Archive for the 'Business Strategy & Planning' Category

Demystifying the Art of Action Planning

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Do you have an area in your business that you want to grow or change? Sometimes it feels like you can’t get there fast enough.

Setting goals can seem intimidating until you realize goals are simply statements of results you want: be more profitable, finish a big project, launch a new service, or help more clients. It’s more than a mere wish list; it’s stating exactly what you want, and what you’re willing to work towards.

The trick is to get from goal setting to goal attainment. That’s where you hit potholes and brick walls. Being a planner rather than a jumper will get you quicker results.

Start with Big Picture Goals

Before you jump into details, start with big results you want for your business over the coming year. People often confuse goals with projects, and the easiest way to split them apart is to ask yourself some questions.

  • What results are you trying to achieve and why (goals)?
  • Which vehicles will you use to attain those goals (projects)?

For instance, say your goal is to launch a new class. But there’s a reason you’re launching this new class, right?

Maybe it’s a free class to build your mailing list. Your goal is to build your list; your project is to create and offer a free class.

Or maybe it’s a paid class to show your expert status and build income. Your goal is revenue generation and visibility; your project is the paid class.

By asking yourself why you want to achieve something, you get to your core goals.

ACTION STEP: Pause for a moment and write three big goals you have for the next 12 months.

Brainstorm Your Projects

Now that you have your goals in mind, let’s talk about how to achieve them. There are many paths that will lead you to the same goal. Choosing your projects wisely will help you get where you’re going.

Start by brainstorming all the projects that can help you achieve the same goal. For example, say that one of your goals is to build your expert platform and to get known. You could boost your blog audience, write a book, teach a class, do more speaking engagements, start a column in a national magazine or website, hire a PR firm, or create a podcast. All of these things will show you’re an authority in your field.

How do you know which projects are the best ones to tackle? Here’s a checklist to help you decide:

  • Which ones inspire and excite you?
  • Which ones align with your personality, knowledge and skill set?
  • Which ones match the way your audience likes to connect with you?
  • Which ones fit your budget?
  • Which ones are likely to get you to your goals the fastest?

ACTION STEP: Pick one or two projects to work over the next year.

You can always add more later, but choosing too many projects will overwhelm you and cause you to lose focus. Start the year right: don’t overburden yourself.

Tap Your Task List

Write a list of the tasks to complete for your project. Next to each task indicate whether it’s a task you will do or whether you’ll need to outsource it to someone else. Also note whether a task will require a specific resource, like hiring someone to update your website, or taking a class to learn a new skill.

Say that your project is to create a new class. Tasks might include writing a lesson plan, creating worksheets or a student guide, selecting a teaching method, picking dates for the class, setting a price for the class, creating a marketing plan for the class, etc.

ACTION STEP: Take one of your projects and begin writing a To Do list of tasks needed to accomplish that project.

Next, organize the tasks into a logical order. Let’s use the class design project as an example. You’ll need to write a lesson plan so you know how long the class is, and what you’ll cover, before you can set the price or write your marketing copy. And you’ll need to write the marketing copy before the sales page can be put up on your website.

Tally up those tasks and the timing for each one, and calculate when the project is likely to be finished. Allow for some “stretch time” in your action planning; you never know when you’ll hit a bump in the road that might delay your project.

ACTION STEP: Organize the tasks, and take an educated guess as to how long each task will take.

Get Moving, It’s Easy

You have an action plan for your project. That’s great!

Now it’s time to start implementing that plan. This is a place where many people freeze. You look at your To Do list and it feels like climbing Mount Everest. Don’t look at the totality of every task on your list. It’s not possible to do all those tasks simultaneously, so step back and focus on the very first task.

ACTION STEP: Look for one action you can take right now. Just one action, no more.

If your project is to write your marketing copy, your one action might be to write the headline. If your project is to create a profit model for your class, your one action could be to calculate your costs so you know your class will be profitable.

By breaking projects and tasks into small increments, you achieve everything – on time, on budget, and with grace and satisfaction.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time

Why Redesign Your Business?

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Did you know your business runs in cycles? The key to a successful business is to begin the process of change, growth and/or innovation before the preceding cycle of success runs out.

Over the years, I’ve had an influx of prospective clients come to me with these exact words: “I want to rethink my business.”  I thought:  Cool! Me, too!

For me, I want to shake things up a bit. Running my business is too easy for me. There’s not a lot of day-to-day challenge and I don’t feel like I’m reaching my full potential. I don’t know what my full potential IS — but I know I’m not there yet. Have you ever felt like that?

A great way to keep growing personally and professionally is to keep rethinking and redesigning your business model without completely wiping away everything you’ve done in the past. Take all your experience and knowledge, plus any new goals and lifestyle changes, and make a plan for your future business.

Redesigning Your Business Model

There are lots of reasons why people redesign their business model. Here are some of the ones I’ve heard recently:

  • One of my clients needs to take her business completely virtual so that she can travel extensively with her husband, who retired early.
  • Another client said he wants to make more money so that he can send his kids to college in a few years.
  • One of my business colleagues wants to expand the services and products he offers to his customer base, to be more “full service” and have multiple streams of income.
  • One of my favorites is a colleague who wants to make her business completely based on passive income by selling educational products about her field of expertise. So not only is she redesigning what she offers her audience but her marketing model as well!
  • And last but not least, one colleague wants to completely redesign herself, sell her existing business, and take everything she knows and loves, creating a whole new career/business for herself.

Do any of these sounds like you? If yes, are there specific reasons why you’re transforming your business or marketing model, or just a gut feeling you have? I’d love to hear your comments!

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Rethinking Your Business
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It’s So Important to Take Time Off

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entreprenuers take time offEvery weekend, my husband (who is also my business partner) and I take one day off from our busy schedules, either to go somewhere interesting and relaxing, or to visit with family and friends.

We’re just like you: we run our own businesses (which could keep us working 24/7 if we’re not careful) and we have things that need to get done around the house, too. Plus the cars need servicing, the cats need to go to the vet, laundry piles up, and food shopping is a necessary evil. You know the drill.

But being so busy all the time leads to mental, emotional, physical and spiritual fatigue. We can’t be our best in our business if we are constantly doing, doing, doing.

For instance, one weekend we spent the day Sunday at the Delaware Water Gap. There are lovely sites to see here, including some stunning waterfalls. I happily spent the day snapping photos, hiking to the top of the waterfall (ouch!), and puttering around Peter’s Valley Craft Store. I didn’t think about business once.

When I came into the office this morning, my head was clear, my senses calm, and my creativity soaring. I got more done this morning than I could have gotten done in TWO days if I hadn’t taken Sunday as a rest day.

Many people think they can’t afford to take time off. Trust me: one day away from the computer, the phone, the house, the office will gain you far more than the time you took off.

Play hookey…take a day off and do something fun, inspiring, delightful!

What do you do to take time off?

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time

Choose One Project

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I’m just like you — just like every entrepreneur I know. I have a million ideas and I want to do them ALL right away!

Here’s how that’s killing your business.

I learned an important and enlightening lesson last year that I’d like to share with you. By focusing all my attention, energy, time and resources on One Big Project, I increased my income — and more importantly, I was happier and more relaxed.

I was shocked!

Even though experts had been telling me for years to focus on just one thing, I didn’t want to give up my freedom and creativity. I liked having multiple projects to work on. It made me feel vibrant and alive.

But it also made me feel unproductive, cranky, overwhelmed, and a nervous wreck. And guilty because I was having a hard time completing just one of those projects to my satisfaction. Hmmmm.

Imagine you are driving down a busy highway at rush hour. Now imagine that there are three other people in the car with you, all trying to have a conversation with you. Now your cell phone rings. In between all this talking, ideas pop into your head so you pull out your mobile device to type in some text notes.

Crazy, right? You’ll have a car accident any minute now.

Yet that’s exactly what you’re doing to your business when you try to focus on multiple projects or multiple goals simultaneously.

Multi-tasking Myth

In the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield said, “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once — but there is not time enough in the year if you will do two things at a time.”

Doing more than one thing at once doesn’t get more done and doesn’t make you more efficient. Recent studies by several research teams prove this point.

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, when you toggle between multiple tasks or multiple projects, you are using what’s known as the “executive control” process. This mental CEO has to choose priorities and allocate thinking/creativity resources. The more you switch between tasks, the longer it takes to re-focus attention and resources.

David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist at the University of Michigan said in a recent New York Times article, “Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes.” When it comes to your business, mistakes will cost you. Can you afford to lose time or money?

On a practical level, working on multiple projects simultaneously made me feel scattered, out-of-control, and diffused my intellectual and creative abilities. When I slowed down and focused on one major project for a full two months, four great things happened:

  • I felt more in control
  • I was much more relaxed
  • My confidence soared
  • I was able to get the project completed a full four weeks ahead of schedule.

It was as if I had been released from a multi-tasking prison of my own making.

Talk about freedom!

Choose One, Master It, Move On

In his book, “Getting Things Done,” David Allen suggests you create a list of “Areas of Focus.” Start by looking at the areas you manage in your business (you can create a separate list for your personal life). In business you may have these areas: marketing, sales, finances, customer contact, product/service development, operations/administration, long-range planning/strategy, etc.

Next, list all your possible projects in each of these areas. Once you have your full projects list, look them over and ask yourself:

  • Which project will most likely lead me towards my large business goals?
  • Which project will lead me in the direction I want to take for my business?
  • Which project am I ready to tackle now?
  • Which project inspires me?
  • Which project scares me?

Then choose one project that will have the biggest impact on the success of your business.

If the project scares you, ask yourself why. Figure out where you’ll need some help, education or resources in order to complete that project.

In speaking with some of my mastermind group members about this subject last week, they reminded me that you don’t have to focus on one thing for an entire year. Try it for three months or six months, and see what results you are getting, both financial and emotional.

Once you complete a project or master a new skill, then you can move on to the next one on your list. In this way, you can have both things in your life: a successful business and getting multiple things done in one year.

First, choose one project. Finish it. Then move on to the next.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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A Little At a Time

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Many small business owners feel overwhelmed with what they have to do and the time constraints they have for accomplishing both big goals and everyday tasks.

I heard an interview with Zack Hample (who wrote a book about baseball). Zack has a 203 pound rubber band ball in his home. The interviewer asked Zack if he was obsessive. Zack replies,

“I started working on that thing when I was four. So we’re talking about decades here, and it’s not like I work on it every day. Sometimes I’ll add a pound a day for a week, then I won’t touch it for a year. So, you know, you work on something for a few decades, it’s going to be BIG and CRAZY if you stick with it.”

Building a business, building your dream, will take time and tenacity. But if you really want it, work on it a little every day with the knowledge that it will become what you want in time.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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What’s Your Learning Plan?

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People always focus on New Year’s resolutions at the end of December, but I have a better way of ringing in the new year.

I love to learn fresh ideas and new skills. The phrase Lifelong Learning truly defines the way I live my life.

So this week, I wrote my “learning plan” for the next 12 months, in terms of business and marketing topics I want to study … I also plan to learn how to cook vegetarian meals!

By asking a series of questions, I came up with a list of what I want to study next year. This helps me to keep focused on specific topics and not run around trying to learn everything at the same time. (I can see you nodding in agreement. We must avoid Shiny Object Syndrome at all costs!)

Here’s how to create a focus for your learning plan:

  1. What are my big goals for the next 12 months for my business?
  2. What topics do I need to study to attain those goals?
  3. Of all the thing I can study, which ONE THING is the most important to start with?
  4. How long do I want to devote to studying that topic?
  5. What resources do I currently have available to study this topic?  (What do you have in your bookshelf or on your own hard drive right now?)
  6. Where can I get further resources for studying this topic? What books are available? What classes can I take? Who do I know who is a whiz-bang at this topic, so I can pick their brains?

My personal learning planning came down to one focus topic for January/February: writing and editing. My goal for this year is to write at least two books (one is already finished). Here are the ways I’ll implement my learning plan:

  • Getting thoughts on paper isn’t the same thing as a well-crafted manuscript, so I hired a mentor to look over my work and show me how to take my writing to a new level.
  • I have some writing books on my shelf, like On Writing Well by William Zinsser and Writing Nonfiction by Dan Poynter.
  • My friend, Pamela Wilson, just published her first book, Master Content Marketing, and I can pick her brains about the writing/publishing journey she went through.
  • Even better, she chronicled her journey in a podcast series for Rainmaker FM/Copyblogger called Zero to Book, so I’ll load that onto my smartphone.

By asking the right question, assets will come to mind which have been neglected. Now I have quite a few assets to explore in January and February.

Then I repeated the process to pick a key topic for all the remaining months for next year. For instance:

  • in March I’ll be studying email marketing campaign funnel design
  • in April I’ll focus on the psychology of marketing and why people buy
  • in May I’ll look at website traffic conversion

Then I’ll collapse in a puddle of happiness, with a full brain and tons of ideas to implement in June through December! 🙂

(There’s no sense in learning a lot if you don’t plan time for implementation. Don’t crowd your calendar with monthly learning; give yourself some assimilation space.)

Special Tip: Having a hard time keeping track of all the notes you take on a certain learning topic? My favorite note-taking tool is Evernote (www.evernote.com), a great web-based, computer-based and mobile app tool to help with keeping notes, including a way to tag each note with keywords for easy look-up. Your notes sync across your devices — a wonderful way to take notes on the go then have them on your work computer when you get back to the office. Neato!

Take a moment right now: What topic do you want to learn more about next year?

Best of luck to you as you design your own Learning Plan for next year! It’s exciting!!

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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