Communicate when nature threatens

Last week I said “Allowing perceptions to percolate in our guests’ minds without updates is dangerous not only for this year’s success, but for future years as well.

Part of your job is to set guests’ minds at ease by giving them the advice they need to make considered decisions during situations they’re unaccustomed to.

They want to protect their investment, their vacation and their families. It’s safe to say that your local, regional and/or state tourism groups, media and attractions will put effort into this. What isn’t safe to assume is that your guests will see their message and understand it as you do.

You might be the only one in the area with their name and contact info. You might be the only one who develops a relationship with them. Your business is the one that will pay the price if they get off a plane in Minneapolis and see an airport gate “if it bleeds, it leads” style news video with an uninformed announcer from 2500 miles away saying “Glacier Park is on fire“.

They don’t know what you know. You’ve seen all of this before.

Make sure they understand that and that you are giving them time-tested advice based on your knowledge of their visit and their family. YOU need to contact them and make sure they have accurate information, otherwise, their next flight might be toward home.

Details protect your business

Last time, I added a lot to your plate:

Segmenting guests into groups. Collecting emails. Collecting cell numbers. Writing emails. Sending emails. Documenting the various communication processes so anyone can do it, even if you’re tending to a sick parent. Producing templates for the emails you might need to send. Producing templates for the text messages you might need to send. Producing a fill-in-the-blanks script that a staffer can read when calling guests who are in transit or in the area. Documenting the process so that anyone on site knows who is responsible for starting the process, which one to start, who to notify and what to say.

This isn’t about creating more work for the owner/manager. This is about putting a trust-building, by the numbers, automated where necessary system in place so that it can be handled by employees who never dealt with it before.

You won’t have time to do any of this when a fire blows up in the park. You won’t have time to manually send 300 emails or make 100 phone calls while deciding what to say on the fly.

This is about creating time to deal with critical high-season work when you least want to be “messing around with emails”, even if your place isn’t directly threatened. These tasks need to be organized, tested and ready to implement before the season starts.

Fine tuning the message

When you sit down to build this system, you’ll have a lot to think about. For example, the urgency and means of contacting them is as different as the message for each group and situation.

What conditions that merit separate communications and (most likely) separate messages? What groups should be split out of “the entire list of guests”?

A number of situations will expose themselves as you think it through. Go back over prior years and think about the times you handled this well and not so well. What did you learn after the fact that you didn’t consider when things were unfolding? Your own experiences count too – How was this done when you were on vacation and unexpected problems occurred?

Two examples:

  • If evacuations or cancellations are necessary, will evacuated / cancelled guests get priority booking for a substitute stay at your property?
  • As the situation unfolds, it will become more clear what to say to your guests with reservations a month or more out – but you need to communicate the plan now so they know what to expect. What will you say?

Your business may not be affected by fire season but nature threatens your business somehow and when it does, “fire season lessons” apply. Your area might be subject to drought, low (or high) water in rivers/lakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or a damaged bridge instead of a forest fire.

No matter what happens, send the right message to the right guests in a timely manner in the right way. Build trust. Practice, automate, document, delegate.

 

Pricing custom work well is a strategic advantage

How good is your business at pricing custom work?

If you don’t have a way of pricing custom work that consistently accounts for your costs and labor, how do you know if you’re making any profit on these deals? How would it feel to find that you’re losing money on half your custom work?

Do you have a spreadsheet or software program to help? If not, do you have some other formulaic means of pricing work?

If you read the May 12 New York Times “You’re The Boss” piece by the owner of Paul Downs Cabinetmakers, you’ll learn that these guys are fortunate enough to have a formulaic method to determine the price of a custom item.

That they have this formula puts them ahead of most businesses that do custom work. However, the trouble starts when they discuss what’s going on behind the scenes as there are a number of things going on that conspire to cause problems when reality and the pricing formula meet on the shop floor.

The failure points

Downs mentions that the spreadsheet’s material prices haven’t been updated in over 6 years, that material use and overages are not tracked, that tool use and labor methods have changed and that the info in the spreadsheet is sometimes entered wrong and fails to match the reality of the work actually being done.

As you read about all the possible failure points of this spreadsheet and how they’ve allowed it to become outdated and stale compared to their business reality, you can’t help but wonder how they got to that point.

Here’s the thing… this type of situation is pretty common.

Our tendency to think we’re too busy to address these critical, but tiny (at the time) maintenance issues has a way of giving us permission to postpone giving them attention. We think we’ll take care of them someday since some other thing seems more important right now.

It doesn’t seem to work that way, despite the best of intentions.

What usually happens is that the business lets these little things get out of sync an hour at a time, a day at a time, a week at a time and so on until we find that our internal systems look like they were designed to run some other business (or none at all).

At some point, things will have crept so far out of line that you’ll have no choice (like Downs) but to address them. Not only has the job you face become massive, your strategic advantage of having accurate, formula-driven custom pricing will have become the exact opposite.

Why does it matter?

The trouble with getting your business into this situation is that it severely damages your ability to see trends, know if you have enough (or too much) raw material or labor to deliver upon your work commitments.

If you’re already stuck, you have to consider the cost of continuing with a broken pricing model, assuming you have one.

If you aren’t sure you’re turning a profit on custom work – the showpiece work of your business – this merits immediate attention.

This is your best work. It’s the work that generates the reputation that earns your bread and butter work. It’s the work that you use to get your best, most profitable clients.

And yet you aren’t sure exactly how much profit you make on it?

If a close friend was in that situation, you know how you’d react. You’d go out of your way to make the situation clear to them, helping them if possible.

Why not do the same for yourself?

Should this take six months?

No, it shouldn’t. While Downs says his expert worked on this for six months, I suspect what he really means is that it took six months from start to finish – not that his expert worked on it eight hours a day, five days a week for six months.

The important thing to remember is that this doesn’t have to be perfect the first time.

Start with the highest impact item you can wrap your head around. and implement it. Tweak and add pricing components one at a time to improve accuracy.

This allows you to see results and adjust for accuracy and additional information without allowing any single change to be so complex that you have no way to assess its worth, much less its accuracy.

Get to work!

What are your customers doing online?

I mentioned the Meeker internet / technology trends report last week on Facebook, but I thought I should summarize a few important nuggets from it for small businesses, particularly small software businesses.

  • 30 percent growth in mobile users in the last year.
  • 50% growth in bandwidth use by mobile devices. Specifically, 15% of all internet bandwidth use is mobile, up from 10% last year.
  • Tablet use continues to expand quickly. Apple sold more iPads (140k) than iPhones (60k) last year.
  • More tablets shipped in the last quarter of 2012 than desktops, despite being on the market only 3 years.
  • Photo sharing is on pace to double since last year. Last year, about 375MM photos were shared per day. This year, users have already shared more than 500MM photos per day on average.
  • Wearable device usage is doubling every month so far this year.
  • More people access the internet via mobile device in China than via desktop – in a population of over 560 million internet users.
  • 45% of Groupon transactions are now online. 2 years ago that number was 15%.

I recommend you check out the whole slideshow, even if you aren’t in the technology business. This stuff affects almost everyone in almost every business.

What to do if you aren’t ready

If you ask anyone who has kids how long you should wait before having kids, you’ll probably get an answer like: “You’re never really 100% ready, so if you want kids, just have one.”

The same goes for the things you’re not doing in your business.

We always think we need one more piece of knowledge. One more employee. One more location. One more revenue increase. One more class. One more tool.

So we wait.

The Fear Muscle

Thinking we need one more whatever is our subconscious “fear muscle” protecting us from some little piece of unknown, as if the one possible obstacle we can think of is enough to prevent us from starting, much less succeeding.

That one thing is usually not a start/stop choice, much less a project-ending obstacle. It’s usually just something we have to deal with – and it might not become an issue for weeks, months or even years. The scope of the project, the market and who knows what else could change by then. This hesitance tends to be an internal protection mechanism that we really don’t need. As a species, we’re far more adaptable than we realize, but our subconscious loves to protect us from what feels like an unknown.

In business, it’s protection we rarely need. In fact, if we need protection from anything, it might be protection from the inertia that keeps us from starting things.

Inertia is often the biggest obstacle we face. We tend to be afraid, or at least hesitant, to start as if we can only create the perfect child by having that child at the perfect instant in our lives. Anyone with kids knows better. Anyone who has started and built a business (or anything of substance) already knows this – but sometimes we still wait.

We’re not talking about the normal kind of afraid, just the “well, I need one more whatever to be certain this will work” kind of afraid.

Really, you don’t need that one more whatever. You just need to start. Start on the next project, the next service, the next journey or the next challenge and see where it takes you.

Do one thing

I know, it sounds simple. It sounds like common sense. Yet how many times have you waited and then later, wondered why you waited so long?

If you have to backtrack or stop to learn something, so what? It’s part of the process. You may zig or zag now and then, but that’s no different than what Marissa Mayer, Richard Branson or Warren Buffett deal with. Maybe the scale and probably the resources are different for them, but the PROCESS is the same.

Just get started…and keep moving.

How to do strategic business planning that actually matters

communal chucks
Creative Commons License photo credit: Evil Erin

Go ahead, admit it – if it fits.

Your business plan doesn’t really reflect your real business.

You may not even use it.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • “Do you use it to run your business day to day?”
  • “Does it bear any resemblance to what really happens at your business?”
  • “Did you write it just to get a line of credit?”

If your answers are “No”, “No” and “Yes” respectively, your business plan probably doesn’t matter. So how do we fix that? Really, why do we care?

Why do we care?

We care that our business plan matters, meaning that it serves and guides us every month, because:

  • Running a business without consistent cash flow is a drain on both financial and mental resources.
  • It’s nice to know in advance where 63% of our revenue will come from next month.
  • It’d be nice to know in advance that we’ll need three extra people and 34 extra pallets of flour next month, vs. finding out when the orders come in.
  • It’s scary not knowing for sure that we’ll have any revenue next month, much less enough.
  • We had a horrible sales month that killed our cash flow and we’d rather not have that happen again.
  • We’d like to know these things by some means other than gut feel.

But how?

Knowing your numbers

Developing a way to consistently predict your cash flow and revenue numbers isn’t magic. It’s dependent on tracking month to month lead flow and how those leads perform as they flow through your business processes.

Do you know the history of your leads’ performance? What about closing percentage? Your new and returning customers per month? Their average purchase size, respectively? Can you break those numbers down for each lead source?

These numbers are critical to managing the impacts on cash flow of your operations, marketing and advertising efforts.

Manage it

Weather forecasts help us manage our expectations and alter our behavior so we don’t spend our lives cold and wet. Cash flow can work the same way, rather than simply accepting it as unpredictable.

The early years of my photo software business are a perfect illustration: Our customers hunkered down in September, October and November. They were busy with senior portraits, yearbook photos and Thanksgiving portraits that would become Christmas gifts. In December, they were focused on getting all those orders ready and shipped in time for gift giving.

Guess what many of them didn’t do during those months? Buy software.

A consistently lower level of first time sales during these months also meant that there would be low recurring revenue during those months during ensuing years. It forced us to change our revenue model to smooth out the peaks and dips in our cash flow, which made monthly revenue far more predictable.

That’s the kind of thing that many retailers face every January.

Collect them all

The primary key to dealing with events like our October surprise and the typical January retail sales drop is tracking your lead / sales / closing history and using it to predict future activity. Next, use actual performance data to improve your predictions. As they improve, you’ll see issues coming in advance – buying time to solve them.

The finance component of a meaningful business plan will depend on your lead-related performance data if you’re actually going to use the plan to run your business. This component includes financing (credit card, bank, mortgage, payables, receivables), cash flow management, taxes, legal, benefits, and insurance. For retail businesses, open-to-buy planning (OTB) is critical. Ignoring OTB can kill a retailer.

Next, integrate your lead performance data in your daily operations planning. Lead performance will always drive the resources used in day to day operations, since sales volume impacts the need for raw materials, tools and the trained people necessary to crank out what you make. This helps you predict expenses since they’re driven by the performance of your investments to market your products, manage their leads, and sell / service their customers.

Each of these components help your business plan reflect reality and actually use it to run your business.

Why do all the work to write a plan and then not use it? Make it matter.

Disclaimer: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business. The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.

Driveway Gymnastics and the Ides of March

So…it’s almost the end of March.

Seems like the day before yesterday, the new year started.

Like many, you probably thought over some goals for the new year and made plans to make them happen. Maybe you even got started on the work required.

But again, it’s almost the end of March and in just a few days, 25% of the year will be behind us.

25% isn’t much or is it?

25 percent seems like so little when you think back to the first few weeks of January. Wasn’t that just a few days or maybe weeks ago?  Reality check: It’s moving faster than we think.

Maybe a few examples will help us get a handle on how fast the year is slipping behind us.

If the year charted the life of a 100 year old person, the days gone by in the year are enough for this person to have been born, gone to school, grown up, moved out of the house and gone to college or have been working for seven years.

If the year charted the time to walk past a line of people that included the entire population of the United States, we would already have walked past every person who lives in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, San Jose, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Austin.

The point is that while it may seem like the year is just getting underway, really – it’s way past time to “just be getting started”.

Assess and Adjust

So, with 25% of the year behind you, can you say the same for your progress on this year’s goals?

Maybe you’re on course. If so, it’s worth taking 30 minutes to re-examine your plan and your progress to date. Should the plan be accelerated? Adjust it based on what you’ve learned over the last three months. If you’re not where you expected to be by this time, maybe you got sidetracked by “real work”. Or maybe you reached for more than might be reasonable in a year’s time. Or maybe there’s another six months of prep work before you can start to harvest the rewards of your plans for the year.

Whatever the case, the end of the first quarter is as good a time as any to take a look at the efforts you’ve made, the progress you’ve made and then adjust your plans based on what you found.

I’ve sure been forced to.

What’s broke? What’s working?

My year has been topsy turvy so far. While early-year deployments of long-running projects came off well, there have been stumbles.

Literally, in fact.

A late January ankle injury caused by driveway ice gymnastics has slowed down my work. It’s also pretty much derailed my training for May’s Spartan Sprint, a situation that’s seriously frustrating.

But how does an ankle injury affect non-physical work like mine?

Well, between prescriptions that tend to fog the brain at times and the not-so-snappy speed of hobbling around, everything seems to take longer. At times, the injury has even affected sleep. I don’t think I have to explain how that could impact work.

As a result, I’ve had to repeatedly perform the assess and adjust exercise that I just suggested to you. This episode has been a painful reminder of the business impact of even minor health issues. Learn from my pain. The stronger you are, the better you’ll be able to get your stuff done.

Fortunately, my ankle is finally behaving again, though it’s still a long way from Spartan-ready.

Take your own advice

While you might not have tried to torch an ankle like I did, you should still check your progress against your expectations (and the calendar) to see what (if anything) needs to be dealt with.

These questions might help: What’s broken? What’s working? What’s moving faster than expected? What’s taking longer than expected? What resources do I need that I didn’t plan for? What resources do I have that I should focus elsewhere?

What advice would you offer to someone who responded with your answers to those questions? Now…Take your own advice.

My assess and adjust exercise has gotten things rebooted, allowing me to get things back on track. How’s your year going?

Why don’t we do what we know must be done?

Change is hard.

We often don’t make a change because just thinking about it tends to be unpleasant, never mind the change itself.

We’ll think about it and mull it over and consider our options like we do about stopping for gas. We’ll glance at the pump as we pass by and put off the inevitable until the needle falls into that “below-the-E” zone where you know you’re in trouble if you don’t stop soon.

The decision to pull over and take 10 minutes to ensure that you can continue for hours or days takes just an instant. Yet many of us wait until forced to do it.

What actions are you waiting to be forced into? What would change if you didn’t wait?

It’s about the pain

Jim Rohn used to say “We don’t change until the pain of change becomes worse than the change of same.”

Yet we know better. Every day people make a decision not to fix something, change their mindset (or at least start down that path) or deal with the 500 lb gorilla in the room.

I sit in meetings with regularity where the obvious thing that has to be faced is ignored as if time will make it go away. Every day, the cost of not facing that thing increases.

Yet we continue to stall.

Why?

In the past, some have proposed that we’re afraid of reaching the destination we claim we’ve sought for years. In a few cases, that might be true, but I suspect that for the majority of people and businesses, advance thought might never have gone that far.

What important task have you avoided thinking about this month? What would happen if you forced yourself to focus on it for 15 minutes?

Procrastination

How many times have you thought about a problem you wanted to solve, then bought something (a book, service, etc) to help you address it – and then did nothing with the resource?

Our minds get satisfaction from the purchase. That little bit of dopamine is enough to pacify some of us. It pretends to be action.

We stop on the first rung of the ladder, or the second, or worst, the last.

When it comes to the most important thing you’re putting off, what rung are you on? Do you have more trouble starting or finishing?

Inertia

The trouble with inertia is that it seems to sprout from a smaller version of itself. It does this without water, sunshine or even MiracleGro.

Yesterday’s inertia morphs tomorrow’s seemingly insurmountable mental castle surrounded by alligator-infested waters. It grows like interest on a credit card bill. Every day, its slightly heavier weight eats away at you, your life and the stuff that needs to get done.

What’s the source of your inertia? Worse yet, what feeds it?

Overwhelm

Every marketer knows that if you present too many choices to a prospect, they’ll often choose nothing. They’ll….procrastinate, secretly hoping that the list will shrink and make the selection easier.

It isn’t much different than a todo list with 300 items on it or a TV listing with 300 channels or that restaurant menu with 40 appetizers.

Overwhelm breeds inertia. Would half as many choices help you get moving?

Momentum

There are two kinds of inertia. The kind we just talked about – the bad kind – is the inertia that keeps you from taking the first step, the next one or the last one.

With just one step, the bad kind transforms into the smallest instance of good inertia. Movement. It creates momentum, however small.

That first bit of movement spawns more. Every little decision you make in your day either contributes to it or undermines it.

Think about the little things that hurt your momentum. Stop doing them or at least, do them less often.

Think about the little things that fuel your momentum. Do more of them, however tiny.

Essential Keys

If you must, start with the smallest thing. Then the next size up. Build upon each tiny victory, even if it’s something as simple as sticking a stamp on an envelope or writing one page of that book.

The small victories, like tinder and kindling for a fire, are what build you into a sustainable force.

Do what must be done. Start right now.

6 questions that will shake your productivity beliefs

The easy question sometimes ends up playing the role of the hardest one.

The easy question – What system (paper, software, methodology, whatever) do you use to manage ToDos, Goals and Priorities on an annual, monthly, weekly and daily basis?

That question is part of The Rescue Interview because managers, CEOs and company officers usually have a ToDo/Goal system that they use to organize and prioritize the work they do.

Typically, they’re using that system because of a book they read, a seminar they attended or because they were referred to it by someone whose productivity they admired. The last one tends to be the most prevalent source of the system that my clients are using, if they’re using anything. The “where I found the system” really isn’t important, but the referring person is. Pay attention to their habits and it will pay off.

Urgent!

If you have a system, the most important aspect of it is that you use it consistently. It can be a battle reminding / forcing yourself to focus on that system consistently every single day – particularly given life’s ever-present desire to inject other priorities.

If your daily focus doesn’t use your chosen productivity mechanism, you’re probably working as Covey describes – on the urgent but unimportant. You may roll your eyes because you’ve heard that phrase so many times – but does “urgent but unimportant” work still monopolize your daily routine?

Tougher questions

The next five questions are a little tougher:

  • What percentage of last year’s goals did you achieve?
  • What percentage of last month’s goals did you achieve?
  • Did you complete 100% of last week’s goals? If not, what percentage did you complete?
  • Did you complete 100% of the items on yesterday’s ToDo list? If not, what percentage did you complete?
  • Are you happy with those results?

If you’re happy with your answers and using your system on a daily basis, that’s great news – you can skip to the next section.

If you’re doing well but want to get better – Typically this is caused by a lack of daily use of the system that’s clearly working for you. Focus on your system more frequently, fine tune what works and get rid of the parts that don’t. It’s possible you’ll need a system better suited to your desired level of accomplishment / productivity. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll know whether you’ve given the system a real chance to help you.

If you’re seriously disappointed with your level of accomplishment (not just “well, I can do better”), the current system may not work for you, but it’s more likely that you aren’t using it often enough (or at all). If you’re using it daily and are still disappointed, it’s probably time for a new system.

If you need a new system, ask the most productive person you know to show you what they use.

But wait, there’s more

Now that we’ve determined whether you have a system for getting more of the right things done, how well it works for you, whether you need to use it more often, or that you need a new system, it’s time to ask the questions you rarely get asked.

What system (paper, software, methodology, nothing) does YOUR STAFF use to manage ToDos, Goals and priorities on an annual, monthly, weekly and daily basis?

After refocusing on your entire business, ask yourself these six questions:

  • What percentage of last year’s goals did your staff achieve?
  • What percentage of last month’s goals did your staff achieve?
  • Did your staff complete 100% of last week’s goals? If not, what percentage were completed?
  • Did your staff complete 100% of the items on yesterday’s ToDo list? If not, what percentage were completed?
  • Are you happy with those numbers?
  • Are they happy with those numbers?

It’s not unusual for highly productive business owners to be shocked with themselves if their staff has no system.

Business owners who have worked hard to select and refine their own personal productivity system sometimes “forget” to pass that training and system on to their staff, much less implement a company-wide system that manages the ToDos / goals / priorities of their entire business. When they hear these questions, it hits home.

How are you and your staff doing?

PS: Julien Smith mentioned Action Method in his blog this morning. I haven’t tried it yet. Maybe it’ll fit your team.

Starting a New Business: Part 2 – Are you ready?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: elbfoto

Last time we talked briefly about things to consider in the early going of the business you just started.

We talked a little about the product/service, but focused mostly on some basics about licenses/permits and getting supplies with a little taste of business model talk.

The reality is that we shouldn’t have talked about most of that stuff, but we had to start with that conversation because it’s the type of thing new business owners expect to hear.

You might be thinking “I’ve already got a product, I’ve already got a business (even if it’s only a few days old) and I need to know what to do to start. NOW. RIGHT NOW. So help, already…”

Problem is, that’s not the best place to start if you want to build something lasting.

Fake left, go right

Sorry for rushing ahead last time, but I wanted to get you into analysis mode just a little bit before we moved ahead (or back) to this step.

We did talk briefly about the business model and I hope that provoked you a little. Ideally, it made you think that you might not have all the info you need to work out the details of your model. Those of you who thought hard about it probably wondered if you didn’t have a lot more work to do.

You do.

Before you order those business cards, buy those supplies, determine your costs and set your prices…you need to research your market.

This means far more than doing a keyword check to see how many Google searches there are for “gold plated harmonica” (if that’s your business), much less finding out if GoldPlatedHarmonica.com is available and at what level the competition is already delivering these items. Those things are just part of the process.

Questions, questions

How much do you really know about the market you’re entering? Assuming the market isn’t brand new, have you researched industry product, service, supply and performance trends? What do they indicate as areas of opportunity? Areas to avoid? What are the emerging product/service trends in this market?

Are you familiar enough with your prospective ideal customer to enter their market? Or will you stand out in the wrong way and alienate your business from them?

Who buys gold plated harmonicas? Where do they live? What kind of stores do they purchase music supplies in? What else do they buy at the same time? How many are sold per year? Where are they purchased – online, in stores or both? How many are purchased annually? Are their peaks and valleys in purchasing habits? Are there peaks and valleys in supply? Are there legislative, import or similar issues that you must deal with at startup or on a one-time basis? Are there any liability concerns for the product and its use?

How many do they buy over their lifetime as a purchaser of gold-plated harmonicas? Is there a progression of better and better purchases? Is there the possibility of referrals by your existing customers to others who favor gold-plated harmonicas? Are there opportunities to render service, deliver purchases or offer training classes?

At what age do people start upgrading to gold-plated harmonicas? At what age do they stop purchasing? How do people decide to be in the market for gold-plated harmonicas? What do they buy in the year or two prior to moving up to a gold-plated one? Where can you buy replacement parts? Is there a repair market or do people replace them? Is there a scrap market? (they are gold-plated, after all)

Who dominates the market today? Why do they dominate the market? What will you do to set yourself apart from them? Is it possible to partner with them?

These questions come into play when writing a marketing plan but many of them also have bearing on your business model / business plan.

Are you asking enough of the right questions? Are you doing the research necessary to assure that your business plan / model make sense given the market of available buyers?

These questions are not intended to scare you out of a market. Quite the contrary, they are intended to make your entry strong enough to keep you there.

What would happen if yours was perfect?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: ruurmo

If your software business was â??perfectâ?, what would it look like?

What do I mean? Here are a few ideas to get you startedâ?¦

  • Whatâ??s your product line look like?
  • What services do you offer?
  • How big (or little) is your staff?
  • What benefits do you offer?
  • How much vacation do you enjoy per year?
  • What would your customers say about your company?
  • How many customers would you have?
  • What trade shows do you exhibit at?
  • Whatâ??s your position in the market?
  • What would happen when a support call came in?
  • What would happen when a bug was found?

Not in the software business? So what. Replace “software business” with whatever you do. Alter the question list to fit your business.

You might be thinking none of this could ever happen.

Or you could start with your answers and work backwards to figure out what it will take to get there. Take one step, then another.

If you don’t ask yourself the hard questions…who will?

PS: Are you really in the <whatever> business? A drill bit manufacturer doesn’t sell drill bits. Ultimately, they sell holes. A coffee shop sells comfort, even to take out customers. What do you really sell?