How to make a business plan and actually stick to it

Whether you are a long-term small business owner or just starting in a complex market, then there’s no time like the present to start penning your latest business plan. However, writing a plan and sticking to it are two very different elements. No matter the size or nature of your business, it’s always good to get something down on paper to help drive your business decisions and check that you have all bases covered. From generating more sales, to getting those ideas off the ground, read on to find out why you should be making a business plan, and more importantly, how simple it is to stick to it.

Check out the competition

Whether you are opening a coffee shop, a new bookstore or even a consultancy, be sure to undertake a full and in-depth market analysis. Now, this doesn’t have to cost you too much – you can do the groundwork yourself if you know what you are looking for. Café owners will want to scope out competitors’ prices, unique selling points and even range of snacks and goodies on offer. Whereas if you are offering higher-end services or products, then you will want to make sure that your range has a serious wow factor. Be sure to include this step in your business plan to ensure that you are fully aware of how you want to direct the future of your company and roll with it – remember, it’s best to do your homework rather than blindly entering an established market.

Get your finances in order

Drawing up a business plan, no matter the size of your business, and actually sticking to it, is going to require having a solid financial base. Getting your application papers in order and lengthy approval times can spell disaster in today’s fast-paced market. However, times are changing. Companies such as Betterfunds offer a range of loans to meet your business requirements. Not to mention, you could be the happy recipient of some much-needed funding in a matter of hours. Having a solid cash income is key to getting your business plan off the ground – don’t cut any corners.

Marketing and sales

Be sure to include marketing and sales as key priorities for your business plan – after all, generating new leads and acquiring new clients is essential to you, and your business, to succeed. If you haven’t already considered it, then make sure to explore how digital marketing can help propel your company into the future. Social media is increasingly becoming essential to the success of companies worldwide, so don’t get left behind and do go digital. Secondly, you will want to check that your marketing and sales teams are working effectively together – just like two spokes in a wheel, these departments are key to helping you gain and keep new business opportunities. Finally, have another look at your business plan. If you’ve stuck to it – congratulations! You are well on the way to business success.

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article

Green Your Business: A Sustainable Vision or Money-Making Fad?

To be an environmentally-friendly business seems to be the way to go, lately. They say it’s good for both your company and the planet; by encouraging this kind of vision, you’ll show the market your most holistic and educated side, they say – and the market will thank you for it. It’s true that a lot of good will come from a business that’s going both green and paperless at once.

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It’s healthy for the community, the employees, and your company’s finances at the same time, and seems almost too good to be true.

Beware of coloring your company in this new shade, however, if your heart isn’t in the right place – at the end of the day, the market might end up punishing you for putting on a show. We found the steps to success for your business so that both you and the planet can benefit from it without any backlashes.

Saving money or the environment?

Although you probably nibbled at the thought of becoming more eco-friendly when you heard that it’s great for PR, you need to focus on the right aspects of it. This is particularly relevant when communicating the new green vision to your employees; is it a vision of saving money on energy or is it to create a healthier community for your consumers? Your employees needs something to work towards – a mission if you will, and you need to take the lead in creating the right kind of company culture.

Start by encouraging opinions and ideas on how you can go green together. You’re likely to receive various tips, and these should be taken into consideration so that everyone is included in the new vision. Otherwise, you risk looking like these eco-friendly measures are just for show.

Swap the food in the cafeteria for organic versions, make use of any meatless Monday suggestions and use natural cleaning detergents over potentially harmful types. There is a lot you can do to include the entire company and create a vision where everyone feels included.

Set an example

As the leader, you need to be the one to take the first step. Nobody will give you a smile of approval if you preach eco-friendliness but drive to work every day. The same goes for any other behavior in the office; encourage your team to always shut off their computers at the end of the day, make sure no taps are dripping, and welcome further suggestions on other changes you should make.

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It’s great to be able to make a profit out of being eco-friendly – for those willing to invest a bit in the beginning, it’s also a reality. It’s easy to recognize the once doing it for the PR and those who are in it for the right reasons; just keep an eye out for that sour expression when they need to spend money on something they wanted to profit on.

The truth is that we sometimes need to spend a bit to make a difference. Consider replacing your old electronic appliances for newer models that save energy, have a look at a commercial tint for your office windows, and transfer to a cloud-based system to reduce the number of hard copies you produce.

The great news in all of these changes is that it will save you a lot of money in the long-run. Many of our more harmful habits are tied to overconsumption and a general waste of resources; cut down on these, and the resources will stay put. Read more about ways to maximize your business’ profits at Michael Banks or have a look at this excellent article to cut down on the expenses.

Reach out

Your goal is to make a difference in the community, so reach out to other businesses with the same green mindset – you can do more together, you know. Plus, it sends a clear signal to your community that you’re going green for more reasons than financial ones. Sustainable visions that hope to benefit more than just the company’s wallet tends to encourage innovation; by teaming up with similar companies, you drive the innovation further.

Throw events together and find ways of making business more effective in order to save both time and money.

A robust and honest business vision is able to benefit your entire company for many years to come. It works by unifying your employees, investing in their health and happiness, and ensuring that they have a safe and healthy environment to work in. Jump on board the green wagon because everybody else is doing it, and you risk being punished by both your employees and the market you’re in.

CJ Stafford

Don’t Forget to Connect Customer Service Week with Strategy

This week, thousands of organizations around the world are recognizing Customer Service Week. It’s encouraging to see companies across all types of industries make an effort to celebrate their commitment to customer satisfaction. However, many leaders are doing their organizations a disservice by not using Customer Service Week to its fullest potential as a platform for employee engagement that fosters a deeper culture of service.

There’s not a single customer service professional I know who wouldn’t agree that employee engagement is critically important to the service a company ultimately delivers to its customers. As reaffirmed in Gartner’s 2015 report, How to Get Your Customer Service Employees to Care About the Customer, research shows “high levels of employee engagement contribute to higher levels of customer satisfaction.” Yet, Customer Service Week – a time so clearly and publicly dedicated to recognizing customer care – is far too often overlooked as a critical opportunity to strengthen an organization’s relationship with and among its employees. It’s often swept aside as a ‘check-the-box’ activity fulfilled by simply giving staff members branded chotskies. Or it might be five days riddled with a host of activities that have been carefully planned but focus more on the fun than the functional. In many cases, Customer Service Week falls flat on strategy.

As you celebrate Customer Service Week at your organization, ask yourself these three questions to help ensure your initiatives are connected with a larger strategy. Use these considerations as a guide … and you may discover enhancements you can make on the fly to make this important week even more meaningful.

Are your planned activities fun and functional?

Of course, Customer Service Week calls for celebration. But the festivities should go beyond being simply fun and simultaneously serve a purpose that benefits the business. This doesn’t mean you have to cut your creativity short or make what should be lighter, enjoyable activities feel like they’re work. It does, however, require dedicated thought about how to make surface-level initiatives more impactful.

For example, consider a ‘Superhero Showcase’ dress-up day – a nod to the heroic feats customer service representatives are known for pulling off. Beyond building camaraderie by having staff members sport their favorite costumes or t-shirts on a designated day, use the opportunity to have each person share how the traits of their assumed characters relate to providing extraordinary service. This sharing will open up a meaningful discussion about what it means to embody service in its various forms and challenge professionals to think beyond traditional notions of customer service.

Do the activities engage other parts of the company?

The importance of service is hardly limited to the customer service department – and Customer Service Week activities shouldn’t be either. There’s no better time to educate others within the organization about how customer service impacts the business, so use this week (and the weeks that follow) to connect with colleagues in other departments.

One way to do this is by providing employees with a “passport” and including an insert with different missions – such as spending time with peers across the organization – that need to be completed. During those visits, employees can learn about each other’s job functions and how they deliver service to their customers, then report back to their respective teams for broader knowledge sharing. Not only does this exposure enhance employees’ perspectives and further their professional development, it also helps to fortify a consistent company-wide culture of service.

What’s next?

The spotlight on customer service recognition during these five days shouldn’t just be a moment in time. Rather, look at it as a jump-start for longer-term or ongoing initiatives for engaging employees and strengthening the service culture. Use this week as a learning opportunity to determine which approaches and tactics were most successful as well as those that weren’t as well-received … and plan for the future from there.

Did the team have a blast with the superheroes? Keep their enthusiasm going by creating a ‘Superhero Shout-out’ bulletin board in a high-traffic area where they can publicly post and share kudos for their colleagues. Were the passports a hit? That’s your cue to organize more frequent peer-to-peer exchanges among different departments.

Regardless of your approach, keep strategy central to your Customer Service Week celebrations to make them count. For more ideas or to learn more about how you can deliver outstanding care to your customers, visit www.staffcom.com.


About the Author

CJ StaffordCJ Stafford is president of Stafford Communications Group Inc., a boutique company with three distinct, yet complementary, lines of business: outsourced call center services, customer care consulting and marketing services. Stafford works with pharmaceutical, healthcare, food, consumer packaged goods and beauty care companies – ensuring their customer service initiatives are aligned to their marketing programs so they intrinsically support each other.

Garrett Sutton

Is Your Business a Commodity or a Resource?

How are your services and the people providing them viewed by your clients? Are you a commodity readily available anywhere? Or are you a resource where skill, judgement, and critical thinking are valued and rewarded? The difference is important to your business future.


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About the Author

Garrett SuttonGarrett Sutton is an author and asset protection attorney based in Reno, Nevada. Sutton’s bestselling books include: Start Your Own Corporation, Loopholes of Real Estate, and Finance Your Own Business. His latest book is Toxic Client: Knowing and Avoiding Problem Customers, deals with the important premise: Not every client is a good client.

For more information on Sutton and his books please visit www.ToxicClient.com.

Sean Ammirati

Four Questions to Ask Before Scaling Your Business

“Things are either growing or dying” is a famous quip. While it’s unclear who said it first, it’s been used regularly at business conferences to fire up audiences over the last few decades. The speaker often follows it up with a list of suggestions like “five tips to start scaling your sales”. However, it turns out one of the most dangerous things you can do is to prematurely start to focus on scaling.

This may seem like an odd statement coming from a entrepreneur turned venture capitalist and professor who has spent the last few years in my role at Carnegie Mellon studying scaling startups and teaching a popular graduate course titled The Science of Growth that was recently turned in as a book.

I’m a big fan of scaling up innovative ideas and making sure they have as much impact as possible. In our research, to try and understand the critical success factors of scaling a startup, we followed the journeys of 10 well-known companies, ranging from modern marvels like Tesla, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn all the way back to the retail juggernaut McDonalds – and then contrasts each story with that of a lesser-known startup that was created at about the same time, with a similar product, targeting the same market.

From these cases, we came to appreciate that there were a set of four what we call ‘prerequisites’ that startups needed to focus on BEFORE growth. Just as you can’t take calculus before basic arithmetic, these are the essential foundational elements of any startup before the entrepreneurs turn their attention to growth.


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About the Author

Sean AmmiratiSean Ammirati is a partner at Birchmere Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm based in Pittsburgh, PA, and Palo Alto, CA, and is an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University. Before that, he was the COO of ReadWriteWeb, one of the most influential sites about the future of technology and innovation. Sean was previously co-founder and CEO of mSpoke, a big data SaaS company that was the first acquisition of LinkedIn.