Business Operations

How To UN-Complicate a Strategic Plan

According to the dictionary, strategic planning is "a systematic process of envisioning a desired future, and translating this vision into broadly defined goals or objectives and a sequence of steps to achieve them." So what does that really mean?

In basic terms, it is a written plan that will help you reach your goals. It is a simple way to make sure everyone on your team knows what they are working towards, what needs to happen, when it needs to happen, and who's going to do it. If the plan is followed (with potential tweaks, as needed) at the end of the time period your business will be where you want it.

I call this a Growth Plan (you can read more HERE). For example, if you said you wanted to grow your revenues by 30%, your growth plan would detail the strategies we are going to use to reach the goal of 30%.

When setting up a Growth Plan we:

  • Determine your current position in the market - How you compete in the market, your strengths and weaknesses, study your competition, understand your business model

  • Develop your strategic parts - Where do you want to be in 3-5 years, what about in 10 years, what do you stand for, what's your business purpose, and what strategies do you use to compete

  • Document the Growth Plan - Overall annual goal, quarterly goals, and outcomes that we want. Also, document the actions to be done to reach those goals, details on who will do what and when they will do it.

  • Implementation of the Plan - Communicating the goals and strategies with the entire team, as well as monitoring the progress

Not so complicated, right? It's really not but we humans tend to over-complicate things!

The golden nugget in a Growth Plan is in Phase 4- Implementation. You can make the best, biggest, and shiniest plan but unless you implement it it's worth nothing.

So I'd like to challenge you to write your own growth plan. Work through the above 4 steps and let me know how it goes!

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You Can't Grow With Bad Numbers

I recently met with a prospect that was interested in growing her business (super exciting stuff... my favorite prospects to meet with!). Her energy was contagious and I could tell she had a passion for what she was doing. It made me even more interested in how I could help her achieve her goals. Our conversation started off with her talking about her business- what service she provides, her customer demographics, the values her business holds, and where she wants to be in the next year or so.

Great! She had that info down and rattled off answers to all of my questions.

It was downhill from there.

The conversation continued with "Okay, this is where you want to be. Where are you now?"

Her response was "Well... I'm not real sure what our sales are. Nope, not real sure what my gross profit is. Ugh, no idea how much my monthly payroll runs."

What?!? I followed that up with, "How would we monitor your growth if we don't know your numbers?"

Crickets.

What I went on to explain to her was that it is impossible to do financial coaching or growth planning without accurate numbers. Accounting can be overwhelming and intimidating but numbers are concrete. They provide a map to your growth (positive or negative). They allow us to monitor progress, make adjustments to your strategies, and keep growing.

So at the end of the day you can have the best action plan and strategies, but without the ability to rely on your numbers you won't be able to measure whether you're going to reach your long-term goals or not. You need to be able to tell whether your plans are really working, or if you should change tactics to reach your goals.

If you've been relying on bad numbers, or NO numbers at all you should consider outsourcing your accounting to an expert. Let's setup a time to chat and see how we can help you GROW your business.

Are You Using the "Economy" Excuse in Business?

If I had a dollar for every time someone blamed their business results on the economy... I would probably have a couple hundred bucks. Have you ever used any of these excuses when discussing why your business isn't where you want it to be?

-  "People just aren't spending money." -  "Consumers want the cheapest price." -  "I just can't compete with my competitors pricing."

Well if you've said "People aren't sending money" then you've never been to the mall, the movies, or tried to eat out on the weekend. Otherwise you would know people are spending money! Lots of it. They may not be spending it with you, but they're spending it.

And if you've used either of the other two excuses then you have a different problem. You're either targeting the wrong customers OR you're not delivering enough value.

The {Right} customers will pay for value and if you aren't delivering it to them someone else will.

If growing your business is something you've struggled with it may be time to bring in outside help (and lucky for you that's what we do). A consultant can help you identify problem areas, brainstorm solutions, set goals, hold you accountable, and so much more.

Because... People Are Spending Money.

Why Time Management is a Hoax

Do you know how many books, webinars, and tools there are in the market to help you with Time Management? I don't know exactly but I'd assume there's hundreds of thousands, and here's why I think you're wasting your money buying them. (Sidenote... this comes from the brilliance of my business coach, Todd Herman)

You can't manage time. It's a finite number. Everyone on this planet will get 24 hours in every single day. Period.

What you can do is prioritize your time. You can manage the right ACTIVITIES at the right time. If you are working 8 hours a day, what is the best use of that time? What is the most valuable use? What activities can you do that will grow your business?

The goal is to only be doing the activities that bring the highest value to your business. Outsource everything else. I want to challenge you this week. As you're going through your work week track everything that you are doing. Beside every activity write a dollar amount of what that brings to your business, or what it could potentially bring. After doing this for a week review your activities. What are you doing that you can assign to someone else? Are you using your time at the highest and best use?

Manage the activities, not the time. That, simply, is what time management is.

Growing with the Right Strategies

"Strategic Planning" sounds like a really fancy, complicated process, where in reality, it's not. When I would say those words to different clients I could see their eyes gloss over. This is why I started using the term "Growth Planning". Growth Planning in itself tells you the plan. The Plan is to GROW. How are you going to accomplish that? The "How" is really what strategic planning is.

Most small businesses fail in this department. They want to grow but they don't develop how they will grow. If your plan revolves around what will get cash in the door, that's not a strategy. That's called survival. You don't want to constantly be in survival mode because that's a short-term strategy. You can't keep that pace long-term. You'll run out of money. Or sanity.

Here's what you do need to know....

There are 3 levels of strategy and you must decide where you want to compete. Not committing to one will hurt you long-term. You can be good at something, but it's better to be great at something. Here's the 3 levels:

  • Product Excellence (think Apple) - These companies focus on design and having the best product on the market.

  • Operational Efficiency (think Southwest or Walmart) - These companies are your cost leaders. Their strategy is to keep costs low, and therefore, their prices low.

  • Customer Intimacy (think Disney or Nordstrom) - These companies focus on the customer experience. Notice: I said "experience", not customer service. Customer Service is a must. It's not a strategy.

The key to strategy is determining where you will compete and sticking to it. And remember, part of a competitive strategy is being unique and different than your competitors. What sets you apart? (If you say customer service you should re-read this article).

If you found this valuable and want additional information on how we could help your business, send us at email at joy@lizottecpa.com

3 Simple Questions to Grow Your Business

Now that 2016 is in full swing it's a great time to make changes in how you operate your business. If you know you want (or need) to make a change but have no idea where to start, I encourage you to sit down and answer these three simple, but smart, questions: What should I STOP doing? The things you should stop doing would be the things that do not produce value for your customers or enhance your business. These are things or tasks that won't help you reach your goals. Or sometimes they are tasks that could be outsourced because you're not great at them.

  • Tip: Ask yourself, "If I wasn't do X, what could I do with that time in order to grow my business?"

What should I START doing? This could be anything from starting to produce a new product, to develop a new service, or maybe starting a process to help you connect with customers. What can you put in place to improve your business, achieve goals, change behaviors, etc?

  • Tip: Many times I find that businesses don't have a system in place to track, monitor, or keep in contact with their customers. This would be a great system to start.

What should we CONTINUE doing? Looking back over the last year what has worked well for you? These are things that will help you reach your goals. Or it could be a service that you're great at, a system that works well for you, or an activity that makes you better than your competitors.

  • Tip: Growing a business is tough and slow. It's important for you to recognize the things your are doing right instead of only focusing on the things that you are doing wrong.

Working through these three simple questions should give you lots of ideas for smart changes to help you grow. Once you know what you want to change, set goals and specific tasks to help you reach your goals.

If you found this valuable and want additional information on how we could help your business, send us at email at joy@lizottecpa.com

Designing a Better Business

Have you stopped and asked yourself why your customers have chosen to work with you instead of a competitor? In the service industry I often hear that it is due to personality, charisma, or the like. Well, I hate to bust your bubble but it’s quite possible they’ll eventually meet someone else with a friendlier personality or amazing charisma and will jump ship. Instead of setting yourself apart on ‘personality’ I recommend setting yourself apart by creating experiences. Start this process with new prospects. Think about how your prospects currently feel when they contact you, and how you can offset, or change those feelings.

These 3 Steps will help you get started:

  1. Write down and number all steps of how a prospect becomes a customer (read your website, call your office, meeting #1, meeting #2… all the way until they would become a customer)

  2. Beside each step write how your prospect may be feeling.

  3. Thinking of what you wrote in #2 above, what touchpoints or interactions can you build into the system to offset those feelings?

Here’s a basic example of a prospect’s journey when hiring a service professional.

Map

Map

Although that is a very basic journey map, it’s a start. Journey maps are designed to help you think deeper, create happier customers, and therefore increase profits. We can help you design better business processes by using a much more detailed journey map.

If you found this valuable and would like more information contact Joy at joy@lizottecpa.com

5 Tips to Setting Goals

When coaching new clients, I always ask if they have specific goals. Almost all say yes. When I ask if they are written almost all say no. TIme and again I am amazed by this. Things are more likely to happen if they’re written. Plenty of verifiable scientific research supports that claim. So why don’t most entrepreneurs write down their goals? Maybe they think they can remember them, or maybe they’ve just never been taught how to write effective goals.

With that in mind, here’s 5 tips to make you more successful at goal setting:

  1. Write your goals down. As mentioned above, you are more likely to complete a goal if it is written. I like to keep my goals on my whiteboard in front of my computer so I have to see them every day.

  2. Break complicated goals down into smaller goals. It is easy to get overwhelmed and intimidated by a big goal. I always have clients break their goals down into manageable action steps that will achieve the goal.

  3. Always have SMART goals. This is an acronym that breaks a goal into:

      • Specific- Be as exact about what you want to accomplish as possible.

      • Measurable- The goal should be written in a way to determine if it has been reached.

      • Actionable- Start your goal with an action.

      • Realistic- It must actually be a goal that you can achieve. It should be a goal that you work hard to achieve but not something that is unrealistic.

      • Time-bound- Be specific (and realistic) in when the goal should be completed.

  4. Have an accountability partner. Whether it’s with your team, a family member, or your coach, talk about your goals, why you have them, your progress, and what is holding you back.

  5. Review your progress. Take the time to review your progress on a weekly basis. This gives you a chance to see what else you need to do to accomplish your goal, as well as celebrating your successes towards the goal.

When you follow these simple tips you’ll see more success in your goal setting as well as goal accomplishments.

If you found this valuable and would like more information contact Joy at joy@lizottecpa.com

5 Reasons You Need a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a business tool to identify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. When done with a team it can lead to great insight about things you should continue, change, or improve. It will also help prioritize actions as you start to implement your business strategy. Not only can a SWOT bring clarity to what needs to be fixed, but it can also generate new ideas that produce services or products to increase the bottom line. Here’s 5 reasons why your business should complete a SWOT Analysis:

Bring your Team Together.  Small business owner’s typically shoulder the stress of a business. But many times they have a team they can rely on. Not only can a SWOT produce ideas for your business it can also boost morale in your team by giving them a voice and ownership in their ideas. They may also see things that an owner does not see.

If you are a solopreneur consider bringing outside connections together to help you perform a SWOT so you will have multiple perspectives. Ask your CPA, business coach, banker, or advisor.

 Reinforce What you’re Great At.  Listing your Strengths is important. These are the internal things you are great at and do better than your competition. These items cannot be easily copied by a competitor. Consider how you can use this list in a new marketing campaign to generate new business.

 Analyze your Weak Points.  No one likes to admit their weaknesses but in order to overcome them it’s important to be realistic. Consider the things you do poorly, something you are doing now but shouldn’t be, a broken business process, how you hire, poor cash flow, unreliable financial information, etc.

The upside of making this list is you have complete control to make improvements. This has nothing to do with outside influence, the market, or the economy. It is solely internal and can be fixed. The sooner a weakness is fixed the better.

 Concentrate on New Opportunities.  Making a list of external opportunities is a great way to spark new ideas. Thinking about your market, what has recently changed that you can take advantage of? Has a competitor closed, a new government policy, technology advances, or an upcoming event?

 Many times you are too busy in the day to day operations that you don’t make time to innovate and develop new services or new products. By doing that you can slowly become obsolete because you’re not keeping up with changes in what your customers need or want.

 Prepare for Threats Beyond your Control.  Although you may not like it, there are external issues beyond your control. You may not be able to change them but you should definitely be aware and have a plan to overcome or work around these threats. Are there new competitors in your market, a new law that effects your business, or changes in the economy?

 It’s important to not let these threats paralyze you. Doing nothing or ignoring is not a good plan. A good plan would be to match these threats with a current strength you have already identified. Can any of your strengths help avoid or lessen a threat? For example, if there is a new competitor coming into your market, what do you do better than this competitor (something they can’t easily replicate)? If you don’t have an answer to that, you better get to planning!

If this interests you and you want to know more about this topic, email Joy at joy@lizottecpa.com

 

Determining Your Value Proposition

What is a value proposition?By definition a value proposition describes the benefits customers can expect from your products and services. Your value proposition statement should not only tell the benefits you provide, but for who, and how you do it uniquely well. One company could have more than one value proposition if they have different products or services they sell to different markets. Check out this short video

Why you need one? It is important to have a great value proposition because you need to be able to distinguish your company from its competitors.

How you can develop a solid value proposition. To develop a value proposition we break it into two parts:

  • customer profile and

  • value map

A customer profile should describe the customer you are selling to. What problem is the customer trying to solve with your product? What are they trying to get done? What pain is your customer having?

A value map is a list of the products and services you are offering, how you fix the customer’s problem, and alleviate their pains.

Taking these items you can create your value statement. It should be 1-2 sentences to describe your target market, the benefit your company provides to your target market, and what makes you unique. If you would like more information click on the image below to watch a short video that explains developing a value proposition.

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If you want to know more about this topic, email Joy at joy@lizottecpa.com