Archive - June 2015

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10 Business Survival Strategies in Difficult Times
Doing things for yourself
Creating a Mission-oriented Organisation Structure
How to implement lasting change in your business
7 Pillars of entrepreneural success

10 Business Survival Strategies in Difficult Times

We are in uncertain times for business at the moment. The economy seems to do well one moment, at other times there is doom and gloom.

I’m not an economist, yet even I understand that despite some good signs there are fundamental economic indicators that are worrying, including interest rates, international GDP trends and unemployment. I’m a business owner just like you, and while I look after my business as best as I can, I do realise that there are things happening that is outside of my control.

However what is important is that we keep track of wider economic trends and see how they affect us, and, even more importantly, implement strategies that mitigate risk. So when I received an email last week from Sheryl, a follower of my blog, asking me what “common sense” things she should do to ensure that she was prepared for whatever might happen, I reached into my toolbox and pulled out 10 strategies that are useful in difficult times.

In over 30 years’ of consulting to business and other organisations, I have found that history often repeats itself. So why reinvent the wheel?

In this video I run through 10 business survival strategies for difficult times that are “common sense”, can be instigated now, and that I have seen work in other times of economic woe. Would you believe the first paper I wrote about these strategies was for a conference I presented to in 1987? Since then I have refined them at least three times as the world economy fluctuated over the last 28 years.

There’s no secret really – here they are again:-

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Doing things for yourself

When you are running a small business you are jack of all trades. You’re probably master of a few too!

I was discussing this with one of my clients (not a small business by any means!) and they were telling me about how they were using their in-house counsel in reviewing their tax structures.

“But wait,” I said, “Isn’t he a corporate lawyer?”

Yes they said but tax lawyers are extremely expensive and since they have him anyway, surely a lawyer is trained in reading the law and can read any legislation?

I see this so often in my consulting business, and not only amongst small businesses who need to ensure every dollar they spend is well spent. I see it also amongst my larger clients who think they should do everything in-house. There is a time and a place for doing things for yourself. But there is also a time and place to ensure you get the advice from someone outside who deals with the issues every day.

In the example of my client who was getting tax advice from their in-house corporate lawyer, I don’t mean to put down their lawyer, but there is a difference between his skill in reading tax legislation and the experience in tax legislation.

The difference between skill and experience is that one is learned while the other is gained. I’m sure you can read an Ikea instruction leaflet on how to put together a shelving unit with doors – you have the skill. But I’ll bet that you can’t put it together as fast and as cleanly as an experienced handyman – that’s because he has the experience of putting shelves together with power tools every day.

What does this mean for your business?

It’s only right that sometimes you should hire someone else to provide both the skill and the experience required for a task, the skill and experience that you don’t have.

However where you can you need to be engaged, to ensure that the consultant has all the facts they need in front of them. After all, nobody knows your business, and all its nuances better than yourself. The marriage of your knowledge and the skill and experience you buy in should provide you with the best outcome.

Get more of these tips and tools and resources to create strategy in your business, provide leadership and grow your business by subscribing here

Creating a Mission-oriented Organisation Structure

As you start or grow your business sooner or later you will employ people.

Perhaps what started as a micro-business with just you or you and your spouse begins to grow and you need to leverage your time. The tasks that you once divided up between the two of you seamlessly have to be explained to your new staff. You need to draw up “job descriptions” so that everyone knew what they were responsible for, so that you reduced confusion when something might be forgotten. In time this grows in complexity and you need to have different teams looking after different parts of the business.

This can happen with anywhere upwards of three people!

So you start to doodle organisational structures – you know, you at the top, then the people who are in charge of different aspects of the business who report directly to you, then below them the people who work in their sections who report to them.

The problem is, these structure diagrams seem so straight-forward, but are they organised so you get work done – or are they organised so that the focus of all your work is towards your mission?

There’s a saying in management consulting – “strategy creates structure”.

This means that in order to work out the optimal structure for your business, you need to make sure that the structure is created by your strategy. Otherwise “structure forces strategy”, or in other words your strategies start to be formulated in accordance with what your structure implies. For example if you had a structure that included a design team separate from a construction team, that structure may force a strategy upon you that says you will only make what has been designed. If on the other hand if strategy created structure, you may find that you start with the best strategy – to make products that are designed by people in and outside your business. Then you design your structure that either does away with a design team or incorporates them into a “build and design team” thereby increasing innovation and flexibility.

So, how do you create an organisation structure that is mission-oriented?

Get over to the website after you have watched the video and start the conversation. What does your organisation structure look like? Is it mission-oriented or do you find that the structure itself changes the mission?

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How to implement lasting change in your business

We know that death and taxes are constant. Well, when you are in business, change is also constant.

There’s an old saying – “if you do nothing, something terrible happens….nothing”.

In business change can be demanded by the market, by your customers changing, by new trends and technologies, by changing team members and by your own changing life goals. If you don’t change, one of these things will jump out an bite you and if you don’t respond, your business will inevitably suffer.

But if you’ve ever tried to change something in your business, have you found that it may have worked for a while, then after some time, people slip back into their old ways. Or, it has been impossible to put through a change because people just don’t want anything to do with it!

Why is that?

Because change has to be implemented by people, and people just hate change.

You know how it is. You get comfortable doing the same things over and over again. In fact you get really good at it that you can do it in your sleep, with your eyes closed! You get so good at it that you start to justify why you don’t need to change – it would cost too much, you would need retraining, it would take a long time to be as efficient as the way you have been doing it because you can do it in your sleep, with your eyes closed.

You even say this when the need for change is staring you in the face.

Your product is getting old. New entrants into the market are using mobile apps to deliver your product. Yet you say “they’re not as good, they don’t go into the detail like your hands on approach can provide”. While that may be true enough your customers are voting with your feet. Remember Kodak had the best film processing chain in the world. They stuck to what they knew because it was so good. Meanwhile customers started buying better and better digital cameras.

So, how do you implement change in your business that will “stick”?

Here’s those 8 steps again:-

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7 Pillars of entrepreneural success

I intend to give the readers of my blog value – thousands of dollars of value – for free with each post.

In my consulting practice I can charge up to $5,000 a day for my advice and in consulting engagements on start-ups, business diagnoses, strategic planning and marketing. Honestly, the time it takes me to prepare the information in these posts, and the value of the 30 plus years of experience I bring to these tips and tools, make each post of around $2,000 in value.

And you get it for free!

But the value I can give you doesn’t just rest in my own head. Sometimes I come across great articles about business and entrepreneurs that I can’t resist sharing with you.

And hey, it means I get 3 or 4 hours off not having to write or film another post of my own!

This week I came across a great article by Macquarie Bank about the 7 Pillars of being a successful entrepreneurial business:-

  1. Be patient
  2. Grow expertise by building your business organically
  3. Be disciplined with cost management
  4. Hire industry experts where needed
  5. Empower your people
  6. Keep the essence of your business alive
  7. Stay on top of new technologies and innovations.

Here’s the link to the article:-

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