Tag Archives: business strategies

Owning A Business – Part Seven

Owning your business involves more than walking in the door every day and saying: Let’s see what happens today. Your strategy for success could be as simple as developing key activities. Identifying annual activities can even be broken down into monthly and  weekly plans. These activities need to accomplish your goals.

Know your goals.

First things first

#3 on Stephen Covey’s 7 habits of highly effective people

Then you can develop easy-to-implement business and marketing strategies. Avoid making complicated plans. When you encounter tasks or areas where you or your team lack understanding, engage a consultant familiar with that area. If you have tax liability issues with out-of-state customers or vendors, involve your tax authority or Certified Professional Accountant (CPA). Professional consultants exist to reduce your risks, save you money, and make your life and work easier.

Some business owners find they are most productive early in the morning. They get to the office before other employees. They have time to work without worrying about the phone ringing or people popping their head in with problems. If this description fits you, make sure you make it productive time. Develop a list of tasks you need to accomplish. Start with the most important. If it’s payroll, get it done. If it’s strategic consideration about expansion, take the time to think things through.

As you go through these tasks, develop what your list of activities. Prioritize those critical to the growth and overall success of your business. You need to know what must be done to drive sales, meet production goals, increase efficiency, manage your team, and keep customers satisfied. Any activity that fails to have positive influence in one of these areas should be considered non-essential. Eliminate it from your priorities.

Focus on key activities.

Whatever are not key activities waste your valuable time. Would you rather spend time earning an extra $10,000 today or lose $5,000 on an  unproductive challenge?

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand



The Business Mindset

In a previous blog, we wrote about The Consumer Mindset.  Now it’s time to turn around and focus on the mindset of a business owner.

Two of the more important elements in operating your own business are:  1) Remembering why you’re in business in the first place; and, 2) Remaining focused on your customers at all times.  Having a valuable product or service, strong management, and exceptional customer service are significant as well, but everything else usually falls under one of the two more important elements.

Let’s elaborate.

You probably got into business for several reasons.  Filling an under-served niche market to meet a consumer demand or need may have been one of them.  Having an impact in the world and making some money might have been the reasons.  Some people start a business to fund their retirement or to create an enterprise for their children to take over.  There are those who merely want to say they did it and they had the world in the palm of their hands!

World in Hands

Whatever the reason you started a business, or are thinking about starting one, take the time to stop and think about that mindset once in a while.  Every six months is a good benchmark for taking the time to reflect on your purpose for doing what you’re doing.  If you need to make changes, weigh your options.  Think deep about whether it is a change that really needs to be made.

A quick transition to another owner, a fire sale, or a bankruptcy can be traumatic and devastating to your employees, your customers, and to you and your reputation.  It is best if you can take the time to think through and plan a transition that benefits everyone involved in the change.  Consultants such as Brand Irons can assist with these transitional periods and smooth the waters.

What is also important in the business owner’s mindset is having a mission that is clear and conveys the vision of the company.  Owners have an obligation to portray their vision to their employees, their customers, and the public on a consistent basis.  That takes constant, open and two-way communication with team members, along with the insistence that the same level of communication is shared with customers and potential customers.

It’s also about setting objectives and striving to accomplish them.  It involves being able to make tough decisions without emotional attachment.  It means being confident and assertive without being offensive or demeaning.  Praise in public and criticize (we prefer instruct) in private is a valuable approach.  A pat on the back goes further than a kick in the pants.

Be open to suggestions.  An employee on the front line may have an idea that could make you millions.  Be generous and share the credit.  Herb Kohl, former U.S. Senator and owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, reportedly paid each of the employees of the facility where his team played $500 for their dedication to the team.

When your purpose is clear, your service to your customers also has clarity.

 Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Planning for 2014

Now that it’s less than a month away, it’s time to take a few minutes and think through your business strategies for 2014.  If you’ve already done this, take some time to review them and make sure you are going to be on the right track.2014 Ornament

First step – What is the right track?

Look at where your business is today and try to project out a year from now.  Where would you like to see your business in mid- to late-December 2014?  Have sales shown an increase or are they holding steady?  Will you be in a growth stage?  Transition phase?  Or will it be time to think about exit strategies?

The key area to consider is what your consumers want and need.  You need to know what the market is asking for, and then be prepared and able to deliver it on a consistent basis.  Be on top of industry changes.  Know your market.  Some communities are a year or two behind on trends, and you need to know where your consumers are in your marketplace.  You should be slightly ahead.

Second step – Where are your profit margins?

Remember, you’re in business to make money. Consumers understand that, yet still want a good value at a fair price.  They also want to know why you’re different from your competitors so they can rationalize buying form you and remain loyal to your brand.  If the margin you’ve been operating on has provided your company with good profitability, consider making changes to increase your margins.  Those changes could involve cost reductions, if appropriate.  They could mean price increases if the market will bear them, at the potential risk of pushing too far and losing market share.

Third step – How strong is your brand?

If yours is the only barbershop in town, you’ve got a good chance of securing 100% of the market share.  It doesn’t mean you have a strong brand if the way you treat customers is like you’re the only place in town where they can get their hair cut.  You have a strong brand when your customers love coming in, catching up on the latest gossip, enjoying the experience you provide in cutting their hair, and leaving with a satisfied expression because they know they’ve received a good value for the investment.

There are many variables that you need to think through when it comes to strategizing about your business for 2014:  Management, competition, pricing structures, overhead, growth, productivity, marketing (including sales, advertising, and public relations), and finances, among others.  Call Brand Irons at (920) 366-6334 if you’d like some help.

Take the time to think things through … then act!

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand.

Are Your Employees Engaged?

We’re not talking about whether they’re getting married.  We’re writing about how involved they are in their work.  A recent column by Anita Bruzzese in USA Today, which was also reprinted in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, struck a chord with us and, in our opinion, relates to marketing yourself and your business.

One of the more intriguing items in the column was that a Gallup survey found that 70% of workers are not engaged or actively engaged at work.

The piece delves into the concept that a large percentage of people have a job just to pay the bills and would rather be doing something else.  Think about your employees for a minute.  They may be doing an excellent job, in your opinion, but deep down they’re thinking about what they would rather be doing.  Heck, they may already be doing it and hoping for a big break so they can leave you behind.

Bruzzese writes about Tama Kieves, an attorney who quit her legal practice to pursue her passion as a writer.  A friend “got her thinking: If she was so good at something she didn’t like, imagine the success she might have doing something she loved.”  It took some time, but eventually a publisher made Kieves an offer for her book, speaking, and coaching opportunities.  The law career became an item on her resume.

If you ask your employees whether they are satisfied with and challenged by their work, what are the odds you’ll get a straight, honest answer?  They will, in their own mind, at first question why you’re asking.  Then they will wonder whether they should tell you what you want to hear or the truth.  Keep in mind, they may be one and the same.

Ask about their hobbies and what they like to do with their free time.  You may discover a latent talent you can encourage and, in turn, nurture their love of a paycheck from your company.  You may also discover a true passion that may lead to an eventual departure from your company.  Think of the option that incorporates their passion into your business model; it may be a whole new line of products or services you never thought of.

The gist of Bruzzese’s column, in relation to your employees and marketing your business, is that you must find ways to ensure they are engaged with what they’re doing.  We have often seen excellent sales people get promoted to sales manager and wind up failing miserably.  They are good at selling face-to-face with customers or prospects, but lack the drive to effectively engage with other sales people.  They’d rather be out on the street instead of pushing people, and paper, around.

Perhaps it should be part of your hiring process to determine what your candidates are most excited about and if they are passionate about coming to work for your company or if they like the wage and benefits package.  Where do they feel they could make the greatest contribution to the corporate mission?  Your challenge, obviously, is getting the right fit and sustaining the engagement and the resulting productivity.

There may also be a time when it’s worth spending a few minutes (perhaps an hour or two) to reflect on where you are as well.  Bruzzese’s column cites some points at the end from Kieves that stimulate such self-reflection.

When you think about that 70% ratio from the Gallup survey, it’s easy to understand why so many workers are not engaged.  Teenagers working in fast food restaurants are only there for a paycheck and because they were unable to find any other employment.  You may find a rare case where they aspire to management, but their career path usually leads in other directions.  Take that out to virtually any industry or business and chances are the percentage of 70% disengagement holds true.

Since they’re now no longer with us, I can admit that I hated mowing my grandparents’ lawn.  I would do virtually whatever I could to find an excuse or disable the lawn mower to get out of the job.  Ever wonder how many accidents at work happen because the employee is unhappy and wants to do something else?  There are professionals who can help you ensure that you do everything possible to engage your employees.

Next week we’ll spend some time on the impact social media can have on your business.