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Business culture Business model Customer relationships customer retention Customer service Entrepreneurs Improvement Leadership Small Business Strategy

Choose your market or craft it?

Sometimes you choose your market, and sometimes it chooses you. Today, we get a little of both.

A discussion with some software business owners prompted this piece, but you should stick around even if you aren’t in the software business – because these problems are universal no matter what business you’re in.

During these discussions, there was a lot of talk about cheap clients.

The discussion started with the group lamenting that their clients are constantly falling back on their lack of a budget as the reason they can’t do things.

The comments started like this:

  • “Our clients say they have no money for tech support.”
  • “Our clients say they have no money for newer hardware, so their 10 year old XP machines will have to do.”
  • Our clients don’t have (this and that).
  • Our clients can’t do (this or that).

The conversation continued for a bit, discussing the kinds of things you’d prefer to avoid when seeking clients.

Thing is, many small businesses are in a position where they can’t avoid clients like this, at least not when they’re small and getting starting.

No matter what market you’re in, you have clients and prospects that have these issues – or say they do. For many business owners, it’s pretty frustrating.

Dump ’em?

Normally, I would counsel you to find a way to sort these guys out from the rest. Actually, I’d still suggest that to a fair number of my clients, but not everyone is in a position to fire a bunch of customers.

Even if you are in a position to shed those customers, you need to be selective about how to do it and even then, do so carefully and kindly.

Why selective? Because a sizable handful of those customers will figure it out, get out of bootstrapping mode and become the best clients you’ve ever had. Your job is figuring out which ones are the keepers. We talk about that fairly often.

What we don’t often discuss is what to do if you’re the one who has to keep most (if not all) of these customers – and what to do about it.

By force or by choice

What happens if you decide to (or must) work with them regardless of their situation?  Not everyone can get out of this situation easily.

Perhaps you manage part of (or work in) a business that this kind of client and you have no control over the situation.

If you own the business, perhaps it’s a situation you’ve unintentionally created over the long haul and it’s either hitting you square in the forehead and wallet simultaneously that it’s an expensive situation, or you’ve known about it all along and are now managing to come up for air long enough to take some action to deal with it.

Either way, it needs to be addressed.

Long time readers would probably guess that my plan “A” would be to execute my time-hardened battle plan to help you help them transform from mere customers to good clients. I don’t say “mere customers” lightly. It isn’t a meaningless smear, as there is a serious difference between mere customers and good clients.

Thing is, plan A has two benefits: While it’ll help some of them become the clients you want, it’ll also tell you who the doers are.

Even if they aren’t good at some (many?) of the things you put in front of them, the doers will try almost everything. Keep them around unless they drive you absolutely crazy. I mean visit your house at 11pm on a Sunday night kind-of-crazy.

Why? Because those are the guys who won’t quit trying. You need clients like that and they need you.

What about the rest?

The doers will listen and execute based on what you tell them. Many of them will get it and grow into the kind of client you wanted in the first place.

The rest? Well, those are the ones that you can part with once you’ve done your transformation work on the rest…unless you just can’t let them go.

If you can’t, then ponder what you’re willing to do about it. They consume time, effort and money that might be better leveraged on other projects. Can you help them? Do you have time to help them? Will they listen if you offer help? (Their effort on Plan A teaches that).

Give them a chance, then make a decision.

Categories
Automation Business model Customer relationships Direct Marketing Getting new customers Lead generation Management Productivity Sales Small Business tracking

Where does new business hide?

In every town, there’s a place where new business hides.

If you can’t find its hiding place, your business is likely to struggle.

Most of the time, that struggle is rooted in the inability to dependably produce predictable, month to month revenue.

Without predictable month to month revenue, businesses close, scale down or at the least, fail to reach their potential to support their owner, their family, their employees’ families and their community.

Revenue consistency problems influence a business owner’s decision making because their decisions end up being driven by cash flow. Decisions based on sales you made last week (much less yesterday) rarely fit into a long-term strategic plan.

Predicting revenue isn’t all that difficult. You simply have to check the Sales Thermometer.

What’s a Sales Thermometer?

Imagine that there’s a thermometer on the front door of businesses and homes that told you to pull in and sell something to someone because they had developed a need or a want that *had* to be fulfilled.

Armed with a town full of sales thermometers, you’d have all the new business you’ve ever wanted and wouldn’t waste a bit of time chasing around town after people who didn’t want or need what you sell.

Instead, you’d simply drive through town, check the thermometer and stop at the places where the temperature was the highest.

On days when you need a little extra revenue, you might get up a little earlier and drive around a little later so you could check more thermometers. 

Once you took care of the places with the hottest temperatures, you could retrace your steps, scan for the next highest set of temperatures and take care of those sales.

As the sales thermometer readings change on other homes and businesses, you’d see them during your travels so you could pick up on the newest opportunities for new business – simply by being observant.

Scaling

There is a downside to this sales thermometer thing. It has some scalability issues.

For example, you can only drive so far in a day and every customer who takes an hour of your time consumes an hour that you can’t use to check other thermometers. That will eventually force you (subconsciously at least) to stop and work with only the hottest thermometers.

If only there was a way to automatically check the hottest thermometers without spending all that time driving around.

Fortunately, there is.

Getting new business isn’t a joke

While talk of a sales thermometer seems like a bit of a fantasy or even a joke, your business’ inability to consistently produce new business from existing and new clients is no joke at all.

If your business struggles with that, the problem isn’t the lack of a thermometer. The problem is that you aren’t reading it. 

The sales thermometer in the information you should already have about your clients and prospects.  The thermometer’s temperature is driven by behavior and interaction, both yours and that of your prospects and clients.

Those behaviors are like a patient’s symptoms. Monitoring  and acting on them in a predictable, repeatable, systematic way is what gets your business to the point where you *can* produce consistent, predictable month to month revenue.

Random revenue from new business is an indication that you’re not watching and acting on these symptoms on a consistent basis. We all know we need to do these things, but sometimes we get sidetracked by the crisis-of-the-day.

While they should be acted on individually for each prospect or client, these symptoms should also be grouped together (aggregated) to help you monitor the health of your business and your market.

Things that drive up temperatures

What causes rising temperatures?

  • Interaction behavior changes.  You should know when someone is paying more attention than a typical prospect. Do you have a way to detect this?
  • Sales cycle behavior changes. You know how long it takes to close a sale. Is that timeline changing? Are certain prospects skipping steps in the process? Is their path-to-purchase pace is faster than normal? If so, does your internal behavior toward those prospects change to suit their timeline?
  • Purchasing behavior changes. For example, customers who are buying more (or less) often than they normally do. Even if you’re tracking sales on paper, you can monitor this .

Are you monitoring the sales thermometer?

Categories
Amazon Automation Box stores Business culture Business model Competition Direct Marketing E-myth ECommerce Leadership Retail Small Business strategic planning Technology Wal-Mart

Doing ahead, not just thinking ahead

Quite often, I talk with business owners about thinking ahead.

Something that happened yesterday tells me that I need to change my terminology to “Doing ahead.”

Why the change?

Primarily, I’m concerned that small businesses are thinking ahead, but stopping there.

Thinking ahead discussions often include strategic thoughts of putting yourself out of business by inventing new products and services for your customers that replace your current top seller.

So let’s talk retail for a moment, since they’re an easy example.

Every time you enter a WalMart store (something I try to avoid – I’m just not into the crowds), you’re likely to see something different. Just a little thing here or there that’s different. Sometimes it’s a test to see how something works, other times it’s the result of such tests.

What you never see is exactly the same store, time after time, town after town. Sure, the overall store is quite similar overall but there’s almost always something different. Something being tested. Something being implemented.

This effort isn’t limited to their brick and mortar stores. WalMart and the rest of big retail spend a lot of time looking at how they can improve the performance of their online retail properties. They have lots on their todo list simply by comparing themselves to Amazon.com – which blows away most (if not all) online retailers in end to end performance and customer engagement.

This is the price they pay for ignoring Amazon during their climb to cruising altitude.

What we don’t see is massive shifts designed to make the store or parts of the store irrelevant. It doesn’t mean they aren’t there, but they’re much harder to see in a brick and mortar store. Honestly, I can’t think of the last time I saw a brick and mortar store do something like this but I suspect I just don’t recall it.

Amazon tweaks too

Naturally, Amazon.com is working hard to improve what they already do – testing and tweaking their retail site and their back end (such as the systems that email you about things you might be interested in). You can see evidence of this on a regular basis.

Meanwhile – they’re doing things like what you see in the video above (More video here from 60 Minutes).

This isn’t just about speed, though that is certainly part of it. Keep in mind that this also means that Amazon can deliver without using any of the established shipping systems – all of which have legislative limitations as complex as those currently preventing the use of shipping drones. The only difference is that no one wrote a pile of legislation in the 1920’s to protect the USPS, Fedex or UPS – all of whom are just as likely to have drones in their future.

Parts of this are not just changing the rules but eliminating them wholesale. I would expect this to be implemented in other countries long before it happens in the U.S., due to the legislative challenges here. We’re already well on the way to delivering relief supplies via drone. Why not retail?

Learning while looking ahead

Learn from seeing Amazon look years ahead without a guaranteed payoff, hitting on pain points, looking to shorten the sales cycle (money loves speed), looking to eliminate competitive disadvantages with WMT, looking to improve/control shipping, etc – while ignoring the fact that they can’t put the drones into service and prepare for the day when they can.

They’ll be learning new things about their business and their customers as well.

The challenge for you and for businesses all over the world is not to see another way that Amazon will eat your lunch, or to think you’re safe because you aren’t in retail, aren’t near an Amazon fulfillment center or are in a rural location unlikely to be served by drones.

Your challenge is to think beyond the advances you’ve been working on or considering. Those advances are important, but you also need to be figuring out things that are years off, all while considering what will replace them.

The dangerous thought is to ignore these things because they don’t threaten you now and wont for years.

Why is that so dangerous? Because that’s exactly what many in Amazon’s market did a decade or so ago – and they still haven’t caught up from making that mistake.

Categories
attitude Competition Economic Development Personal development Small Business strategic planning

Are you going out of business…intentionally?

Last week, I wrote about the most expensive minute of your life.

This slideshow should provoke a similar discussion. How does it make you feel about what you’re doing now?

Categories
Business model Competition planning Small Business strategic planning

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.

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Amazon Business model Competition Entrepreneurs Leadership Manufacturing Montana Small Business startups strategic planning Strategy systems The Slight Edge

What isn’t Amazon going to change?

During Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) November re:Invent conference, there were a number of interesting talks.

Psst…Don’t run away, not-interested-in-technology folks, this is barely about tech if you look closely.

I got the most out of the sessions centered around the strategic design decisions that Amazon.com (an AWS customer) and other AWS customers were making.

These discussions were all about making a system resilient, scalable and capable of reacting quickly and transparently to changes in the business – while keeping costs as low as possible and tied directly to the business’ actual resource usage.

Naturally, their point was that AWS helps provide this ability to people who build systems.

AWS streamlines server infrastructure the same way LTL trucking streamlines freight shipping.

LTL clients get to use a high quality transportation system without investing a fleet of trucks, warehouses, dispatchers, mechanics and drivers that they may not need two weeks from now. Yet all of those resources and jobs are necessary to get freight from point a to point b. Shippers pay for what they use, meaning less waste, more efficiency, better job security and better asset use.

As I said, this isn’t about tech.

No one ever says

During a discussion on why AWS is always changing, Bezos summed it up simply: “No one ever says ‘Jeff, I love AWS but I wish it was more expensive.’ or ‘Jeff, I love AWS but I wish it was a little less reliable.’ or ‘Jeff, I love AWS but I wish you would improve it at a slower rate.’ ”

Is it any different for you? For the LTL trucking firm?

In a business where inexpensive, high quality delivery whose cost tied to usage is the focus, these changes simply don’t happen without high quality systems managing things.

Systems reduce inertia, eliminate obstacles and streamline processes so people can get the right work done faster at the same (or better) level of quality.

They aren’t about tech.

What’s the next hot thing?

When Bezos was asked about the difference between being an entrepreneur when he started Amazon (1995) and now, he said “the rate of change has increased substantially”.

He noted that people always ask him what the “next big thing” is and lamented “I almost never get asked ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ “.

He likened businesses that address those long-standing needs to flywheels. They take time to spin up, but run smoothly and efficiently once at operating speed.

These days, solutions to these needs can be built anywhere. In a rural Montana community of 4000 people, Zinc Air has developed energy storage technology that makes dependable, scalable, portable power storage a reality.

Power availability in the developing world is a need of substantial scope as it is in places that would otherwise require months or years of infrastructure construction. It’s one more example of a need that isn’t changing anytime soon.

Is there a business there?

Not all that long ago, a substantial reason for chasing venture capital was the cost of server infrastructure. Using cloud computing like AWS, you pay for what you use as your business grows, rather than for massive infrastructure you may never use. A long-standing obstacle that impacted business development has been addressed.

Obstacles like those that LTL trucking, AWS and Zinc Air eliminate are the kind of change that Bezos was talking about when he spoke of businesses addressing long-standing inefficiencies, problems and barriers in things that won’t change over the next 10 years, rather than trying to figure out what the next big thing is.

Consider hunger. The short term solution is usually feeding people who can’t feed themselves. The long term solution is somehow enabling them to alter their economic situation so they no longer need help feeding themselves. Solving it might include some combination of jobs, medical care, child care, irrigation, clean well water, transportation, seed stock and better farming methods.

“The next big thing” might be your streamlined solution to just one small inefficiency in one area that makes hunger so difficult to extinguish. And it might be bigger than Amazon.

If you’re willing to be misunderstood for a long period of time, then you’re ready to start something new.” – Jeff Bezos, commenting on starting Amazon.

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Business model Employees Entrepreneurs Improvement Management

Starting A New Business : Part 4 – Profit is not Salary

Treating profit as salary is a common error for new businesses.

It’s unusual for new owners to start by thinking their business through to the “end game” or to its ideal place.

While some plan with an exit strategy in mind, there’s more to business than “do something, grow fast, get bought by Google”.

What happens if you don’t get bought by Google, WalMart or whoever? You’re stuck with the business you designed. Or worse, the one you didn’t.

Design the ideal

It’s far more desirable and strategic to figure out what your ideal business should look like before you start than it is to randomly arrive in your business’ future and realize that it isn’t at all what you planned to build. Much less that it’s not what you really wanted to do.

Hopefully it’s obvious that it’ll be hard to redesign your business two, five or ten years down the road. While it can be done, it won’t be as easy or inexpensive as designing it upfront.

If you design the ideal business, you have a lot better chance of getting there faster (or at least more efficiently) because your decisions have a built-in filter: “Does this decision move us closer to our ideal or not?”

Yes, almost every business owner has turned away from their ideal temporarily because of a job, contract or customer that was low-hanging fruit: A deal they accepted because the revenue was enticing enough to pull them in the wrong direction and distract them from their ideal – even though they knew better.

You’ll be far less tempted by these things when that built-in filter is there from day one.

Working for, Working on

If you seriously ask yourself “What would my business look like, act like, do, sell, etc when it’s exactly how want it to be?”, you’ll find yourself thinking about important things that go way beyond that widget you just have to sell.

One of the really important questions that should come out of that is “When my business is in its ideal state, how much time do I personally want to work there, either as an employee or owner?” The difference is simple: most employees work for a business, but owners should work mostly on their business.

Few think about that when doing budget projections at startup. What often ends up happening is that you create a job for yourself because your business can’t survive without you.

If you started this business to get away from a job, replace the income from a job that you’ve lost or to earn your freedom – do you really want to design and take on another one?

Job or business?

It’s a job if it’d fall apart, fail to generate revenue and/or tick off customers because you stepped away for an afternoon, day, week or month.

A business shouldn’t need you working every minute of every work day to generate revenue. That’s what brings us back to talking about your business model and why I insisted that profit is not salary.

Profit is what an owner/investor receives. Salary is what an employee receives. Today that might seem like a meaningless difference.

As your business grows, you’ll reach a point where you have to hire someone because you can’t get it all done. That may seem like a fantasy today, but if you do enough things right – it could end up more like a nightmare. Planning now is what makes the difference.

Be an investor

If both profit and salary are built into your business model, you’ll be prepared to hire someone to take on the work you can’t get done or no longer want to do.

While you’ll have to give up your “worker salary” when that happens, the “management” salary should still be there. When you delegate the work to someone else, you don’t want your business to be designed (much less required) to stop paying you – and that includes the day you decide to hire a manager to replace you.

Look at it from a buyer’s perspective. They want to invest in a profit producing business, not a job.

To that end, YOU are the first investor in that business. Design with that in mind.

Categories
Business model Competition Positioning Small Business strategic planning Strategy

What’s Inside Your Stocking?

Every year, in fact – every month, I have some formal “airplane time” set aside for putting thought into where my business is, where it’s going and what adjustments it needs to zig-zag its way to where it belongs.

Ultimately all of that relates to where it leads you, how it changes your business and hopefully, your life.

Since preparations for an all-out-assault on the in-laws’ place are in their final hours, stocking stuffers came to mind.

Stocking stuffers for your business, that is.

Stuffers at all levels

When I sit down for one of these sessions, the proper mix of present, past and future is always on my mind.

On top of that stocking is the a gift from the past. If you think back, you’ve had failures. Forget ’em. Dwelling over them is a waste of time and it’s wrong kind of self-talk. At the same time, you learned lessons. Never forget those. Leverage them. They’re a gift if you learn from them.

Which of these lessons are possible to repeat? Whatever they are, put systems in place to help you prevent them from ever happening again, just like the systems you have in place to manage and organize the rest of your business.

What have you learned from the systems of your business’ past?

Digging deeper

A little further down in your stocking is a gift from the present – What your business is doing today.

Look hard at your existing revenues and where they come from. What areas can have layers (or ladders) added? Which areas can be transformed into recurring revenue? Of the customers you have, what needs do they have that you aren’t serving? What can you do to build a stronger foundation, infrastructure for your business today that will serve your customers better?

If you have staff, are they creating enough value to make it easy to keep them on the job? If not – it’s your job to fix that. If you haven’t created work for them that generates profit (directly or indirectly), find some even if it requires training them to improve their value to you and to their family.

Stability today is what gives you the ability to think clearly, breathe and create the business you had in mind when you started. These steps are what help you get there. Every day, work on one of them. Pick the one that can impact your business the most and knock it out.

At the very bottom

Dig deep into your stocking. At the very bottom you’ll find a permission slip. That’s your gift from the future.

It’s there to grant you serious time for thought, one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

Choose an afternoon or a morning, whatever works best for you. Rather than spending time in the present, take an hour to look far enough into the future to see the business in its ideal state.

If it was hitting on all cylinders, what would it look like? What kind of customers would line up to do business there? What would you know about their needs and wants? What products and services would your business offer? Think abou every single aspect of that “perfect” business. What makes it resilient? What kind of innovation fuels its growth?

What would your staff’s experience include? Would you even have a staff?

Layers

In this “perfect” state, what would your involvement be? You might be so excited to get to work each day that you can’t sleep past five a.m. Or you might stop by the business once a week if you feel like it. Whatever seems right for you.

With those things in hand, work backwards from that ideal state to today, layer by layer, year by year, month by month. With each step, ask yourself what it would take to make each aspect of this future vision happen.

Work your way back to today. Those layers…they’re the 10,000 foot view of your plan. When you’ve worked your way back to today, you’re ready.

The next step is to work the plan that gets you to that desired state.

First, you’ve got to come up with it. You have half a day. Go.

Categories
Business model Management Positioning Productivity Small Business strategic planning

Three Quarters

Seventy-five percent of the calendar year is behind you.

Can the same be said for the year’s goals, income expectations, etc?

Will you wait until the end of the year to plan your next 6-12-18 months or are you doing it now?

How often do you review the results of your work?

On the other hand…does it really matter? I mean, is there really a good reason to defer the decision about when you reassess your business to a schedule designed almost 500 years ago?

Yes, I mean the monthly calendar.

What can you do better on January 2 that you can’t assess, decide and plan on today or perhaps next weekend?

Wait

As in “Why wait?”

Business owners assess the financial position of their business on a regular basis since they have to make payroll (no matter what that means to your business) and pay bills. Today’s software and banking systems provide up to the minute balance info.

Thing is, so do most other aspects of your business.  But do you use them?

Are you assessing the rest of your business as often as your financials?

Are you adjusting your plans based on the results you’ve measured in the last week, month, quarter? Have the first three quarters of this year changed what you’re implementing now? Are you re-inventing the rest of this year? Does it need it? Whether things are better or worse, if you are waiting till the end of the year to adjust….why?

Do you only look at your gas gauge when you leave the house and arrive at your destination? Why do that with your business?

Do the bumps your business encountered this year matter? What would you do differently if they came along again?

Bumps

My plans for this year got hit by a bus in April.

I was fortunate because I had been able to position myself to grab some clothes, my laptop and phone and head out the door if I needed to deal with an unplanned emergency. Unfortunately, that emergency happened.

While it still had an impact on my work – I was still able to respond as I wished vs. not being able to do anything or worse, do far less than what I would have liked. That’s a regret you don’t want to have if you can help it, but you’ll probably have to plan for it.

Planning for the work, if you can’t outsource it, is another thing entirely. What can you outsource? What can you outsource if you HAVE to?

Your plans might take a hit next month. Tis better to be prepared than not, even if you can’t be perfectly ready.

Expect bumps. Plan for them. Sometimes the worst case scenario comes true. If it doesn’t, you can be grateful that it didn’t.

If a bump occurs, no matter how bad, coming back for it might look something like this: React, respond, recover, realign, restructure, reset, restart.

Is that all?

Beyond the bumps, there’s something missing here. Reacting after the fact. Assessment and adjustment after the bleeding starts. Evaluating what’s going on because the calendar says so.

Does that make sense in an ultra-competitive world? I think there has to be a better way.

We’ll talk about that next time.

Categories
Business model Competition Creativity Improvement Leadership planning Positioning Small Business Software business strategic planning

What would happen if yours was perfect?

bzzzzzzz
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?