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Five Methods for Making Your Startup Business Look More Professional

StrategyDriven Online Marketing and Website Development Article |Startup|Five Methods for Making Your Startup Business Look More ProfessionalIn order to lead your startup business to success, it needs to look professional from the very beginning. Professionalism will be the difference between drawing clients in or pushing them away.

Here are five key and simple methods to promote more of a professional image for your business.

1. Create a Business Email Address

If you’re an entrepreneur who is working at home or from a personal location without a team of staff, chances are you’re using a lot of your current personal information to get things moving, which might include your own personal email address.

Even if your personal email address is nondescript, such as just your name, it still reveals what it is: that you’re a startup using personal information.

Instead, form a new business email address as soon as you can, ideally one which includes the business name or something generic such as ‘[email protected]’. It’s a simple task, but it can make your correspondence seem significantly more professional.

2. Design an Impressive Website

When researching a new business or product, most people turn to an official website first. Your business can be judged within a matter of seconds based on what your website has to offer and how it appears. A professional website could be the difference between a visitor remaining and browsing, or clicking the exit button straight away.

First impressions count, especially for a start up business, so you need the first impression of your website to be an excellent one. If you’re unsure where to start, you can consult with professional web design in Lichfield and have experts help you develop it.  Alternatively, you can outsource your entire website build to a website development company.

3. Get a Separate Business Line

This means either a direct landline for your business, or having your current cell phone number fitted with a second line. This means that you can answer business-related calls professionally with a formal greeting, and keep your personal calls separate with an informal ‘hello’. To answer a business call informally can make you seem unprofessional.

4. Keep on Top of Invoicing and Payments

Correct and prompt invoicing simply screams professionalism. Invoices which are missed or incorrect will make your accounting system seem undependable and shoddy. It can be difficult to keep on top of accounting when you’re a startup, especially if you are doing everything else and finance isn’t your forte, but it’s important to set up a system which works for you. Scheduling and reminders will be a huge help, and you can easily download invoice templates to fill out accordingly.

This can also help you to keep on track with payments owed to you, to ensure that clients don’t try to delay payment or ignore them entirely.

5. Create a Social Media Presence

After checking out your business website, the next port of call for consumers will be your social media profiles. If you don’t have any, this can seem strange within the current online climate.

Even if you create a very basic, professional profile on each social media platform, it still shows that you’re present online and that you care about getting involved with social media. You can always add to and build your profiles later.

Have You Found The Right Idea For Your Business?

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article |Business Idea|Have You Found The Right Idea For Your Business?Finding the right idea for a business is still a hard thing to do for a lot of entrepreneurs out there. You have to do your research. You have to reach out and talk to people. And when you’ve done all of the necessary leg work, there’s no saying your work stops there.

And coming up with the perfect idea – viable enough to put down on a business plan for an investor to look over, and clear enough to follow through when you’ve established yourself – doesn’t just happen overnight. There’s some things you’ve got to do first, before anything else.

So, without further ado, here are those exact things. If you’re sitting there with a business concept in mind, make sure you get these out of the way before you try anything else.

Target the Market

The market you want to sell to needs to be the first thing you come up with and get your eye on. If you’ve got a product idea, it’ll mean nothing until you find out whether or not people will want to buy it – and no, there’s not a gap for every single half baked idea an entrepreneur has ever come up with!

You’ll need to look into the people who might want to buy what you’re selling; their age, their schedules, their price ranges, and even their generational shopping habits. A lot of previous research has gone into these, so you won’t have to start from scratch either.

Mingle with the Professionals

You’ll want to get a bit of one on one time with the people who know what they’re talking about. Before you fully set out in your business venture, talking to the people who have been and gone before you is a great way to get to know the scene, and just how long it might take for you to reach the same level of success.

For example, if you’re planning to start an online only business, you’re going to be relying solely on the income driven through your website. That means you’ll want to talk to an ecommerce business consultant; someone who knows what it’s like to sell online, and how fast rates, prices, and demand can change.

Are You OK on Your Own?

You might be of the mind to run your business entirely on your own; it’s a micro venture, or it might just be a small home run operation. But when you think about it, no business is set up entirely on its own – no one is really a self made person.

A lot of us have to rely on the experience and labor of other people, especially in the early stages of a small business. And if you’ve already got quite a tight schedule, some serious rearranging might need to be done.

Finding the right idea for your business takes time, so don’t try to rush this stage of the process. A lot of work lies ahead, and it’ll require full attention.

Want A Better Strategy? Don’t Talk To The Same People.

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article |Strategy|Want A Better Strategy? Don’t Talk To The Same People.Alan Gozdalski has taken care of the landscaping on my property for over 20 years. He treats my property like his own. When a devastating fall storm hit Buffalo, NY in October of 2006, Al was one of the first people who called me to check on how his (my) yard fared. I am pretty sure that we both had tears in our eyes when we walked the property and found ourselves shoulder-high in a sea of broken trees.

Al is one of the most creative entrepreneurs I know. He pioneered residential ponds in Western New York, and since 1997, he has installed over 1,000 ponds in the area, including one in my yard. Every year I host a holiday party at my house. I invite clients, friends, students and interesting people who have become friends. Al comes to the party.

I was at Al’s store recently, and he introduced me to another customer. He made a point of telling them about my parties. “I met a plethora of interesting people at Roger’s party. In five minutes, I talked to five different people with different ethnic and work backgrounds. I met a nun, a cardiologist, a rock musician who is in the Buffalo music hall of fame, a Pilates instructor, farmers, branding experts, website designers, entrepreneurs, corporate presidents, college professors and some of Roger’s graduate students who are different ages and nationalities.”

Al loves my party. Why? Because at the party, he is exposed to people who don’t think the same way he does.

One of the most effective ways to get creative is to interact with people from varying backgrounds who have a variety of interests. This isn’t always easy to do, for most of us find it more comfortable to spend time with people familiar to us. To our own detriment, we often don’t make the time or effort to meet new people.

I am pretty sure that we violate the fire code by packing so many people into the house at the holiday party. You can’t help but meet new people when you come. And, if I know two people who would enjoy talking with one another, I make a point to pull them aside to make an introduction.

Research conducted on communication networks determined that the best source of new information is NOT from the people you see regularly. Why? Those people usually have the same information that you do.

The best source of new information is from other networks — people who run in circles different from your own. In technical terms, this is known as non-homogeneous groups. To stimulate your creativity, it is important to tap into groups of people with whom you usually don’t interact.

I offer a program called Breakthroughs Lab, designed to help clients work through tough problems. When I’m hired for these projects, my clients are stuck and facing an obstacle that even their most competent people can’t solve. They often tell me, “We need to have all of the technical experts on this.” I ask them this — “If the technical experts haven’t been able to solve the problem, then why would we have more technical experts work on the problem??

Instead, a Breakthroughs Lab consists of a client and five to seven “creative catalysts” — industry experts who are also highly trained in Creative Problem-Solving. I find people who know very little or nothing about the client’s problem. By nature of being new to the problem, they will have new information that the client does not have. It’s sort of like coming to my holiday party, but the focus is on creating a breakthrough.

The same is true for developing strategy. You will get a much richer result if you include people who are NOT working the business all of the time. They bring the fresh perspective that can set you apart from your competition.

Seek out those people who you might not usually connect with. Talk to them. Learn from them. And if you are in Buffalo, NY in December, give me a call. There might be a party brewing.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Entrepreneurship Article |Strategy|Want A Better Strategy? Don’t Talk To The Same People.Dr. Roger Firestien has taught more people to lead the creative process than anyone else in the world. He is senior faculty and an associate professor at the Center for Creativity and Change Leadership at SUNY Buffalo, author of Create in A Flash: A Leader’s Recipe For Breakthrough Innovation and President of Innovation Resources, Inc.
For more information please visit: https://rogerfirestien.com/

The Disconnect that Keeps Your Company from Performing at its Peak

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | THE SUCCESS CADENCE: Unleash Your Organization’s Rapid Growth CultureOver the years, I’ve worked with a number of founders, CEOs, and presidents of companies. Often, these executives are a part of my network. I have noticed that their story consistently repeats itself: their organizations are underperforming, and they want to discuss ways to optimize, share ideas and collaborate on experience that could help set up a plan to turn that situation around. These executives tell me frankly that they don’t have the revenue stream, the market share, or the margins their products and services deserve. They’re not sure what the problem or solution is. A common challenge is that they have not hired the level of skill necessary on the sales team. Very often, though, I find that there is another, related obstacle to their company achieving at its full potential, one that all too common goes unnoticed. I call this obstacle The Disconnect.

The Disconnect puts the sales team outside of the strategic conversation. Sales are considered an ending point, not a vital resource. Typically, Finance, Marketing, and Operations all have input, direct or indirect, on the creation and revision of the strategic plan. Sales often have no such contribution. The plan, and its revenue targets are dictated to Sales. The salespeople are expected to go out and execute it. There is zero conversation, zero back and forth, zero collaboration. The strategic communication with Sales can be translated roughly but accurately as: “Here’s your quarterly target. Go hit it.”

In early-stage and high growth scenarios, that’s a losing proposition because there’s no buy-in and no intimacy in the field with what the company is genuinely trying to accomplish. That Disconnect leads to a low-growth culture and a failure to execute the strategic plan adequately or effectively. It’s often impossible to recover from such a blow to communication, collaboration, and strategic alignment.

Changing this situation is not a simple fix. It requires the courage to change the operating culture that management has grown used to, and a parallel willingness to make and follow through on decisions that challenge the familiar ways of setting company strategy.  Specifically, there has to be a connecting line from the outset between the salespeople and leaders out in the field and the management team setting and funding corporate objectives – without it, slow growth is imminent.

Sales has to be the active, leading partner in the formation of the strategy that the company is trying to pursue. That’s a differentiator that most companies miss. Once you get it right, though, this way of doing business leads to a whole new organizational culture, one based on the full support of the principle of scalable, aggressive growth.

When the field organization,  both sales and technical sales have active roles in strategic planning, development of corporate initiatives, and specifically on the setting of their own monthly and quarterly targets, territory plans, etc. the dynamic changes, Everybody’s on the same page; everybody’s taking action to serve the same purposes; everyone is in alignment with senior executives.  A remarkable spirit of cohesion emerges when the sales team knows with deep certainty that their fingerprints and contribution are on the company’s objectives, initiatives and revenue targets, Unfortunately, this is the exception, rather than the rule. Usually, what happens is The Disconnect. That’s how companies are used to doing business. But that familiarity carries a steep cost: slow growth, missed targets, attrition, and unfulfilled potential.

The key takeaway for senior leaders here is a simple one. If for some reason you’re not including your sales leaders and front-line salespeople in your strategy discussions, your go-to-market planning sessions, and your discussions about monthly, quarterly, and annual revenue targets, you are missing out on the opportunity to turn your sales team into the battlefield defenders of your strategic vision. Start the conversation today!


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Bart FanelliBart Fanelli is co-author, with David Mattson and Tom Schodorf, of THE SUCCESS CADENCE: Unleash Your Organization’s Rapid Growth Culture. Bart is a sales leader, entrepreneur, executive advisor, and platform developer who specializes in team building, sales execution, sales leadership methodologies, and global operational efficiency. He has deep experience in building, leading, and scaling technology teams committed to rapid growth. The hypergrowth of one of the teams he led was the subject of a 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review. He is the recipient of the Technology Services Industry Association’s STAR award for “innovation in expand selling,” and the founder and lead designer of Skillibrium, a powerful sales success execution platform.

 

Strategy as a Problem Solving Process

StrategyDriven Decision Making Article |problem solving |Strategy as a Problem Solving Process“The old paradigm of strategy departments and planning cycles has been overthrown by agile and rapid team-based problem solving, providing better solutions and better organization alignment to implement.” These comments by Mehrdad Baghai, strategist and author, commend our book Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill that Changes Everything. But what does it mean to adopt agile and rapid team-based problem solving, where strategy becomes a problem solving process?

Teams and agile methodology have become the dominant form of organization for environments featuring high uncertainty and rapid change, where business models are challenged by disrupters. In these settings the most effective teams follow the 7 steps process for bulletproof problem solving, by asking themselves the following questions:

1. Are we working on the right problem? Defining a problem well is often said to take you more than halfway to the solution. This invariably leads to a clear problem statement of the challenges you have to address, the decision context, problem boundaries and success criteria.

2. Have we broken down the problem into key issues to address? Complex problems can rarely be solved without breaking the larger problem into parts. How you disaggregate or cleave a problem has a big impact on the insight you get into a problem. We show numerous examples from return on invested capital logic trees, to logic trees that help you decide whether to put solar panels on your roof.

3. Are our priorities for analysis the right ones? For efficient use of team resources you need to be working on the issues where the impact is high and you have a significant ability to influence the outcome. This may require a lot of debate in the team. That’s important too.

4. Have we brought outside perspectives and diversity of views to bear in the team? We urge teams to have hypotheses about the answer but open them to challenge in the team, by having diverse perspectives, role playing and actively tapping expertise outside the team. Really good teams porpoise frequently between the hypothesis and the data, sharpening the hypothesis along the way. The data comes in the form of facts and analysis. Yes facts and analysis still make a huge difference to problem solving outcomes.

5. Do we have the right analytic toolkit for the problem? Teams will, and should, make use of heuristics and rules of thumb to scope problems and knock out infeasible solutions. At times, to solve a problem involves understanding root causes or predicting an outcome. That’s when you have to bring out the analytic big guns such as regression, simulation, A/B experiments and machine learning. You can even crowdsource your solutions with Kaggle competitions.

6. Are we carefully synthesizing our findings? We like the way the successful investor Ray Dalio expresses it ‘The quality of your synthesis will determine the quality of your decision making.’ The process we follow is to draw together findings on the key issues into an overall picture, ideally with visualization to show linkages and highlight key drivers or root causes.

7. Have we presented our findings in a compelling narrative that is likely to lead to action? This final step is so often underdone and the source of team disappointment. Doing it the right way involves choosing a governing thought from the synthesis, accompanied by a logical argument structure that may be based on inductive or deductive reasoning.

When this process is complete, teams have reached the holy grail of strategy as a problem solving process as Richard Rumelt put it in Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters. Rumelt succinctly describes ‘a strategy is a coherent set of analyses, concepts, policies, arguments and actions that respond to a high stakes challenge.’ We agree and know that the way to get there is through a 7-step problem solving process.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Robert McLeanRobert McLean is co-author, with Charles Conn, of Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything (Wiley 2019). McLean is a Director Emeritus of McKinsey and Company and led the Australian and New Zealand McKinsey practice for eight years.