Tag: strategy (page 1 of 2)

Writing a plan – what is the point?

Writing a plan – what is the point?

By the time you have written the plan everything has probably moved on and it is already out of date. Or the process of writing the plan has left you in no fit state to carry on the day job.

Executive coaching BristolOK, a plan will give you something to focus on, if you find yourself with time on your hands. It will also help you to work towards an objective or goal. But with so many areas to consider, so many scenarios to incorporate into the plan to make it worthwhile, one has to ask the question – is it all worth it?

My suggestion. Why not write down a completed actions list?

That is one way I have found of capturing activity to reflect if it is going in the right direction. I know in my own mind what i am heading towards, i did that heavy lifting months ago. All I want to see is how I am progressing towards that goal, not how much still lies ahead.

By writing down the work done and the time, I can then look back with a sense of pride about what has been achieved. I can also change direction much quicker if my goals have changed.

So what do you do – do you take the adage that failing to plan is planning to fail? Or do you record activity and let the future take care of itself?

Let me know.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Yes, I know it is a bit clichéd. But we have sound evidence that most small firms do not plan well enough to ensure that they grow in a way that is sustainable and profitable.

Personally I have no problem with a one page business plan that resembles an action list rather than the deep, structured formal plan. It reflects where they are and  most probably the variability in the environment in which they are seeking to operate.

Anyhow, back to the evidence. We asked 35 people to complete a Gap Analysis of what they need to strengthen the most. The response was a need to have a plan and have goals and objectives to make the plan happen.

If you want to add your insights to the research, do feel free. Business strategy assessment.

A business succeeds only when customers buy

Business CoPilot top brandsNo matter what the size of the organisation, no matter what it makes, no matter what – it will only succeed if customers buy from them. It is that vital transaction that determines success or failure.

No one is immune. Coca Cola, Nokia, Kit Kat, Ford, Apple. As soon as sales drop then alarm bells ring.

OK, I do accept that products and services need to be developed and innovated, that the support services are in place to delight the customer and yes marketing needs to be done to build awareness. But without customers buying then anything that the company does is not worthwhile. Put another way without sales it all fails

The problem is that many senior business people do not understand what selling actually means. Smarmy hair cuts, sharp suits, gift of the gab, morals of an alley cat are stereotypical traits of how sales people are viewed.

What traits do you think should be exhibited by a top line sales person? Here are a few starters:

  • Persuasive – able to lead a discussion
  • Knowledgeable – understands the nuances of the market
  • Intelligent – can demonstrate business acumen and business learning
  • Social – able to mix at all levels and speak fluently

What are your traits? Do let me know

Vision must be embedded in the day to day of doing business

“Here is our vision”. I looked at it and was impressed. Partly because they had gone to the trouble of actually thinking about it and then writing it down and because it was very strong. It had many of the components that a vision should have. It had direction, values, core competency, target audience and a clear definition of the services offered. it was aspirational and practical. Great stuff.


But what I noticed when I talked to them was that the vision was not actually the guiding light it was intended to be. Whilst looking at new avenues for growth or to assess performance, they didn’t go back to the flight plan or the vision.

It seemed to me that they did the vision statement but then left it. Job done move on.

I am now working with companies to make sure they embed the vision in the business. To somehow insert the vision statement into the business metrics or the performance stats. Even when they do strategic interventions or look at new ideas I am looking at ways to ensure they consistently revisit the vision statement.

My one way is to make sure that the sales stats reflect the target audience in the vision statement. That way they have to go back and check to see if they are within the plan or to assess if the vision needs updating.

Where would you ensure that the vision was embedded in the day-to-day running of the business?

The conversations you need to be having

It’s impossible to be in business without being in conversation. One person, alone in a room, talking to nobody simply isn’t a business (or at least, it’s not a business yet!)

There are a number of conversations you need to be having on a regular basis to ensure that your business runs as effectively as possible.

Outside of your business:

The most important conversations you need to be having outside of your business are with customers. Whether these are existing customers or potential customers, you need to be talking.

The essential thing here is to be engaged in conversation. Writing a blog or delivering a monthly newsletter isn’t effective if there is no engagement. Encourage discussion about the topics you’re talking about and be a vocal part of the business community.

Make sure you are having new conversations as well as maintaining old ones; it’s important to both maintain and strengthen relationships, and create new ones where there is potential waiting to be discovered.

Within your business:

Inside your business, it’s important that the stakeholders are talking regularly. No matter the size of your business, all parties have to know what they are aiming for and what success looks like for the business. Having regular monthly meetings to catch up on all targets and strategies is an essential part of this. Even if you are a sole trader, you will most likely have suppliers, and making your needs known to them and feeding back how you find their service adds value to the relationship.

Around your business:

It is always useful to find out about the experiences of others, so talking to people in the same industry as you can be valuable. Perhaps there is a shared interest which you can combine forces on, or a relationship which might be useful in the future. Don’t be too focussed on personal gain, and at the very least, you will have reached out to another person who now knows about your skills and can judge when they might be needed.

A blog about conversations wouldn’t be complete without starting one. Do you need to have these conversations more often? Or are there other discussions you feel are more important? Leave us a comment below or email alexh@businesscopilot.co.uk with your views!

Who Moved My Cheese?

A young employee’s perspective

In the past year, I have experienced more change than perhaps at any other point in my life so far. I graduated from University, moved to a new city, started a new job, moved in with people I didn’t know, moved out again, moved in with old friends and started learning to play piano.

Who Moved My Cheese?

So ‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ by Dr Spencer Johnson really struck a chord with me when I read it last week.

‘Who Moved My Cheese?’ is, put simply, a book about change. It’s about how change affects us, or perhaps more accurately, how we let change affect us. The book’s 4 characters (Hem, Haw, Scurry and Sniff) all react differently to their main source of sustenance and happiness, their cheese, being moved. Some move on without thinking, some refuse to accept it and some come round to the idea of looking for something new. It is a business book which isn’t explicitly about business, but whose lessons are particularly relevant to business, especially in the modern market.

The story mostly follows Hem, who at first is crushed by losing his cheese, but comes to learn that finding new cheese will make him stronger, and that he mustn’t take cheese for granted.

The moral is clear: don’t get comfortable. When you begin to rely on cheese, take it for granted and forget that it isn’t yours, you set yourself up for a fall when it is inevitably removed. I can’t help but feel that this book is much more relevant now in a business sense than it would have been when it was published in 1998. People are very rarely employed in a job for life, and the constantly updating digital landscape means things are continually in flux. Nothing stands still.

So, this book may be simple in its message, but it is all the better for it. Do not let yourself be static while the rest of the world moves along. In the book, the metaphor for change-readiness is keeping your running shoes tied at the laces, hung around your neck. This is an invaluable lesson, and one which I intend to follow. Always be ready to move, whether this means learning new skills, crafting new products to meet customers’ needs, rebranding yourself or your company, or just keeping an eye on what’s going on in your industry.

Just make sure that when the cheese moves, you’re ready to get out there and find it again.

Alex, Communications Officer

View from the Cockpit: Transformation Leaders

Transformation Leaders is a a unique managed community of independent board level transformation leaders. David Pinchard, MD, answers questions about the company’s past and future in this month’s View from the Cockpit.

What is the vision for Transformation Leaders? Where would you love to see your business go?

We are an independent company based in Bristol and London and we have already been operating for 12 years. We are unique, as we believe in running a carefully selected and managed community with a ceiling of no more than 150 very good senior board level independents, available for great transformation projects in all board disciplines. We have won over £2.5 million of successful projects so far for our members, some being as far away as with Tata HQ in India, and last November I joined a mission of 15 SW MD’s on the largest trade mission to China for many years.

Unusually, we are not an interim agent (and don’t charge like one either), so we have saved our wide range of clients, from the very big like Panasonic and HMG, to the smaller, fast growing companies in the private sector, over £1M through the way that interim agents charge to find the right independent transformation-leader for a project.

The goal is thus: ‘More successful projects year on year’ for clients at board level. We just love what we do, making a real difference to our clients and members.

What might prevent you from achieving this?

Nothing, really. We know how we have got to where we are, and being high quality and unique in the market helps enormously. Referral gets us there. The internet, websites and so on are excellent methods to check people out, but they are not usually what get you through the front door.

We are independent ‘thought leaders ‘in our segment, so we run a lot of good development events in three centres around the country to share our knowledge with clients and members and keep on learning.

How do you plan to resolve these issues?

Although we don’t anticipate any issues, we do have our own five year plan. As a wider picture I think we all have to understand that 50% of our GDP in the state is already a recipe for disaster. Too much debt is lethal once interest rates rise. Printing money in the short term may be vital, but strategically it is inflationary. For our country, which is 1% of the world’s population, not earning our way in the world in innovative ways that add value to what we produce, means we’ll end up starving, with a danger of accompanying civil disturbance; and our currency? It will end up on the floor.

This means constant change, constant improvement and delivery of ‘measurably better for less cost’, or we will not be able to afford the very considerable benefits our people currently enjoy. If you ‘add value’, you’ll need to add even more. If you rely on the state (as around 25% of UK adults do), you’ll need to take a lot less. We have been bankrupt before, from 1940 and onwards to 1952 or so. We got out of that one and also a number of very sticky periods in between. We need to do so again. And we can thank another great British inventor, Tim Berners Lee, only 20 years ago, enabling computers to talk to each other to significantly increase the ability of small businesses to compete and export at much lower set up and running costs and to export their added value easily.

Visit the Transformation Leaders website or connect with David on LinkedIn.

What should you be doing all day?

“You’re a first-time CEO. You’ve built your team, hired kick-ass employees, brought on strong leaders, so… now what?”  Making the transition from going it alone to having the power to delegate can leave a void of activity in your working day. Ring any bells?

A recent blog by Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Scott Weiss might just give you the direction you need to make the most productive use of your time. He has created a weekly CEO’s checklist to help you make the most of your time:

Sell your vision

You need to be able to talk about the company in a really compelling way, and not just for potential customers. PR firms, employees, investors – these groups all need to be convinced by your passion and vision to really work hard for you. 

Push your team

A few ways which Scott suggests for pushing your team for their very best work are:

  • Setting aggressive goals, and reviewing regularly
  • Giving frequent feedback so employees know what’s expected and how they’re doing
  • Holding weekly staff meetings to keep on track with projects and goals, and give a forum for suggestions

Arbitrate disagreements

Sometimes a wealth of excellent people means a wealth of excellent ideas, some of which will naturally oppose each other. Compromising every time will mean that the biggest and best decisions are never allowed their full potential, so don’t be afraid to back whichever you think is the better idea.

Management by walking around

Self-explanatory, really. Walking around your office gives you the chance to catch up with employees and stay connected with what’s happening in on a day-to-day basis in your business. Sitting in your office won’t tell you half as much about your company as getting amongst it will.

Talk to customers

Customers are the most important people to get feedback from. If you can spend time talking to them about what they like and don’t like, you’ll stay current, relevant, and in touch with their needs – which you really do need to be.

So, if you are a new CEO and are wondering what to do with your day now that you have the provision of delegation, don’t stay in your office, get out there and immerse yourself in your business.

View from the cockpit: Viper Marketing

“Creating an inspiring vision that pulls everyone in the business along is key to success, helping us navigate the ups and downs of the current business roller coaster.”

For our second monthly View from the cockpit feature, we spoke to Neil Wilkins, Managing Director of Viper Marketing.

Viper Marketing is a leading marketing agency based in Bristol. Neil and the team have many years experience in helping large and small organisations develop long-term and profitable customer relations. They specialise in creating strategy, planning campaigns and providing training and mentoring.

We asked Neil some questions about Viper’s unique vision and how it aims to overcome challenges facing it in 2013.

How would you describe the vision for Viper Marketing? Where do you want to see it go?

Our vision is to guide people and companies towards using profitable digital marketing and communications. To achieve this we ourselves need to be a sustainable marketing business that focuses in four key areas: strategic planning, tactical campaigns, training and mentoring.

Our business model is one in which we live and breathe the world we evangelise. We don’t have offices or paper and exist virtually, online – and not just in the UK, as we have proven our model works by establishing an office in Cairo, Egypt.

Neil Wilkins, Viper MarketingHow do you set yourselves apart from other businesses and ensure the growth of Viper Marketing

Franchising: to grow our business over the coming years in a cost effective, progressive and controlled way we decided to franchise. By turning all of our services into products which can be learned and shared by franchisees, we are able to duplicate what we do in different areas across the country and internationally. This flexibility and adaptability is part of where we see our business going in the future.

The essence is that we can support our franchisees from wherever we are, anywhere in the world… Again, all part of our exciting anytime, anywhere ethos.

What challenges do you envision being faced with as you grow? 

One of the biggest challenges our clients and potential franchisees face is a perceived low level of confidence. There has been so much hype in the media recently about the current economy and lack of growth, which has inevitably impacted on us all.

The companies that are still growing and profiting are those that are planning and looking beyond the current horizon and then putting in step by step milestones in the right direction towards hitting their goals. The old adage of working on your business and not just in your business has never been truer than it is today.

Creating an inspiring vision that pulls everyone in the business along is key to success, helping us navigate the ups and downs of the current business roller coaster.

Do you have an exit strategy?

Exit signMost business people in start-ups and smaller businesses tend to be working so hard to get their business in the black that they forget to look at the horizon.

But knowing what you want from the business at the exit point is as important as what the business is all about. It shapes the culture, size, shareholding and profit profile. Knowing how to create capital value and retain it is fundamental to business growth.

In an article in the FT recently, Caroline Belcher, partner and head of the exit planning practice at Cavendish Corporate Finance, wrote:

“Start preparing for the exit plan between 12 months and three years before you want to exit.

“You need to be very clear about who is going to buy the business. Fit the business to the acquirer, not the other way round. It is really about understanding the buyer market. Not many people think that far ahead.”

A salutary warning: think ahead to navigate your way around the hurdles and achieve the highest return on your blood, sweat and tears.

Click here to find out more – http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/5f635b96-c07a-11e1-9372-00144feabdc0.html#axzz28KloCy5L

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