picture idea of what your company will look like as a whole, for both you and your employees. This is why creating a company vision can enhance your existing leadership skills, which in turn helps your employees attain their own career visions.
Writing out a personal vision and business vision and following them is crucial, and often, overlooked in creating the kind of business you’ll be proud of. Writing out what you really want out of your business in a personal vision and then writing out how it can be achieved through your company vision can be both humbling and gratifying.
To get a better understanding of how to help your business grow, contact me today to find out more about joining The Alternative Board.
Since 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.
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!
Fourteen years ago, Charles Benayon embarked on a journey to create a company that would support mental health issues for employers and students. Fast-forward to today and his company, Aspiria Corp., has helped tens of thousands of people and their families.
As the Founder and CEO, Charles and his team provide Employee and Student Assistance Programs to medium- and large-sized businesses and schools. Reflecting on his successes, he credits much of his recent progress to the advice he has received from The Alternative Board ® (TAB).
“Prior to joining TAB, I was doing a ton of things on my own that, perhaps, I shouldn’t have been doing,” he recalls. “I was working too much “in” the business and not working enough “on” the business.”
For Charles, however, it wasn’t an instant decision to seek business advice from an advisor. “I couldn’t see how an advisor who knew nothing about my industry could help me grow my revenue base,” he said.
But it was roughly four years ago that he felt as though he was at a standstill with his business.
“We were at a level in my company where I was making all sorts of decisions and I really didn’t have someone at my level that I could bounce these decisions by. I thought it would be helpful to try to find an advisor who could provide support for me, who could help me with some decision-making, and who could help me develop a strategy for the company.”
It took about a year, but Charles decided to make a phone call to Phil Spensieri that would forever transform his business – for the better.
“Prior to meeting Phil, I didn’t have a strategic plan for the company,” he admits, “but he helped my management team and I develop a five-year strategic plan which has now become our blueprint for everything that we do.”
Providing structure is something in particular that Charles attributes to Phil’s expertise
The strategic plan isn’t the only thing keeping Charles and his team focused. As he mentions, The TAB Advisory Board is quick to keep him on his toes.
“I feel as though this team of advisors, including Phil, hold me accountable for my actions. If I say I’m going to do something and the next month I attend the group meeting and I haven’t done it, they’re going to call me on it.”
There’s much to gain from peer discussions, according to Charles. “The TAB Advisory Board can help any small business leader reach their business goals by providing a supportive, structured environment to help you get there.” Problem solving and like-minded support, as he mentions, are two of the biggest takeaways from a TAB Board meeting.
Joining TAB was pivotal for Charles, who recommends the dual-model approach to business coaching as a recipe for success: “If you don’t have one-on-one and group support to assist in reaching your goals, then your business will not be successful.”
Do you belong to a peer advisory board? How has it helped your business? Do you see how joining one can help you grow your business?
When I speak with business owners about their assets, they often refer to their tangible assets such as their office(s), computers, and machinery. However, the value placed on intangible assets, such as people, knowledge, relationships and intellectual property, is now a greater proportion of the total value of most businesses than is the value of tangible assets.
It’s these intangible assets, rather than the tangible ones, that enable a company to distinguish itself from competitors. Your intangible assets might include your customer lists, intellectual property, business plans, recipes, pricing formulas, and trade secrets, and are typically the foundation upon which your company is built. Think about KFC’s intangible asset – the special, secret recipe, without which KFC would just be fried chicken.
To ensure your “secret sauce” does not become that of your competitors, you’ll need to develop a strategy to properly protect your intangible assets. To achieve this, you’ll first need to write a list of your assets and make sure you have back-up (hard drive/cloud) for this list.
Although I recommend sitting down with a corporate lawyer who specializes in intangible asset protection, I’ve outlined below a few very simple things you can do on your own to start protecting your intangibles:
Make sure you have employment agreements for all your staff. These agreements stipulate that all company assets are proprietary and that unauthorized disclosure of confidential information such as pricing formulas, customer lists and other data and information is prohibited. Depending on the type of business and the employee’s role, employee agreements can include clauses to help ensure that any invention or discovery made by an employee while employed with the company is the property of the company.
Even though you own copyrights without filing, you should have your corporate lawyer file for you to fully protect those rights. You can start the process to receive a patent or trademark by submitting an application to the appropriate governmental agency. Be prepared, as the application requires you to provide an explanation of why the asset is proprietary to you.
Confidentiality or nondisclosure agreements, designed to protect your valuable trade secrets, can be very simple or very detailed, depending on the requirement. At a basic level, they commit a party (vendor/freelancer/supplier) to keep specific information confidential, to not share it with potential competitors, or use it for themselves to gain market share.
Your Digital Data Backup
It seems simple, but many businesses owners still store anything important in their head. Make it a priority to back up everything that is important to running your business. Digital documents can be easily backed up to a server that is in a different location or on the cloud. Put a plan into action to backup all your data and get it done.
As a responsible business owner, you’ve done everything you can to build a successful business – now invest that same energy into protecting those very valuable assets.
It’s the end of the first quarter and many of you are looking at your sales results compared to your sales goals and if the results are poor, blaming your sales strategy. Well, the sales strategy may not be to blame.
Sometimes it’s obvious what went wrong, but sometimes it can be a few factors that contribute to the overall poor results — market predictions, understanding the skill set of your sales team, and understanding the sales cycle of your customer. I have found that the following 3 reasons are why sales strategies sometimes don’t lead to the desired results:
I have seen it time and time again, sales strategies failing at the execution level. The best-laid plans are just that – plans. The real results happen in the execution of those plans. Part of reviewing your execution includes:
Were your expectations too high?
Was your plan too ambitious? If you are ending your first quarter not having met your sales results, your plans could have been too grand. Was what you planned realistic? For example, if you planned for weekly call-out campaigns, your sales team needs to understand if they are to secure an actual sale over the phone or just generate a lead for future sales nurturing. Had you hoped that your sales team would deliver sales, or your marketing team’s campaigns would drive more leads? Adjust your expectations to a realistic level.
Did you have the right resources?
Consider the skill set of your sales team and whether they had the right training to execute the sales strategy. Providing them with a formal on boarding program for each service or product is essential to help them be successful. What about your support team – are there enough order takers or shipper-receivers in place to handle new orders, and what resources are in place to handle from lead to delivery? Every person in the sales cycle is important, but perhaps there was an area that was not covered. If so, adjust the plan to reflect that. You can’t expect great results if you don’t have the infrastructure in place to support the growth.
Who was accountable?
When you created the sales strategy did you share it with your team and hand off tasks to each of them to be accountable for? Did you hold regular meetings with your team to hear of any hurdles and get status updates? Did you hold yourself accountable for ensuring the plan was executed properly? Someone has to take responsibility for ensuring all goes according to plan.
After you’ve conducted a full review of the execution of your plan, you’ll easily see what areas and factors contributed to the failure of your sales strategy. In all likelihood, your plan was good and just needed some adjustments based around its execution. Once the adjustments are made, your sales strategy will help to grow your business.
Remember back in January of this year, when your vision for your business was fresh and clear in your mind, when your business goals and objectives had a well-defined path to achievement? If you are like most business owners, your vision may have remained the same, but the execution and delivery to meet your goals and achievements was not exactly how you had planned. This is typical of most businesses, as our plans cannot possibly allow for unpredicted circumstances, whether positive or negative.
In preparing for the New Year, I encourage you to take the time to reflect on this past year and start preparing your plans for the New Year by considering the following questions:
- Revisit the tracking of your business plan and any other planning documents including your action plan, and review last year’s goals. Did your business accomplish what you set out to do? Why or why not? Write a list of all the company’s major accomplishments for the year (or lack of them). These will be handy when you do your business planning for the current year.
- What barriers prevented you from reaching your goals? How can you avoid them or prepare for them in 2016?
- What is the key area you want to improve on in 2016? What steps do you need to take to accomplish this e.g. hire more staff, expand into new markets, increase marketing/branding, etc.?
- Are there things you might have done differently e.g. hired too quickly, expanded too quickly, didn’t hire fast enough, etc.?
- Have you started a business plan for 2016 that includes writing your goals and plans for next year?
- Have you created a budget for the next year if you work on a calendar year fiscal basis?
- Have you reviewed your vendors and providers recently? Do you need new ones or replacements for existing ones? Review your list and score them, see where you might need to add or even get rid of any that are not providing you with added value.
- Have you reviewed and updated your marketing and advertising plans? Make sure you consult with your internal or external marketing professional to ensure you are strategically placing your marketing budget to align with your business goals.
We all know how important business planning is, so before you break for the holidays, take the time to reflect and plan for the New Year. You know the cliché: businesses that fail to plan, plan to fail.
Kick the New Year off with a clear plan with attainable goals and remember to take time off over the holidays and enjoy time with your family and friends. Thank you for following my blog over the past year. Happy Holidays.