Category Archives: Peer Groups

Goal-setting: The Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon

Many entrepreneurs don’t set specific goals for their business, but studies show that goal-setting really does drive higher achievement. According to small business peer board members who’ve embraced this technique, goal-setting forces you to focus your energies effectively and develop real, viable action plans. It isn’t hard if you follow their lead.

Here’s how PRO peer board members put the goal-setting process to work for them.

Vision Goals: Where Do You Want to Be in Three Years?
Most people set goals in one-year increments. Think bigger. Research indicates that successful people plan out three years ahead.

“I had always established and worked on long term and yearly goals,” says PRO member Dennis Poulin, Owner of R & G Vent Cleaning in Gilbert, AZ, an industrial cleaning company specializing in commercial kitchen exhaust systems to satisfy ongoing Fire Code maintenance requirements.

“My perspective was enhanced when I was asked about where I had to be in six months, three months and thirty days, and what strategy and actions had to be completed to accomplish my near term goals to meet my yearly goals and move toward my longer term objectives.”

So, where do you want to be three years from now? Think in measurable terms like dollars, percentages, and market share, as well as in terms of specific activities. Do you want to add new products to your portfolio? Hire a sales staff? These three-year goals are your Vision Goals.

365 Goals: Plot a Course to Reach Your Vision Goals
Now, let’s figure out how you’re going to get there. Break each Vision Goal down into manageable steps. Look at those initial steps—you’ve just identified your goals for the coming year. These are your 365 Goals.

For example, one PRO member’s primary Vision Goal was to attain 10% of market share. We determined that her primary 365 Goal would be acquiring 3% of market share. Her remaining 365 Goals included specific actions to help her reach her Vision Goal—i.e., hiring a salesperson, launching one new product and reworking her marketing plan.

If your 365 Goals look like action plans, you’re on the right track!

Now Goals: Jump-starting Your 365 Goals
PRO members report that the goal-setting process generates energy, excitement and ideas. These are valuable assets—don’t let them slip away. Leverage them by identifying one or two short-term goals that you can attain in, say, 90 days. These are your Now Goals.

Perhaps one of your Now Goals is to update your website or to join your local small business peer board. Whatever they are, get started right away!

Assign Due Dates to Your Goals and Action Plans
One step PRO members say is very important is to break those action plans down into small steps and assign each one a due date. This allows you to measure your progress and helps keep you on track.

Or, as I like to tell my peer boards: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Put Your Goals to the SMART Test
Have you heard of the concept of SMART goals? SMART goals are grounded in the real world; they aren’t just fantasies. Set yourself up for success by making sure your goals meet the SMART criteria:

S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Realistic
T – Timely

Put It in Writing: PRO’s Goal-setting Worksheet
Finally, write it (or type it) down! The act of committing your ideas to paper forces you to think in concrete terms and make your resolutions more real. It can also lead to brainstorming, which is always valuable.

Studies show that people who put their goals in writing are more likely to achieve them than those who don’t. It’s important.

Would you like to attend a free PRO peer board meeting? 

 

Are You Fit to Be an Entrepreneur?

Are you fit for entrepreneurial endeavors or to be an entrepreneur? 2 Small Biz Guys explore the path to profitable returns. We explore considerations and questions regarding small business start ups. Some folks want to start their own business but may not be a good fit for becoming an entrepreneur. You can take a brief quiz and see where you stand on the scale before launching into something you may regret. On the other hand, you may be a perfect match for taking the leap. Find out here.

If you are a self-starter, can create good relationships and lead others you are on the right track. There are some recommended steps, though. We often leap without looking, especially when we accept and engage risk. When we plan strategically, looking for and filling the holes in the plan effectively, we have a much greater chance for success. Here’s the steps:

  1. Write a Business Plan
  2. Get Business Assistance and Training
  3. Choose a Business Location
  4. Finance Your Business
  5. Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business
  6. Register a Business Name
  7. Get a Tax Identification Number
  8. Register for State and Local Taxes
  9. Obtain a Business License and Permits
  10. Understand Employer Responsibilities

Often the latter is not fully appreciated until the business owner is taken off track because there are now employees to manage. Competitors, rather than wish you ill, may wish you more employees. Human resources are often the most important aspect of a business that is growing, maintaining good employee relations being imperative.

Cash flow is most important, though, and without it your business will suffer greatly and potentially fall without great fanfare. There are some key considerations in this article. There are also some excellent resources for short-term on-demand small business education at Practical Business University. We also discussed sales strategies briefly and these made the top ten, from the author of How to Say It: Business to Business Selling.

On to the show:

Did You Know?

Are you ready to learn something today? You may already know this. Allow me to refresh your memory if you do. I am forwarding you a link to a rather startling YouTube video. (It was supposedly a presentation made at this year’s Sony Executive Conference). I found it to be very informative, thought-provoking, and, frankly, hair-raising.

There is something to be learned here. So, please click the following link and take a look. It’s just a few minutes long. (Don’t finish reading my email until after you’ve watched it.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY

Did you watch it? In that case, to quote a line from the video…so what does it all mean?

To me, it means that the world is changing far faster than it did in any of my experiences of the past…and even faster than the life I am experiencing now. As the video says, “These are Exponential Times.” Business and life will never be the same.

In general, most people do not welcome change, but nevertheless, Change Is Here. The way we communicate, conduct business, socialize and even think will be radically impacted. It’s already happening. For example, five years ago, would you have ever believed that your daily newspaper could possibly become a thing of the past?

What does this teach us? For one thing, that we can’t take our industry or business for granted. I once attended a seminar where the speaker—a Boeing executive—made a remarkable statement. He said that, in a competitive society, if a company wants to stay in business, it must essentially destroy its own product. If it didn’t create its next-generation replacement, the competition would.

Metaphorically, businesses are often compared to ships. Small businesses are small, zippy PTs; large corporations are looming, ponderous aircraft carriers. Which one has the ability to change course rapidly? Yes, the PT boat. That’s good news for us. With the right attitude and people, small businesses have the ability to feel the waves, grab the wheel, and change course.

Today, it’s imperative that organizations have the right people, ones who can “feel the waves” and are willing to make changes. Technology has increased our communication capabilities, but at the expense of personal relationships. It is so much easier to email or text than to call someone on your cell phone or—Heaven forbid!—pay them a visit.

But, can you really achieve a vibrant exchange of ideas through texts and emails? (For example, my fingers are already tired from keying this in, and they can’t begin to keep pace with my brain.) Isn’t it more productive to have an actual, real-time dialogue, where questions are raised and answers are offered, and in the process, all kinds of thought-provoking ideas are explored?

So, did you know…
•     You can learn more by getting out of the office?
•     You can learn more by talking with other business owners?
•     You really can change, when you have support from your peers?
•     An exchange of ideas can create an epiphany?

I know, I know…I am hardly unbiased on this subject.  After all, I facilitate peer groups. But it is because of that experience that I can say with absolute certainty: Peer power is powerful enough to help you change with the times, even if you’re inherently resistant to it. It can give you insight and the initiative you need to actually make those changes necessary to your firm’s survival.

For more information about this concept, visit http://propres.com/. If you are interested in learning more of my thoughts, you can read excerpts from my book—or even buy it–at http://www.bestsmallbizsecrets.com/.

How’s Your Crystal Ball?

How’s Your Crystal Ball

by Ray Silverstein

When you own a business, you need to be able to tell the future. To know where revenues are headed and what resources you’ll need. The good news is, you don’t need to be clairvoyant to see what lies ahead. 

Because you have something better than a crystal ball: your business indicators. Some indicators are nearly universal (i.e., the economy), and some are unique to every business. Either way, when you track your indicators, including those listed below, you can get a handle on the future.

Indicator #1: Present and Future Sales 

Reviewing current orders is the first step to projecting revenues. But you can estimate even more accurately if you factor in outstanding bids/proposals.

For example, review past proposals for the last 12 months. What percentage did you close?  

Apply that percentage to today’s proposals, and you’ll get a sense of where you’ll be in X number of days, depending on the length of your sales cycle. In essence, you’re diagramming your sales funnel. (Then you can also work backwards to determine how many proposals you must generate to hit your sales goals.)

Indicator #2: Service/Maintenance

If your sales have a ‘tail’—i.e., the initial sale will result in service activity down the road—that’s another indicator.

Say you sell and service equipment. By analyzing past maintenance activity, you can predict what service/parts will be needed when. Apply that information to your equipment in the field, and you cannot only proactively line up parts and staff, but anticipate maintenance-related revenues.

Indicator #3: The Domino Effect 

Certain activities in one industry  impact related industries. If you can pinpoint those relationships, you can use them to make projections.

For example, one of my PRO peer group members is in the furniture business. By talking to her customers, she found they shared one common denominator: many had purchased homes within the prior 6-12 months. By tracking the local housing market, she can project which way sales are trending.

Indicator #4: Fill-in-the-Blank!

There may also be some indicators unique to your business. Keep a look out for them.

For example, years ago when I owned a manufacturing company, I used to sell to a well-known mail order house. This was before the Internet. Every day when the mail arrived, the mail order staff would immediately weigh it. Yes, weigh it. The company’s savvy owner knew the value of his average order and had calculated the number of orders that made up a lb. of mail. So hours before the orders were processed, he knew what the day’s sales would be.

Indicator #5: The Local Landscape

Your business is part of a local community. Depending on what you sell or do, all kinds of local activity may affect you: big construction projects, hiring moves by major employers, even the school calendar. By staying abreast of your community and keeping tabs on local business news, you can get a sense of what will impact your business.

So, put away your tea leaves and cancel your appointment with Madame Marie. Learn to track and read your key business indicators, and you’ll be able to predict what the future holds.


Ray Silverstein is president of PRO, President’s Resource Organization, a network of entrepreneurial peer advisory groups in Phoenix and Chicago. He is author of “The Best Secrets of Great Small Businesses,” and “The Small Business Survival Guide.” He has partnered with the Phoenix Business Journal to bring you access to the Journal’s Digital Portal, a goldmine of potential business indicators. For more information, contact Ray at 1-800-818-0150 or ray@propres.com.

Upcoming Events:

Devon Bank sponsored Keyword Workshop in Chicago – Wednesday, October 8, 2014 

Books of Interest: