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 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 revenue. 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 faster, with less effort and friction.

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. I call this your Action Plan.

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 which topics 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

8 Ways to Increase Revenue in 2020

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When planning for the year, remember that there are 8 ways to increase your income:

  1. Sell more quantity of your existing offers. If you typically have 25 people in a workshop, aim for getting 30 or 40 in your next workshop. If you work one-on-one with clients, add more private clients to your roster.
  2. Increase the price of your existing offers. Without changing your offer, increase your fees. If you’re still charging the same fees as you did five years ago, it’s time to look at your pricing model.
  3. Increase the price and increase the value. Change your offer to be more complete and compelling, and increase your fees. Make sure that you haven’t increased the value by adding more of your personal resources, otherwise the offer isn’t scalable. For instance, if you previously offered a six-session consulting package and now you’re making it an eight-session package, you’ve just used up two extra hours of your time. Even if you charge more for it, are you actually making more income from it? Instead, consider adding something valuable to your clients that doesn’t require you to spend massively more money, time or resources to deliver. Do the math to be sure that the cost doesn’t outweigh the income.
  4. Decrease the size/quantity of your existing offers without reducing the price. You see this all the time in the supermarket – a 12-ounce box of cookies now becomes a 10-ounce box of cookies, but the price stays the same. Where can you cut back and still deliver value? Which parts of your offer are not used by your clients?
  5. Create new offers that leverage your time and resources. If you’ve maxed out of offering private, one-on-one consulting with clients, can you offer a mastermind group or workshop that maximizes your time by working with groups of clients rather than individuals? Can you create an online self-study program?
  6. Upsell existing customers to the next level of your offering. Your clients love you and they want to work more closely with you, or they’re asking for a specific resource that you can provide. When my existing consulting clients wanted a systematic way to manage their projects, tasks, and time, I wrote a book and created a class to help them. How can you serve your existing customers better and provide what they’re asking for?
  7. Go to the master level – teach others how to do your work. For instance, after 20 years as a small business consultant, I now teach people how to become small business consultants and run an efficient, thriving consulting business of their own. What do you know, that you can teach others who are starting on your same career path?
  8. Hire others to do some of the work for you. If you typically bill out at $200/hour, can you hire others at $150/hour do the client work, and you keep the extra $50/hour as your commission for bringing in the clients? This is especially helpful when you have limited time and too many clients to handle personally, or if you want to create an agency model for your business.

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

Small Business Fear, Success, and Daily Rituals

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What makes one small business owner more successful than another? Trust me, it’s not lack of fear.

We’re all afraid of failing, of our offer being rejected, of making a complete flop of a project, of screwing up a business relationship.

What’s the difference between entrepreneurs who are successful and those who aren’t? Successful entrepreneurs have an even bigger fear: fear of what their life will look like if they don’t pursue their dreams.

They aren’t willing to settle for the way things are now. They don’t sit around hoping things will change. They take action. They go out and try things.

They can’t stand the idea of missing out on the big win, or how they will feel about themselves if they don’t put their total focus, emotion and effort into creating the life they want.

Successful entrepreneurs love to feel progress; they like to move forward towards their goals. They don’t wait until they’ve hit rock bottom and are so desperate that they’re finally motivated enough to do something about their situation. Instead, they create clarity about what they truly want and then they take action each day.

Six things successful small business owners do daily:

  1. Constantly ask, “What’s next for my business?”
  2. Understand your motivations and why you want your goals.
  3. Choose one thing each day to focus on and accomplish, even if you only have 15 minutes a day to work on that one thing. Daily momentum is what creates success, not the huge once-a-year breakthroughs.
  4. Only work on projects and goals that you’re passionate about and will lead you to your ultimate goal.
  5. Know that if you follow a set of steps that you’ve outlined for your business or project, that you will achieve your goals. It goes beyond merely “believing” that these steps will create the outcome you want; you know they will at a gut level.
  6. Trust yourself and be willing to make mistakes and try new things. What you’ve done previously had a certain result. Doing that same thing again will simply get the same results. So trying new things is the only way to break out of the pattern of getting the same results over and over again.

Five morning rituals of small business success

Most successful small business owner I know have a quirky morning routine that goes something like this:

  1. Every morning, map out in your mind what you’re going to do that day. Imagine it before it becomes a reality so you can repeatedly “practice” these steps to success. Imagine what the results will look like and feel like once you’ve achieved your goals.
  2. Imagine what “a little further” feels like and enjoy playing this imagination game with yourself.
  3. Tell yourself emphatically, “THIS is how it’s going to be.” This keeps you fresh and motivated, and changes your limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs. If you see the results in the advance, you condition your mind to know what’s possible.
  4. If you can’t envision what a future success looks like, spend time remembering what past successes look and feel like, reminding yourself that you’ve been successful before and you can do so again.
  5. Don’t just do it once, or even once-in-a-while…envision your success every day. (Twice a day, if you need to!)

You can let disappointment kill your dreams — or you can take disappointment and let it drive you towards success.

People who are fearful of getting hurt, rejected or disappointed never even attempt to reach for their dreams. But successful entrepreneurs know that hurt, rejection and disappointment are part of life. They don’t try to avoid them, they use those feelings to propel them forward.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Running a Strong & Efficient Business

10 Ways to Cope with a Recession

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Whether we’re in a recession or not, the economy surely seems shaky right now. When things take a down-turn, how will you handle it for your business?

Now is the time to think strategically.

Hasty decisions often lead to poor decisions for the long term health of your business. According to Wikipedia, there have been four recessions since 1980, lasting from 8 months to 18 months. If you lived through the Great Recession which began in 2008, you know the recession officially ended 18 months later, but the economic fallout lasted for many, many years after the recession had ended.

Here are some tips on dealing with a recession for your business:

  1. Cut costs, but only if it won’t harm you later. The first thing business owners think they must do it cut costs. But don’t cut costs or decrease prices now, if it will hamper your business later. Ask yourself: once the economy picks up again, will the cost I’m cutting or the price I’m reducing put me in a worse situation than I’m in right now? Learn what not to do, from Pizza Hut’s pricing mistakes in 2008.

  2. Think sub-contractors. If you have employees, consider turning them into sub-contractors. This will help you avoid paying additional employment taxes and benefits. However, the IRS or your country’s taxing authority can be very strict about the definition of an employee versus a sub-contractor (they call them ‘independent contractors’), so check their rules. This might be an alternative to laying off your staff.

  3. Get out there and shine. This seems counter-intuitive, but now may be the time to increase your marketing; hard economic times may cause your competition to disappear, leaving the field wide open for you.

  4. Take the long view. Remember, marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. You should have been doing (and keep doing) marketing every month, month in and month out, not stopping and starting on a whim.

  5. Choose your marketing techniques wisely. You should have been tracking, historically, which techniques bring you the most business. Reduce or eliminate those marketing techniques that aren’t paying off for you, or fix them so that they do increase leads and sales. If you can’t do face-to-face marketing any longer because of the coronavirus, move to online marketing techniques.

  6. Renovate your marketing tools. For those marketing techniques that are working for you, this might be the time to revamp your marketing tools. Does your website need a facelift? Do you need to offer some new freebies to entice people to look more closely at your products or services? Do you need to change the way you phrase things when you are selling to your customers and closing the deal?

  7. Automate wherever you can. Find ways to automate any tasks to reduce the workload on yourself and your staff. What have you been doing manually that a computer system can do for you? Take a look at all your daily tasks and see if there is a computer solution to these time-wasters.

  8. Spend your time on what really matters. Consider hiring a virtual assistant or a technology consultant to help you with routine administrative, marketing and website tasks, so that you can use all your time to focus on marketing and delivering your product or service. Decide on the tasks that you are best at, ones that will directly increase your income, and delegate the rest. If you can earn more per hour than it costs you to hire help, then it’s a good use of your time and money to delegate tasks.

  9. Make do and mend. Because raw materials were in short supply during World War II, people were encouraged to “make do and mend” an item instead of simply replacing it. Consider your own expenditures and items that might be hard to acquire over the next few months or years: do you really need a new computer, or could you somehow upgrade your existing one for less money? Do you need a new smartphone or can you get by with the old one for a while longer?

  10. Reduce inventories. If you sell a product, and you believe your sales are going to decrease, this might be a good idea to reduce inventories and not restock to the same level. This is a risky strategy (what if the recession only lasts 6 months?), so be sure you know exactly how long it will take to replenish inventories once the economy picks back up.

Now is the time to begin thinking about what you’ll do if the economy affects your business. It doesn’t matter if we are in a recession now or not. Economies, by their very nature, are cyclical, and you will face lean times and booming times in the future.

It’s important that you have a plan for dealing with all types of economic realities.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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Categories for Small Business Goal-Setting

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small business goal settingOne of my mastermind group members is working on her business goals for next year and she brought up a good question: How, exactly, do you set goals for your business?

The first step is to realize there are categories of goals. This helps you to focus on goal-setting in a more structured way.

Here are the categories I use, and some of the items within each category:

Financial goals: revenue, expenses, profitability, investment, tax strategies.

Infrastructure goals: systems, processes, software, hardware, etc. that help you run the administrative side of your business. What tangible items do you need to acquire? What processes do you need to add or modify to run your business more efficiently and effectively?

Overall marketing, PR and sales goals: number of clients, number of new clients, number of renewing clients; increased media exposure. Number of prospects, number of proposals going out the door.

Internet marketing goals: website visitors, social media connections/likes/followers, email marketing open and clickthrough rates, online ad statistics.

Product/services goals: Are there any new products or services you’ll be offering next year? When would you like to launch them? What market share would you like to have among your competitors? Are there any products or services you’ll be modifying or removing next year?

Customer service goals: Is there anything you’d like to add or modify that will enhance the customer’s experience of working with you?

Team/staffing/leadership goals: Which new team members would you like to add, as employees or subcontractors? Anyone you need to let go of? Do you need to make changes to the way your team does their work or reports back to you? How is team culture and morale? Are there any team members who merit some additional mentoring?

Personal goals related to your business: How many hours of work a week? How do you want to feel about your business? Which personal values are brought forward through your business? What would you like more of? Less of? And the big question: WHY are you in this business? What’s your personal goal?

It’s never too early to begin thinking about what would make next year amazing for you and your biz! This is a great list to share with your mastermind group members if you work with small business owners.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning

Think Small and Accomplish Great Things

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Mary was ready to create huge changes in her consulting business. How exciting, having a big dream!

She had a million ideas and a solid, well-planned task lists to back up the big plan.

Except there was one small problem – Mary’s dream was dying on the vine. By thinking big she was overwhelming herself. She was paralyzed.

Mary asked me, “How do you accomplish all the things you do? Do you have some mysterious time management system that I need to know about?”

Nope. No time management system. No crystal ball. No magic wand. Just one mantra: Think Big and Think Small.

Thinking Big is about dreaming and strategic design; it answers the questions, “What do I want?” and “Why do I want it now?”

Thinking Small is about tactical planning; it answers the question, “How do I accomplish it?”

Great things are accomplished through thinking in small steps.

Anyone who has tried to stop smoking or lose weight knows you do it one day (one hour, one moment) at a time. Anyone who has attempted to do a 10-mile hike knows it’s simply a case of one foot in front of the other.

People with big business dreams often forget these well-known truths about how to tackle big things.

Mary became frustrated because things weren’t moving fast enough. She was ready to give up her dream because there was too much to do and she didn’t know which task to do first.

When she started a task, she abandoned it if it took longer — or was more complicated — than she thought it should be.

Thinking small means I’m a failure.

We’re afraid that thinking small and taking small steps forward because we equate it with being small and having a small life.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If you want the big, juicy, vibrant life you desire, you have to break it down into doable steps.

No matter how much you try, you can only really do one thing at a time.

You may think that multitasking makes you more productive, but studies show that multi-tasking actually reduces your ability to accomplish tasks. It slows you down.

Instead of trying to do five tasks simultaneously, I’m advocating this approach: put exquisite, conscious effort into one task at a time, complete it, and move on to the next.

How do you know which small step to take first?

You have been gifted with four pillars of life the day you were born: your intellect, your emotions, your intuition, and other human beings.

Start by asking yourself, “What one small thing can I do, right now, that will move me towards my big goal?”

Don’t give up if the answer doesn’t come to you immediately; have patience and allow the answer to bubble up to the surface. Trust your mind and your heart. Write down the tasks or draw them on a piece of paper and ask yourself, “Does this feel right?” Write in pencil so that you can re-arrange it until it truly feels right to you.

If the answer still doesn’t come to you, ask other people for help.

Talk about your goals and plans with colleagues and friends. Talk to supportive people who fully understand your big dream and can help you to look at the small tasks you must do to accomplish the goal.

Then do one small task at a time.

I’m encouraging you to do both: Dream Big, Think Small, and you will succeed.

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