Monthly Archives: March, 2017

Business Planning is Over My Head – Or is It?

March 31st, 2017 Posted by Business is ART, Business Plan, Entrepreneur 0 thoughts on “Business Planning is Over My Head – Or is It?”
This post was provided by guest blogger, Lindsey Evans, of 16th Floor Media. Find Lindsey on Facebook @16thFloor
Lindsey

Lindsey Evans – 16th Floor Media

When Jon told me that he was creating a business planning software, I have to admit I was skeptical. I’ve tried business planning before and it’s over my head.

I work in creative services and the mention of math in any form tends to turn me away. However, I agreed to try the Beta test version of Plan Canvas, the business planning tool based on Jon’s book, Business is ART. I am extremely glad that I did.

It all becomes clear with planning

I have been a solopreneur for a year and a half since I left my salary position. My goal for about 6 months was to hire an additional worker to take away my day-to-day workload and focus on the larger tasks. In the limited amount of time I’ve been able to dedicate to Plan Canvas in the last 2 months, it became apparent my hiring decision couldn’t wait.
Once I saw the numbers in black and white it jumped right out at me, ” What are you waiting for?”
I can proudly say I have added to my team! Not only is my workload lessened, but my client base has expanded!

Do it

I would recommend Plan Canvas to any business owner who thinks they “don’t need to formally plan anything.” Jon has thought two steps ahead with this software.
The beta test team is currently working with over 35 businesses and entrepreneurs across all types of industries! Start-ups and existing businesses, first-time business owners and seasoned pros – all part of the beta test!

Without hundreds of templates, it works for any type of business

Exactly what types of industries and professionals are currently using Plan Canvas?

Take a look!

  • eMail Marketing Consultant
  • Web Design
  • Architecture
  • Executive Coaching
  • Software / Consulting
  • Graphic Design Consultant
  • Graphic Design Consultant
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Property Management Consulting
  • Restoration
  • Startup Coach
  • Non-Profit Exec Director
  • Leadership Consulting
  • Web Design
  • Business Consultant
  • Craft Beer
  • Insurance Agent
  • Video Marketing
  • Painter (exterior/interior)
  • Chiropractor
  • Graphic Design
  • Entrepreneur – Restaurant Owner
  • CPA
  • Coffee Shop Owner
  • Retail Buyer
  • Baker
  • Blogger
  • College Professor
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Startup entrepreneur / former banker
  • Mergers & Acquisitions Advisor
  • Baked Goods & Specialty Candy
  • University Entrepreneur Club Leader
  • Computer Services

If it works for me, it will work for anyone. Go to the Plan Canvas Facebook page to keep up with how the beta is going and more.

 

Do You Work at Networking or Does It Work You?

March 28th, 2017 Posted by Behavior 0 thoughts on “Do You Work at Networking or Does It Work You?”

networkDo you work at networking or does networking work you? A few weeks ago, we talked about “Networking that Works” on the Business is ART podcast at the TrueChat Network with guests Clayton Hicks, founder of The H7 Network, and Kelley Reno Culley of Reno Insurance Agency (and long-time member of The H7 Network).

Kelley and Clayton brought up several great points about networking that are summarized in this post.

Why Is Networking Important?

Why network, anyway? Don’t you have better things to do? As it turns out, probably not – at least as long as your networking efforts are effective and you don’t over-extend yourself. You simply cannot be a member of every networking group out there and still find time for the simple things, like your job, business and family.

Networking may be important to you for many reasons, but a few of the big ones include:

  • Because it is a way of helping others (more on this in a moment)
  • Because you are new to an area or community
  • Because you are looking for qualified leads through referrals
  • Because being able to say “I know someone that does that” builds your own credibility
  • Because it is good to hear from others what is going on outside of your own business or industry

Is There a Wrong Way to Network?

Yes. Opinions may vary, but mine is that going to cocktail mixers are not great networking opportunities. Everyone is there to be seen and for the free appetizers. 2 drinks, a plateful of goodies, and I’m outta here!

Networking meetings/events should be intentional and designed to give everyone an opportunity to speak and listen. As Clayton points out in the podcast, without that structure, an introvert may be very uncomfortable.

Other ways to make networking more effective include:

  • Make it about others (more on this momentarily)
  • Have a personal intro and elevator pitch ready
  • You want people to be sold on YOU, not so much your product

Don’t Make it All About You, Focus on Helping Others

The person who has joined or visiting a networking group and is solely in it for themself is easy to spot – and an immediate turn-off. A visitor once came to a group in which I am active and told us all about an event she was having. Fine. But she closed with the following, “If 10 of you show up for my event, I will join this group.”

Errrppp. Thanks for playing. But, no thanks.

A better approach with everyone you meet at a networking meeting or event is “How can I help you?” That leaves a much better impression than “Boy, am I doing you a favor by being here. Let me tell you why you need my $hit.”

Check it Out and Don’t Miss a Beat 

Click here to listen to more tips from Kelley and Clayton.

Never miss a podcast, blog post or newsletter by signing up here. I don’t spam and try very hard to bring you informative and entertaining content as well as useful tools to increase your odds of success.

How to Set Goals and Actually Achieve Them

March 22nd, 2017 Posted by Business is ART 0 thoughts on “How to Set Goals and Actually Achieve Them”

GoalWhen done right, setting goals is a great way to motivate you towards success and track progress. Done poorly, however, and goals become a burden. A list of dreams you’ll never achieve.

That’s why it’s not enough to blindly set goals. You must be strategic about it. You need to be intentional if you want to create goals you can actually achieve.

For starters, you should…

Write Them Down. Make Them Visual.

You probably have some vague idea of your goals in your head. But that’s not enough. You need to write down your goals. Even if you’re a solo operation. Writing them down will not only work as a reminder, but it will help you to analyze them differently.

Something that sounded great in your head might not make sense once you see it written out. Or it may inspire another idea. If it helps, you can try creating a visual to track your goals – perhaps display an image to serve as a reminder of a goal you’ve set.

Whatever it takes to keep your goals in mind.

Break Goals Up. Start Small.

When setting goals, you should write them down in their most basic forms. A sentence, no more. Goals are rarely accomplished in one fell-swoop. Instead, it takes many smaller actions and achievements that lead up to the big end-goals – these are measurable objectives.

Start with the small, simple action steps. If you can’t achieve those first, you’ll never achieve your larger goals.

Focus on What You Can Do and Control

Entrepreneurs sometimes get hung up on what they can’t control. If you sell a product, you can’t force someone to buy it. But you can make sure that product is perfected. You can create excellent marketing material for it. You can reach out to marketplaces and publications to see if they will feature it.

When planning your goals, don’t set action steps that you can’t actually do. Instead, focus on the areas over which you have control. Save those things outside of your control for developing a risk mitigation plan.

Establish Rewards

Everyone loves to be rewarded. It’s a simple fact. In sports, the players always have the trophy or medal to chase. While you’re obviously going after success, “success” is a very vague, shapeless word. You have to define what it means for you. Then to better motivate yourself to achieve success (as you define it), try implementing rewards into your goal setting.

They don’t have to be anything complex. You’ll be surprised by just how motivating a little reward can be, whether it’s for you or your employees.

Be Prepared for Change

Life changes. Market places change. Yet, some have this idea that goals should never change. Maybe the overarching plan stays the same, but the smaller goals need to change along the way sometimes.

Look at a company like Facebook. When they started, they allowed American college students to see each other’s pictures and leave funny comments. Now, they provide news, social-platforms, marketplaces, digital communities, and more to people of all ages around the world.

Their overarching goal of connecting people has remained the same, but you can bet the focus of their smaller goals has changed dramatically.

Don’t stick with the same, stagnant goals over and over again. Be flexible.

But Always Remember the Reason

Even as you change and strive towards success, don’t forget the reason you started on your path in the first place. That’s going to be different for everyone, but it’s equally important for all. One of the most fundamental basic business principles is to simply remember your purpose.

Your goals will help you fulfill that purpose. Set them accordingly.

Stay in touch

Never miss a podcast, blog post or newsletter by signing up here. I don’t spam and try very hard to bring you informative and entertaining content as well as useful tools to increase your odds of success.

Do Have Actionable Plans – Don’t Waste Your Time with Plans

March 16th, 2017 Posted by Business is ART 0 thoughts on “Do Have Actionable Plans – Don’t Waste Your Time with Plans”

Slide1I really wanted to simply call this “Don’t Waste Your Time with Plans” but was afraid you’d get the wrong idea.

I don’t mean “Don’t develop plans.” I mean, if you are going to develop and manage plans, do it in a productive manner.

You can do better…like by a lot

One of the reasons I think so many business owners and leaders don’t have business plans is that someone gave them some bad advice, or set a bad example, somewhere along the way…and now they just can’t see the value – even though the data supports the notion that business plans increase your odds of success – like by a lot.

But one sure way to waste your time with a plan is to fail to do the foundational work that becomes a litmus test for everything you do going forward.

Build a foundation

Before you spend any time developing a plan, first build the foundation for your business. What’s the foundation consist of? Simple. 3 key ingredients, including:

  1. Your Vision Statement. This is how you see things, ideally, out in to the future. See Amazon’s vision statement for a good example.
  2. Your Mission Statement. This states in simple terms what you do. A sentence. Two at most. What you do.
  3. Your Purpose Statement. This is why you do what you do. The emotional hook that gets you and your stakeholders excited.

Many people struggle with defining these three statements. At first, it sounds easy. But then you realize it really requires some deep, critical thinking and often requires a lot of inner reflection. It may also require a lot of discussion with your friends, family and advisors.

But a key to remember…these are yours. No one else’s. Don’t let anyone define them for you.

Frame It

Next, build the frame. The frame is made up of your long term goals and objectives. Goals support the vision, but in and of themselves are immeasurable. They are simply big lofty things you want to achieve.

Muhammad Ali famously declared “I am the greatest!”

That’s a perfect example of a goal. How do you know you are the greatest? Through measurable objectives like: winning the title a number of times, holding the title a number of years, scoring a number of knock-outs by a certain round in each fight (on average).

You have to do the same for your business. Define the measurable objectives that support your big lofty goals.

Now Get Busy

Once you have laid the foundation and the frame, you are ready to get down to some serious business planning and you are far less likely to waste your time.

One last bit of advice – make your plans actionable. That means, define actual initiatives and action steps you will take to tackle your plan. Track and update things as you go. Plan to manage, but manage the plan.

Don’t stop game planning when the game begins

I hate it when people say they only need to develop a plan once, then they get the loan or start the business and throw the plan away. That is a way to ensure you do not maximize the benefits of planning.

Think of it this way. A football coach walks in to a game with a game plan. With the first snap of the ball, the coaching staff makes adjustments to the game plan, and continues to do so throughout the game, until the last second ticks off the clock.

We wouldn’t think of coaching a game any other way. So why do we think it’s a good idea to start a business with a plan, then toss it aside on opening day – or ever?

As with sports, keep adjusting the plan until the day you shut the doors for good.

Stay in touch

Never miss a podcast, blog post or newsletter by signing up here. I don’t spam and try very hard to bring you informative and entertaining content as well as useful tools to increase your odds of success.

3 Musts for a Good Exit Strategy

March 14th, 2017 Posted by Entrepreneur, Strategy 0 thoughts on “3 Musts for a Good Exit Strategy”

exit strategySooner or later, one way or another, all business owners are going to exit the business – so why not have an exit strategy?

Last week, my guest on the Business is ART podcast at the TrueChat Network was Kate Vriner from Sunbelt Business Advisors of Southwest Ohio, and the topic of discussion was in fact Exit Strategy Planning.

A financial valuation is step 1

Kate advises that the very first step in preparing an exit strategy is to conduct a valuation of the business. Initially there are 2 or 3 parties whose opinions really matter here:

  1. The owner’s
  2. The broker/advisor’s
  3. The independent 3rd party analyst (when needed)

These are critically important because at the end of it all, there are one, two or more parties whose opinions really matter: the buyer’s and potentially the bank’s and the investors’.

Put together a strong team

In this case, your team consists of many external parties including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • Legal Advisor
  • Business Broker
  • CPA/Financial Advisor
  • Business Consultant/Coach

Once the team is together, you have to trust the team and trust the process. Your business was likely not built overnight and likely won’t be sold overnight. To get the most out of it, you have to do the things that your advisors suggest, which may not always be intuitive, and may not always be easy, which leads to this…

Get out of the weeds

When you are planning your exit strategy, if you haven’t already, now is the time to pull yourself out of the weeds. As Kate puts it, focus ON the business, not IN the business.

You may love being on the shop floor producing whatever it is you produce. Or you may feel you can’t afford to hire someone to produce whatever it is you produce. But the fact of the matter is, you have to in order to maximize the value of the business.

When a potential buyer is looking at your business, aside from wanting to see a clean set of financial books, he or she is going to want to see that the business is transferable. If the business relies on you to produce whatever it is you produce, clearly, the business is not transferable to someone else (or is less so).

In other words, if the business cannot function without you, there is no business that can be sold and transferred to someone else. There may be real estate or assets that can be sold, but there is no business. Hence, there is far less value.

Don’t miss out

You can listen to the podcast in its entirety by clicking here.

Never miss a podcast, blog post or newsletter by signing up here. I don’t spam and try very hard to bring you informative and entertaining content as well as useful tools to increase your odds of success.

Big Modern Businesses – Fail Part 1

March 9th, 2017 Posted by Business is ART 0 thoughts on “Big Modern Businesses – Fail Part 1”

failWhen a business owner starts to achieve some success, there’s a subtle temptation to be overly confident. In the back of your mind, you start to think that you’re past the point of failure. All that’s ahead of you is growing success.

But if history has taught us anything, it’s that no business is too big to fail

Unless you’re a bank or automotive company. Then you might be.

For the rest of us, it’s important to remember that the marketplace is fickle. Consumer demands change. Technology is introduced that upsets the system. If you’re unable to adapt, improve, and grow, you can quickly be left behind.

Here are a few big retail companies that went from thriving success to complete disaster in the span of a few short years.

Sharper Image

If you went to a mall in 80’s, 90’s, or early 2000’s, there was a fair chance it had a Sharper Image. It was the place you’d go to sit in massage chairs, play with fun gadgets, and wonder why there was a Superman statue in the middle of it.

Like most everyone in there, you probably never bought anything. But apparently, enough people did to keep it in business for 3 decades.

Unfortunately, in 2008, the company filed for Chapter 11. At its peak, the company was worth $760 million with 196 physical stores, 2500 employees, and a huge circulation of their catalogue. Today, it exists in name only, licensed on certain products sold in other stores.

Why did they fail? The company says it was due to a decline in consumer spending along with a nasty situation involving one of their most popular products, the Ionic Breeze air purifier.

The founder, however, says it has more to do with failure to adapt to online shopping, losing their cool edge in malls to places like the Apple store, and a lack of innovation in their own product line. Ultimately, he believes they grew too complacent in their success.

Circuit City

Even at its peak, Circuit City was always a bit of a second fiddle to Best Buy, but it was certainly no slouch. By the year 2000, Circuit City was employing 60,000 people at 616 locations. However, at that point, their problems were already starting to mount.

Circuit City was known to be in less than ideal locations, and many of the stores themselves were outdated. In an attempt to update, they made what would prove to be a costly mistake by abandoning the large appliance business.

At the time, they were the number two appliance retailer in the US. The company’s executives were focused on the costs they would save in warehousing and delivery. They slowly began to introduce movies and entertainment, but their rollout was slow and clunky.

One of their most controversial moves, however, came in 2007 when they fired a large number of higher paid hourly, sales, and management employees, replacing them with cheaper, inexperienced workers.

Employee morale and customer satisfaction dropped like a rock thrown into the Grand Canyon. By the time the recession came in 2008, it served as little more than a coffin nail. Where Best Buy adapted to market changes and focused on improving customer experience, Circuit City continuously tried to save money while offering less to their visitors.

By 2009, the brand was sold off and the remaining stores were closed.

Blockbuster

If you didn’t have a Blockbuster in your town, you wished you did. The advertisements were everywhere, and it looked like a one stop shop for all things entertainment. All the movies, video games, and candy you could enjoy were to be found at Blockbuster.

The company was synonymous with rental stores. At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster was a $6 billion company with 60,000 employees and 8000+ stores. To put that in perspective, Target has approximately 1800 stores.

So what happened? Two words, really: Netflix and Redbox.

Those two companies changed the way people rented movies, adding convenience and affordably that Blockbuster wasn’t able to match with their business model. Blockbuster had greater selection and more availability, but that wasn’t what modern consumers wanted.

Ultimately, Blockbuster adapted too slowly, taking reactionary measures to their new competitors rather than innovate. The saddest part of their story is the fact that they had a chance to buy Netflix for a mere $50 million in the early 2000’s.

But they didn’t want to upset their traditional system.

The truth is, the company let their failure happen by being unwilling to look ahead and see what their customers actually wanted. Though they limped on longer than the other major rental chains, they filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and spent the next few years closing down thousands of stores.

Today, there are still about 50 franchise Blockbusters scattered around the US, including 4 in Alaska, 6 in Indiana, and 7 or more in Texas.

Don’t Let Failure to Happen to You

By learning from the failures of others, you can avoid the same mistakes. For additional business tips for success, as well as proven strategies to follow, make sure to get my book, Business is ART. Available now!

Practical Advice on Negotiating a Management Buyout

March 7th, 2017 Posted by Business is ART, Leadership 0 thoughts on “Practical Advice on Negotiating a Management Buyout”

Sbuyoutomeday you might have the option to buyout the boss…not PAY OFF…buy OUT. Last week, on the Business is ART podcast at the TrueChat Network, my guest was Jeff Adair of Jeff Adair Coaching. Jeff shared his experience and insights on the subject of management buyouts.

A management buyout is when the executives, managers, or employees of a business buyout the owner(s). When this happens, the roles and relationships immediately change – even before the transaction is complete – something Jeff learned the hard way.

Trust is Everything – Protect It

In his case, as soon as the management team informed the owners that they were making an offer, a level of suspicion arose between the parties, complicating the process and negotiation.

Jeff recommends a more subtle approach that might begin with this simple question, “What would you think of the management team making you an offer?” rather than a bold statement like, “We’re going to buy you out.”

You might even have an early discussion, before the owner is even looking to sell, to plant a bug in his/her ear, “Hey, if you ever decide to unload the business, please talk to me before spending a lot of time and effort looking for a buyer.”

Transparency is Key

Jeff also recommends the greatest degree of transparency be exercised before and after the buyout. Things to consider include:

  • Soliciting feedback and offering assurances to existing customers and prospects
  • Informing employees of what is happening
  • Defining and sharing the vision for the business with employees early in the process or immediately following the transition
  • Exercising open and honest sharing between the owner and the management team during the process (this is where any erosion of trust can hinder the process)

It’s a Lot of Work

Jeff cautions that you should not underestimate the amount of work and time that goes in to negotiating a management buyout. There are legal structures that have to be in place, roles and responsibilities agreed to and assigned, a determination of the value of the company to reach, funding to secure – the list goes on and on.

Do it Purposefully

As a final bit of advise, Jeff says that whatever you do, “do it purposefully.” Know why you want to in the first place. Share that with others. When you do, it makes everything else much simpler.

You can listen to this episode of Business is ART in its entirety by clicking here.

For more basic business principles and professional guidance, make sure to subscribe to future posts. Don’t worry, I won’t spam or sell your email. Click here to sign up.

Why Business Cards Still Matter

March 2nd, 2017 Posted by Engagement 0 thoughts on “Why Business Cards Still Matter”

business cardThere was a time when having business cards meant you were “official”. Whether you ran your own business or you worked for another one, if you could pull a rectangular piece of paper out with your name, title, and company name, then you were somebody.

They didn’t even have to be fancy. Just some shade of white, maybe a slight texture, with black text (either raised or indented). Possibly a watermark.

Over the past decade or two, they rapidly evolved. Every business is trying to stand out amongst the Rolodexes of cards out there. Business cards started coming in every shape, color, and material you could imagine. But now that everyone has a phone on hand at all times, and every business has some degree of online presence, the question is asked time and again:

Are Business Cards Relevant?

Yes.

They might not be what they once were, but a business card can serve a purpose for virtually any professional. Here’s why:

They Can Establish an Immediate Brand Impression

A good-looking business card is still a sign of legitimacy. Emphasis on the good. They don’t have to be fancy and complex, but if your business card has the quality of something you made in 10 minutes and printed off at home, it’s going to do more harm than anything else.

Say what you want, but looks matter in the business world. Unless you’re rich and famous. Then you can do mostly what you want.

For the rest of us, have a professional card designed. If you lack the creative abilities to design a good looking card and you don’t want to hire a professional to make one for you, you can find business card websites that give you templates to build off of.

People will Actually Remember You

If you tell a person your business name and/or website with the idea that they’ll check it out later, you’ll probably end up disappointed. People forget. Whether they can’t recall your name or forget to follow-up altogether, it doesn’t matter.

Even if they put your phone number in their phone right there, you could slip from their memory.

A business card, however, leaves something behind. If they put that away in their pocket, wallet, or folder, it will end up in their hands again.

Invest in Quality Cards

There are a lot of places you can buy business cards these days. Depending on where you buy and how much you’re willing to spend, the quality can vary greatly. While you don’t have to break the bank, our suggestion would be to invest in an above average quality.

Whether it’s choosing a thicker stock, adding a cut-out, or going for a fancier material like tin or plastic, buy a quality business card.

Even if you have a great design, it will look bad if it’s printed on cheap cards.

A quality card won’t just stand out. It might actually result in acquaintances showing it off to other people.

Don’t Hand Them Out for the Sake of Handing Them Out

Some people can burn through business cards fast. If you’re using a premium card, that can be expensive. That’s why you should only hand them out when you need to.

If you walk into a meeting with 10 people from the same place, you don’t have to give a business card to all of those people. They’ll probably just throw it away – especially if they already have all of your contact info.

Instead, use your business cards wisely, like the punctuation on a great interaction with someone you could benefit from knowing. Whether it’s a potential lead, someone you could collaborate with, or just a person who’s really connected, save your cards for those people.

Another idea is to have two sets of business cards – a standard card for normal use and a premium card for more important contacts.

The Shameless Plug

She doesn’t know I’m doing this, but for assistance with logo design and great quality business card production at competitive prices, contact my friend Mollie Smith at Olligraphics.

For more basic business principles and professional guidance, make sure to subscribe to future posts. Don’t worry, I won’t spam or sell your email. Click here to sign up.

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