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The Up and to the Right | Small Business | Practical, Actionable, Sustainable Improvements
33 minutes | a month ago
Starting Up a Small Business - What is a 'Small Business'? | Up and to the Right | Episode 057
Show Notes: https://b50p.info/uattr057What is a Small Business?Over the years I've come across a lot of misinformation about what it means to be a small business. Sometimes people think it's determined by the number of employees, sometimes by revenue, even by the corporate structure. As we'll see below it's actually easy to understand why there is confusion identifying what is a small business.Defining Small BusinessSo, if there's so much confusion around how to define a business as small then how can we go about doing it correctly?The good news here is that while it isn't as easy as a single criterion that we can point to, there is a place we can go to find out exactly how to classify our own business as small or not.There are three pieces of information that you're going to need to put all of this together.Your NAICS CodeThe Number of EmployeesAverage Annual Revenue (based on three years)Once you have those three pieces of information you'll be able to get the right answer for answering the question... "What is a small business?" at least, for your case!
31 minutes | a month ago
Starting Up a Small Business - Small Business Regulations | Up and to the Right | Episode 056
Full Show Notes: https://b50p.info/uattr056You've come up with a great business idea. You've started your business and things are going great when out of the blue a great potential customer asks: "What's your export control code?"Don't know? You're not alone and export control is just one of the seemingly endless regulations that may (or may not) apply to your small business.Let’s get… regulated!In short, small businesses are regulated by largely the same laws that regulate larger organizations. The only difference is that there may (or may not) be provisions in those laws that allow small businesses to bear a lighter burden in some ways. While there may be some provision for small business in the regulatory environment, it is equally true that small businesses are still required to adhere to regulations that cross a wide variety of areas which we'll cover.I want to dispel the myth that forgiveness rather than permission is a risk that small business owners should avoid. It is better to ask for implementation than forgiveness... every time.
30 minutes | 2 months ago
Using the Power of Leverage in Business (in a good way) | Up and to the Right | Episode 055
Show Notes | https://b50p.info/uattr055It's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work!Physics in Business. At first, it might not seem like the two are closely connected. I've found that the principles we use to describe our physical universe often have parallels in the business world.The power of leverage in business is often thought of as a negative. Something used to push someone else down in a negotiation or to artificially inflate value. These are the uses of leverage that we won't be talking about here. We are going to talk about the necessity of leverage and why understanding it and, in fact, embracing it is elemental to creating, operating, and sustaining a valuable business.Let’s get… leveraged!
35 minutes | 2 months ago
What did Newton Know about Action in Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 054
Get the show notes: https://b50p.info/uattr054I put a lot of effort into running and growing my business. I'm sure you do too!What do we get for that effort? I'm not talking about. the long-term effects of our actions resulting in new revenue or market growth.What reaction do we expect from this particular action?Let’s get… mechanical!
44 minutes | 2 months ago
Working ON Your Business With FLOW and Megan Denae Anderson | Up and to the Right | Episode 053
Get the Show Notes: https://b50p.info/uattr053If you picked two words to describe entrepreneurship they would very likely be longly and busy. Really... REALLY busy!I can speak from personal experience that being a small business owner can leave you feeling alone as well as fill your time with a stream of seemingly critical tasks.How can entrepreneurs like you find kindred spirits that share common experience AND get the opportunity to work ON your business by accomplishing focused work?Let’s get… into the FLOW!Accelerated Business Consulting: https://www.beexcellent.biz/
29 minutes | 3 months ago
What did Newton Know about Making an Impact as a Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 052
See the full Show Notes: https://b50p.info/uattr052What did Newton Know about Creating Impact as a Small Business?Everything we need to know about making an impact as a small business... Newton knew in 1686!? Really?Newton’s 2nd Law states that Force = Mass * Acceleration.How can understanding one of the fundamental laws of physics help us make an impact as a small business?Is changing the world as easy as Force = Mass * Acceleration? Well yes... and no.Let's rewrite that a bit. Mass = ResourcesAcceleration = MomentumForce = ImpactHow about Impact = Resources * Momentum?You get the idea. There are advantages to thinking about business from the perspective of physics.Let’s get… mechanical!
26 minutes | 3 months ago
What did Newton Know about Small Business Communication? Objects Rest and Motion | Up and to the Right | Episode 051
Everything we need to know about small business communication... Newton knew in 1686!? Really?An object at rest tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.An object in motion tends to stay in motion in the same direction unless acted on by an outside force.If these trends sound familiar ... A customer who is happy tends to stay a customer unless there's a sale at a competitor.A rock star employee tends to stay a rock star unless we eliminate performance bonuses.You get the idea. There are advantages to thinking about business from the perspective of physics.Let's get... mechanical!
28 minutes | 3 months ago
Draining Content Creators Dry | Up and to the Right | Episode 050
Show Notes: https://b50p.info/uattr050Consuming content has become a byword. We all want to learn and grow personally and professionally. To that end, we read or listen to books, watch videos, take online courses, and consume any number of other types of content.Have you ever stopped to consider whether or not the content you’ve consumed has actually generated a beneficial transformation in your business?How do we get the most benefit from the information we read, watch, or listen to? How do we drain these content creators dry?Let’s get… draining!
31 minutes | 3 months ago
Small Business Startup Tips... You May Have Missed | Up and to the Right | Episode 049
Show Notes: https://b50p.info/uattr049A small business startup can be overwhelming. So much so that many people choose not to and many of us who do start small businesses often miss a piece of the small business puzzle.In this episode, I’m going to share three things you need to do when you’re starting your business that might not be on your list… yet!Let’s get… started!
41 minutes | 3 months ago
When Should I Hire a Consultant? | Up and to the Right | Episode 048
Full Show Notes: https://b50p.info/uattr048When Should I Hire a Consultant?Hiring a consultant is bringing an ‘outsider’ into your business and can be an intensely personal experience.What’s in this episode for you?!When should you hire a consultant?We’ll talk about hiring consultants in small businesses and my own 2020 adventure in bringing help into my own business.There are 3 consultants every business owner should have… what are they?You’ll find highlights below. Watch the livestream recording or listen to the podcast version on your favorite podcatcher for all the details!When Should I Hire a Consultant?What is a Consultant?In order to understand when it’s time to bring in a consultant let’s talk, first about what a consultant is.This may seem basic but it’s important to be clear about it.A consultant is someone from outside your company that brings needed expertise or resources that will benefit your business.Most often we think of engineering services, marketing or business management ‘consultants’ with varying degrees of trepidation or even loathing.The trepidation and loathing is a product of consultants who don’t take their craft and customers seriously. I’m sorry if you had that experience.For what it’s worth… to me small business is as serious as the 50% of the economy that it represents (which means I take it seriously).When Should I Hire a Consultant?I have found two criteria that make this very simple.When you find yourself needing to accomplish something that you’re not objectively qualified for.If you don’t like doing it but it still needs to get done.How Do I Know What to Hire a Consultant for?Break down what needs to be done, what skills are needed to achieve those goals, and then match those to your own skillset.Get referrals from colleagues who have experience with a consultant in an area you need who got results similar to what you’re looking for.Get to know the experts you're considering. You’ll get a lot more benefit from someone you enjoy working with.Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work!
65 minutes | 5 months ago
Jeff Allen with Allen Service | Pivot to Profit - 002 | Up and to the Right
Jeff Allen, Allen Service, Plumbing, Heating, and Air Jeff, his brother Mike, and the team at Allen Service, Plumbing, Heating, and Air, have been operating as an ‘essential business’ through the current crisis. A small business succeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jeff and his team prioritize employee and customer safety while still providing quality services. I’ve always thought that heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in our homes were for comfort and convenience. I learned from Jeff that our indoor air often has more contaminants than the outside air and that modern HVAC systems can clean the indoor air we breathe, making it safer. They have been able to not only operate during the current crisis but offer products that can reduce the contaminants and contagions in our homes. As you can imagine, after nearly 60 years in business Allen Service has been through a lot, and Jeff shared his experience and practical action you can adapt to your business situation. Contact Jeff & Allen ServiceAllen Service, Plumbing, Heating, and Air“The name you know and trust.”970-286-0359https://www.allenservice.com/ A Brief History of Allen Service in Northern ColoradoJeff introduced us to Allen Service as the name you know and trust in plumbing, heating, and air in Northern Colorado, serving only residential (non-commercial) customers. After nearly 60 years as a local small business, it was interesting to hear how and why they chose to move away from commercial customers. One of the key takeaways was they have optimized their business, processes, and training to focus on and deliver the best possible service for a specific customer segment. By concentrating their efforts, they have been able to consistently grow their business while maintaining high-quality service. Allen Service as an Essential BusinessColorado classified the plumbing, heating, and air conditioning industry as ‘essential’ during the economic shutdown. This designation allowed Jeff and his team to hone their business processes to deliver critical services during this challenging time in a way that has minimized the risk to Allen’s customers as well as their team members. As we all spend more time in our homes to reduce our exposure to the pandemic, we become more aware of issues related to our HVAC or plumbing systems, which Jeff and his team can address safely. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, I learned that our indoor air quality is often lower than the air quality outside. There are modern solutions that can reduce allergens, contaminants, and even contagions from our home environment. Zero ContactWhen the pandemic began to impact business operations in the US significantly, Jeff and his brother Mike made adjustments to their work processes to create a ‘zero contact’ service. They achieved this by adding additional personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks to their existing practices.Customer Safety & COVID-19Allen technicians have a defined procedure that Jeff details during our conversation that allows them to contact the customer and perform the service in a way the eliminates contact between the technician and the customer and minimizes the technician’s impact on the home.Employee Safety & COVID-19While keeping zero contact between the customer and service technician is an excellent step to keeping employees safe, the management team at Allen Service has also taken steps in their offices to reduce employee interaction and possible contamination. Jeff and Mike’s extra precautions have reduced the risk of transmitting the virus among their team with excellent results. Indoor Air QualityI’ve known Jeff for a while, and I knew he would have a lot of great experience and expertise to share. I didn’t realize that there is technology available to us through our HVAC systems that will help remove the allergens, contaminants, and contagions from our indoor air. Jeff shared that by installing these economical add-ons to homes, their team has an immediate impact on the health and quality of life of Allen Service customers. Managing a Remote WorkforceMany of the Allen Service team members are now working remotely to minimize the risk of exposure. While this takes some getting used to, it has provided the opportunity for Jeff and his team to experiment with operating processes that offer benefits that employees enjoy, improving the work experience for his team. Actions & ResultsJeff and Mike Allen have demonstrated that small businesses can create ways to operate safely during a pandemic. By taking stock of the facts, they developed policies and processes that keep their customers and team safe while still delivering the quality service northern Colorado expects from Allen Service, Plumbing, Heating, and Air. Look at the facts, not the fear. Identify how your business can have a meaningful impact. Take care of your customers and your team. Wrapping it all Up Do you have an innovative solution to a COVID19 problem or another difficult business situation? Email me at email@example.com to be a guest on the show… share your message! Click the link above or use your favorite podcatcher to listen to the full episode. Thanks for watching or listening! Up and to the Right is live weekly - check the Podcast Page for details about when we're live and where! You can subscribe to the Up and to the Right podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, TuneIn, and now there’s even a playlist on the Beyond 50 Percent youtube channel!
42 minutes | 6 months ago
P2P - How the Pandemic Affected My Businesses | Pivot to Profit - 001 | Up and to the Right
Full Show Notes & Resources: https://b50p.info/p2p001Being a small business owner is challenging in the best of times. During periods of economic uncertainty that challenge becomes more difficult. In 2020 we're faced with those economic concerns but they are combined with a serious global pandemic and the groundswell of difficult but necessary social and cultural shifts. Any one of these would be stressful enough on its own but combined it is understandable that many of us are under a great deal of stress. Social distancing has, in large measure, removed some of our traditional coping tools, many recreations and social support. I hesitate to use the term 'unprecedented' which seems to be getting thrown about; however, it's clear that we are living in a difficult time. As I thought about all of this I wanted to find a way to pull back the curtain on our isolation. Rather than just finding solace in shared difficulty I wanted to produce a show that allowed business owners to share their own experiences and thoughts with other owners as well as share with the customers the best way to safely support local businesses. Let's pivot to profit! Introduction to the Pivot to Profit Segment In this first episode of my new segment I just want to let listeners know what to expect and share a bit of my own experience on the two businesses I own and operate. My Three Goals: You are NOT Alone! Share Experience & Successful Actions Share Safe Ways to Conduct Business First of all the regular episodes of Up and to the Right will continue. Pivot to Profit is a supplementary audio only production designed to complement the regular show. The focus of Pivot to Profit is to have real, on the ground, discussions with business owners just like you. I want to make sure that business owners know that they are not alone during this difficult time. There are a lot of us out there coping with similar problems. We can learn from each other and that’s a huge part of the value of this segment. The second piece is the opportunity to share actions both successful and less so in order to help each other learn and grow and continue to operate during this crisis. Finally, I want to provide business owners the chance to share safe ways for their customers to purchase products & services. This may provide listeners with ideas for their own business as well! My COVID19 ExperienceAs you probably already know I own and operate two distinctly different companies; Directed Energy & Beyond 50 Percent. Directed Energy provides high voltage & high current pulsed power equipment for a variety of international markets. It’s a niche business but relies on the international economy and the needs of a relatively narrow list of customers. Beyond 50 Percent is a service based consulting practice I started to help entrepreneurs and small business owners. Directed EnergyThe impact of the pandemic on Directed Energy has been very serious. Our sales dropped substantially and after a few months of reduced income I had to make the decision that business owners never want to make. I had to let team members go. These were people I’ve worked with for over 10 years so they are friends as much as coworkers. One thing that made the situation better was that I have always been very up front about the financial position of the company and going into 2020 that made it clear that employment positions would have to be eliminated. I’ve reduced expenses and worked with vendors to put Directed Energy in a cash neutral position. The good news is that we are able to continue operating, serving customers and shipping product. The takeaway is being able to recognize the action required and taking it even when you really… really… don’t want to. Beyond 50 PercentThe business for Beyond 50 Percent is significantly different than that of Directed Energy. As a professional consulting services company there is no inventory to hold and no direct employees aside from myself. I use carefully selected independent contractors for accounting, marketing, graphic design, web development and other business services. This provides much more flexibility and reduces the direct impact of COVID19. However, I had decided to put more of my time into Beyond 50 Percent and arrange Directed Energy so it needed less of my direct input. For Beyond 50 Percent I’ve had to change my growth expectations for 2020… not what I’d hoped for but I’ve taken time to hone my messaging, tweak the website and take care of other ‘background’ business operations so I’ll be better positioned to move forward. You’re Not Alone!As I mentioned before and I want to say it again because business owners often feel isolated. “You’re not alone!” There are a lot of us out there and we really are all in this together as a small business community. Actions & ResultsThe actions I’ve taken have been:Stay in Control of CashReduce Costs (even when it hurts)
39 minutes | 6 months ago
Practical Profit in Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 047
Reminder: What is a Business Principle?When I talked about what made a business principle I ended up here:A business principle is a concept that is both foundational and relevant to all businesses.This set a pretty high bar when it came to identifying what were business principles and what were strategies, missions and tactics.Profit made the cut and that’s what I want to cover today.Why Profit?Profit is the standard measure by which companies large and small are evaluated. While profit alone doesn’t create a full picture of a business, it is used frequently as a shortcut or first order tool to determine how a business is doing.More importantly, profit is a good indicator of the direction of future cash flow. As a rule, if net revenue is positive and our business is profitable then it is generally true that cash flow is also positive. Of course, there are a lot of factors that impact this but it’s a good start. A Note about Non-ProfitsAre non-profit organizations (NPO) exempt from profit concerns?Yes… and no.While it’s true that non-profits don’t have to worry about making a reportable profit, they do have to worry about the direction of their cash flow.When it comes to NPOs the ‘profit’ they need to be concerned about is how well they are able to magnify the effect on a cause of a donor’s contribution over the ability of the individual donor to make an effect themselves.Get OK With ProfitBefore we go any further we need to get okay with profit. There’s a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about business and profit in general. The term ‘profit’ itself seems to have gathered a negative connotation in today’s popular culture. If a news story comes out about a large company doing something that appears to put profit before people then it reinforces this negative stereotype.Well, I’m here to tell you that businesses need to focus on, be comfortable with and even seek (yes… SEEK) profit.We use the cash generated by our well run business to: Run the Business Pay Down Debt Increase Working Capital Fund growth Create an Emergency Fund Give to Charity Create Owner Value These and all the ones you can think of that I didn’t list are reasons that we need to be comfortable with and plan our businesses around profit.Factors That Put Pressure on ProfitAs you can imagine there are a number of factors that put pressure on profit. Some put pressure to reduce profit and others add pressure to increase it.Downward Pressures Competitive Landscape Customer Expectations Economic Environment Upward Pressures Growth Funding Owner Return & Benefit Operating Costs Savings & Emergency Planning Future Company Valuation Ethical Considerations - How Much is Enough?So… the inevitable Question… “How much is enough?”Honestly, this is a question only your conscience and your customer base can answer. My input on this is pretty simple. If you offer a product or service that is either unnecessary or easily replaceable with an economic alternative then you are free to profit to whatever extent the market will bear. If you sell wakeboards for boating or jewelry you can let the market forces guide your profit. This is because neither of these are necessities.I like the example of a Rolex vs. a Timex. Rolex is free to profit as much as their customers will allow because Timex and other watchmakers offer economical alternatives so customers are now bound to the Rolex product.When you offer necessities like food or medical products/services there is, in my opinion, a moral duty to develop a business model around ‘reasonable’ profit.I realize that ‘reasonable’ is ambiguous and represents a moving target. I think of this as a thought experiment and guideline to consider depending on your business.Basically… something to think about.Service Based Businesses & ProfitIs it possible for service based businesses to achieve 100% profit? You know… Revenue - Expense = Profit with “0” Expense?Well… no.Your service based business will always have one expense and that’s you. If you think you’re achieving 100% profit you are not paying yourself.To better understand the operations of your business pay yourself a competitive salary and evaluate your business with its true costs in mind.Practical ActionWatch Your P&LRegularly review your Profit & Loss Statement (aka Income Statement) and look for profitability and trends over time.Use this information to restructure the parts of your business that impact your profit.Use Profit to Test Business ChangesYou can use profit to test new products, price points, markets and customer segments.Plan for ProfitWhether you offer physical products or professional services start with the idea of profit when you design your offering. If a product can’t meet the profit requirements of your business it needs to be redesigned, replaced or simply discontinued.How do you achieve profit? Drop a comment with your thoughts. Connect with me to keep in touch and share ideas!
46 minutes | 7 months ago
Practical Cash Management in Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 046
Reminder: What is a Business Principle?When I talked about what made a business principle I ended up here:A business principle is a concept that is both foundational and relevant to all businesses.This set a pretty high bar when it came to identifying what were business principles and what were strategies, missions and tactics.Cash management made the cut and that’s what I want to cover today.Why Cash?Using cash instead of a form of barter system allows us the flexibility to delay purchases, store value and sell goods & services to one market while purchasing goods and services from another. This provides for a wide variety of products and services and flexible timing for purchases.Why is cash management a business principle?Managing cash is essential for business. Without proper cash management businesses cannot continue to pay employees and vendors; purchase inventory or expand and grow.Additionally, cash management is applicable to all businesses since all businesses must have transactions in order to continue operations.Cash Considerations for Business Cash vs. Profit Cash In Cash Storage Cash Out Cash Planning Cash vs. ProfitWe need to get this right from the beginning cash and profit are related… but not directly. Positive cash flow means that the cash you have coming into the business is greater than the expenses, investments etc. that you must pay and does not take into account a number of transactions like depreciation that will affect your profitability but not your cash.If you’re not clear on this, discuss it with your accountant so you get a general understanding of these differences.Profit is an accounting construct used for business analysis and taxes. Cash InHow cash is collected can have a significant impact on our cash management and our expenses. Delayed cash in from customer credit and credit card fees add to the complexity of cash management.While there’s no ‘one size fits all’ plan it’s important to understand the consequences of your cash collection and to be intentional about it.Cash StorageIn many ways the literal storage of cash is less an issue than it once was there are still a number of considerations to keep in mind if you do store actual cash as well as where you put your money (checking, savings, money market, investments, safe… etc.). Cash OutOne of the most important aspects of our relationship with cash is how we use it. Who has access and authority to distribute cash (write checks, pay bills etc.). Who has access to using the company credit card (yeah… that’s cash too really)?Cash PlanningAs important as understanding how cash is used another key is when it is used. Business owners must stay in control of the ‘when’ of cash. Remember that you have control of your cash until you’ve mailed the check!Practical Action Don’t take cash or cash management for granted! Understand how cash moves in your business and why. Keep and eye on trends and act quickly to changes.
34 minutes | 7 months ago
Adding Value as a Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 045
Reminder: What is a Business Principle?When I talked about what made a business principle I ended up here:A business principle is a concept that is both foundational and relevant to all businesses.This set a pretty high bar when it came to identifying what were business principles and what were strategies, missions and tactics.Communication made the cut and that’s what I want to cover today.What is Value?According to Merriam-Webster the definition of “value-added” is: “a product whose value has been increased especially by special manufacturing, marketing, or processing”I want to change the word “marketing” to “experience”. Marketing is a tool to communicate but it’s the experience that changes the value of a product.Why is adding value a business principle?Value qualifies as a principle because of the fundamental requirement to offer something that your customer values more than the money they wish to exchange for it and it is universally applicable to all businesses.Examples of Value-AddedIntrinsic Value - CommoditiesA commodity is an item that can be easily compared on price and is generally just as easily replaceable by another, similar product.Examples might be automobile gasoline or general food items.Luxury ProductsOn the opposite end of the spectrum we have luxury items which are difficult to compare on a cost base and are less replaceable than a commodity.Differentiating Commodities and LuxuriesOf course, the scale between a commodity and a luxury item is wide. One of the key goals of marketing is to differentiate brands from competitors but also from the nearest commodity. This increases the overall perceived value of a product with the intent of increasing sales volume, margins or both.A practical way to look at value-added is simply how we separate what we have to offer from the nearest commodity.Consistent QualitySometimes you just want to be sure that you know what you’ll be getting every time you use a product.Many ‘mass produced’ products rely on this characteristic. Fast food restaurants and automobile gasoline for example.Functions & FeaturesSpecific product functions, features and capabilities are a common way to differentiate your products and services from both competitors and commodities.The Swiss Army Knife differentiates itself by adding the value of a combination of useful tools to the standard pocket knife.DurabilityDoes your product last longer than other, similar products? Can your product be used in harsher conditions?Durability makes it easy for customers to rationalize a higher cost when the product will last longer or work in more difficult circumstances.Customer IdentificationHow a product makes us feel about ourselves can play a big part in our purchase decisions. We’d all like to imagine that we’re more rational than we really are when it comes to how we spend our money.Helping customers identify positively with our products and services in ways that also give them a positive outlook on their own values can add value that is powerful but difficult to quantify.Hybrid cars, health food stores and gyms often add this kind of value to their products & services.Customer ExperienceWhat is the environment in which your customer experiences your product or service? Is the environment part of the value? Think about flying first class versus coach or getting coffee in a boutique coffee shop rather than a convenience store.Customer experience can be another way to add value that doesn’t necessarily add a great deal of cost.How to Identify Your Value-AddedHow can small business owners get a good understanding of what value they are currently adding? Ask Observe Compare AskOne way to find out what your customers think the value of your product is would be to simply ask. You can do this with a survey or in person. While this may be a good start it’s important to understand that survey data may be affected by the customers feelings and perceptions about the survey itself.ObserveWatching what your customers actually do and say when they are in your store or using your product can tell you a lot about what they value and how they really feel about your business.CompareBy comparing both the observations you make and the direct questions you ask you can get at least a somewhat comprehensive view of the value your customers see in your products and services without the cost of outside market research.Practical ActionAlright so let’s get practical!Here’s a quick way to get started understanding the value you add and adding to it! Find out what your customers value through observation, direct conversation and/or by using a survey. These should be benefits you already offer as well as those that you may be able to add. Answer the question: How does the value perceived above match the value you originally intended? What can you do to enhance your product or service to add additional value? Reminder: Look for ways to separate your product or service from the nearest commodity!Do you have a creative way to add value? Drop a comment with your thoughts. Connect with me to keep in touch and share ideas!References“Value-added.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/value-added. Accessed 25 Jun. 2020.
37 minutes | 7 months ago
Practical Communication in Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 044
Reminder: What is a Business Principle?When I talked about what made a business principle I ended up here:A business principle is a concept that is both foundational and relevant to all businesses.This set a pretty high bar when it came to identifying what were business principles and what were strategies, missions and tactics.Communication made the cut and that’s what I want to cover today.What is Communication?At its core, the concept of communication is straightforward. Communication is the transfer of information from one person to another. Of course, while the concept of communication is simple, effectively communicating is another thing entirely.Why is communication a business principle?The ability to communicate effectively across your organization and to the wider world of vendors and customers is certainly fundamental to the success of your business. Since the transfer of information is a key part of any business it’s clear that communication is one of the clearest principles of business.-Communication happens whether you meant it to or not... - Every time you communicate the entirety of the experience is part of the communcaition [ ] - the tone you use [ ] - the clothes you're wearing [ ] - the environment around you or your recipeint or both [ ] - the words you choose [ ] - the channel you use [ ]What are the components of communication?While we’re not going to do a complete study of communication here I think it’s worth noting the basic components here. Source Message Channel Receiver Feedback Environment Context Interference Note: These were not invented by me and when I tried to source them I had absolutely no luck finding the actual smart person that came up with them. Please comment if you know the source and I’ll add it!While each of these is important there are three I think bear specific discussion in the context of business.ChannelThere is a tendency to reduce the concept of communication to written and verbal channels. It’s worth noting that each of our five senses is integral in how we perceive the information we are receiving about our environment and; therefore, it’s important to consider each of them as we work on our communications for our business.Does your message change depending on what channel you’re using? Should it?MessageThe idea of message is layered. One layer is the information we want to share. The layer that I think is often missed is the message we sent ‘surrounding’ the message we intend.An easy way to look at this is with video conferencing. When you’re joining a video conference everything that is visible to your audience subtly (or not so subtly) becomes part of your message. If your desk is tidy… that’s part of the message. If your desk is cluttered then that becomes part of your message as well. In order to ensure that our video is communicating the message we meant to transfer it’s important to look at everything that’s visible in the frame and see how it supports or detracts from that message.Another great example of this is body language. Most personal communication is actually achieved through our body language and not the words we say.The same issues can be applied to each channel that we use to communicate. InterferenceInterference is all the ‘stuff’ that gets in the way of transferring your pure message from you to your recipient. This includes the way you encode the message as the sender (biased based on your experience and context), the way your recipient decodes the message and any barriers or obstacles in between.If we assume that 1:1, in-person, communication is the most effective then for each step away from that we must take more care to reduce ambiguity and the possibility of misinterpretation.Communication GuidelinesVideo Look at what’s in the frame and make sure it reflects the message you want to convey. Get your audio right first. Remember you’re on camera! Email Put your contact information in your email signature. Add a greeting for each recipient on the first email of the day. Only ‘reply to all’ for distribution or notification. For items requiring action - reply to the person responsible for the action. When writing an email, assume the person you want to read it least is going to get a copy. Never use email as the first communication of bad news… make the call or meeting then follow up with an email. If you’re angry and can’t stop yourself from writing… remove the email addresses from the TO, CC & BCC then save the draft and look at it later before sending. Be clear & concise. Remember there is no emotional context in email unless you put it there. Phone Never say ‘Bye’ before your customer does. Stand. Smile. Textemotional contextdon’t usei use sparinglySocial Mediawild west of communicationbe carefulexperimentbe aware of the full messages you’re sendingPractical ActionWe can’t all get a degree in communication but it is important that we are continuously practicing that craft to better share our ideas and expectations and value to our customers, team and business partners.Here are a few things you can do to help improve the value of communication in your business.Answer the question: How does your communication in each channel support or reflect your Vision?Create your own communication guidelines and share them with your team.Take a new look at communication and reinvest in the intentional use of language and tools to share your message.What’s your favorite communication tool for small business? Why? Drop a comment with your thoughts. Connect with me to keep in touch and share ideas!
35 minutes | 7 months ago
Practical Planning in Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 043
Does Planning Matter to Small Business?The first thing we need to establish is whether or not planning matters to small businesses. At first, you might be thinking to yourself ‘Well of course planning matters!” but let’s be real here… as small business owners we have a tendency to fly by the seat of our pants more than we might like to admit.A lack of planning and over-planning can both have a negative impact on small business performance.So for us, planning has to be done in such a way that we create enough structure to achieve the desired results but we don’t unnecessarily spend time and resources.I’m a planner. I can’t get enough of looking at a project, digging into the details, identifying possible roadblocks or methods of achieving goals. This is the trap I call ‘Plancrastination’ and combined with not planning at all we find the need for a practical solution to planning for small business.What is a Plan?My definition of a plan for small business owners.“A plan is a series of listed milestones & actions that, when complete, will achieve a specific outcome.”This definition is important because there are three key elements here that will make your planning easier and more effective while minimizing the effort required. Stated Outcome - this helps prevent us from taking action without knowing exactly what we’re trying to achieve. Listed Milestones - help identify significant points of interest or achievement. Listed Action Steps - this is where the rubber meets the road and the work actually gets done. Planning HorizonFor small businesses with limited resources (I think that’s all of us), one key element is the concept of only planning detail to the extent of our ability to act.If you have a project that will take six months but have three people in your company it probably won’t make sense to plan specific action items that you expect to happen in week 20 of the project.This means we only plan specific action within the timeframe we can reliably expect to complete it.Small Business Planning Process Identify the Outcome - Where do you want to go? Determine Your Starting Point - Where are you now? What’s the Difference? - Using the business vernacular “Gap Analysis”. List Milestones - What are the major guideposts along the way? List Actions - Who’s going to do what and when? Identify the OutcomeThis first thing I like to do is take some time to think about what outcome I expect. This may seem like a ‘no brainer’ but I’ve seen a lot of work go down a road to a destination no one looked at in the first place.This can be a single sentence.“We want to coordinate and structure customer interaction.”Now you can begin a search for a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.“We want to eliminate the production bottleneck of building the front panel of our instrument.”Now you can start looking for a CNC machine.It’s much easier to have a successful plan if you understand your endgame.Determine Your Starting PointIn order to get to a destination you need to know where you’re starting from. Again, we need to keep this simple.“We currently have three people who deal with customers and each has his/her own communication methods, schedule and information storage. Joe uses sticky notes to document everything on the wall over his desk; Suzanne enters everything into a spreadsheet and Stacy writes it all down in her planner.”What’s the Difference?In business terms we call this step a ‘gap analysis’ which is shorthand for what’s the difference between what we want and what we have.This can actually be the hardest part of the planning process. As you can imagine that makes a key step. This is where you figure out what will have to be different from the way things are to achieve the way you want them to be.In the customer service case we might say we want everyone to have the same communication process so customers receive a consistent experience. We might also decide that all three of them need access to all the customer records so if one person is out of the office the other two can continue to cover all the customer requirements.We can answer these two issues by developing a customer communication plan and use a common database such as a CRM application to share information across the company.List MilestonesOnce we understand what needs to be different we can create the basic milestones it will take to get there. These are not specific tasks but guideposts along the way. Research Database Options Determine Our Database Needs CRM or Other? Research CRM Select CRM Train Staff Enter Data You’ll note that each of these would have a number of steps associated with it (some more than others). For the most part we won’t add details to these steps until we’re ready to actually begin that step (See ‘How Much Planning is Enough?’ below.).List ActionsMy framework for action planning is to get through the first four steps of the planning process above and then be very selective about planning step number five.Only plan specific action within your capability to complete that action. Personally I only plan details within about a week.How Much Planning is Enough?The amount of planning that will work in a specific case is variable. For small business owners I encourage you to plan but… not too much.In Episode 021 of Up and to the Right I offered the following guideline:“If additional planning will not provide a significant increase in the odds of success… then we’re done planning and it’s time to act!”I know… it’s subjective… that’s business for you. I have an inverse cost rule that might also be helpful.The more a project is likely to cost or the higher the risk the more time can be spent in planning.So, if something is going to cost 10 hours and $1,500 then you should spend as little time as possible planning.Conversely, if a project has a high risk of not working out or will cost 1,500 hours and $25,000 then it makes sense to allocate more time to planning it.Practical ActionSo the next plan you need to make just break it down into the five step process I listed above and keep the following guidelines in mind.“Only plan details within the capability of your business to act.”“If additional planning will not provide a significant increase in the odds of success… then we’re done planning and it’s time to act!”Write your plans down but keep them short. A plan that takes more than one page (single sided) could and should be trimmed. Come on… we have businesses to run… we need to plan so we can effectively use our time & resources but who’s got time for more planning than is necessary?How do you plan for your small business? Drop a comment with your thoughts. Connect with me to keep in touch and share ideas!
41 minutes | 8 months ago
Practical Vision in Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 042
Does Vision Matter to Small Business?Do we really need to write down our “Vision” as small business owners? Isn’t that just a Wall Street thing?Being clear about your vision is about more than wall hangings or motivational posters. It’s about more than a twitter post or an infographic. It’s about more than customer relationships or product development.Do a search on the web or your favorite book vendor for business vision and you’ll have mountains of material.I’ve read my share and while they’ve all had value none of them framed the value of an articulated vision in a practical, useful way that I felt small business owners could well… own.So, to that end, here’s the short, practical and actionable vision… of Vision.Defining VisionBefore we can get started using our vision to change our business (and then the world) we need to agree on what ‘vision’ means in the context of business.In episode 41 of Up and to the Right I defined Vision as follows:“Understanding your place in the social & economical environment today and into the future even beyond what you can reliably see.”I’m going to take a bit of artistic license and amend it to this.“Understanding your impact in the social & economical environment today and into the future even beyond what you can reliably see.”Entrepreneurs don’t do all this work to have a ‘place’ we do it to make an impact.What is different about the world with your business in it?For Beyond 50 Percent it’s this. “Successful small business ownership is the rule… not the exception.”This short statement shares the change we want to make in the world and our target market. If you read a few books or do some research you’re going to find two things I think you may want to avoid. The idea that your vision is what you want your company to look like in the future. The idea that your vision is a ‘goal’. Why? I like the idea that your vision is about more than a company… it’s about the impact you are working toward. To me a goal is something you strive for, achieve, and move on from where a vision is the benefit of an impact on others. A vision is evergreen as they say. Articulating & Creating Your VisionFirst things first here. It may take a while to hone your vision. That’s fine. It’s important not to let perfect be the enemy of good here.To the first order vision as I see it has three considerations but only two components.Considerations Impact Beneficiary Timelessness Components Impact - what is different in the world as a result of your organization’s existence? Beneficiary - who is your direct beneficiary (customer)? I think there’s a temptation (read… expectation) to come up with something profound or clever and that expectation becomes a barrier between owners and the creation and use of a vision statement.While your vision will describe the impact you want to have for the customers you serve… the vision statement itself is primarily for your use. Yes there is a marketing angle to this if you want to use it for that but the point is to clarify your thinking and drive your own decision making process.Getting Value Out of Your VisionAnd now what?If you’re like me you aren’t excited about something that doesn’t actively help your business.I hear you!What I can tell you is that by understanding the impact you want to have and the customer group that will benefit from that impact you’ll be able to quickly decide if a course of action is right for your company or better left to someone else.If a new process or product doesn’t promote your desired impact it’s a no-go even if it might benefit your customer base. If a new process or product might create impact but not for your desired customer it’s a no-go.What about ‘diversification’?It’s certainly possible that you may see an opportunity that is indirectly related to your vision. Is it okay to ‘expand your vision’?I’ll answer your question with two questions. Do you have the resources to pursue this new direction sufficiently to be of value in the market without removing value from your existing efforts? Have you truly exhausted all the reasonable efforts that support your vision as it exists today? Let’s be real. Small businesses are resource poor and efforts that don’t support our mission become black holes for our already limited resources.Practical ActionThere are compelling reasons to create and document a vision statement for your company.Let’s take a practical look at making it happen and getting useful value out of both the process and the day to day use. Don’t overthink it. If you have the time and money and you want to go on a retreat somewhere to collect your thoughts and be inspired by a change of scenery by all means go for it. If; however, you’re trying to scrape together enough to pay rent or simply not interested in the existential head clearing that’s fine. Just write down what impact you want your business to have. Look at the people that will benefit from the impact you just documented and write them down. Now combine those things into a single statement. Remember it doesn’t have to be pretty it just has to be usable… by you! Put it somewhere you can refer to when you need to make decisions for your business. “Does this support or enhance our ability to fulfill our vision?”Small business owners and teams can benefit greatly from having, articulating and using a company vision.What is your vision? Drop a comment with your thoughts. Connect with me to keep in touch and share ideas!
41 minutes | 8 months ago
Principles of Small Business Success | Up and to the Right | Episode 041
When I started Beyond 50 Percent my aspiration was to connect business owners with ‘proven principles and practical action’. It made then, and still makes, perfect sense in my head but I’ve found that when someone asks for an example of a proven business principle I was suddenly less clear on what it meant in practical terms and left with something banal like ‘buy low sell high’.Since ‘practical’ and ‘actionable’ are features that I feel strongly about I felt compelled to arrive at some clarity.So, I went in search of business principles and here is what I discovered through both reflection and research.Here’s what happened when I sought the Principles of Small Business Success!Complete Show NotesSearching for The AnswerThe first thing I did… as I think we all do these days when we have a question… was to ‘Google it’.As soon as I saw the results on the page I realized that I am not the only one that has a difficult time articulating what a ‘business principle’ is. There were over 318,000,000 results to the simple search for ‘business principles’ and the highest ranking ones were full of good tips and advice but were they ‘principles’?Does it even matter if we make the distinction between a good business idea or tactic and a business principle?That’s when I realized the first flaw in my search. I had to get clear on what a principle really was.Back to Google…According to https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/principle a principle is a “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption”. Principles matter because they are the fundamental structures upon which a business is built.If advice is good then why should you care if it’s a ‘principle’ or a tactic?Once I thought a bit about the meaning of the term principle I realized that in order to be a principle of business, a concept would have to be comprehensive and fundamental.A business principle then is a concept that works for all businesses (comprehensive) and is part of a foundation upon which a successful business is built… and that’s why the distinction matters. In order to effectively use good tactics, it’s important to understand that we’re using them to build and strengthen the very foundation of our business.Here are six principles for small business owners that I think are universal for all business models.Vision - Have a Vision That Exceeds Your Planning HorizonPlanning - Plan to the Visible Horizon and StopCommunicate - Communicate Effectively Internally & ExternallyValue - Create Value for OthersCash - Understand Transactional EconomicsProfit - Draw Value to Grow, Benefit and GiveThe Principles of Small Business SuccessWhy these six? That’s a great question and, to be honest, it took some doing. There are quite a number of great business tactics that are passed off as principles and when I measured each one against the yardstick of being applicable to all businesses and foundational these were the six still standing.I want to be clear. Tactics are important but they also become more situational and have specific relevance where these ideas are timeless and fundamental to the nature of business.Let’s briefly review each of these six principles.VisionI realize that vision or mission can fall into that trendy place of c-level retreats that result in lofty lobby signs. That’s not what I’m talking about. This is about understanding your place in the social & economical environment today and into the future even beyond what you can reliably see.PlanningIn order to organize and perform work at the appropriate time for your business situation you have to do some level of planning. Small business owners are faced with constraints, labor (yours or others), working capital, time in a day, pool of expertise, equipment available etc. This creates a horizon beyond which we can’t effectively plan… and that’s a good thing!CommunicationThe ability to communicate effectively is important in connecting with your potential customers, your team and other stakeholders. The disciplines of marketing, advertising, public relations, human resources, leadership and management all hinge on your ability to communicate effectively.ValueWhen it comes to value, the low hanging value buzzword is to define your value proposition. This term has become cliche and overused. Another phrase you’ll hear is ‘what problem does your product or service solve?”. Let’s go just a little further… how is solving that problem valuable in improving the lives of your customers?CashIt’s hard to overstate the importance of understanding the flow of cash in your business. How and when it comes in, where it’s kept and how and when it goes out can make or break a small business that is otherwise successful.ProfitIs ‘profit’ a four letter word? It sure seems like it gets categorized that way sometimes. In order to survive, prosper and continue to serve others you must draw more value from the product or service you offer than you invest in it. Practical ActionSo now that we know a few business principles what do we do with that?Take some time to consider your own situation in the context of these six concepts.How strong is your business in each of them?Do all of the tactics and actions you take support these principles in the most effective way?Over the next six weeks I will cover each of these fundamentals.In each episode we’ll talk about ways small business owners can identify how these principles are handled in your business. Check out the live stream recording: https://b50p.info/uattr041In the meantime drop a comment with your thoughts. Connect with me to keep in touch and share ideas!
43 minutes | 8 months ago
Plan it Like it's Software | Up and to the Right | Episode 040
If you’re running a business or thinking about it you would be forgiven for feeling completely overwhelmed. It’s true, there is a lot to do and never enough time to do it. What is a business owner to do? Read, learn, get a consultant or coach? Yes… those are all good things but at the end of the day when you’ve read “Eat that Frog” and you’re ready to hunker down how do you know which frog is the biggest, ugliest and least appealing? Which frog do you eat?How do we decide what’s important when? I think there’s a way of structuring our business plan that steals a bit from the world of software development.Instead of ‘building’ our business… let’s develop it.Complete Show NotesThe ConceptI’m going to make an assumption if you’re reading this you’ve been exposed to the system software companies use to identify one revision of software from the next. “Software 1.0” versus “Software 1.3” versus “Software 4.0” and so on.Major releases are usually identified with a change in the first number (before the decimal point) where minor updates are identified by incremental changes behind the decimal point.I apologize to anyone who works in the software industry if I have oversimplified this but for our purposes this is all we need.Generally Accepted Business Phases Concept Startup Growth Expansion Maturity If there are already standard phases of a company… why not just use those?It’s a good question and if you have a relatively simple business model that might work fine. My experience has been that we spend quite a bit of time in every phase and so there are iterations of our business within each phase resulting in what we might call updates (or patches if something is broken) versus a full revision.By using this model we can identify where a specific part of our business process needs to be implemented or updated.More importantly, when we identify where something is applicable we have also identified where and when it is not applicable leaving us to focus our energy on what needs to be done at this moment rather than what might need to be done someday in the future or ‘what might be cool if…’.You can find the following phases of business with some variations published around the web. If you prefer models with additional or fewer phases the concepts here will still apply.Phases of Business as Revisions Version 0.0 to .9 | Concept Version 1.0 to 1.9 | Startup Version 2.0 to 2.9 | Growth Version 3.0 to 3.9 | Expansion Version 4.0 to 4.9 | Maturity As we enter YourBusiness 0.0 we focus on activities and ideas that are focused around the Concept phase of the business. Let’s say that during that time we come up with a concept for our long term production or someone mentions we should have a customer relationship management system (CRM). Since neither of those functions belong in the concept stage we drop the production idea in the growth stage and the CRM idea into the Startup stage on our plan and focus our efforts in areas that add value to the stage that we’re in.It is better for me to keep things as simple as possible and there’s no need to complicate this more than you need it to be for your situation.In keeping with simplicity you just add things to the category where they belong and move them as necessary when your information changes.You might use Version 1.1 to define a specific implementation step to be completed in the early phases of startup like your early stage marketing efforts. By the time you arrive at this point you want your basic web page launched and initial social media handles acquired.Version 1.2 might include implementing early stage business processes for production, material sourcing guidelines etc.You can use the same concepts across each of the business stages.Keeping FocusI want to be clear here. It’s important to think about your vision for your company five or more years down the road. When ideas come to mind for that time frame I encourage you to make notes in the appropriate part of your plan.It’s equally important to keep in mind that what we see five years from now may look very different when we get there.So by documenting the ‘features’ we would like of our business at the various revision levels we free ourselves to plan for the horizon but keep our hands on the wheel.Practical ActionThere’s nothing new here… not really. I get that. When it occurred to me it just felt like a fresh way to look at an age old problem when it comes to planning and implementing the features and characteristics in our businesses.Let’s face it, business owners are busy and anything we can do to guide the way we spend our finite time in the most effective way is valuable.In the show notes for episode 040 of the Up and to the Right podcast I’ll have an outline showing what this might look like in a real use case. (https://b50p.info/uattr040)In the meantime drop a comment with your thoughts. Connect with me to keep in touch and share ideas!
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