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

More on creativity:

More on business and entrepreneurship:

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

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:

More reading on business topics:

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

Product Mix – Designing Products and Services for the Consumer

Strategy Plan One

May 17, 2012 

product mixProduct Mix

Determining what your business will offer for products and service to your markets is definitely a business and marketing art form.  Detailed business plans and marketing plans must be completed before entrepreneurs and companies launch their products and services.  An entrepreneur must design their suite of products and service with the overall goal of meeting the needs of the consumer base, and obviously to generate revenue for a successful, sustainable business.

 

Some of the questions you will need to answer include what products and services you will offer consumers, whether those products and services meet their needs, and at what price point is the customer comfortable with (buy-in).  How does one determine what is needed, the value of product or service, competition, price point, sales avenue, etc.?  Detailed marketing plans will help drawn out and plan the products and services mix.  Prior to the marketing plan development, you will need to develop some marketing research methods to extrapolate some information and data from your potential target markets.

Surveying your Markets to Determine Product Mix

Conducting your own due diligence in planning processes is critical to successful developing and implementing plans.  Surveying is one way to gauge the level of interest, the level of need, and economics and business aspects of your proposed products and services.  Whether you conduct the survey or engage with a professional marketing firm to complete those tasks, surveyed information can inform the decisions you need to make around your mix of products and services.

product mixProduct Mix – Marketing Plan

Armed with fresh, relevant data from your surveying efforts, you should be able to draft up a solid marketing plan that reflects your potential product mix, price points, competition concerns, and placement of products.  Your marketing plan should go into the depth required to explain revenue generated from such product and service mixes, and the Return on Investment in marketing activities to promote those products and service.  It will be extremely important to implement your marketing plan and to measure the results.  Reviewing the results will give you an opportunity to analyze whether your plan was working or not, and if you achieved the projected return and benefits from you marketing activities mix.  This also gives you the ability to revise and implement a better plan in the future.

Marketing Budget

Great marketing plans must be funded.  Ensure that as you plan, you also plan a marketing budget to cover marketing expenditures.  Only a few activities can be achieved at very low-cost, but some marketing activities are going to require you to plan and to provide part of your budget towards marketing.  As you fund marketing activities, you also need to determine your return on investment in those marketing activities.  For example, social media marketing is only one of many avenues that may generate a return.  Measure results and revise your marketing plan accordingly.  You may be surprised on the differential in returns between marketing activities and that may change your focus towards more support in one marketing activity category.

Designing Your Product Mix – Tips

  • Always start with the why – why are we conducting these business activities, why do we think these product and services meet the needs of consumers
  • Obtain solid, objective, external information from your markets, customers
  • Undertake surveying to obtain market data
  • Analyze your market data
  • Form business plans and marketing plans based on solid outside information
  • Call upon a marketing professional to strengthen your product and marketing mix (ask the professional)
  • Remember that a high level of due diligence is required and that effort will be reflected in the actual results achieved. 

You may find that hitting the right markets with the right mix of products and services, timed accurately may be achieved through trial and error.  Very few successful companies and marketing strategies hit the nail on the head from the start.  Through conducting due diligence, and your readiness to adapt to the changing environment, will provide you with much better results.

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

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.

 

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

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.

 

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

Revenue Forecast – Factors and Projection Models

Strategy Plan One

April 12, 2012 

 

revenue forecastRevenue Forecast – Overview

In one of your key business planning activities you will need to accurately project revenue streams. As part of revenue management, the information on your revenue forecast would be your strongest indicator in your business plan.

 

Your revenue forecast will illustrate how successful your financial situation is projected to be.  Investors, partners and bankers will be reviewing how you arrived at your numbers, at how you justified revenue and sales levels.  Your forecasting will need to be more than just an educated guess, however, an educated, experienced background is essential to forecasting.

 

Everything in your financial and business planning will be centered on revenue numbers, from estimating variable and fixed expenditures, to determining the amount of debt that can be serviced with the projected revenue levels.  So many factors, differing in various industries, need to be included in revenue projections.  Integral to forecasting revenue, your marketing plan will include some factors and will need to incorporate market potential information.

 

Revenue Forecast – Tools

Spreadsheets and calculators can assist in a formula based approach, but some are generic and do not take into account industry specific factors and differing revenue projection models.  In essence, you will need to incorporate specific factors into your calculations and run differing simulations to capture all potential circumstances.

 

The following describes some of the various factors and models to determine your revenue forecast:

 

revenue forecastRevenue Forecast – Based on Historical Financial Data

If you are forecasting revenue for an existing business, revenue projection may not be as difficult as you may think.  There is a historical track record of data for existing businesses to build on.  In reviewing revenue and sales trends in the historical financial data, you can estimate the ongoing continuous trend forward.

 

When reviewing and analyzing financial trends, pay attention to the rate of growth or rate of change in revenue and expense categories.  The rate of change must be taken into consideration, and don’t rely on a calculation of straight-line revenue projections.  If negative growth or declining trends are showing, differing strategies may need to be developed to get trends back on the right track.

 

Using Intelligence for Your Revenue Forecast

As an experienced entrepreneur you may carry some intelligence from past employment, from operational and management experience.  If your experience was industry specific and applicable to your start-up or existing business, you may have the intelligence to develop some close to accurate projections.

 

You may also be able to surround yourself with professionals that also have this intelligence.  We are not suggesting that you steal information from a competitor, but acquire professionals that are well-versed in a certain applicable industry, that have an innate ability to complete an accurate revenue forecast.  Accountants also specialize in this area but will need access to information and intelligence on the industry and markets.

 

Revenue Forecast – Industry Standards Data

Revenue models can be generated from using the industry standards data.  Loads of generic industry data has been compiled for decades.  The US Census Bureau is also a good source for industry data to base your projections on.  In Canada, you may want to search through Statistics Canada for general industry data.  Note that utilizing this data is more along the lines of a theoretical, averaging approach and may not take into consideration the factors of your specific business circumstances, area and markets.

 

Marketing Information for Your Revenue Forecast

Good potential sales data can be obtained from surveying your potential customers and potential markets.  You can base your revenue forecast on the total market and on your estimated market share.  If you have excellent relationships with your potential customers and there is a mutual agreement to supply products or services you may be able to sign into a preliminary agreement, or Letter of Intent (LOI) for future sales.  You can definitely extrapolate more solid information from this for your projected revenue and sales.

 

In addition to your own surveying efforts, you can obtain the services of a marketing company to do the work for you or to provide you will more specific market information for you to base your projections on.  Depending on the firm used and type of information obtained, this would be an additional reliable source of information, and more valuable to your revenue forecasting.

 

Tips to Assist in a More Accurate Revenue Forecast

  • Be realistic, and plan modestly
  • Generate projection scenarios, from conservative to optimistic
  • Back all projections with information to make it more objective
  • Use multiple information sources in developing projections
  • List your assumptions and justification for your numbers
  • Seek advice and feedback on your information
  • Develop strong relationships to build in LOI, MOUs with potential customers to assist in revenue projections
  • Adjust wherever needed and frequently; the more effort you put in the better the forecasting will get.
  • Remember this is not a perfect science but are tools for estimating

 

Using a fusion of models and factors indicated above may result in more comprehensive, more accurate revenue forecast.  Ensure you complete the due diligence required on detailed business planning, including using revenue projection models to minimize risk, and you will experience actual results closer to your financial projections and goals in the future years.

 

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

How to Find Statistics and Data to Back Your Business Plan

Strategy Plan One

March 5, 2012 

 

Statistics and DataStatistics and Data for your Business Plan

 

As part of your due diligence as an entrepreneur starting or expanding your business, you will need to develop a detailed business plan.  As you draft up your business plan and the financial documents, you will need to obtain data and statistics that would form and back your financial statements.

 

If you use to much guess work and estimates, pulling figures out of the sky, your business plan will be weak and subjective.  To make your business plan more objective, you should obtain credible sources of data from multiple sources.

 

Here are some helpful tips for gathering statistics and data from multiple sources.

 

Statistics and Data from Experience

If you are going into your business in the same industry you have been working in, you have excellent intelligence on marketing, sales and expenditure data.  Through years of experience in operations and management you will gain the innate ability to draft up projected financial statements from this known data.  Be careful not to steal data or proprietary information, but use your gained skills knowing the industry.

 

Statistics and DataStatistics and Data from Mentors and Advisors

You should always drive and lead the business planning project, but should you need an advisor or mentor, these individuals can provide credible sources of information to you.  Based on their experience and their network of professionals they will help you form more realistic projections.  Once again, a wealth of experience usually reveals a wealth of good statistics and data.

 

Statistics and Data from Surveying

If you develop some objective methodologies in surveying your potential markets for your products and/or services, you may be able to obtain some useful data for your planning.  This should be done with caution and should not be the only source of data you would use.  Ensure you sample randomly and with large sample sizes to make the data more reliable and valuable.

 

Statistics and Data from Federal Government Statistics Branches

To support data obtain through your own sources, you can seek out sources of statistics and data from Federal Government sources.

     US Statistics and Data

  • The US Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov ) provides an enormous catalogue of statistics and data on the US population, markets and the economy.  General economic indicator information can be found within a few easy steps on their website (http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/briefroom/BriefRm ).  Information is also broken down by industry classification, based on 2007 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes.  USA.gov website provides additional, relevant business and economic linkages to statistics and data.  Please note that information is presented in general overall industry, summary form and you will need to drill down as far as you can get to what is applicable to you.

     Canada Statistics and Data

  • Statistics Canada (http://www.statcan.gc.ca ) is the place to go to obtain statistics and data on the Canadian people, markets and economy.  Statistics Canada promotes their federal responsibility to provide objective statistics and data, with methods and surveying every 5 years.  Statistics Canada also has information broken down into NAICS codes.  Once again, this source can be helpful in analyzing the overall industry statistics and data.

 

 

Statistics and Data from Paid Sources

To round off your basket of statistics and data for your business plan, you can pay for very specific data.  There are many marketing companies out there in the private sector that can provide relevant data for your specific industry and target markets.  Companies can also provide customized surveying for you to obtain the most reliable, objective data.

 

Strategy Plan One

http://strategyplanone.com

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One