Category: Planning

5 Easy Steps to Improve Your Productivity

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Everyone looks for improved productivity, but how many of us know what to do to achieve the productivity we want? Here are five simple things you can do to bring your productivity to the level you want.

If you didn’t have big ideas you wouldn’t be in business for yourself or growing your career in a business. That’s exactly what’s needed there – your ideas have to be big or they won’t inspire you. But that’s not how you implement ideas. When you implement the idea it works best if you break the overall project down to its component parts. Let me give you an example.

Imagine you are building a new house. It cannot all be done at once – it is obviously silly to think of raising the roof before the walls are in place and yet we often try to do exactly that in our business projects. The first sub-project might be to prepare the ground work – dig the foundations, put the water and utilities in place, build the foundations, then move on to the framework of the house, then the floors and walls, then the roof and so on. Your business projects can be broken down in the same way.

That gives you a number of easy stages versus one perhaps overwhelming lump, and that means your projects start finishing on time and on budget, just the way you imagined them.

The second productivity boost is to delegate all tasks that do not directly generate income. This just means to consider what is the best use of your time – shopping for stationery or prospecting for clients? Walking around delivering leaflets or delivering product?

Consider everything that you do – are you the only one who can do it? If not – delegate it. Let someone else do it and concentrate on the things that only you can do. Establish the same discipline with your staff. If everyone is doing what they are best at then the chances are that a better job, less supervision, and a happier workforce will result.

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The third productivity boost is to manage the time you spend on emails. Stop checking your emails every ten minutes! This is another case of best managing your time – do you make more profits by signing up a new client or reading your emails? Yes, sometimes the order comes in via email, but it will still be there when you come back – and that’s why it was sent via email, there was no urgency at the client’s! If there was a hurry the client would have called.

So get away from your emails and get back to your business. Spending more time doing what you are best at must bring more to your business.

Business rules haven’t changed much since the first trader opened their doors (or tent flap?) for business. What has changed is how we do things. It all used to be face to face, then mail and telegraph allowed us to do business at a distance, then the telephone, fax and internet accelerated that trend. Now much of what we do on the internet can be automated.

Every day there are more and more technology shortcuts that allow us to generate more income and profit from the same amount of time. Think of a repetitive task and almost certainly there is a computer, tablet or smartphone application that does it. The truth is that there is probably an application for all platforms and if there really isn’t then check back tomorrow! If you think you need it then someone has figured out that you are their market.

Productivity tip number six is to share this with your staff. Let them know that they will be given tasks that suit their skills, responsibility and authority where appropriate and clear instructions with a time limit where it isn’t. Let them know that you will train them in the latest developments in their industry, and that they will be given the opportunity to put that training into practice.

Now here is an extra tip, one that will add value to all of the first six – put them into practice. Change the way you do business. You may not agree with some of what is written here, and that’s OK – the real question is: what are you going to do with the stuff you do agree with? Every tip will add value to your business, given the chance. And that’s your next job – to give them a chance.

Good luck, and let us know how they help.

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What does it mean to be “Investor Ready”?

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Having a great new idea is not all you need to be Investor Ready. You need a lot more than that, and you need them in the right times and quantities. Let’s explore what it means to be Investor Ready.

It does start off with a good idea, but you also need Proof Of Concept. That just means that you need some kind of proof that lots of other people (Customers or at least potential customers) agree with you. The way you convince an Investor that you have a great idea is to point to real sales or to comprehensive Market Research that establishes that there is a market for what you’re talking about.

We’ve covered Market Research in this blog already, so we won’t spend a lot of time on it now. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be comprehensive, all it needs is some knowledge and a little effort.

The next thing you need is a Marketing Plan. How are you going to sell your product or service? The investor needs to know this because this is where they get the return for lending you the money to get started. If you can’t sell your idea then they can’t get a return either!

You also might need a Production Plan if you are offering a product. How can you make sure you have enough to sell? If you offer a service – how can you guarantee that you will be able to deliver when and where required?

You will need to demonstrate that you can or at least will control your finances. What income will the business have over what time frame, and what expenses will it incur? Does the income arrive in time to cover the expenses?

Do you need any assistance? Can you demonstrate that you have or that you can build the right team? Having the right people in place is vital to building a long term, solid, successful business.

You can download a Business Plan that will provide sections that will allow you to document all this and more. How you will handle competitors, your strengths, your weaknesses and how you will address them. What no Business Plan Template gives you is the next two items.

The first thing you need to make sure you have enough of is the excitement you feel about your idea. If you can’t make the potential investor excited about your idea then they never feel that they want to give you the requested funding.

The second thing you need is to demonstrate certainty. What you want is that they believe, with certainty, that your business is a sure-fired way to make money. That gives them the confidence to follow up the excitement with the actual money!

That doesn’t mean that your business plan should be a sales pitch from go to whoa, and in fact if it is too much of an overt sales pitch it can turn people off as much as anything. It just needs to convey the real feelings that you have, the real confidence that you have, to introduce them to the people you know, and for them to understand the idea as well as you do.

Until someone invents a real Vulcan Mind Meld from Star Trek the best we have for conveying your idea is a good Business Plan! Put one of those together and you’re on the way to being Investor Ready.

Do you have experience finding funding for a start up business and would you like to share your knowledge? Send us some comments by using the login tag at the top left of this window.

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Can you handle your business finances?

Most people think that business finances are the same as personal finances. There are similarities, of course, though the differences will bite you unless you know about them.

Let’s get the similarities out of the way first. You do need to balance your account – you can’t spend more than you have. You can have a mix of facilities – transaction accounts, debit and credit cards, online services, and a host of different places to use each one.

You do still need to look for good value for your spending, but maybe the definition of what’s good value can change. Let’s explore that.

The first major difference is that most of the time you are on opposite sides of the transaction when you spend your own money. What I mean is – when you buy something for your personal consumption you will never see that money again. You want the lowest possible price. The seller want’s the highest possible price, because that’s where there profit is.

When you buy something that you intend to sell for a profit the person you buy from is now on your side. They are instrumental in you making money. In fact, without their supply you can’t be in business. It is in their best interest to make sure that your business thrives, and continues to buy from them for a long time to come. You now recoup the purchase price when you sell the item. That’s very different from buying something for your own use.

You still need the best that your money can buy. That doesn’t change, unless the supplier that provides that product has problems delivering on time, or maybe only supplies larger quantities than you want to order. The best value for your business – the product that allows you the highest return – might be 95% of the quality, 80% of the price and 100% better delivery conditions.

See how your mindset has to change when you run a business?

Do you have a question, or a comment on what other differences there are? This isn’t supposed to be a complete list, just a place to start the conversation. Let us know what you think by using the login tag on the left side of the screen.

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4 Parts to Your Image

We all talk about our image in the eyes of our customers as though that was a single entity. In fact there are four parts to that image, and each part must be visible or your message will not be heard, and that can mean that your business will suffer.

An earlier post described the “know, like and trust” aspect of the image that you and your business needs to cultivate, and we’ve described the difference between ‘selling’ someone and establishing the conditions that encourage people to want to buy from you. The rest of this article is about another aspect of your business image.

We know that your perception is your reality, and that your customer’s perception becomes your businesses’ reality.

Regardless of whether you sell a product or service, you need to instruct your customers on what they need to do to maximise the benefit they receive from having used your product or service, and that means covering three different aspects, and an additional perspective that is missed at least 99% of the time.

The first aspect is that you must give your customers the detailed instructions that enable them to get the maximum benefit – how to best use your product or service. Tell them exactly what they need to do, when they need to do it, and how. This is the easy bit, and it just requires you to transfer your knowledge to your customer.

imageThe second aspect is that you need to reinforce your marketing message in that you must inspire your customer that they have made a great decision. Tell them again about the benefits they are likely to receive as a result of their decision to buy from you, and how they can ensure that those benefits can be realised. For example give them some tips or shortcuts that will provide additional value. your goal is to make them really pleased that they bought from you rather than the guy down the street.

Then you must connect your product or service with your customer achieving their higher purpose. That doesn’t mean that all your customers want to save the world, but they will want to leave their children a legacy, and yes, some of them will want to leave the world a better place for having been here.

Throughout these posts you will find many tips that will make your work easier and more productive, all you have to do is follow the guidelines. That will improve your profits, and most likely reduce your effort – working ‘with’ your customers is more effective than trying to trap them into buying something.

Can you imagine what difference an additional 10% or 20% or more profit will make to your family’s lifestyle? That’s what you can achieve if you read and follow our posts. No, that’s not a marketing ‘spin’, that’s the result of 30+ years of study and hard work that I’m sharing, plus the 40+ years that the other contributors have shared.

If you have been paying attention you will have noticed that so far there have only been three aspects mentioned. Now its time for the last piece of the puzzle.

Remember I said that it is the hidden piece? Its hidden because your customer doesn’t see it, only you know it is there. Your customer is aware of the effect though. The hidden piece is your plan to make this all happen in the first place. Leaving your customer experience up to chance means that they may or may not enjoy the experience of dealing with your business. Having a fully worked out ‘Customer Care Experience’ plan and implementing it means that your customers are likely to want to come back.

All four aspects are important, though the last one is arguably the most important one of all. The problem is that 99% of businesses do not have a plan, and the opportunity for you is that 99% of businesses do not have a plan. Creating and implementing a Customer Care Experience that maximises the benefit your customers receive as a result of buying from you will create solid, long-term relationships with your target market, and that’s great for business!

Do you have an idea that you’d like to share? Just leave a comment and tell us what you think.

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Want to do better than your competitors?

CompetitorMany advisors tell us to look at what the best guys are doing and copy that. I have advised against doing that for years, since it automatically puts a limit to your success. By doing what someone else does you naturally cannot do better than them! If you want to do better than your competitors you have to do something else. Here is the solution.

What you have to do is be better than the other companies. I’ve already written on how customers leave a company over time (Refer, and how this means that to just maintain your position in the market you have to be/do better each year.

It means that to improve your position you have to do much better every year, and that means that you must do much better than your immediate competitors, and that means doing something different (and much better) than them!

“Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter distinguishes between strategic positioning and operational effectiveness. Operational effectiveness means a company is better than rivals at similar activities while competitive advantage means a company is performing better than rivals by doing different activities or performing similar activities in different ways. Investors should know that few companies are able to compete successfully for long if they are doing the same things as their competitors.

Professor Porter argues that, in general, sustainable competitive advantage gained by:  A unique competitive position
 Clear tradeoffs and choices vis-à-vis competitors
 Activities tailored to the company’s strategy
 A high degree of fit across activities (it is the activity system, not the parts, that ensure sustainability)
 A high degree of operational effectiveness”

That does allow you to take inspiration from your competitors, as long as you remember that what they are doing is only the starting point. You must put your own stamp on it, and improve on what they do (And remember – they are probably doing the same to you, so be prepared to make it even better by this time next year).

So how does your offering differ from all others? In what way are you unique in the mind of your customers (and potential customers)? What are you prepared to do differently to achieve your targets and goals? Is everything you do aligned behind your business targets? What about your staff? Does every part of your business support the overall aims of the company? Can you get better at what you do?

When you have positive answers to  each of those questions you will be well on the way to attaining all of your business targets and the associated lifestyle!

Do you have any ideas that you’d like to share? What experience have you had with a company that is (or isn’t) aligned? Just click the ‘Comment’ link below this article and let us know!

You also need to look outside your industry, and in your industry in other geographies where perhaps there are innovations that you can use.

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