Keeping up with Creativity

Strategy Plan One

September 9, 2012

Creativity

We have all been there.  Planning, writing, blogging, tipping and then we hit the wall with no creativity left to continue.  Seems to happen frequently with some, while others never seem to have a problem cranking out volumes of interesting, valuable information.

As an entrepreneur, executive or specialized staff working in an organization, you need to keep up with your creative edge.  Creativity helps you and your business stay on the leading edge as it is applicable to so many facets of business.  Business plans, marketing plans, product and service offerings, campaigns, projects, methods, processes … all require a significant degree of creativity to make things stand out.  Creativity takes plans, products, and processes to the next innovative level, sometimes leading to a competitive advantage over the competition’s standards.

Here is a brilliant infographic from Copyblogger, that illustrates some major creative blocks and how to bust out of them to maintaining your high level of creativity.

Creativity

Source:  Copyblogger

Summarizing some tips to bring out your best creativity:

  • Maintain creativity as a priority in your business and personal development
  • Take a breather – writers can face exhaustion; take a break mentally and physically and watch creativity come back
  • Jump on some ideas after researching, reading and analyzing others’ work
  • Take mental notes of objects, scenarios and people in your environment and how it relates to your topic (you will be surprised at the content you can create from this)
  • Diet – the brain needs nutrients; many studies have show that healthy diets fuel the brain
  • Ask a colleague for input, ideas, co-authoring (will generate ideas and content that you would add on to others)
  • Colors can activate creativity; tune into, focus on colors
  • Sound can create a response in you
  • Confidence – high level of confidence and you will be always ready to go
  • Don’t get stuck in perfection; no one is perfect
  • Don’t feel your work isn’t valuable as your work can have a significant impact on 1 person, 100 people, or a massive crowd
  • General rule – quality is always best; don’t feel pressured to pump out massive volumes of material
  • Set up a schedule of focused time; distractions and not getting organized can cause stress which causes mental blocks

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Back to Business This Fall

Strategy Plan One

September 8, 2012

back to businessFall Business Period

A week has passed in September… families, communities and the education system are all adjusting to the “back to school” phase of the year.  For many students, young and old, back to school represents a period of renewal, of fresh starts, starting up again.

However, this positive energy can be easily transferred over to the business sector, for existing and budding entrepreneurs.

New entrepreneurs can take advantage of the fresh start approach, planning their initial strategies for the Fall, Winter and 2013 periods.  Some fiscal year periods start in the Fall for good reasons related or integrated into the government fiscal years, or corporate fiscal years.   Existing businesses should refresh their business plans to reflect any market or industry changes that have occurred on local, global and international scales.  Building on successes and results from the previous business cycles, businesses should tweak business and marketing plans accordingly.

Establishing Goals this Fall

Get serious about business and personal development this Fall.  Always as a first step, establish some aggressive, achievable goals and objectives.  Without goals and objectives you won’t be able to set some strategic directions for yourself and your business.  Ensure your goals are achievable, measurable, and that you apply flexibility to adapt and revise goals and strategies.

Business Ideas and Hints for the Fall

Here are some helpful hints and ideas to think about some positive steps to take in business and personal development this fall:

  • Planning – Always a great idea as part of your core activities to review, tweak your business and marketing plans
  • Scan your business environment and competitors - develop some products or services that will be a bit different or new to your market
  • Capacity and Skill development – naturally many classes are offered in the Fall schedule; good time to brush up on business skills
  • Product and Service Offerings – review your results to date and revise if necessary heading into the Fall, Winter and 2013 periods
  • Refresh, redesign – Whether you have a store front or website, take a look at your layout and seek feedback from customers for better designs and layout
  • Communications and Outreach – develop new communications to your customers; utilize social media for extended outreach and measure your effectiveness on social media
  • Generate Fall Buzz, Interest – generate new and continued interest in your company, your products and services; offer Fall free or trial offers

Check out these Fall Business Strategies:

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Pay Per Click – Advertising Statistics and Trends [infographic]

Strategy Plan One

July 20, 2012

Pay Per Click

Businesses and marketers are always keen to observe the trends with pay per click advertising, as pay per click advertising may be proving to be more beneficial than just aligning efforts to rank sites through organic searches.

Pay per click advertising, essentially paying for advertising to rank at the top of search engines, is an effective method to generate more traffic to websites.  In a world of overwhelming information available over the web, it is advantageous for businesses and marketers to have links and information readily available at consumer’s fingertips and in plain sight.  Hence the reasons, search engine sites have sponsored ads lining the top part of the pages and right columns.  These areas of web pages result in the greatest number of user clicks.

Some interesting pay per click (PPC) advertising statistics and trends are highlighted in this infographic from WordStream:

  • Pay per click ad results outweigh organic search results by nearly 2:1 (commercial content)
  • PPC accounts for 64.5% of clicks (high commercial intent)
  • Top 3 Sponsored links at the top of the Google search page account for 41.1% of the clicks
  • Sponsored ads on Google account for over 85% of the page above the fold
  • If companies already rank organically, adding pay per click ads results in 89% new visitor traffic
  • Click through rates for Google ads are 600 times higher than paid ads on Facebook pages

Check out some more information and trends on pay per click advertising, comparison of SEO and pay per click, and options in paid advertising.

pay per click

Source:  WordStream

Businesses and marketing specialists should carefully weigh the options of marketing and advertising activities.  As in all business activities, marketing plans should be developed, identifying marketing activities and budgets.  Pay per click advertising may form part of the advertising campaign, and with all activities, the results of efforts should be tracked, measured and analyzed.  You may want to compare the return on investment in pay per click advertising to other forms of marketing and advertising activities in your business.

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High Performance – Star Qualities to Get You Noticed

Strategy Plan One

July 18, 2012

high performanceHigh Performance

Whether you are an employee in the private or public sector, or into self-employment, you need to set yourself apart from the pack.  To make a significant impact on your organization or industry, there are things you can do to achieve high performance.  Possessing and demonstrating qualities will ensure you stand out from the competition, internally and externally.

 

 

 

For the most part, personalities get noticed, but other characteristics and qualities gained through experience can make you shine through.  Your qualities can assist in your performance, but can also rub off also in the higher performance of employees, teams and business itself around you.

High Performance Qualities and Tips

Here are some qualities and tips to performing at a high level and getting noticed:

  • Demonstrate excellence in everything you do, strive for excellence and encourage all to achieve excellence
  • Set aggressive, achievable goals and demonstrate dedication by hitting them
  • Seek and implement continuous improvements for yourself, for your team, for your business
  • Be genuine, truthful, honest, respectful and fair; uphold strong values and ethics and treat others as you would want to be treated
  • Create an open and transparent environment around you; staff, stakeholders and customers will want to go to as you have gained levels of trust
  • Keep emotions in check
  • Be consistent in your responses, decisions, and in your daily work
  • Be an example of collaboration, partnership building, encouraging team effort
  • Rely on other’s expertise; be noticed for calling upon others for their value-added advice, opinions and recommendations
  • Value everyone’s input and feedback
  • Lead by example
  • Be energetic, enthusiastic, creative and innovative
  • Be loyal to colleagues, staff, customers
  • Hit and make the deadlines, be on time

More on personal and business development:

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Marketing Tips for Better Customer Engagement and Results [infographic]

Strategy Plan One

July 12, 2012

Marketing Tips

In business it is critical to interact and communicate with customers to get the sense of what customers want and if your business is meeting their needs.  The more frequent, valuable, and genuine your interactions and communications are, the more trust you will build with your potential and existing client base.

Some simple marketing, business tips produced in an infographic by Mindspress, highlight the small things you can do to build better rapport with clients.  By making small adjustments and improvements in activities, you can achieve greater exposure in the environment and communities, and better results with customers.

  • Communications – gather customer contact information such as email to give you an avenue to engage and offer to the customer frequently.
  • Asking for feedback – the ability for customers to provide a feedback and reviews will create buzz around your products and services.  It also helps in creating traffic and in spreading the word through multiple sources and Google searches.
  • Community involvement – according to this article, giving back to the community, such as volunteering, sponsoring, and donating creates greater exposure for your business.  It helps improve morale for those who feel good with their involvement in communities.  Customers will take note!
  • Revised Marketing & Business Planning – it is extremely important to review your marketing and operational activities, to measure and to analyze the results of anything you are doing.  The global, domestic and local markets and business conditions change frequently … so should your marketing activities, marketing plan and business plan.  Stay on top!
  • Continuous Learning Environment – you need to keep a pulse of customer feedback and to incorporate the constructive messaging back from the customer.  When the customer is telling your something after their purchase, they are informing you (as an added benefit to you) that they invested in you, and in order to keep them you need to improve the experience, product or service.  Listen well and incorporate changes based on feedback.

marketing tips

Source: Mindspress.com

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Business Plan – The Next Steps

Strategy Plan One

July 7, 2012

business plan - commercial loan criteriaBusiness Plan

You have taken the time and effort to develop a draft business plan, and now you are looking to move to the next steps.

Depending on how you developed your plan, whether you completed the draft independently or not, you may want to strengthen your plan before approaching necessary funding agencies, investors, or partners.  You may just want to take steps to ensure you are implementing a stronger, more objective business plan that will have the higher probability of working for you.  Here are some tips you may find valuable.

Business Plan Review

As much as you would like to state, that you have put in the greatest efforts to create the best plan, you need to be open to constructive feedback.  Be willing to adapt and be flexible to adjust the business plan accordingly.  When your draft is ready, provide it to friends, family, mentors, consultants and or specialists in your business field.  Give the party the task of critically analyzing the business plan, but also to provide you with constructive feedback to make it stronger.  With external feedback and recommendations, you will be developing a better business plan in a more objective manner.  Ensure that you try to acquire the services of professionals (paid or unpaid) to assist in the process, as there are aspects of the business plan these professionals will target and provide recommendations on.

Don’t forget that if financials are your weak point, have an accountant or bookkeeper review those necessary financial projection documents, such as the projected income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement.  Some financial analysis should be completed and included within your business plan on those projections.  Stronger financial statements and interpretation of those numbers will signal investors and lenders that you are serious and have done your homework.

business plan - commercial loan - presentationAs you may approach lending agencies or business grant and contribution programs, it is always a good idea to try to arrange a preliminary meeting to understand the requirements and criteria of these agencies and programs.  To acquire a commercial loan for your business, you will need to know the specific commercial loan criteria.  With a better understanding of what you need to meet, you can adjust that business plan and financial documents accordingly.

Revising to Make the Business Plan Stronger

Following feedback, be keen to adjust the business plan.  With that open mindset, take in that constructive feedback and turn the draft into a more polished document.  Here are some common tips and feedback for business plan revision:

  • Write a spectacular Executive Summary to catch the reader’s immediate attention
  • Remove non-essential descriptions and sections
  • Write clearly, with concise and “to the point” sections of the business plan
  • Ensure that the narrative part of the document is error free
  • Financial statements should be clearly laid out and error free
  • Cite sources to support points and data references in the business plan
  • Add appendices for accompanying documents
  • Make versions of the business plan specific to agency or external party requirements
  • Ensure you demonstrate meeting lending or program criteria
As a valuable additional step, have what you consider to be your final revised business plan reviewed again externally.  This will help in catching any of those little errors and help you finalize the document.

Final Business Plan Ready for Submission and Presentation

With a complete business plan now on hand, you should understand your business front to back thoroughly.  Be ready to make brilliant summary presentations on this business plan, as now you will be approaching lenders, partners and programs to seek financial or business support.  You will want to make an impressive impact.  Depending how you and the other party want to proceed on a presentation, be prepared to highlight the business case, through a visual PowerPoint presentation, or just through a powerful personal presentation with appropriate handouts.  Whatever the case, always be prepared.

With a few added steps, you will achieve your goal of developing a stronger, more objective business plan to present to appropriate parties.  Always remember that your business plan is your blueprint to implement your own successful project or business.  The plan is a living, breathing document, and needs to be revisited, reviewed and revised frequently as markets and business environments consistently change.

More Reading on Business Plans:

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© 2012 Strategy Plan One

Business Intelligence – 5 Methods To Stay Wired In

Strategy Plan One

July 5, 2012

business intelligenceBusiness Intelligence

Business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders must stay on top of business information, trends and customer behaviour to make better informed decisions.  Gone are the business days when the “build it and they will come” strategies were effective.  More likely than not, you need to be an entrepreneur who can pre-emptively adjust to market conditions and dynamic economic environments.  Business intelligence is essentially the methods and systems of gathering and analyzing sources of information and resources to improve business.  Information, methods and systems are available at everyone’s fingertips that will lead you to better strategic planning and thriving businesses.

Economic Trends – Analysis and Reporting

For a more global perspective on the economy and what is happening in industry specific areas, you will need to observe and analyze economic trends.  It helps to have the ability to interpret what some of these numbers and patterns mean to your business.  Census.gov is one source to inform you on economic trends and economic numbers, to give you more of a general level of information.  Favourable trends across the board and you will be confident the economy is on the right track and to know consumer confidence will be there.  Many business intelligence tools and data management systems can assist you to track, analyze and report, globally and at the local level.

business intelligence - social mediaSocial Media Analysis – Business Intelligence

Information from social media can be powerful sources of information for your business, if you know what you are looking for and how to tap into the correct user base on a certain platform.  You can definitely see trending topics through your own basic analysis of keyword searches in social media, such as hash tag searches on Twitter, or through Pinterest.  A quick search anywhere on the net will reveal various social media, business intelligence tools to track and analyze data on social media platforms.  Also stayed tuned into the product reviews throughout social media platforms.  Exposure to products and services information happens rapidly through social media, and with that speed you may be able to adapt and revise your mix of product and service offerings to client bases.

Competitors

Often heard – Keep on eye on your competitors.  A lot of groundwork may be covered by competitors as they test grounds, test marketing techniques and incorporate business intelligence methods and systems.  Leaving potential tidbits for you, competitors may leave a track record of customer behavior, reviews, comments and data on the competitor’s own blog or site.  If it is a local competitor, a site visit can reveal much detail on the customer service and  techniques they use, the volume of visitors, and physically observing the level of interest in a product.  Although you can mimic the successes of competitors analyzing data, there will be a need for you to differentiate your business from the competitors.

Acquiring Business Intelligence

If you have the resources and it fits within your strategic plan, you can acquire the business intelligence methods and systems that will give your company the lift you need.  Acquiring business intelligence can occur in many ways from acquiring human resources, professionals with background and expertise in business intelligence in a certain field or business niche.  Companies can acquire intact businesses that have synergies with your business or proprietary information, technology or patents that fit well with your business strategy.  Short term contracted, specialists or consultants can develop new strategies and offer information from their own external business intelligence methods and systems.  All forms can be advantageous in planning to be more competitive with gained external business intelligence.

Business Intelligence from your own customers

Never forget the strength of customer feedback.  Customers have backgrounds in many different fields and experiences.  Encourage, promote and provide incentives for customer feedback.  Develop feedback mechanisms such as surveys to get honest, objective feedback from your client groups.  It is important to track and analyze customer feedback data.  Some of this information may reveal external information, useful in developing improved strategies.  Here is a simplified example of customer feedback that can be valuable, “…liked your product, however if you added back-end extended service like your competitor ABC Corp, the experience could be better…”   Feedback such as this would be your key to some business information you may not have been aware of.  Tracking of data will help you to quantify and interpret customer trends, leading to improved products and services.

As noted, it has become extremely important for entrepreneurs to apply flexibility and have the ability to adapt, depending on information extrapolated from business intelligence systems.  Staying on track now forms part of the core responsibilities of your organization to keep your business growing.  Customers are savvy with information readily available, instantaneously at their fingers tips…. same with entrepreneurs in ensuring information is readily available through your business intelligence systems.

More Reading on Business Intelligence Systems:

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Franchise Opportunities – Industry Outlook 2012 and Beyond [infographic]

Strategy Plan One

July 3, 2012

Franchise Opportunities – Outlook in US

As citing in recent blogs on economic indicators, the franchise business industry appears to be shaping up well for 2012.  The past couple years have shown favorable growth trends, which may continue.  The International Franchise Association (IFA) has produced an infographic, chalked full of franchise economic tidbits of information.

Some franchise opportunities and economic estimates for 2012 and beyond:

  • 5.3% output increase
  • 5.0% increase in GDP
  • 2.2% employment growth in the franchise industry
  • 1.7% increase in the number of franchised establishments

Franchise Business industries that will see the greatest gains:

  • Fast food: $203 Billion in revenue and over 3 Million jobs
  • Business services: $145 Billion in revenue and almost 1 Million in employment
  • Personal services: $87 Billion revenue projected and 650,000 in jobs 

franchise opportunities

Source: IFA , IHS

Ensure you thoroughly research and investigate your potential business ventures, including franchise opportunities.  If you choose well, franchises can be turn-key operations, with immediate revenue streams and ample business support structures.  Although franchises can range in capital requirements, some provide adequate assistance with financing linkages.

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Retail Industry Heating up for Summer and Back to School

Strategy Plan One

June 29, 2012

Retail Industry – Summer Period

Like other economic indicators, the retail industry is slowly improving.  It has been estimated that the retail industry will grow in the summer months as food and retail sales increase due to the tourism season.  Retail centered around tourism and travel see marked improvement as many tourism destination packages are developed and offered up to consumers.  Building into the summer retail period, back to school retail sales occur in the summer month, and this year’s consumer trends are interesting.

In terms of consumer behaviour and trends, The National Retail Federation (NRF) – BigInsight have released information on their Independence Day Survey, which highlights 67% or roughly 160 million Americans will be out and partaking in July 4th celebrations.  Retail is estimated to be up in many categories as consumers buy up patio furniture, grills, and beach merchandise.  From the survey, more than 48 million or 23% will buy patriotic US gear and merchandise.  This is a marked 3% improvement from the previous annual survey.

For those businesses centered around events, like fireworks or parades, the survey data shows estimates that 115 million will attend events, and an additional 35 million will be spectators at parades.

Back to School – Retail Trends for 2012

Summer retail period also includes the “back to school” retail craze.  This year’s survey by NRF suggests that consumers may be a bit more frugal this year, indicating that spending behaviour may be down by 5-6%.  Last year the average person spent $603 on all back to school items including clothing, supplies and electronics.  It is estimated that this year’s average spending may be in the range of $580-590 according to the survey.

E-commerce plays a significant role in back to school retail, as the survey data suggests 31% will conduct comparative shopping online and 17% stated that they will shop more online.  Both figures show increasing trends over last year’s survey data.

Here are the comparative results of a BigInsight Consumer spending survey, illustrating consumer behaviour 2010-2012 with respect to back to school retail.

Retail industry - back to school

More responses in this survey show consumers siding with cautious, with very conservative behavioral responses to the survey questions.  Businesses and entrepreneurs should analyze survey data and adjust retail planning accordingly.  For instance, the survey suggests more will be shopping online, the trend of using coupons or find deals is increasing and spending less overall.

More Reading

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Productivity – 6 Small Steps For a More Productive Day

Strategy Plan One

June 25, 2012 

productivity - photostock Productivity Improvements

Business owners and staff all around encounter busy agendas daily, with most wanting to achieve more productive days.  However, in the complex business world with volumes of work to do, many struggle with getting things done.  It is sometimes common at the end of the day for some to state and ask, “Wow, what a brutal day…Did I get anything done?”

Entrepreneurs, staff, specialists and others feel buried under mountains of tasks and may feel during periods that nothing gets done.

 

 

But through a simple few tweaks, the work force, and you as an entrepreneur, can improve and show marked, increased productivity.

1.  Productive Days – Getting Organized

Individuals and businesses can get through the mountains with careful planning and organization.  Part of getting organized in the volumes of tasks is documenting it out, listing tasks, jobs and projects and to prioritize them.  Many tasks and essential duties fall through the cracks when businesses and individuals are not organized.  To keep focused, a list of prioritized action items can be developed and tracked to be more organized.

productivity - renjith krishnan 2.  Project Management Tools to Improve Productivity 

In developing lists, prioritizing and tracking action items, project management tools, such as Microsoft Project can assist.  These tools make it easier to develop a timeline from first tasks to completion of projects, step by step, milestone by milestone.  In using tools such as Project, a manager can establish tasks, attach time frames and track persons responsible.  With delegating tasks down to operational specialists, you lighten the load for others that are overwhelmed.

3.  Productivity Improvements Through Automation

How much manual labor or duties is your team performing that take up significant amounts of time?  Can any of these duties be automated?  Although you need to be careful around adding a personal touch to communications through email, you may find through evaluation that some of your email broadcasts to client bases or internal staff can be automated.  An example is establishing frequent reminders utilizing tools within email platforms.

In other productivity improvement examples, payment and shipping processes can be automated easily with such platforms as Paypal and others.  In most business operational cases, there may not be a justifiable need for a full-time payment processing clerk.  E-payments could lessen the work load of administrative staff by implementing e-payment systems.   In another valuable example of automation, the Kiva Robot system is revolutionizing the way warehouses work, as automated robots can run around the clock, helping pick orders and move goods.

4.  Behavior and your leadership actions

As an entrepreneur, the way you act and provide leadership can have a dramatic effect on staff.  Leading and managing in a genuine manner, with strength and passion can have an immediate impact on staff productivity.  Leaders that can motivate staff, illustrating the vision and use of positive tones can lead to positive impacts on the floor and higher productivity.

5.  Partnering

Productivity can be improved by bringing on a synergistic partner to the business.  Partnership building can lead to the sharing of projects and duties, but also sharing of the risks and benefits.  You may find that partners and or contracting out will lead to higher productivity and resolution of complex projects in a more timely manner.

6.  Recharging and Health to be Productive

For most, it is not humanly possible to plug through mountains of tasks hour after hour.  Long hours of complicated, tenuous or repetitive tasks can lead to overload of mistakes and burnout.  People’s performance will improve if the body and brain are given a chance to break and recharge.  Ensure you and staff take appropriate breaks frequently as scheduled.  Certain Labor laws and regulations were put into place for a reason … bodies can’t handle longer hours, with very little breaks.  Even though there are laws and regulations regarding this, show adaptability as a leader and allow better working conditions with flexible work-life balance programs.

The health of employees and your own health should be main priorities.  Without healthy individuals, there would be no employees on the floor and no business.  Take the time to promote healthy living, from good rest to eating right to great exercise.  A healthy work force will be a more productive workforce, with less medical issues.  Integrate your programs around healthy living .. you obviously care about your employees.

With a few changes in your organization and the way your lead as a responsible entrepreneur, can lead to higher productivity all around.  Start with practices and actions that will lead to higher productivity with yourself, and then lead by example.  You will note that in small steps productivity will improve across your business.

Relevant blogs and articles:

Productivity:

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