It's My Life Inc.

Foundation

Growth is good.  Growth is needed for companies to survive.  Growth is necessary.  Growth is success.

Not all the time.

Growth without foundation is a recipe for disaster.  Recently I have been exposed to a few terrific companies who are experiencing incredible growth.  Their sales and therefore organization are increasing exponentially.  But unfortunately with this growth, these companies find themselves struggling.

Companies have increased their sales in amazing numbers.  But they are experiencing issues with the surge of product needed to maintain these sales.  Their current systems did not plan for the increase in inventory, potential quality issues, returns, and distribution needed.  Other companies have experienced another issue with growth, communication.  When these companies were mom and pop size, there was no reason to have a procedures manual or processes to track execution by employees.  But now with a growing host of individuals involved with the business, they are finding consistency difficult to maintain.  They are experiencing issues with individuals making decisions beyond their position, individuals unable to act because they do not understand the tools available to them, and dissatisfied customers due to lack of consistent results.

What these companies are experiencing is growth without a foundation.  A foundation is the roadmap and structure for a company to grow.  It takes into account what is needed today and what will be needed tomorrow.  It outlines systems and procedures which can be followed as the organization grows.  It anticipates the additional requirements of a growing business, when there are still only two employees.

Without a foundation, when the company grows it is behind the eight ball.  The dollars are rolling in but the system is not designed to handle the additional inventory and shipments.  There is lack of communication tools to keep a growing number of people in lockstep.  As a small company, a heads up over the cubicle wall is all that is needed, but when there are multiple employees potentially in multiple locations, a more sophisticated and systematic process is needed.

As you develop your strategic plan for your business, be sure to include a solid foundation for future growth.  Your strategic plan should include systems for sales, marketing, product development and quality control, employee training and retention, and customer management.  In the beginning, the execution of these different systems can be simple and inexpensive, but be sure your strategic plan outlines the steps to take as your business grows.  Without this pre-planning, you may find yourself like the businesses above.  Growing but not being able to sustain the growth.

Building the Best,

Melissa Heisler, Business Coach

It's My Life Inc.

Planning for the New Year

As this year is coming to a close and the new one is just around the corner, this is the perfect time to take inventory of your business.  Now is the time to review your goals for 2010.  What did you want to accomplish?  If you did not reach your goals, why not?  Did the marketplace shift requiring you to shift your goals and focus?  Did internal or external obstacles prevent you from success and what lessons did they teach you?  And what did 2010 provide that will serve as the basis for 2011?

This process of review may be difficult for you, especially if you did not take the time last year to develop your business plan and goals for 2010.  So kick this new year off to a good start by creating a solid plan for 2011.  A well-conceived plan allows you to be focused in all your efforts, provides you with a measurement and accountability tool as you move forward, and provides the framework for your business success.

Planning

Many business books talk of complicated and lengthy business and strategic plan models.  Often times these models are overwhelming and dissuade companies from creating them.  Luckily you do not need to have an MBA or a 20-page presentation to have a strong strategy.  A strong business strategy can be created on two pages if they include the right elements.  Below is the simplified business strategy I use to help businesses get started.  There are three (3) aspects to the overall business strategy; the Business Description, Strategic Plan, and Annual Plan.

Business Description

This is the what, how, where, and why of the business’ existence.  The Business Description is the foundation for the company.  The added benefit from this section is defining a clear purpose and differentiation which is the basis for strong branding and marketing.

Better known as the Five P’s, the core elements of the description detail the what, how, and where of the business.  These include People or your target market, Product or service the company provides, Price including expenses and sales fees, Place which is how or where your product is sold, and Promotion which includes how your product will be branded and marketed.

The second section of the Business Description focuses on the why the business exists.  First is the Vision Statement.  This is a simple sentence or two that encapsulates the ultimate goal of the company, what the company is striving to be.  The Mission Statement supports the Vision by explaining why the company exists and why they have chosen to serve their market.

Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan is where you want the business to go.  It is the big picture, ten (10) to twenty (20) year vision of what the company can become.   This Plan begins with the Business Objective or the financial goal for the company within the given time period.  Then it details how the company plans to reach that goal.  As the Strategic Plan is visionary, the details in this plan are broad.

This plan starts out with Objectives or the goals the company wants to reach.  For each Objective, there are three (3) to five (5) Strategies.  The Strategies are how the Objectives will be completed.

Annual Plan

The Annual Plan is based off of the Strategic Plan.  It is the slice of the Strategic Plan that will be focused on in the current year.  Here the Objectives and Strategies are more tangible, actionable, and quantifiable.  The selected Strategic Plan Strategies become Annual Plan Objectives.  Each of these Objectives then receives three (3) to five (5) Strategies on how to accomplish these Objectives.  Then one more layer is added.  For each Annual Plan Strategy, usually three (3) Tactics are outlined to show how the Strategy can be accomplished.  It is very important that these Tactics be specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and timebound.  These become the must-do’s of the business this year.  The Tactics are really the work plan for the business.

Often times when creating a plan, Tactics are mistaken for an Objective or a Strategy.  “Creating a Website” is a Tactic not an Objective.  “Growing awareness” is the Objective, “Online Presence” is the Strategy, and “Creating a Website” is the Tactic.  The goal is not to have a pretty website; the true goal and desired outcome is to grow awareness so more potential customers can learn about and purchase the product.  Using Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics properly keeps you focused on what you are truly trying to achieve.

I hope this overview of business planning will provide you with the framework and incentive to make the plans you need for a successful new year!

It's My Life Inc.

Lifestyle Business

Recently on Davette Harvey’s The Entrepreneur Zone, I provided the basics of business strategy.  Hopefully the listeners received glimpses of insight within our discussion, but my aha came afterward.  Davette and I were discussing the concept of holistic business strategy or business strategy that does not just cover business needs and goals but the goals of one’s personal life.  That is when Davette told me how she enjoyed having me on the show because I served lifestyle businesses.   Lifestyle business was not a term I had heard before but I quickly learned that it is in fact who I serve.

Some entrepreneurs begin their businesses to make millions.  Some do it to bring their product concept to market.  Some do it to serve others through their unique skills.  But the people I love to work with start their businesses to have the life they desire.  They no longer want to work by terms that are not their own.  They want to create the rules.  They want to define their work day.  They want to determine what success looks like to them.  And most importantly, they want to create a business that allows them to live life fully.  It is no longer working for a living, but living through one’s working.  As Davette said, “my work is play and my play is work.”  Work and business is not compartmentalized into a segment of the day and neither is one’s life.

How many of us feel like we are playing a role at work?  How often do we feel like we are changing hats to go into our personal life?  How often do we feel we need to hide part of our personality or stifle some of what makes us happy to retain our jobs?  Why can’t our personal and professional lives be one?  We spend too many hours of our lives working not to make those hours satisfying to our souls too.

They can be.  The first step is for you to define what you want.  Read this again:  define what you want.  So often we believe we need to fit into the structures of existing businesses.  Why?  Why can’t we pitch the existing mores of the business world and create our own?    Take some time and write down what your business day would look like.  Where would you live?  When would you wake up in the morning?  Who wakes up next to you?  What do you do first – read the paper, exercise, or check your emails?  What do you do next?  What is the step by step progress of your work day if you could define it anyway you would like?  Be as descriptive as you can.  Really feel, see, hear, taste and smell what that day is like.  If you are starting your own business, ensure that this perfect work day is reflected in your business plan.  Create the business plan around the life you want to create.  If you work for someone else, how much of your perfect day can you have in your current position?  What needs to change to make your day as close as possible to perfect for you?

Share with us your personal lifestyle business description.

It's My Life Inc.

Focus on the Forest

There is an old saying, “I can’t see the forest through the trees.”  I believe this is a common problem for many businesses.  We are so often focused on the trees, or shall we say tasks, that we lose site of the forest or big picture.  The tasks may be important like handling a customer order or mundane and time consuming like responding to emails.  The tasks may be known months in advance or may seemingly pop out of nowhere.  But what these “trees” usually do is distract us from the big picture.  Our objectives are our forest, and all too often these objectives are forgotten because we are so caught up in the details (trees).  We focus on the action steps of our objectives and forget about the big “what” we would like to accomplish.  An illustration of this is building a website.  There is so much that goes into creating a website; buying the domain, finding a host, hiring a developer, deciding on structure, ensuring SEO, creating content, choosing colors,  proofreading, etc.  But those are all trees.  What we forget is the bigger picture of why we want a website.  The end goal is not to have a completed website, but to have an online calling card to generate leads and lend credibility to our business.

If we focus on the details, we are apt to make wrong or inappropriate decisions.  The decisions we make may seem appropriate for getting the task done, but they may be the wrong decision for our overall objective.  In our rush to click things off of our to do list, we may choose the easiest, least time consuming, or least expensive solution, versus taking a step back and looking at what is best for our long term goal.  All too often, making decisions in the trenches means redoing a project later to accomplish what was truly desired.

Focusing on the details can also add more stress to our lives.  There can be seemingly unending lists of to-do’s that never seem to get accomplished since as soon as one is complete, two others are added.  Or perhaps things are not done on time or as quickly as we like.  Every task setback makes us feel like the project is a failure.  But if we pull ourselves up to forest level we can see the real progress being made.  To help minimize stress it is so important to stop every so often and look at the overall progress of one’s business.

My challenge to you is to look at your forest once a week.  Take a few minutes to set your to-do list aside and review your overall business, sales, and marketing goals.  Hopefully taking this time will help you have the right perspective to keep your business progressing and your stress-level low.

It's My Life Inc.

Vision

This July I am offering a course for small businesses. The Business Strategy 101 course is based off the key premise that every good company has a plan. A business plan is a vision for where the company is going and how it is going to get there. Every good business book writes that in order to start a new business it is important to first have a plan. What is the good or service to be sold? To whom are you selling? How much will be charged? What start-up capital is needed? Where and how will the business be run? When there are issues or when there seem to be an overwhelming amount of to do’s the business plan helps us to stay focused on our goal. To succeed in the fierce world of commerce it is important to map out and stick to a business plan.

But then I got to thinking. How many of us are living our lives without out a plan? How many of us wake up in the morning feeling unfulfilled? How many of us feel there should be something more or different that we should be doing, something we should have? We can’t define what it is but we know we don’t have it now. How many of us don’t have a life plan?

Too often we live our lives like a boat without a rudder out to sea. We drift this way and that. Sometimes we land on an island that is nice and we stay there a while. All too often we bump into island after island that provides nothing to our being, our soul, or our happiness. We allow the waves and the wind, fads and family to dictate where we go and what we do. We feel disappointed that we have not landed on the perfect island . . . but we also do not set a course to get there.

In business and in life one has to know where one is going to get there. Before you get in the car and start driving it is important to know if you are going to Los Angeles or New York. If you just started to drive, where would you end up?But that is just how many of us live our lives. We are driving around without a map and without a destination. We struggle through rain, snow, and potholed roads and we think that these struggles are keeping us from happiness. But in truth, the fact that we do not have a destination is what is holding us back.

Whether you are a company or an individual to reach your goals you first need to define them. First you need a vision.

There are some people who have trouble determining what their vision. What do they want? What do they really, really want? Not the fleeting things like a 2010 Prius or Paris Hilton’s new perfume. Not even a new romance or job. Those are all things in the social sphere. The media and entertainment industry constantly bombard us with things that they want us to desire; possessions, status, prosperity, sex, and the perfect body. But what are the deep down desires in our personal sphere, in our individual soul? Only deep inside one self can the true answers lie.

To truly know what you want go into your core, listen to your heart, feel your spirit, and get in touch with your true self. The first step to do this is by Doing Nothing which I often talk about. Each day grant yourself at least 15 minutes to unplug from the outside stimuli and be with yourself. Relax or meditate and just be comfortable by yourself and within yourself. Turn off your to do’s and incessant monkey chatter brain. Just be. Turn off your logical mind and listen to your gut.

Recent research printed in Science magazine and Kellogg School of Management “highlights the value of unconscious thought, suggesting that when it comes to complex decisions, many of our best choices are made in the absence of attentive deliberation.” The concept is that so much that we do during the day does not require conscious thought. When we get out of bed in the morning we do not consciously tell every leg and back muscle how and when to perform. We do not analyze each step of the process. We don’t think about the advantageous and disadvantageous of putting the right leg on the floor before the left. We just do it. The body just does it through the instruction of the unconscious mind.

This research went on to prove that when there are simple decisions to make like choosing between four cars based on just a handful of aspects, using the conscious mind the best answer was more often provided. However when the choosing was more complex, say rating cars based on more than ten aspects, people who went with their gut, with their unconscious mind, were more successful. So who is to say that using our conscious mind is the best way to determine what our life plan should be?

Determining your life plan is a very complex decision. There are an unfathomable number of options, so as you work through your life plan pay close attention to your gut. Don’t get caught up in the mind’s analysis. What feels right to you deep down inside? There lies your true life plan and the key to your happiness. Then place a rudder on your boat and head in that direction.

It is amazing what can be accomplished once you have a vision of your life plan. Take some time to meditate on where you are going and what the perfect life would look like to you. Then share with us here the vision for your future.

Quote and research source: http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/index.php/Kellogg/article/too_conscious_to_decide