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When The Customers View Drives Your Best Business Strategy

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When making strategy decisions, there is always a risk of taking an inside-out view, i.e. one from the business perspective, a “how” mindset more concerned by feasibility. The opposite is an outside-in view, which looks at the situation through another person’s eyes – preferably those of the customers the business is trying to serve. This “why” mindset is similar to Steve Jobs’ when he asked people to do new thing without regard to how they would make it happen.

The tendency for business leaders to choose feasible ideas over their customers’ want of the most creative ideas can unintentionally limit growth, or make it harder to attain. More often than not, this results in ‘me-too-ism’ strategies, with companies competing without any real advantage – and ultimately leading to lower growth and profits.

When deriving winning strategies, staying in touch with the customers helps to be relevant even as the market changes. This forces companies to unhook themselves from assumptions about what they can do or how they should do it and, instead, to look at where the market landscape seems to be going. The intersection between what the company does well and what the

The Importance of Business Succession Planning

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Privately owned businesses are a key part of business in the US. However, many small businesses consider what will happen to the business once they retire. Most of the time spent in the business is related to building, hiring the right people, working against the competition, but rarely succession planning. This is a misstep that should be corrected. Most business owners don’t want to address succession planning because it reminds them of having to retire or even that they will someday pass away. Successful business owners cannot imagine anyone else running their business, so they don’t address the issue. With that attitude the potential for a business to have to close when an owner passes away or retires due to health issues, then there is no time to plan. Succession planning needs to be done now.

• Succession planning is a multi-faceted and complicated subject.
• Owners know any succession selection will likely isolate those who are passed over, potentially offending key people in the organization.
• If employees include the owner’s family members, family dynamics-good and bad-will be drawn in, making most owners anxious about succession planning.
• Most business owners

5 Things to Consider If You’re Starting a Business

Cheerful young woman shaking hands with her future employer

You’ve decided to do it! You have a great product or service and you want to be your own boss. You’re starting a business.

Here are 5 Things that You Need to Do to be Successful.

  • Cash Management. You can make a profit and still go out of business for lack of cash. Plan ahead. What inventory will you need to purchase? How much do you need to have on hand? How will you collect payment from clients? How long will it take from them to pay you? Do you have a loan payment? Will the things you need (like gas) rise and fall? Can you handle it when they go up? These are all things you need to consider – things you need to understand and know how you will deal with them. If a big customer pays late, you need to be able to keep doing business. If your fuel costs double, you need to handle the increase.

Keep Planning. Once you have a plan, don’t put it away and forget it. Review it

3 Main Areas Borrowers Should Consider in Alternative Lenders

As the comments period given by the Treasury Department is coming to a close, ayes now turn toward what really should come out of the exercise. The whole process was aimed at obtaining suggestions that would lead to improving the online marketplace lending services to the public.

With so many bottlenecks involved in getting small loans from traditional banks, these services provide a much needed alternative to bank loans for both businesses and consumers.

With them around, banks can concentrate on larger customers and leave those who need financing of about $250,000 or less to these alternative lenders.

The volume of small loans is rapidly growing. This is drawing many players into the industry. With a crowded market like that, underhanded practices are bound to arise especially given the largely unregulated nature of this alternative lenders’ market.

Pressure to sign up without understanding terms of the loan and being influenced to sign up for loans at exceedingly high interest rates are some of the drawbacks that entrepreneurs face in this industry. But all that can be eased off if they take time to understand the following areas.

Disclosure

Small-business borrowers are supposed to see all the details relating to the financing they are seeking to be

7 Steps to Writing an Effective One-Page Business Plan

Writing a business plan doesn’t have to be boring or complicated.

And it certainly doesn’t have to be long.

In fact, the longer your business plan, the less likely you will use it.

A business plan is meant to be used. It’s meant for you to make use of and revisit often. It’s not something you create once and store in some remote part of your hard drive.

If you have been avoiding creating a business plan because you find it overwhelming, tedious and time consuming, then I want to introduce you to the simple 7 steps to writing a business plan on a single page.

Yes, a one-page business plan.

Writing your business plan on a single page can be much less daunting and something you can easily use and modify as needed.

It’s a much more efficient and faster way of writing a business plan – one that you will actually use – and won’t take a lot of time or effort on your part as a traditional business plan.

So don’t waste too much time starting a business plan, and start with the following 7-step plan to developing a business plan from scratch for your online business.

Step 1: Know Your Target Audience

If you’re going to

Strategic Planning: A 6-Step Process

Many leadership trainers have begun to stress the importance for organizations to create a way to institute a strategic plan, and having the ability to measure progress and performance (often referred to as metrics). There is no doubt that there is a need for this form of comprehensive, in-depth evaluation and understanding, done with the objective of developing the best strategy to help the group achieve to its optimal level, but, all too often, organizations do little more than spend lots of time, money and energy, and discuss things, but it often degenerates to little more than a moan and groan, or blame and complain, exercise, and little significant progress occurs. Having witnessed this lack of positive plans or programs created, far too often, during my over three decades of identifying, qualifying, developing, training and consulting, to over a thousand individuals in positions of leadership, as well as facilitated Board and organizational strategic planning sessions, I feel a simplified process, with checks and balances, and quality reviews, is a needed understanding. Here is a 6-step process to improve the results of strategic plans.

1. Historic/heritage review and consideration: This must not be done as a one-plan-fits-all, but rather must be

Does Your Business Need To Hire An IT Consultant

Whatever your type of business you own, you need to make sure that you’re using the latest technologies and software to provide quality solutions to your clients. Not only does using only the latest technology help you achieve your goals faster, doing so also ensures that you’re ahead of the competition. However, with the fast paced change in technology, keeping up with technological advances can be an uphill battle. Most businesses are not knowledgeable regarding technology so most of them are stuck with whatever their system is, for better or for worse.

For newer businesses, adaptation of technological advances should be embedded into their business plan. Newer businesses should make use of technology unlike older businesses. Businesses nowadays should even have their own IT department to sort out systems for the entire business. Financially speaking, hiring an IT department makes sense, wise even. Working with an IT consulting services company will provide the following benefits.

Assistance to business

Hiring an IT consulting firm is like hiring hundreds of people to do a business analysis on your company. IT consultants have experience in implementing projects for numerous companies and they know the best ways to go about it. Having learned from all their previous

How to Write a Simple Business Plan for a Haulage Business

While it’s true that some of the largest haulage enterprises started from very humble beginnings, the one thing virtually all successful ventures share is a strategic, well thought out business plan. Often, writing a business plan can be perceived as being a tedious, time consuming chore only knocked up when the bank manager insists on it, however it is an exciting opportunity to establish a clear vision and direction for the future of your new business venture or strengthen the foundations of your existing haulage operation.

Plan the Plan

A good business plan needs to be written with a purpose in mind. Is it simply a road map for internal use, or is it to be used to seek funds from a financial institution or other third party investor? While a well-researched plan can be diversified and adapted to different purposes, the focus may change depending on what it is to be used for.

Covering the Basics

Whether you are planning for a large business or an owner-driver operation, taking on a limited number of haulage jobs, the basics of a business plan will cover the same: structure, strategies and financials. Before you begin, make sure that you have as much information

Five Reasons You Need a Strategic Plan That Works And How to Use It to Get Results

Putting together a strategic plan is simple enough. Why pay for a professional facilitator who will charge us thousands when you can do it yourself for next to nothing? So why do many plans end up not being followed? Here’s the thinking that defines the value a board or committee puts on their organisation.

Do you really understand your organisation as it should be? Will your plan take you to the next level or is it just a reflection of what you think you ought to be doing? Or is it a vindication of what you are already doing? Who or what is challenging you, stretching your limits and providing a strong focus for the next few years?

Here are five reasons why you need a strategic plan that works:

    1. Your members and stakeholders rely on your leadership to position the organisation and to ensure ongoing profitability. Even a not-for-profit must remain viable and sustainable, just like a business. You need a vision of where you want to be. What is the ideal status of your organisation and community or clients you serve? How does it look and feel? If you don’t have an organisational vision, then your organisation is going nowhere.
    1. Your

Business Strategy Stocking Up the Right Way

For a production process to run smoothly, having the right quantity at hand is a must. Whether it takes place in one’s kitchen or in a factory, having control over your inventory is an assurance that production is efficient and costs are kept at a minimum.

Proper inventory control happens when there is optimal procurement, care, and disposition of the right materials which are required for the manufacturer or distributor. The output of inventory control manifests itself in the proper maintenance of stock that is in line with the market demand and sales trends. It is able to reduce carrying and holding costs as well as improve the stock turnover rates. Furthermore, a business’ reputation can be solidified by having adequate merchandise on stock all the time.

For better control of inventory, here are five steps that help make the process simpler and may contribute to the overall success of a business.

  1. Plan the inventory. Efficient inventory control begins with a well-organized and structured plan. The movement of new goods should be organized and must have a well thought out schedule. For instance, stocks that have been on-shelf for several months should be replaced as soon as possible. In the same way,

Tips to Choose the Best Engineering Service Company

The technological advancement has fascinated the entire world so much that every platform asks for engineering solutions to come out with the best designing, outsourcing and other engineering related services. However, to achieve this goal many companies are set up which provide special engineering services. These companies have wide networks and work with cross vertical domains to support their customers in most challenging and complex engineering initiatives.

While finding the best company is not an easy task, you need to consider several things and pick out the consulting company according to your requirements. Though, companies often work with a sole objective of delivering excellence, integrity, passion and the highest standards of work, it is your task to judge how successful they are in achieving that objective.

Here’s a list of the things you need to check out before picking the perfect company consulting in engineering services.

Services offered

There’s a no doubt that engineering services are expensive and the investors expect better returns out of that. However, the outputs depend on the choices you make. And to start choosing the best, the foremost thing that you shall check out is the list of services offered by the particular company.

  • Mechanical engineering design and examination services

5 Challenges in Business Intelligence and How to Solve Them

Ever wondered what a well-planned and deployed business intelligence project can do for your business without all the challenges? By now if you’re not aggressively mining your data you’re not only leaving money on the table, you’re falling behind your competitors. Looking for basic aberrations and trends in data for sales, marketing, operations and customers is second nature to most companies. This will help you tread water for a time but did you know you unlock exponential value to your data once you reach cross functional, role based, and collaborative analysis which enables iterative business process improvement?

The challenges to operative data visibility are pretty easy to identify in a company. Do any of these ring a bell? You have a thousand spreadsheets stored on your network and different departments may have different values for the same measure? The executives have clear objectives and have a strategy but if you ask an individual contributor there is only a vague notion of what they are, or are pursuing their own department objectives? You have data, a vision for analyzing your marketing or industry metrics but your IT department takes so long to assist with setting up the reporting tools and infrastructure that

The 10 Barriers That Keep Organizations From Reaching Their Goals

Clear goals are no more likely to emerge from vague or fuzzy thinking than change will politely slow down waiting for you to catch up. Change is a phenomenon of time. It is the rate at which something new appears and the point at which it is realized. Goals are the focal point to keep us moving in the right direction as the shift begins to happen.

Your strategic goals are the results that you absolutely, positively intend to achieve for the business. They determine how you set priorities, manage, and allocate resources. There is a hierarchy to goals that cascade down from the broad strategic plan, to the operational goals, the tactics, and the day-to-day operation of the business.

Without a plan of action, without well defined targets it is difficult for anyone in the organization to know what changes to make to get the best results. In the absence of goals, people improvise. Staring in the face of the unexpected, rather than looking forward, people rely on rules of the past. Skill routines and rote responses replace critical thinking, judgment, effective problem solving, and good decision making.

The result is goal dissonance; a gap between where you are and where

The Four Biggest Challenges to Enterprise IoT Implementation

After endless cycles of hype and hyperbole, it seems most business executives are still excited about the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, a recent survey of 200 IT and business leaders conducted by TEKSystems ® and released in January 2016 determined that 22% of the organizations surveyed have already realized significant benefits from their early IoT initiatives. Additionally, a full 55% expect a high level of impact from IoT initiatives over the next 5 years. Conversely, only 2% predicted no impact at all.

Respondents also cited the key areas in which they expect to see some of the transformational benefits of their IoT efforts, including creating a better user and customer experience (64%), sparking innovation (56%), creating new and more efficient work practices and business processes, (52%) and creating revenue streams through new products and services (50%).

So, with the early returns indicating there are in fact real, measurable benefits to be won in the IoT, and the majority of executives expect these benefits to be substantial, why are some organizations still reluctant to move forward with their own IoT initiatives?

As could be expected, security is the biggest concern, cited by approximately half of respondents.

Increased exposure of data/information

Tips For Selecting The Right Planning And Forecasting Technologies

Most companies struggle with planning, budgeting, and forecasting as well as reporting. Planning is a critical area in managing business finance as well as other matters and can determine the success or failure of the business. However, the planning process takes time and is a huge burden to many companies.

Businesses can address the obstacles by leveraging new technologies and employing the best practices in planning, budgeting, and forecasting. With the use of the right software, businesses are able to come up with accurate plans, timely forecasts, and few errors in the management policies.

The software that you select should be able to support accepted best practices in financial planning. This helps enhance the reliability of the information and promotes participation by all departments in the organization. In addition, it should enable the planners to align operating plans to strategic thinking. It should make it easy for the heads of departments to put together their objectives and ways to achieve the goals that the financial managers can eventually translate them into financial targets and the cost centers.

The technology should be tied to the core business drivers that are used in the formulas. This use of past data does not take into account

Steps to a Better Execution Management System

The present-day business scenario is highly competitive and volatile. Most of the time business managers have numerous plans to execute and multiple strategies to implement. While plans are made rather spontaneously, the time taken to turn them into fruitful action turns out to be quite long. And this problem arises from the absence of what is known as an Execution Management System. This, though a common term in the field of trading and stock market, is as much applicable and relevant for the entire business scenario. The system ensures that your strategies are put into action and that the results are estimated.

When you implement an execution management system, there are certain things you need to do simultaneously. Taking the following steps will improve the efficacy of the Execution Management System.

  • To begin with, it is necessary that you make short-term plans instead of long-term ones. Meet up on a quarterly basis; decide on the next set of actions and also the way to go about them. When you meet once in a year, the discussions get longer and the strategies more complicated. Consequently, sound executive management automatically becomes least feasible. Short-term plans, on the other hand, are better executed and the

Strategy Execution 2 Tips to Improve Decision Making

Understanding how the brain processes and responds to information and how this impacts our decision making can improve our strategy execution. Many people have spent time trying to understand how we make decisions. Yet years of research within psychology, and supported by neuroscience, finds that the way we go about making decisions isn’t always rational.

There are two pair of neural systems that have significant impact on our judgment and the quality of decisions we make-automatic reactions and voluntary processing and emotion and reason.

Automatic and Voluntary

Automatic reactions, such as recognizing a face, are learned responses based on experience that quickly bring about intuitive answers to situations. These are the actions that kick in when a situation seems familiar and require little or no conscious thought.

Voluntary processing is our conscious and deliberate information manager. It is slower to engage and can only support a small number of tasks at a time, while multiple automatic reactions can be carried out simultaneously.

Voluntary processing, however, seems to account for only a small part of our overall behavior and frequently struggles to compete with our automatic reactions. Think about it this way: our actions and choices are initially determined by automatic reactions and voluntary processing kicks

This Small Change Leads to Big Growth

There is steady growth, then there is big growth. When a company plans on pushing a growth strategy they typically look at increasing their marketing and advertising efforts to gain more customers. This may be needed in certain situations, however there are ways to increase your revenues by 15% – 20% without adding huge resources to marketing. How, you ask? Let me explain.

We all know, or should know, that it costs your company more money to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer. All companies want new customers, however your focus should be more on retention and expansion rather than acquisition. Do you know how much it costs you to get a customer? Do you know how long it takes to acquire a new customer? You should. Retaining and expanding your existing customers is far less expensive and it builds all those warm and fuzzy things that marketing works so hard to accomplish- like word of mouth referrals and customer loyalty.

Once your prospect is a customer, does the honeymoon end? How is the level of service beyond the initial sales process? If your company is like most companies, this is where the relationship starts

Year End Jobs for Your Business

  1. Get your books ready for year-end.
  2. Use the information you gathered to create a test budget for 2016 using last years prices. TIP: You can create this budget using QuickBooks or you can make your own Excel Spreadsheet.
  3. Check your profit margins in each area of your business i.e. lessons, boarding, horse sales, shows, camps etc.. Identify both your top profit centers and the areas of your business that are financially troublesome.
  4. Schedule client meetings now (rather than waiting until January) so that you can review their goals and also gather information about what they value about your business.
  5. Write value propositions for each segment (boarding, shows, lessons, camps etc.) of your business. Use a customer empathy map to help you get started and also a feature/benefit list.
  6. Decide how much you need to raise your prices in the upcoming year. Base your pricing increase on a combination of three factors. First, the financial needs of your business (what it needs to be profitable). Second, what the market will bear. Third, implement a value based pricing strategy. If you have taken the time to talk to your clients and write value propositions for each segment of your business you will have a very good idea

How Lean Startup Methods Apply to Non Tech Small Businesses

The traditional trajectory of idea, assemble a team, build a product, market the product and sell it as hard as you can has proven to be a recipe for failure in today’s fast-paced competitive business environment. Big and costly mistakes are made when this type of hit-or-miss new product introduction process. The big idea isn’t validated in the marketplace, market behaviors, needs and desires are often misjudged and what could have become a compelling business proposition becomes small business roadkill on the startup highway to success.

In 2008 US based tech startups have used the lean startup processes outlined by Eric Reis, Steve Blank and Alexander Osterwalder. It is a system that values experimentation over planning, market feedback over intuition and an iterative approach to product development instead of a belief that if fully built the customers will come.

The ever evolving lean canvas has replaced the established business plan. Instead of assuming that the imagined business model will work, the lean system searches for a business model that works based on actual evidence. It is said that business plans rarely survive the first contact with customers. They often don’t behave in the way you think they will. Boxer Mike Tyson perhaps

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