Why constantly updating your business plan is the key to growing successfully.
“When should I update my business plan?” The answer to that question is always. You should be updating your business plan every month, every week and every day; whenever things change, you update your plan. And things always change. You should update your business plan when you’re alone in the shower, when you’re caught in traffic on the way to work, and when you’re walking alone. Update your business plan when listening to customers and other managers.
While this might seem like chaos, it’s actually the opposite; the constantly-updated business plan is what makes order out of chaos. It becomes a long-term planning process that sets up your strategy, objectives and the steps you need to take by constantly being aware of the results of these steps.
Managing the Planning Process
The Annual Update
Update your plan thoroughly at least once a year. You can start with an old plan and revise, but make sure you’re taking a fresh look–distance yourself from the trees and look at the forest.
- Talk to your customers and potential customers.
Review your value proposition. What are your customers buying? What problems do you solve? What other solutions can they choose?
- Try to come up with a new market segmentation.
Segmentation is the grouping or divisions you see in the market. For example, if you normally view your market by type of product, look at it by channel or buyer. If you divide by region, divide by size of buyer company. Think up a new segmentation to give you a fresh view.
- Look at the larger potential market for the problems that need solutions.
Look at contiguous businesses. Look at changing trends and technologies.
The Monthly Update
Accounting and financial analysis normally works in months since the books close after every month. Make sure you have a monthly review of the difference between planned results and actual results for your sales, profits, balance and cash.
- For each of the standard pro-forma projections, always maintain a table with the plan, another with actual results, and a third with the difference between plan and actual, which is called variance.
- As an annual plan marches through the months, you can use the table reserved for actual results to include changes in budget that affect the near future. For example, if the annual plan starts in January, then by the end of May you have an actual Sales Forecast that includes actual results for January through May and the latest revised forecast for June through December.
- You must also review the activities, deadlines and planned results that don’t fall into the financials. A good plan is full of milestones, assumptions and tasks, all of which should be measurable. Make sure you review and update these measured results every month.
Managing the Major Revisions
The business planning process involves an important paradox. Strategy works only when consistently applied over a long period, which means that you can’t implement strategy without following a long-term plan. However, blindly following a long-term plan can also kill a company that stubbornly insists on following a plan that isn’t working.
Resolution of the paradox is called management. It involves judgment. The owners, operators and managers of the business have the responsibility of distinguishing between consistently applying long-term strategy and blindly following a failing plan. There are no easy rules for this, but the first place to look for clues is in false assumptions. Has the real world proven wrong the assumptions on which your strategy is based? This kind of subjective judgment is what makes business management so important. The planning process, with its regular review, is critical.
Every Business Plan is Wrong
You have to realize your business plan is wrong. All business plans are wrong. Plans are about the future–and nobody gets the future right very often, so keep the plan fresh and watch closely as reality moves forward. A planning process constantly watches the difference between the plan and actual results. Reality swallows our assumptions and we need to keep track of where, why and how we were wrong. This kind of tracking becomes the key to management.
A Good Business Plan is Never Done
Author: Tim Berry – Entrepreneur.com
This blog by Oliver Burkeman made me chuckle. I totally agree that when you enjoy what you are doing, you are more productive. However, being self-employed, a business owner, or an entrepreneur, there will be lots of things that you will have to do that you won’t enjoy. So how do you keep yourself motivate to complete those tasks, especially when delegation isn’t an option?
What are you going to do with your time today?
Is the secret of productivity really just doing what you enjoy?
The problem with the genre of “life lessons from the world’s most successful entrepreneurs” is one of causal direction: just because Elon Musk works 120 hours a week, it doesn’t follow that if you work 120 hours a week, you’ll experience Musk’s success. (Whether or not Musk has an enviable life isn’t the point here; that depends on your enthusiasm for space travel and defaming cave divers.) Musk works insane hours because he wants to. We can argue about the psychological roots of that wanting: does it stem from a big-hearted desire to help humanity, or a pathological workaholism and desperation to prove himself? But either way, in some sense, Musk likes it; whereas if you tried to follow that schedule, you’d have to make yourself do it. The same applies to less extreme advice. “Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.
This clicked into place for me as I read about the hyper-productive German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, in a fascinating book called How To Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens (based on the intricate index card system Luhmann used to organise his knowledge). How did Luhmann publish 58 books and hundreds of articles – plus, impressively, several more books after his 1998 death, thanks to manuscripts he left behind? Because, said Luhmann, “I never force myself to do anything I don’t like. Whenever I am stuck, I do something else.” That sounds scandalously self-indulgent – except that, as Ahrens writes, “doesn’t it make much more sense that the impressive body of work was produced not in spite of the fact he never made himself do anything he didn’t feel like, but because of it?”
I’ve experimented with countless time-management techniques, but the results leave me forced to agree: by far the biggest predictor of whether something gets done is whether it’s fun to do. The secret of productivity is simple: just do what you enjoy.
Oh, you have some objections? Thought so. A big one is the fear that if we just let ourselves do what we enjoy, we’d waste (even more) hours each day on social media, or eating Nutella from the jar, instead of doing what mattered. There’s some limited truth to this: when you’re just beginning a session of challenging work, you often need to give yourself a push, reminding yourself you don’t need to “feel like” starting in order to start. But after that, it’s enjoyment that’ll sustain your motivation, not productivity techniques. Indeed, they can make things worse: if you tell yourself you must spend, say, four hours every day on a certain project, come hell or high water, you’re liable to turn something that once inspired you into something you can’t bear to do.
The other big objection is that countless people don’t have the luxury of enriching, meaningful work, so they can hardly organise their days by focusing on what feels good. This is true. But it’s not a problem with Luhmann’s enjoyment-based approach to productivity. It’s a problem with society – the kind of problem, in other words, that no productivity technique is ever going to fix.
I came across this short blog by accident and it really resonated with me. When I think of the goals that I either found really hard or challenging and in some cases I didn’t complete. There was that feeling attached to the goals that I had to do it. Now where there is a ‘have to’ attached to a goal for me, then there is usually a bit of resistance in the air to, this all leads to either things being completed last minute or being delayed. Now changing my mindset from ‘have to’ to, ‘get to’, feels so much easier and chilled. Have a read and see whether a change of mindset can help you move forward with much more ease.
Have Versus Get
My secret for creating the right mindset is focusing on a “get to” versus a “have to” mentality. When feel we have to do something, we remove the choice which blinds us to opportunities and creativity in business. When we think of things we “get to” do, we take ownership and build fun and excitement into our activities. Looking at what we “get to” do adds excitement to business and transitions a mindset of victim-hood to a mindset of choice and leadership where we make the most of every day.
Acknowledgement to Jackie Vanover.
Networking used to be an area where my confidence would be challenged. Each time the same anxieties would take centre stage. 🤦🏽♀️
😲 I’m going to be surrounded by people I don’t know
😲 I’m going to have to talk about myself and my business. Have I got my pitch right⁉️
😲 Will people even want to speak to me ⁉️
And the list went on. 🤦🏽♀️
As you know, networking is an essential if you want business success, visibility, and for people to understand who you are and what you do. So I needed find a way to boost my confidence to settle my anxieties. I remembered a point Anthony Robbins made at an event. ‘The people you surround yourself with have a large impact on reaching your goals. PROXIMITY IS POWER.’ With this in mind, I decided to just chill and enjoy the moment with like minded people. The anxieties started to settle down, there was less pressure to be or perform a certain way. My confidence grew as I began to understand and experience what networking was really all about. Having positive conversations with like-minded people that can support you in business or with your personal development. With that said, I encourage you to get networking and have those positive conversations.
Next Wednesday 29th August 2018, there is a great opportunity to meet some awesome like-minded entrepreneurs. Click Here for more details about the event and to purchase tickets. Can’t wait to see you at the event 😊 .
10 Reasons Why Your Startup Isn’t Getting Customers
I read this article by By Aj Agrawal and found it very interesting. I couldn’t keep it to myself hence why I’m sharing it with you.
Here are ten of the most common, but often overlooked, reasons why your startup isn’t able to attract enough customers to become successful.
- Missing product-market fit
Product-market fit is the single biggest reason why businesses fail. If the product being offered is not aligned with the needs and wants of the target audience, it won’t matter how good your marketing or sales teams are — you simply will not be able to attract enough of the right customers to build a sustainable business.
As Eric Ries described in The Lean Startup, an effective way of testing product-market fit is by building an MVP (minimum viable product) that you then share with the target audience. By listening to customer feedback, you and your team will be able to find product-market fit over time.
- Misaligned product-channel fit
Second only to product-market fit, product-channel fit is another critical business component that entrepreneurs must perfect in order to build a sustainable business. Channel refers to the marketing channels that a business employs to promote the product. Depending on the business model and the product in question, your business will be a good fit for some channels and a bad fit for others.
For example, Pinterest and Quora were able to grow their products quickly by harnessing the power of organic search. That channel fit well with the products offered by the respective companies, and with the desire of the target audience to quickly discover fascinating new content.
On the other hand, organic search might be a poor performing channel for an ecommerce business. The reason is that it can be difficult for a business to rank well organically in a world where giant ecommerce companies and review-oriented media outlets rank highly for most relevant keywords.
Instead, an effective channel might be social media ads, like those offered by Facebook and Instagram, which employ machine-learning algorithms to find and engage ideal customers.
- Poorly trained salespeople
Businesses that rely upon a sales team to acquire new customers must make sure that those salespeople are some of the best trained, smartest and most compassionate members of the organization.
After all, it’s the sales team that will represent the company each and every day to members of its target audience. If salespeople don’t understand the market, or how the product is positioned within the market, it will be incredibly difficult to acquire new customers.
You should benchmark your sales-team performance compared to your industry. Are salespeople performing at or above this benchmark? If not, it’s possible that the sales team is a weak link within your organization.
- Confusion about the ideal customer profile
Each person within your company should know who your ideal customer profile (ICP) is. Members of your team should know the demographic and psychographic makeup of ideal customers. They should know how to find them, and how to speak their language in order to engage with them as a marketer, salesperson or customer-service representative.
If there is misalignment within the organization about the ICP, or worse, if your organization does not have an ICP, it will be challenging to craft a customer experience that appeals to prospects.
- Impractical pricing strategy
Can your product be obtained at a reasonable price that makes sense to members of the ICP and to the economic buyer? Remember, you are not always selling the individual in your ICP; you may need to use your ICP as a champion within the target organization who then needs to convince his or her boss that your product or service is worth the investment.
Make sure that your pricing strategy makes sense to your ICP and to the economic buyer. Otherwise, it will be difficult for prospective customers to see the value of your product, relative to the price.
- Lack of market education
Is the target market aware that your business category exists in the first place? If not, you should consider building a market education campaign to make people aware that a solution to their problem is out there.
Take a page out of the marketing playbooks of pharmaceutical or biotech companies. These organizations are constantly developing category-defining products that did not exist before. The first thing these organizations do is educate doctors about the problem and offer their solution.
They do the same with the general public through a mix of traditional and digital advertising. Once the market is educated, buyers are more receptive to the solution prescribed by the doctor.
- Inaccurate lead-scoring
Businesses that sell to other businesses often employ a lead-scoring system to determine what leads should be sent to the sales team, and what leads should be held for further nurturing. If the lead-scoring system is not working properly, that may mean the sales team is being sent unqualified leads, and its members may lose faith in the marketing team. Another possibility: The sales team is not being sent qualified leads, and therefore the sales team will be unable to hit quota.
The criteria for the lead scoring system should constantly be reviewed to ensure that the right leads are sent, while leads that are not a fit are kept for nurturing.
- Dysfunctional lead nurturing
All types of businesses can and should employ a lead-nurturing system based on email workflows (also called automated emails).
Ecommerce businesses that send out a regular newsletter can engage customers that might otherwise forget about the brand; and B2B businesses that send well-timed automated emails can engage prospects just in the nick of time.
In fact, a study by McKinsey & Co. found that marketing email is the second most effective way to acquire new customers, second only to organic search, and well ahead of social media. Ensure that your business has a healthy lead-nurturing system in place to generate customers consistently over the long run.
- Dissatisfying customer service
The average person will tell 16 other people about a poor customer service experience according to an American Express study. If your business is providing dissatisfactory customer service or support, the problem is surely costing you customers. That means ten poor customer service experiences will result in a minimum of 160 other people viewing your business in a negative light.
Poor customer service may also be preventing your organization from attracting new customers through word-of-mouth referrals. The same American Express study found that the average person shares a positive customer service story with nine other people.
- Disruptive competitor
While we often think of startups as disruptive organizations, by nature, it is certainly possible that another business is offering a more attractive product or service that is robbing your organization of customers. A good way to determine this is to speak with people in your target audience. Ask them about the solutions they currently use and why they chose them. If a disruptive competitor is out there, you will eventually learn about it through speaking with customers.
There are a number of plausible reasons why your business is unable to attract enough customers. Some of these reasons may be unique to your industry, but many plausible explanations are shared among businesses of all kinds.
Before looking for less-obvious answers, be sure to review the 10 reasons listed here to see if any of the common mistakes outlined are causing your business serious challenges.
By Aj Agrawal