Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Business Owner Growth Cycle: The Path to Success

All businesses start the same – someone has a product, an idea or a particular set of skills that can be exchanged for value. Some businesses start with hot product and a ready market and get off to a very quick start. Others require more nurturing and are hard work to grow. Businesses also come in many different types (service provider, retail, manufacturing, etc…) offering an almost infinite number of products and services.

However, whether you are selling mobile phones to the world or selling your harvest to a local grain distributor, most business owners experience the same concerns and challenges as they pass through the varying levels of development.

We refer to these phases as the Business Owner Growth Cycle. Some business owners work through all the levels quickly and are sell their businesses off for a profit. Some grow their businesses very slowly and stay in the early stages of business growth and development for a variety of reasons, despite the owner’s efforts to grow.

We’ve broken the Business Maturity Cycle of ownership down into four phases:

Level 1 – Worker Entrepreneur

This is where every business owner takes the first steps to make their dream over financial independence come true. There is a frenzy of activity during this time and business owners are often left wondering what to do to get their business to the “next level”.

During this time, business owners

• Develop the product or service for sale
• Identify target markets and opportunities
• Set Prices
• Build brand recognition
• Develop business referral sources and distribution channels for products
• Build the infrastructure of the business, online and offline
• Operate the business themselves, and enjoy the freedom of ownership
• Find themselves being stretched to the limit
• Feel like it is difficult to enjoy a lot of profitability yet

Level 2 – Business Leader/Manager

As an organization establishes a foothold in the marketplace, the owner can grow the business beyond him or herself. During this period the challenge is to handle “growing pains” and delegate, laying the foundation for reaching the Executive level.

• Need to hire and train employees, but the initial impact on the bottom line hurts cash flow
• It’s difficult to find trustworthy outside experts
• Feel pressed to develop new ways to manage vendors who directly impact customer service
• Exponential growth in demands on the owner’s time and resources
(the owner often doesn’t realize they could be a bottleneck to growth)
• Where to find time and expertise to analyze and improve systems that don’t work like they used to
• Efficiency and profitability are becoming an obsession
• Lack of funds for growth

Level 3 – Executive

The Third Level is where the business owner can step out of the role of manager of daily operations and into the role of director of operations and strategic planning for the business. The owner will have a management team reporting to him or her and who will help the owner shape the future of the business. Few business owners reach this level of Business Maturity and those that do concentrate on these larger issues so they can grow into Level 4.

• Changes in the company’s target market
• Entry of competitors into the field
• Expense management to prevent profit margin erosion
• Create an executive team to help the owner lead
• Maintain a healthy corporate morale with everyone aligned to the company’s vision, mission and values

Level 4 – Investor/Visionary

Finally, the business virtually runs itself. A solid management team is accountable to the business owner, its employees, vendors and clients. The business owner is more of a director than CEO, ensuring that things are going well. Providing leadership, often from afar, the owner is not involved in day-to-day operations, and only intervenes in operations in times of duress or transition. The business owner can now focus on other opportunities and the business is an investment more than an occupation.

Curious about which level you are at in the Business Owner Growth Cycle?

Click here and complete the Business Maturity Index Assessment. This is a simple, 20 question survey based on common traits of companies at various stages of the Business Maturity Index and it’s free! Based on your answers, we’ll identify where you are in the cycle and share some insights with you on common concerns our clients experience in the cycle level you are currently in.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to us with any questions at bmi@strategicbusinessarchitects.net.

5 Things All Successful People Have in Common

Making Life Count

It doesn’t matter where you are on the organization chart, the type of role you play, or even your personality type, all successful people have 5 things in common.

  1. They have a strong sense of who they are and how they contribute
  2. They have a clear “end in mind”— what success looks like at a specific point in the future
  3. They have a few key measures they use to gauge the rate and trajectory of their progress
  4. They thoughtfully focus on a handful of key focus areas broken down into specific “hows”
  5. They translate their intentions into action plans and rigorously work to complete them

The most successful people commit these 5 things to writing, condense them to a single page, and review it weekly. They also share it with others as a way to get feedback and encourage their accountability.  

Take Stock, Take Action

Please take a few minutes and think about your career and life in the context of the 5 things above. How much do you have in common with most successful people? Do you have a simple plan? Are you using it to end 2017 well? If not, let me help you create your plan — it’s what I do.

Doing What Matters, Everyday

“We are so busy doing the urgent that we don’t have time to do the important.” – Confucius

Some days it’s hard to focus on what matters most.

Getting to what matters most requires 2 things: Prioritization and Delegation.

Prioritization connects strategic goals to everyday work.

Delegation ensures the work you do calls on your unique talents and skills.

Are you working on your priorities?

Are you delegating all that you should?

Focus on matters most. Get 41 tips improve better prioritize and delegate.

Action: The Secret to Getting What You Really Want

Realizing your ultimate goals requires action; Not a short, flashy burst of energy or a frenzied effort going in all directions, but a methodical, persistent effort until the goal is reached and results are realized.

To quote from Jim Horan in the Foreward of this book: “The pathway to the next level of success is not with higher levels of activity. You are doing too much now! Nor is the road to success about going faster or working harder. You broke the sound barrier too many times this year and you already work too long and too hard. Your work style is not sustainable …”

Fortunately the problem of how to take action in a way that gets predictable results was solved 2000 years ago and is a mature discipline found in most companies today. I am speaking of Project Management – a collection of tools, methods, and practices that get things done

The good news is that we do not have to become a certified Project Management Professional to take advantage of what Project Management has to offer. We can benefit by asking these questions and writing down the answers:

  1. What is it I am building?
  2. When does it need to be completed?
  3. What needs to be done in order to deliver the goods?
  4. When do these things need to be done and who will do them?

I found that a simple, sequenced list of tasks with estimates of how long each will take and who will do them goes a long way to providing the “punch list” of items necessary to be completed to realize the goal of the action we set out to take.

So think about what you need to get done to realize your goals and objectives. Choose one action item and make a list of the tasks that must be completed to finish the action item or project. Start at the top of your list and work through to the bottom. You’ll not only get things done that matter, but leave each day knowing where your time went and what you do each day really matters.

 

 

Scorecards: Knowing What You Are Doing Really Matters

How to spend your time on what really matters and know what you do is making a difference. 

One of the biggest concerns I hear from executives is the gnawing feeling that is created by being busy, even consumed each day but not really knowing for sure they are spending their time on things that really matter and that what they doing makes a difference. Am I just spinning my wheels or really getting somewhere?

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to take these questions off the table is to create a scorecard for each key objective and faithfully update it monthly.

What is a scorecard? A scorecard is a simple graph that charts a key objective’s value over a time, usually each month over 12 months. The most effective scorecards also compare each current month with last year’s number, as well as each month’s planned number set at the beginning of the year. Some scorecards also incorporate a forecast number for each month that provides a reality check and a predictor of what the number is likely to be given current sales and marketing information.

My clients find them particularly helpful in their weekly and monthly planning efforts. Nothing focuses people more than the realization they are accountable for reaching a number at the end of the month. Seeing that goal at the beginning of the month naturally helps them to ask, “How am I going to hit that number this month?” “What do I need to do this week and each day to make that a reality?”

How To Create A Scorecard

Creating scorecards takes a small investment of time but fortunately there are tools out there that make this job relatively painless.  MicroSoft Excel, Google Docs, Numbers for the Mac all have the capability to quickly and easily create a chart from a spreadsheet.

My One Page Business Plan clients easily create them by filling in their data for each objective and the online system creates that graph automatically. You can also find an example set on the DVD in each of the One Page Business Plan books.

Accountability Is The Key

Creating the scorecard is a good step in the right direction but the real power comes from updating and reviewing them faithfully each month. This creates a sense of commitment and accountability. There is something about seeing your results in a graph that brings us back to reality. It is a very motivating experience to see the fruits of your efforts as you meet or exceed your objectives. It’s also a great motivator if you’ve fallen short.

In either case exploring what contributed to the results and acting on those factors ensures continued performance improvement going forward. Once you a deeply committed to this simple process you will never wonder if what you are working on really matters or exactly how doing what you do is making a difference: it’s all in the scorecards.

The Biggest Mistake You Can Make With Your Team Members

Whether your running a project, managing a team, or leading a company, what’s the biggest mistake you can make with your team members?

It depends … it depends on the person. You see, everyone is unique – we all know that. But the problem is that the most important things to know about your team members isn’t readily visible.

What they are passionate about shows: you see the energy whenever they talk about it or are doing it.

When they are at their best shows – it’s outwardly visible as when they are in stress.

But the most important part of them, their needs and expectations, are on the inside – they don’t show. And when their needs consistently go unmet there are problems. That’s when the stress behaviors start to kick in. By then it is too late.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know the biggest mistakes you could make with your  team members – on an individual basis?

Real World Examples

For example, the biggest mistakes you could make with Jane are:

  • Excluding her from team activities or questioning her popularity
  • Failing to follow through on financial commitments made to her
  • Telling her that she has done well when that is not really true
  • Making light of her emotional issues
  • Making her conform unnecessarily
  • Pushing her to make up her mind quickly

But the biggest mistakes you could make with John are:

  • Beating about the bush with him
  • Forcing him to participate unnecessarily in group activities
  • Failing to make it clear exactly who is in charge
  • Telling him that he has done well when that is not really true
  • Interrupting when he is concentrating
  • Making him conform unnecessarily

Notice how different these two employees are with respect to their needs and the kinds of things you can do that could send them.

The Tool

About five years ago I found an inexpensive tool that I’ve been using with my clients ever since to help them quickly discover the likely triggers individuals on their team have. It’s called the Biggest Mistakes You Could Make Report produced by world-renowned personality experts Birkman Consultants International.

Getting Maximum Value – Putting the Tool to Work

While there are great benefits of having this information, I’ve found that most of my clients find the real value by using the report as discussion points with their individual team members. Simply asking their team members to look over the report and highlight the sentences that seem the most true primes the pump for self-reflection and awareness on the part of the team member. It opens the door for a very productive conversation as the two of you explore and discuss the points starting with the most significant.

Some helpful questions to answer are:

  • What is the most important point you’d like me to pay attention to?
  • Can you think of any examples in your daily work where these things come up?
  • How would you like me to respond instead?
  • What underlying strengths do you feel these points bring out?

I’ve also had good success when the team member asks other trusted team members, family, and friends to look over the points and highlight the most accurate. These responses can then be combined and compared. Patterns may emerge that highlight major themes which may provide some additional light on triggers to stress behaviors as well as surface hidden strengths of the team member.

Strengthening Couples, Kids

I’ve had such good success with this report my clients have even asked to use this as a couple or with their kids especially those parents raising teens. When done in a spirit of humility and curiosity, it’s been a way to open clogged communications lines and results in a happier, more peaceful home environment.

Take Action Now

If your relationship with a team member is strained and taking its toll on getting results please email me at bbranson@strategicbusinessarchitects.com to learn how you can take advantage of this tool. If are an existing premium client I will provide you with your report at no additional cost. If you are not yet a client, let me know. It will be the best $35.00 investment you’ve made all year.

 

5 Reasons Small Business Owners Need A Written Business Vision

One of the mistakes the majority of business owners make in building a profitable business is not creating a short, written statement that envisions key aspects of their company 3-5 years into the future. Why is that a mistake? With your time in such short supply, why should you use this scarce resource to write down how you see your company in the future? Is it really worth it?

These are very common questions I hear every day from my clients. In answering the last question I like to reflect back to my boyhood. From a young age I liked building things with my hands. One of my favorites was building tree houses.

Today I still like to build things with my hands but I use a keyboard and mouse instead of a hammer. Through this process I’ve learned that while there are a lot of lessons and similarities between building businesses and building tree houses, some things are critically different. Planning is one of them.

You can successfully build most tree houses without a written plan. You design and build as you go and use whatever you can find lying around the yard. Attempting to build a business the same way leads to disaster.

That said; let me get specific about why you should invest the time to write down your business vision. Here are 5 reasons you should take time now to create a written business vision. Doing so will make the difference between a mediocre business and one that thrives:

  1. It takes less time that you think. On average, this activity takes 30 minutes or less with the right tools. Why? Most likely it is already in your head. We are just transferring and organizing the information from your head on to paper.
  2. It provides a solid destination to navigate towards. Like any successful travel experience, it always begins with the destination in mind. How can you get there when “there” is unclear? Putting in writing makes it possible to establish a shared vision of success with your employees, suppliers, and financial backers.
  3. It helps you focus. Having a specific, time-boxed goal in mind can ensure you are focusing on the right things – things that will move you along the path to where you want to end up.
  4. It helps you evaluate. Having a measurable destination provides an effective measuring stick you can use to evaluate decisions of all kinds in your business. When clients want my input on their decisions I always weigh the consequences of these decisions against the ultimate goal in the future. I like to ask, “Is this action helping you move closer to your goal, or is it detracting from your goal?”
  5. It helps you prioritize. Once you’ve decided to take certain actions you’ll also need to sequence and prioritize the work to be done. Here are again we use your written goal to decide not only what to do and when.

Why not take a few minutes right now and write down a few ideas about where you are taking your business and your life in the next 3 years? Let’s turn that tree house into a mansion!

Rapid Business Planning: An Essential Ingredient for Business Success

Shrinking business cycles make old ways of business planning obsolete and ineffective. Consumer preferences and markets are changing rapidly. The utility of the Internet along with breath-taking advancements in technology have made it possible to shrink product development and testing cycles from years to months or even weeks in some cases. In today’s web-enabled economy, speed is king: the first to market often enjoys competitive advantage over its peers and can enjoy market dominance.

Rapid business planning is a must in today’s competitive market space. Solopreneurs just don’t have the time or the interest to do it the old way and solopreneurs and larger companies alike find the old way isn’t fast enough to stay competitive. As important as rapid business planning is to the equation, the solution must extend beyond the planning phase to rapid execution and management to be effective.

Therefore, rapid business planning is built on the premise that effective, actionable business plans all answer five questions:

  1. What are we building?
  2. What are we known for?
  3. What will we measure?
  4. How will we grow our business this year?
  5. What is the work to be done?

Focusing on these five questions keeps the process simple, succinct, and lays the foundation for alignment, another key ingredient all successful businesses enjoy. Can you and your employees answer these questions in three minutes or less? Are your answers consistent?

As we rapidly approach a new year perhaps you should consider these questions. Better yet, sign up for my complimentary mini course, “5 Steps to a Better Business.” Just fill out the form on the right and for the next 5 days you’ll get 5 valuable lessons in your inbox each day. Taking less than 20 minutes each day to read and respond to the lesson material you’ll have the basis for an actionable business to guide you to a success year!

Business Planning: Trends That Make The Old Way Obsolete

The old way of writing a business plan was born at a different time in a world that hardly resembles the world we work in today. While old style business plans have some validity and are required for things like attracting venture capital or securing a line of credit or funds from a lending institution, what most business leaders are looking for today is something that is faster, more pertinent to their daily actions, and helps get them and their employees get focused on things that really matter.

Here are just a few trends that make the old style of business planning obsolete:

  • Business change cycles shrinking from 6 years down to 6-18 months
  • Major technology innovations and shifts every 8 months
  • Power shifts from the corporate marketing department to the consumer
  • Very low cost of entry due to cheap, plentiful and powerful business and communication tools
  • Viral marketing through social media
  • Cheap, global reach using the Internet

These trends have changed the face of business forever rendering the old style of business planning obsolete and ineffective. For each of the trends above there are pertinent implications for business leaders, solopreneurs, authors, consultants and coaches. The problem is that because the old business planning tools have such a bad reputation today (and don’t work anymore) the same players above have embraced no planning tools at all bringing about loads of frustration, wasted fortunes, and burn out.

In the next series of posts we’ll explore the implications of each trend resulting in what to look for in an effective planning method that works in our business world today. We’ll end by showing there is something between the old style way and no planning at all.

Not Your Father’s Business Plan – Introduction

Things have dramatically changed over the past 30 years and yet the tools and methods used in business planning have changed very little in that same period of time. It’s no wonder that most small and medium sized businesses do not have a written business plan. Those that do rarely use it in their day-to-day business operations or for guiding the myriad of business decisions made each week.

Over the last 12 months I have reviewed many business planning packages and methods taught in a number of government, university, and private sectors. I found that almost without exception these plans and methods focus on getting financing from banks or funding from venture capital firms.

Completed plans range in length from 15 to 35 pages and are filled with financial prognostications and charts that will have little resemblance to reality within 6 months of being in business. Unfortunately this has given business plans and business planning a stigma in the business world. I find many that are turned off by the very suggestion of creating a business plan.

On the other hand, almost every business leader I meet seems to have a deep-down, gnawing sense that they need something to help them focus on what is important, with an eye toward the future, that translates directly to what they and their associates should be doing today that will make a real difference in their business.

What follows is a series of posts that explores the reality of business planning in today’s world, not the world our fathers worked in a post World War II economy.

In my next post I’ll provide an overview of the relevant trends with all live and work in, especially those affecting how we make plans for our businesses or departments.