Employee Satisfaction and Links to Success

Strategy Plan One

August 18, 2012

Employee Satisfaction

Oh no, we could all see the coming.  We could all feel the tensions in the office.  Everyone, every worker has been on edge.  With poor global economic conditions how could anyone feel great about their workplace and about their future employment.

The past few years, businesses have experienced troubling times, and that is an understatement.  At the very core of every operation is the workers.  A business cannot function without its’ valued workforce, and keeping them happy in these times is challenging.

However, there are significant signs that employees who are engaged and happy lead to greater success, productivity and profitability.  When efforts are made by management, productivity improvements can occur even in these tough economic times.

This infographic from Social Cast highlights this linkage of employee satisfaction with success.

Employee Satisfaction – Top 5 Factors

  • Job security (63%)
  • Benefits (60%)
  • Compensation and pay (57%)
  • Opportunity to use skills (55%)
  • Feeling safe in the workplace (54%)


  • 86% of engaged employees express happiness in the workplace
  • Highly engaged organizations experienced 87% less turnover and 20% productivity improvement

Check out more interesting facts and statistics in this infographic.

Employee Satisfaction

Source: Social Cast

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Social Media – Getting Organized With a Task List

Strategy Plan One

August 11, 2012

Social Media – Task List

Do you have a new or existing business and feeling overwhelmed with trying to keep up with all the activities you feel you need to accomplish, on the multitude of social media platforms?  You may not be alone as there are endless activities you could complete, in a swirling universe of social media, all for different reasons and objectives.

Here in this infographic is an example of what The Whole Brain Group classifies as a “Sensible Social Media Checklist” of activities.

social media - task list


Source:  The Whole Brain Group 

Social Media Marketing

So what’s in your social media strategy?  What do you plan to tackle on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  The above infographic gives us a glimpse of something that may work for one company.  Ensure you plan out your social media strategy and activities.  Test out and measure your efforts.  Constantly be looking to improve and revise your strategy and activities for better results.  Make it applicable to your business and to the way you engage and communicate with your customers.

In developing your social media plan:

  1. Establish your objectives
  2. Investigate methods to communicate and engage your customers
  3. Develop some options for marketing activities
  4. Determine social media platforms that would be applicable 
  5. Develop a plan of social media activities  (social media task list)
  6. Estimate the marketing budget
  7. Implement, test, measure, analyze
  8. Revision and continuous improvement for better results


Here are some additional Social Media articles, blogs and infographics:

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Social Media Impacts on Small Business [infographic]

Strategy Plan One

August 4, 2012

Social Media and Small Business

Small businesses face a significant uphill battle in these economic times to engage and communicate with consumers.  Marketing and communications have vastly changed over the past few years, and with the add-on of social media as a tool, measurable benefits and trends are occurring with the small business sector.

This informative graphic from Bolt Insurance highlights the following small business and social media statistics and trends:

  • 81% of small business use social media to get their message out and engage with customers
  • 95% use email marketing
  • 98% of small business engage in website marketing
  • 62% of businesses not using social media will plan to in the next year
  • 81% that currently use social media will step up efforts in the next year

Top challenges small businesses face according to this survey:

  • 80% claim attracting new customers are the biggest challenge
  • 52% state obtaining referrals as the greatest issue
  • 41% of small business would like to squeeze and maximize results with marketing dollars 

Social media effectiveness:

  • 82% state Facebook as the most effective social media platform
  • 73% of respondents say YouTube most effective
  • 47%  LinkedIn 
  • 47% claim Twitter is the most effective social media site

View some more interesting statistics in the infographic below.

small business marketing


Courtesy: Bolt Insurance

As an entrepreneur / small business, it is advantageous to stay on track with developing trends and to design products and services that not only meets current customer demand, but also future consumer needs.  Review and analyze marketing conditions and trends, and plan accordingly.

Here are some additional Social Media articles, blogs and infographics:

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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.

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Business News – 5 News Sites to Keep You Informed

Strategy Plan One

May 21, 2012 

Business News

Looking for great daily business news clips and resources?  Many business news sites exist on the Internet that it is sometime confusing where to turn for latest business news updates.  Here is a solid list of 5 business news websites (in no particular order) and their features you can zone in on for the latest business news.

business newsReuters Business News

Daily news is posted on Reuters, one of the world leaders in information for business and professionals.

Entrepreneurs and business owners may find it valuable to focus on the specific business, tech and money pages.  Articles highlighting entrepreneurs and business opportunities in growing industries fill the pages in the small business section.  “Management Tip of the Day” gives you some applicable management insights through inserts from Harvard Business Review.  For investors, the current stock ticker runs across the top of the page.  Social Media follow, like, post and RSS buttons are readily available.

business newsCNN Money

CNN Money, backed by the CNN Network, provides you with relevant pages and current topics on:

Along with top stories, pages are dedicated to the “Buzz” around companies and the markets, and clips on Fortune 500 companies.  The tech page is chalked full of articles and blogs, with much focus these days on social media companies like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and zoning in on the mammoth tech companies like Apple, Google and Yahoo.

Contributors on CNN Money write on relevant leadership topics, with focused articles on the leaders of top Fortune 500 companies, and some of the newer entrepreneurs making a splash.  Staying connected is easy, with buttons on the home page, right side at the bottom.

business newsForbes Business News

Forbes‘ simple business site format gives you easy access to 7 main topics at the top of the main page.  Of possible interest to entrepreneurs includes the business, investing, tech, entrepreneurs, business opinion, and leadership pages.  On the entertainment side, Forbes is widely known for their plentiful offering of lists.

Forbes’ staff and contributors compose topics on financing, management and micro-business.   Small business profiles and interviews are provided on the right hand side of pages in their video viewer.  Recently, Forbes posted brilliant topics and information for entrepreneurs on a special Small Business Toolkit page.

business newsCNBC

According to the CNBC website, CNBC is the recognized world leader in business news, providing real-time financial market coverage and business information to more than 340 million homes worldwide, including more than 95 million households in the United States and Canada.

The real-time stock ticker on the left side of the home page and symbol look-up at the top are of great benefits to the investors who view their pages seeking updates.  As a global TV force, CNBC offers plentiful videos on business, economic, and technology topics.  There is a page dedicated to small business videos alone.

business newsBloomberg Business News

Between the tandem Bloomberg and Bloomberg Businessweek sites, current topics on business, technology, small biz, and investing are covered well.

In value-added coverage, Businessweek also provides information and topics on business schools, providing information on grad school programs, institute rankings, and financial aid.


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Business Trends – Small Business Optimism Index on the Rise

Strategy Plan One

May 8, 2012 

Business Trends

Many economic indicators and sub-indicators of recent months have been favoring positive trends in the economy.  The construction and retail industries have been moving in a positive direction over the 2011 figures.  Entrepreneurs and business owners should carefully watch and analyze the indicators for economic and business trends, and react accordingly in planning and operations.

Business Trends – Small Business Optimism Index

With a recent survey and report out by the National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation, the Small Business Optimism Index appears on a trendy rise.  LIke the index title suggests, The Small Business Optimism Index is the measure of future business optimism from surveyed participants.  The April 2012 figure gained 2 points to 94.5, the highest value since 2007.

business trends - small business optimism index

From sub-indicators in the index, most are indicating favorable views on increasing employment, capital investments, earning potential, and a general overall positive view on the future economic conditions.

business trends - small business optimism index

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Working Women – Leading and Armed with Education [Infographic]

Strategy Plan One

May 2, 2012 

Working Women

In this brilliant infographic from OnlineMBA.unc.edu , women are now creating a dynamic shift in making up an equitable share in the workforce and dominating entrepreneur development. According to the research, women now almost make up half of the workforce at 46.9% and leading the highest increase in business development at 1.5 times the national average for business start-ups.

All in the numbers, hers are some other fascinating facts from this infographic:

  • 187 Million women are entrepreneurs worldwide
  • 7.8 Million – number of businesses owned by women in 2007 (20% increase over 2002)
  • 22% – percentage of women on the Board of Directors of S&P 500 companies
  • 40.1, 27.3 and 24.5% – the percentage of companies with women Board members in Norway, Sweden and Finland respectively (US at 16.1%)
  • 18% of all Patents granted in 2010 were received by women (up 35%)
  •  33.3% of MBA recipients are women (highest ever)
  • Women now earn more bachelor’s degrees than men (68% more)

working women

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Mother’s Day 2012 – Retail Projections Looking Marvellous

Strategy Plan One

May 1, 2012 

Mother’s Day 2012

Are you an entrepreneur in retail and considering sales and marketing opportunities around Mother’s Day?  The National Retail Federation (NRF) has posted statistics and projections for Mother’s Day 2012.  Similar to the patterns of other calendar events in 2012 like St. Valentine’s Day, Patrick’s Day, and Easter, the upward, projected trend is welcoming.

Mother’s Day 2012 – NRF Survey

According to the NRF survey, retail spending is projected to increase 8.4% over 2011 Mother’s Day spending, with total spending for 2012 expected to reach a whopping $18.6 Billion.  The survey data suggests that the average spending per person buying Mother’s Day gifts is now estimated to be over $152.

The following graph, courtesy of NRF, illustrates a favourable, turn-around trend over the past 5 years, with stabilization occurring in 2009-2010, following by significant spending increases in 2011 and 2012.  Let’s hope this trend continues.

  Mother's Day 2012

To make Mom feel the best on her day, here’s the top of the spending list:

  • $3.4 Billion on a brunch or dinner for Mom (54.3% of celebrators)
  • $2.2 Billion on flowers (66.4% of shoppers)
  • $1.8 Billion on gift cards
  • $1.6 Billion on clothing and accessories
  • $1.6 Billion on electronics, tablets, digital cameras (12.7%), and
  • $1.3 Billion in spa treatments and personal services (Ahhh for Moms!)

From the tech perspective, almost 40% of potential shoppers surveyed will scan their mobile devices and tablets for the deal of all deals for Mother’s Day.  About 24% of tablet owners will use their devices for Mother’s Day purchases.  App developers should pay close attention to the increasing trend of utilizing apps in devices to research and purchase products; 12% of device owners will be utilizing apps in this NRF survey, conducted by BigInsight.

Retail Industry – Indicators

As previously reported, the retail and food industry indicators in March showed marked improvements upward.  The US Census Bureau stated a 6.5% increase in retail revenue over March 2011.

retail industry

The projected trends overall in the retail sector and around calendar events for 2012 are very consistent in the 5-8% increase range.  As an entrepreneur and business owner in the retail sector, tune in and analyze some of these trends in the retail industry.

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Effective Decision Making Processes Integrated at all Business Levels

Strategy Plan One

April 27, 2012 

effective decision makingEffective Decision Making Process

Every business opportunity, every operational activity, and every financial budget requires decisions.  Decisions can be made in an ad-hoc, instantaneous manner, but we have all encountered challenges that occur after a snap decision.


Effective decision making processes set the stage for standards for making the right decision, involving the right people in your organization, with appropriate tools and mechanisms.  Great effective decision making processes will make your organization and professionals more responsible and accountable for decisions made

As an entrepreneur you will develop procedures that will need to be done to make a decision.  You will integrate specific staff members, at all levels, into the decision making process that will make a better informed, effective decision.

Elements of Effective Decision Making Process

Similar to a strategic planning cycle, decision making processes follow a set of steps:

  1. Identification of the Issue
  2. Development of options to resolve
  3. Selection of the best option
  4. Recommendation of the option
  5. Approval of the proposed solution
  6. Implementation of the best option
  7. Measurement of result
  8. Revision of the process / options 

effective decision makingYou will determine who on your team should be involved and should participate in decision making.  You will want to involve those who are functional specialists who will inform you on the best operational, ground-level solution and what the implications are.  You will also want to involve unit managers and supervisors who can recommend the best option after being informed by their area experts.  Keep in mind, you want to have a streamlined decision making process and not to include too many.   Less is best when decision time frames need to be considered or if client services are impacted by decision time frames.  You can still develop a highly accountable decision making process with select staff, streamlining approvals through one stream of employees.

Effective Decision Making Processes – Determining Priorities

Decisions need to be prioritized, with reference to many factors that do go into why decision need to be made and to determine which decisions need to be focused on and approved first.

You may determine priority decisions be made by the following factors:

  • Time factor or time limiting
  • Emerging, immediate needs
  • Client service focus
  • Financial impacts
  • Risks to the organization

effective decision making

Effective Decision Making Processes – Risk Management

A strong and embedded effective decision making process in your business will minimize the risk to all aspects of your business along the way.  As mentioned the stronger your decision making process, the more accountable your staff, units, managers and the business itself will be.  As a good planning practice, you should develop your business plan to reflect effective decision making processes at operational, management and corporate levels.


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Contracting Out – 10 Reasons Your Company Should Contract Out Services

Strategy Plan One

April 20, 2012 

contracting outContracting Out

Businesses encounter pressured operational scenarios requiring resource decisions.  In some cases, businesses do not have the quality and quantity of people to accomplish an operational task or goal.


Decisions need to be made by leaders on how to resource a particular circumstance, by either building up and accomplishing the goal with internal sources, or to acquire outside assistance to get the job done.

Contracting out is one solution to alleviating many operational pressures.  External contracting solutions can assist both in the short-term and long-term, depending on the scope and duration of work required, and operational needs.

There are several benefits to contracting out services…here are some of those advantages:

  1. Contracting Out to Get the Work Done

As a leader managing projects, you can observe where things need to be accomplished according to your schedule.  The volume of work during a specified time frame may not be accomplished with existing staff levels.  Acquiring outside help in the form of contractors would help alleviate short term pressures until long term plans can be developed and implemented.

  1. contracting outContracting to Acquire Expertise

Acquiring contracted professionals would help where your existing staff compliment does not have the capacity to complete professional tasks.  An example would be to bring on a marketing contractor or IT professional or company where your business does not have this built-in capacity.  Many companies, corporations and Federal Government agencies have moved to contracting out specialized functional areas.may not have the required skill set or intelligence of an industry or function.  Bringing on external expertise would help build capacity in your organization. 

  1. Save Money with Contracting Out

Contracting can be a cost-effective way to defining costs and to not entertain the internal costs to hiring and developing staff for the short-term or long-term.  Staffing processes, developmental processes, salary and wages in some cases would cost substantially more than short-term defined contracts.  Staffing also requires obligations (legal and otherwise) to employees that extend beyond a defined period for a project.  It is more often difficult, with costly process to staff up a short-term professional position for a defined deliverable, than to acquire an external company ready to go on a project.   The element of risk is also higher with employed resources than contracted staff, as employees can leave for other opportunities, quit or disagree with deliverables midstream on a project.

  1. Focus on Core Business Activities

With contracted services for one element of operations, you as a manager or business owner can focus on other core business activities, such as business development, business planning or partnership building, or any other key function instead of managing an activity.  Also short-term contracts may give you the ability to “catch-up” in staffing for the long-term, strategic HR plan.

  1. Results Achieved with Contracting Out

The contracts should be set up to be results-based or performance-based.  The contractor has an obligation to meet a certain target, goal or result.  As part of the terms and conditions of a legal contract agreement, the contractor has been acquired to meet those terms and conditions.  The schedule of payments could be based on hitting the milestone objectives, with a hold-back payment until the full job has been completed in a satisfactory manner (i.e.: the contractor has met the goals, objectives or deliverables in an acceptable manner).

  1. Definition and Certainty

Everything in a contract can be defined, from scope of work, results, objectives, deliverables, time frame, contingencies and cost.  As an entrepreneur you can manage projects more efficiently with defined contracts.  You will know when you hit your objectives, and achieve them within a certain prescribed duration and budget.  Your financial budgeting exercises will become more defined and the estimates for the annual budgets for activities will become more precise with defined contracts.

  1. No In-House HR issues with Contracting Out

The responsibility, for HR issues related to contracted employees working on a contract project, lies with that outside company.  The external company must deal with appropriate staff levels and issues to ensure their company meets the terms and conditions of the contracting agreement.   Some contracts will require their employees to work in-house or collaboratively with your own staff, and so those employees look and feel like your own employees without the responsibility.  The outside company is fully responsible for their salary and wages, benefits, working conditions, working arrangement, their budgets and their conduct in any work environment.

  1. Request for Proposal (RFP) Processes applicable to other business functions

Setting up an RFP is a valuable process, and elements of this process can be replicated for other internal business functions.  For instance setting up objectives, goals, deliverables in a RFP could be replicated in the functions of setting up work plans for staff members.  The accountability measures in an RFP can be copies across and into the accountability accords of employees and managers.

  1.  Contracting Out – More Control

In setting up contracts you have more control over a project, in that you will be assured that the scope of work can be accomplished by a party that has a legal obligation that you approved.  Through a solid Request for Proposal (RFP) process you will have chosen the right company to get the job done.

  1.   Contracting Provides Business Partnerships

Contracting with companies that align with your objectives and mandate will open the door to building partnerships, not only with the external contracted company, but with other linkages this external company has.  The contractor may want to align your business with more subject expert companies or professionals.  Synergies and collaboration can occur between businesses in the same industry and lines of products and services.

As an entrepreneur in your planning stages, develop and weigh your resource options for meeting your goals, which may include staff resources, contracting out services, or a combination of both.  Always recognize the value of your internal staff, and where there is a need, contract external professionals and companies to get the job done.


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