On the Road to Success, Where are You Going?

IT DOESN’T MATTER!

At a crossroads, Alice asked the Cheshire cat which path she should take. The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?” When Alice replied, “I don’t know,” the cat said, “Then IT DOESN’T MATTER!”

Too many times we get all caught up on the journey, the day to day activities; we don’t ask ourselves where are we going? What is it we really want to achieve?  You must have a clear, definite and compelling reason for your actions or you will not have the motivation and drive to give it your best to succeed.

In business we can be so focused on cutting costs, being more efficient or developing a better lead generation system that we don’t ask why are we doing all of this and what are the results that we really want. If you do not have a great reason, a compelling reason, your employees won’t have a good reason to give you their best either.

Right now is a great time to stop for just a moment, take a break and catch your breath. While you are there take a moment to re-orient yourself to make sure that you are on the right path for you at this time in your life.

Start with being honest with yourself. Don’t think about what anyone else will say or think, or who might be disappointed in your answer. Forget what has happened in the past or attempts that have failed. Just ask yourself, “What do I really want in life?” What do you really want to achieve? Be as clear and specific as possible, but if you can’t be specific then be vague, but answer the question the best that you can.

Are you heading in the right direction? If you want to go to the North Carolina Mountains, you don’t want to head toward the Outer Banks.

Where do you want to go? IT DOES MATTER!!

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When Children Plan Like Their Parents

How many parents do you know that would tell their high school age, son or daughter, that they didn’t need to plan for college or not to worry about what they are going to do after high school?

How many people wish they had started their retirement planning sooner or their children’s college fund sooner? You might say, “Well we were younger back then and didn’t realize how important it was.” And yet, are you really making actionable plans today for your future?

What if our children planned their futures like we plan our businesses? Do you have specific goals for next month, quarter or even next year? Do you have any idea of what you need to be doing now in preparation for reaching whatever goals you have? Are you organized, and prepared? Do you have a plan, a real plan, a plan with dates and calculated resources attached so that you can effectively and realistically implement the plan?

We believe in planning when it comes to other people. We have told others, you need to plan what you want to do, the career you want to reach, while all along your own goals and plans are not clear, not specific, not realistic because there is no way to know if you are reaching or achieving what you say you want to do.

We have a perpetual “Someday I’ll!” Someday, I’ll have this or that, go here or there, buy, become, do… blah, blah, blah! But someday never seems to arrive. It just keeps moving ahead of us with the empty promise.

This year, take the advice that you give or gave to others, to your teenage children. Set some real goals not just add-ons of some percentage and steady as she goes, don’t rock the boat. Evaluate your potential and seek out excellence no matter what your age or circumstance. Determine that this year will be different.  And that difference…

Start NOW! Don’t play and don’t delay! If you need help find someone who can help you and work with them, listen to them and then do it!

Stan Broesder, MBA — Crossroads Consultants — “Because All Business is Personal!”

How to kill the dreams of a great strategic plan!

Many people say that strategic planning doesn’t work. That if you create a plan one day, it is obsolete the next. Or you have these great plans and then you can’t implement them, so what good are they? But it doesn’t have to be that way. The biggest problem with strategic plans is there is not enough thought put into them because most people just want to get it over with instead of creating a tool that will help them to reach their dreams. There are some strategic plan killers that you need to be aware of.

1. Going through the motions.
When management is in trouble, someone will get the bright idea that the solution is to just create a strategic plan. While it may be a tool for the solution, the mere paper won’t solve your problems. In order for a strategic plan to be effective you have to do it right and within the boundaries of which it is designed to work. Too many business owners sketch out their thoughts with a little input from a couple of key managers and then say “Here it is, our strategic plan!!

2. Preconceived notions and a closed mind.
Another killer is not really having an open mind during the process. The process turns into a “let’s justify what we want to do” instead of pulling the facts into the process and allowing it to generate the best strategy for the company. This may seem minor, but it is also one of the biggest reasons why strategic planning is not done in the first place. “I know where we need to go and what we need to do” I am just having some difficulty figuring out how to get it done”. Exactly! When the strategy is right the “how” is almost obvious.

3. Power plays, agendas and politics.
Too many times the process is crippled by those who have their own agenda in mind. From the beginning they have determined to figure out how to get a project, or program into the plan so that there department is better off and they are the hero with their people. But power plays compete against others also with agendas. One member in the process knows what you want and will indicate to you that you better support his agenda or he will make sure yours is killed along the way. Or after what you did to him last year, now it is pay back and you are out as far as they’re concerned. When individuals on the team think they are more important than the company, its purpose, values and all stakeholders, you will end up with a plan that will fail.

4. Not thinking about implementation.
When your plans are designed without thinking about how the plan is going to be implemented you are in for trouble. Part of the process is to assess where you are as far as your assets, resources and opportunities. Looking at your strengths and weaknesses, you determine where you can position the company to have the greatest competitive advantage. If you try to claim a position that you do not have the skills and knowledge to defend, you are going to have a difficult time. You have to think about those who will be implementing the plan.

5. Lack of creativity.
Closed minds, agendas, power plays, going through the motions, and no thought about implementation will cause a major lack of creativity. Each one of these killers will kill the creative thinking process that is needed to create a good strategic plan. That creativity will help to strategically position the company where it can best defend itself in the market place and enable it to grow into higher profit margin territory. It takes open minds that are free of reprisals, political consequences and preconceived agendas.

The problem is that no one in the process walks into a strategic planning meeting and announces that they have an agenda, closed minds, etc. They come in with smiles, enthusiasm, and say all the right things. It is the facilitator of the meetings that must keep a watchful eye to make sure that the pure process isn’t hijacked along the way.

Strategic planning is one of the best tools that management can use to secure the long-term viability and security of the company. Follow the process and make sure you have a skilled facilitator who cannot have an agenda beyond a successful strategic outcome.

Why is Planning so Hard?

Few actually plan

Studies have shown only 3% of the population, actually do any serious planning. However, almost everyone agrees that there is great benefit to planning and would also agree that the more important an event or complicated a task is the more important it is to plan for it.

How to plan is easy.

There are so many books written on the subject of planning it is very likely you have more than one in your own personal library. So it can’t be that we don’t know that we should do it. And it can’t be that we don’t know how to do it. The “how” is easily found for anyone who wants to know. But the reality is that planning is just hard. It is not fun or exciting, and usually not a very pleasant experience. It is like your taxes, you feel good when you are done not because of the great pleasure in the task, but the fact that it is over.

So why is planning so hard?

You can see that it isn’t hard physically, and it really isn’t all that hard mentally. The problem is that planning is extremely hard emotionally. I know we might not like that answer, but just think about doing some financial or other type of planning. Eventually you will feel it, that “in the pit of your gut” feeling.

Embarrassing questions

Proper planning asks a lot of questions. When we don’t have answers to these questions, we’re embarrassed, we don’t feel so good. Our security, confidence and self-esteem slip a little. When we don’t have answers to our questions then our future becomes a little more in jeopardy. We feel like we are being judged. “What do you mean you don’t know which is more important to you? If you don’t know, who does?”

Everyone has plans.

We plan to retire, go to the islands, learn how to paint, write a book, etc. But the reality is that we don’t really plan. It’s more like having a dream about things. Now according to recent statistics 18% of Americans over 60 years old are very confident in their future and retirement. However, a full 37% have less than $1,000.00 set aside for retirement. Are they planning to retire?

Beginning to see reality?

When you start to really plan, you begin to see reality and it often isn’t as pretty as we had dreamed that it is. Proper planning forces us to see reality and not just our dreams. Proper planning shows us where the real obstacles are in our dreams. We have to face them in order to fix them and that is really hard. I am beginning to feel a little sick myself just thinking about it. Are you with me?

Planning scares me!

I am afraid of the truth. I am afraid to face my own inadequacies, weaknesses, and blind spots. Proper planning makes me feel vulnerable. It forces me to remove the mask and look in the mirror of reality. When that happens I am afraid others will see me, the same way. One of the biggest reasons that businesses guard their strategic plans is because it can show their weaknesses.

I feel ignorant.

Proper planning also reveals my ignorance. There are holes in my road map to the future, gaps within my GPS and the unknowns are risks that I don’t know how to handle. When you can’t answer a question in your planning it becomes a potential threat. What will you do if…? How do you prevent your competition from…? What do your customers think about…? It’s what you don’t know that can hurt you, and that can be a little scary!

Secure your future.

The good news is that when you have identified your weaknesses, the holes in your map, the potential risks, threats, etc., you can now begin to solve them and eliminate them. When your future becomes clearer and the road you are on, more secure, your life will dramatically improve. I know this is a backward way of thinking about it, but if nothing else, planning will prevent things from getting worse. You may not feel better, but the truth will, shall we say, set you in the right direction.

There is an emotional struggle

The sooner that you are willing to admit that there is an emotional struggle to really putting the effort into proper planning, the sooner you will have a plan and be prepared for the potholes and detours of life. Start simple if you have to, even a short “To Do” list is better than nothing. But push on, and move to the more emotionally risky questions and address all the aspects of proper planning. When you are done you will feel better because, one, it is over (at least for today). And second, because you will have the confidence you need and also the energy to move in the right direction. You will sleep better, play harder, and work smarter. Your competition will be less of a threat. Your customers will be more satisfied. And your business will have a much brighter future.

Quick Plan

Here are four simple steps to start (plus one):

  1. Write out your goals.
  2. Be honest in your assessment for where you are now.
  3. Try to understand the obstacles and inventory your resources.
  4. Create a path of tasks, responsibilities and benchmarks.

Plus one: Get some help if you need it!

 A man (or woman) with a plan is far more confident and focused than a man with just a dream.

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Assumptions in Business Can Make or Break You!

If what you are doing is not working then you have to change. But what do you do? How? One of the most frustrating parts of business is when a great idea only produces so-so results, especially when you still think it is a great idea. So what do you do?  You don’t want to just give up or change for change sake. It could be the proverbial “out of the frying pan, and into the fire.”

  1. Write down your assumptions. 

Start with writing down your assumptions (don’t keep them in your head). Why did you really believe “If I build it they will come”?  That is why they called it a field of “DREAMS” not a field of plans. Why is it such a great idea, or service, or product?

  1. Put yourself in another person’s shoes

Think about it, if you were someone else, different job and life, would you buy into your idea (or business)? Would you really spend the money? Why, why not?  Your assumptions may have sent you down a no profit or low profit road. But you can use assumptions to get you back on track.IMG_0085_crop

  1. Reconfirm your assumptions.

Once you have listed all of your assumptions start to confirm or correct each one. Figure out by asking unbiased people. How many people told you that it was a great idea but when it came time to buy your service, they didn’t buy – ask them! This happens all the time with start-ups. Their reasons (or excuses) are possibly the same for others.

  1. Move forward

Only after you have confirmed or corrected each assumption can you move forward. But you might not need to wait until you have solved all of them. If you come across a major “ah-ha” moment, that may be the key log in the log jam. But don’t stop there, because wrong assumptions, even the small ones, can be very costly.

Who has time to get it all done?

When we are working at 100% now, who has the time to expand a business or increase marketing, sales, etc. We have plans for growing our business but who has the time to implement the ideas?

This is much more common than people realize. We have cut back expenses to the bare minimums, which means we as the business owner are going to carry as much of the load as possible and wonder when will we be able to invest just a little bit more time and money to help grow the business.

If we do invest a little bit to grow the business will it be enough to move forward and create the needed cash flow to keep that investment going? And can we sustain the pressure and weight of adding more to our plate on a daily basis. Even if we hire someone on a part-time or contract basis, we will need to manage that person and project.

So how do we get ahead? How do we get to the point that we can reduce the stress, increase the cash reserves, and free up just a little bit of time?

There are several profitable initiatives that can be implemented in almost every business to capture some elusive cash flow and profit. The question is do you know what they are and can you implement the initiative yourself or will you need help?

Your concern should be to find the quickest return on your investment so that you can continue to invest and find additional and bigger cash flow and profit gains.

A. Low or no profit Products and services

One place to start would be to search for low or no profit products and services and to eliminate them or make them more profitable. Anywhere from 20 to 40% of all products and services fall into this category. Often it is subsidized by other products and services and we don’t even know it.

 B. No or low profit customers

Another possibility would be to find the low or no profit customer and show them why the cost for keeping them as your customer is higher than others and then renegotiate your price with them. While this may not be possible every time, many times a customer will accept a change in what they are being charged if they understand that it needs to be a win-win for everyone.

 These are just two initiatives that a business owner can use. There are many more to consider. Once you can squeeze a some extra from your business you can continue to develop plans to really grow your profits. 

If you have any questions about how you can implement these cash flow and profit initiatives call Crossroads Consultants at: 980-241-0189.

Do You Really Expect to Win Without a Plan?

So what does it take to put together a good strategic plan? There are three parts.

First, you must have a good foundation. These are four questions that every business owner needs to answer in order to have a good working business foundation.
1. Why do we exist? This answers the question of our purpose and impact on society.
2. What do we do? This answers the question of what do we use to impact society.
3. Where are we going? What do we want our business look like in the future?
4. What are the boundaries in which we will hold ourselves accountable?

Second, you must understand what position you are trying to capture or hold in the marketplace. This is one of the most overlooked areas of business today and one that will provide the greatest potential for profits. Understanding your position and the differentiation that the position brings to your business will enable you to have a sustainable competitive advantage and provide you with better profits.

Finally, you must be able to turn the first two parts into a solid actionable plan. Knowing what you need to do at what time in order to meet your goals is critical. Many people write a list of goals and say that they have a plan to move forward. Plans must be S.M.A.R.T. and they must cause you to take action.

Some people discuss the first part and then write a list of goals and call it a strategic plan. This is a good attempt, but not a strategic plan.  Others do quite well creating the third part of goals and some actions, but they have not really considered their position relative to the competition. Very few businesses today really spend time thinking through all three parts of a quality strategic planning process.