Archives from month » December, 2009

‘Tis the season for planning

While we are enjoying the holidays our businesses must continue.  How well your business finishes 2009 and starts 2010 is dependent upon good planning.  Although plans without action are not very useful, actions without plans can be very harmful.  Below are five tips for planning success.

  1. Set aside dedicated planning time.  It is easy for planning to be “rescheduled” due to immediate priorities.  Everyone has urgent items that keep taking precedence over planning and strategic thinking.  During the holidays is a great time to focus on planning.  Be sure to set aside a day or half-day to plan for 2010.
  2. Define clear objectives for planning.  A good plan does not get created by accident.  You need an approach to make the plan come alive.  Create an agenda for your planning session.  Even if you are the only one doing the planning, know what your objectives are for the plan and attack them.  Whether you will be growing your business through acquisition, expansion, or new products and services, all of your activities need clear objectives and measures of success.  Be sure you have objectives for your planning as well and consider all areas of your business: sales and marketing, infrastructure, product development, support services, customer care, company leadership, your competitors, etc.  Whether you need to make major changes, protect the base, or create a market, a stable plan with clear objectives is essential.
  3. Invite advisors – but not friends.  Friends are great and can be very supportive.  They are a necessary part of any successful business, but you need your trusted advisors to participate in planning.  You need advisors who will challenge you and push you to excel.  They should help you identify your blindspots and assist in identifying ways to drive the business forward.  Stay focused during the planning and make the best use of the talent available to you.  Be open to new ideas, prioritize the ideas to be implemented, and then send your advisors away.  Now you need some “alone time” with your leadership team.
  4. Turn strategies into Tactics.  A plan is only as good as your ability to execute it.  Take the strategies you’ve identified and determine how they will be implemented.  Answer questions like: How much will this cost?; How soon will I get a return on my investment?; Can I afford to do this now — can I afford not to?; What other resources do I need?  Once you have each strategy defined, go back and be sure you have a holistic plan that includes the “baseline” efforts you perform today as well as any new activities.  This will ensure you have an integrated plan that can succeed.
  5. GO!  Be strategic at least a few minutes each day.  Things don’t change overnight, but without effort, they never change.  Spend a few minutes every day making sure you are sticking with your plans.  Don’t be afraid to abandon something if it isn’t working out, just do so consciously and not because you didn’t have time to think about it.  Measure your progress and hold yourself accountable for the successful implementation of the strategies.

If you spend the time now to create a good plan for 2010, you will reap the rewards.  You will be more confident in your business model and everyone on your team will know where the company is headed.  They will have a plan to rally around, and they will help it succeed.

Enjoy the holidays and have a great 2010!

Starting A New Venture

Many people are considering starting a new venture.  Each of them will go through a predictable set of steps to find the venture that is best for them.  Starting a new company can be daunting and the needs of the entrepreneur will change over time.  Below are the typical steps an entrepreneur goes through when starting a new venture.

  • “I’m Done!” – the desire to start a new company is often precipitated by an event that makes it clear the current venture is no longer of interest.  This event could be of their choosing, or could be caused by an external force such as the economy, their boss, their spouse, or any number of other factors.
  • “What do I do now?” – even though you know you don’t want to continue what you are doing, you are probably not sure what you want to do next.  During this time of uncertainty, the most important thing is to have the support of your family, friends, mentors, and past co-workers.  They cannot decide what your next venture will be, but they do provide the encouragement for you to continue.
  • “I can do anything!” – once an entrepreneur starts to consider ideas there is often a flood of potential ventures to select.  They are literally drowning in ideas.  At this point in the process what is needed is someone to help them focus on the most promising idea.  This assistance focusing is often found through trial and error until you find the person that helps keep you on track.  It may not be someone you currently know.  You will need an unbiased viewpoint to determine which idea could work.
  • “This idea might work” – during this phase of starting a new venture you have picked the idea with the most promise, and are ready for the next steps.  Now all you have to do is prove your business model can succeed.  This requires a combination of detailed analysis, prototyping, selling, and building a team.
  • “It works!” – now that the idea is proven, you need to add the structure to help it scale and grow successfully.  Too much structure will overwhelm the business and too little will allow the business to wander off course.  This is a delicate balance requiring the ability to identify and build structures which can grow with the business without having to be replaced and rebuilt.  After all, money is scarce!
  • “I’m Done!” – at some point you will be finished with this business also.  It could be a result of being bought or you may have developed a new passion for another idea.  You should realize this from the beginning and always have your ”exit strategy” defined in advance.  You may never execute the exit strategy as planned, but having it will provide a framework for many of the decisions you will make along the way.

There is no one right or wrong way to start a new venture.  What is important is that you leverage the skills and capabilities of others as well as your own.  As long as there is forward progress and your ideas are vetted quickly you will succeed with the cycle of starting a new venture.  Good Luck!