Category - Communication

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A “proper” planning process
How do I quantify my Vision?
How to implement lasting change in your business
Asking the right question is the first step in effective communication
Why write an Executive Summary?

A “proper” planning process

In over 30 years’ experience in advising clients on planning I believe very strongly that there is a correct process to follow when you are preparing your strategic or business plan.

At the same time, I have also seen many attempts at different ways to prepare strategic or business plans by consultants who have never had to live through the implementation phase of planning, when client staff go “Huh? What exactly are we supposed to do here?”

I have just spent some time with a client who has prepared their plan exactly in that way. While I was advising them on the financial aspects of their business, their Chief Operating Officer was internally preparing their strategic plan, which I had a chance to look at since it would obviously have an impact on their financial strategy and budget. It was not my role since, as a gun-for-hire consultant I can only do what I am contracted to do. However, for the benefit of my client I felt I had to provide some warning about what I felt were the shortcomings of the planning process to the CEO.

As a consultant you have to approach these situations carefully. You do not want to seem critical so that you look like you are touting for more work; you do not want to insult internal staff and put them off side in case you have to work with them on other issues – yet, I always feel a responsibility to provide an independent view of what I see that may affect their business.

Here, for nothing, is a list of what I thought was wrong with the process and the resulting planning document.

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How do I quantify my Vision?

I received an email from Joanne who owns an interior design consultancy in Toronto who asked a series of questions about her Vision for her business.

One of the more intriguing ones was:-

“I realize that making the company’s vision statement live is the key to how we fulfill the promise of our unique selling proposition. But I’m finding it hard to explain what I mean in our vision statement to my team and to customers. It seems so clear to myself what I want to achieve at the end of the day but have I got the wording wrong in the statement?”

Her company’s vision statement reads “We believe in taking both our customers and ourselves to the front edge of design so that we both benefit from leading the pack.”

Not a bad vision statement in my book. It describes a journey that involves both the business and the customer so that it creates the feeling of mutually beneficial relationship; it sets their value of being at the forefront of design which also sets the scene for the customer that says “don’t come to us if you want lace and frills”; and it feels inspirational and inviting. When I read that statement I see energy, innovation, and adventure.

No, I don’t think Joanne has “the wrong wording”. So back to her question, how does she explain what she means in the vision statement to her team and her customers?

Before I answer that question let me talk a little about why you need to make your vision statement “live”. Many businesses make the mistake of writing an exciting vision statement and putting it on the wall, but not making it come alive in the business.

Your vision statement is your “brand” and it should guide how you run your business, how you deal with your customers, how you behave day to day and why you are doing it. If your team members understand what it actually means, it takes away all the little micro-decisions they have to make because the vision spells out the way. No longer do they have to get authorisation or seek management advice about who to hire – they refer to the vision, understand what type of person is required, and make the decision. If they are concerned about whether or not to offer a customer extended payment terms, they refer to the vision and if they understand what it says about the desired customers and what service means, they make the decision.

In this way, a well understood vision statement empowers people.

So, how do you quantify a vision statement in such a way that everyone understands how it applies in almost any given situation? This video explains how.

If you choose your perspectives well, and if you really drill down in each perspective, the resulting description or answer to the question “once we achieve our vision how will we…” lays out what your vision statement means.

The website https://teikoh.com have worksheets and templates to help you describe your vision and quantify it, along with many other templates, tools and resources to create strategy, provide leadership and grow your business. Start the conversation, go to our Facebook page and leave a comment.

Subscribe to our newsletter here and get these tools delivered right to your inbox for you to refer to when you need them.

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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Asking the right question is the first step in effective communication

I was talking to an auditor one day. He asked me “When your client bought these widgets, were they on sale-or-return basis?

Well then, where’s the statement that shows how much is owing to the supplier?
Oh,” I said, “so your first question really should have been ‘can you show me the statements from the widget supplier?’
That’s what I asked,” he said.
Now you know why I’ve stopped dealing with auditors.
We talk about the need for effective communication (and I have a great tool for you, but I’ll tell you later) and yet we listen badly and many of us ask poor questions. More often than not, our conversations with people are conducted partly in our heads before they are conducted with other people.
I think the conversation in that auditor’s head went something like this:-
– That’s funny, I can’t find a supplier statement for those widgets.
– I can see payments being made, and income from selling them but there doesn’t seem to be a pattern.
– Maybe there’s a non-standard contract for them.
– I wonder what that non-standard contract could be?
– Perhaps it’s on consignment or sale-or-return?
– I need a supplier statement but if they’re on sale-or-return maybe there’s no statement?
– I’ll ask him: “So are the widgets on a sale-or-return basis?”
Huh? I’m sorry but I’m not telepathic. Ask the right question and that could be the start of a beautiful friendship (sorry Humphrey Bogart).
Effective communication is about ensuring that you are understood, but first ensuring that you understand. So, lay out the premises and assumptions first, or else ask very precise questions about what you want. Use closed questions (“Do you have a statement?”) that requires a yes or no answer to define what is possible, then use open questions (“What is the process around those purchases?”) that allows exploration of the circumstances.
Ultimately though, if in order to be understood you must first understand, you need to listen effectively in order to communicate effectively.
Here is a great tool to help with effective communication that starts with listening, and it’s called LACE.
It’s an acronym for Listen effectively, Acknowledge what you hear, Check and confirm your understanding, and Explore the idea.
First, listen effectively.
You can only listen effectively if your mind is focused on the speaker. How many of us attempt to multi-task while talking on the phone? Perhaps you are typing out an email as you converse, or you’re gesturing to someone in the room. Even face to face, how much of you is actually listening to what is being said rather than preparing to answer?
So the first step is to pay attention as someone else is speaking. Do not try to work out what your reply is – just listen!
Second, acknowledge what you hear. This is related to the first principle.
Have you ever spoke to someone who either looks out the window while you are speaking, or just looks at you with a blank stare? It’s hard to know if they are actually listening isn’t it? When you are listening, listen actively by nodding, acknowledging by saying “yes” or “uh-huh”. Doing this will not only create an interactive experience for the speaker assuring them that they are being heard, but also tune your mind ands body to understand what it is they are actually saying. You focus.
Third, check for confirmation.
At the appropriate pause, ask “So when you said ‘statement’ did you mean a monthly statement or any statement?” Or confirm facts, premises and opinions – get to know what they actually mean and where they are coming from in terms of a starting point.
This can remove confusion, ensure you both are on the same page, and it readies you to formulate a reply that is actually appropriate and…yup, focused.
Finally, explore the idea. It is only once you have heard exactly what it is they are saying, understood their premises and assumptions, can you decide to explore if there are other possibilities. Many people listen while composing a reply and in doing so ask and answer a lot of “what-if” questions in their mind. Leave the exploration until you know where you stand.
It’s actually important to take the steps in order – Listen, then/and Acknowledge what is being said, then Check for understanding, then and only then Explore. Don’t be tempted to jump the sequence!
When I talk to that auditor again – and let it be a long time before I do – whatever he asks I’ll remember to say “What is it you actually need?”
Indeed the right question is the first step in effective communication, but it needn’t be the first question!
Now, it’s time for you to ask the right question.
Get over to https://teikoh.com and leave me a question or a comment. While you’re there, leave your name and email and I’ll make sure you get new tips, tools and resources to grow your business sent directly to your inbox.

Why write an Executive Summary?

An Executive Summary is a summary of the key items in your planning or other document that is full of facts and information.

The best planning documents, whether strategic plans, business plans, corporate plans, marketing plans, or implementation plans, contain compelling Executive Summaries.

Yet at first glance (or indeed in a badly written Executive Summary) it simply appears as if information has been duplicated. Why can’t the reader simply go into the body of the document to read the information there anyway? The answer is because these documents are meant to be read by busy people. Often, they are to attract investment or engagement from these busy people who would be a befit to your business. They may be investors, bank managers, or even your own busy managers or team members. I order to get past the gate of continuing interest, and to engage them, you need to first draw them in by creating excitement and interest.

The Executive Summary provides that tantalising glimpse into the document – it creates a sense of excitement and gets the document through the gate so that they continue reading the document or pass it on to people who will then go through the document in detail. Business plans written as enticements to invest rarely get past the first executive reading it to see if they will be interested – often because there is no quickly read Executive Summary to entice them in.

This video talks about why you should have an Executive Summary, and what it should contain.

If you want to know more about planning in your business, come on over to teikoh.com and get the planning templates, tools and resources available for free. While you are there sign up for our newsletter that will deliver more resources on developing strategy, providing leadership, and growing your business.

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