Friday, 7 January 2011

Are you on a MISSION or just a dreamer?

One of the most important pieces of any good business plan is to define what you do and where you are going as a business. If you do not define what you do and where you are going then why should people work with you or for you? Defining your purpose as a business is the clearest statement of intent any director or owner of a business can make, and yet one of the most misunderstood and avoided pieces of any business plan.

Why is it avoided? In my experience directors are most often frightened of making a commitment of what they stand for so as not to alienate any existing or potential customers who may not fit the proposed mission statement. This contradiction, not wanting to say what the primary goal of a business or organization is, means that many companies try to be everything to everyone, ending up being meaningless to everyone.

This failure to define a mission is also one of the biggest limitations companies and organizations have in creating clear blue water between them and other players in their market. It is why so many companies struggle to stand out and then expect someone in marketing to try to answer that question sometime later. It is not up to marketing to define the purpose of any business or organization, they must influence it but it takes leadership from the top for a mission statement to be successful.  It may also be why so many companies have to spend so much on marketing to define them.  

A good mission statement is clear, unambiguous, engaging and relevant to all its key audiences: namely its leadership, senior management, employees, shareholders and customers. A mission and a vision (but more of that later) provides a central definition of what a business or organization delivers.  

Here’s a quick-step guide to creating a mission statement. Creating a Successful Mission Statement

1.     First identify your organization's "strategic advantage" what makes you successful. This is the idea or approach that makes your organization stand out from its competitors; the reason that customers prefer you and not your competitors, what makes you unique, what are your core competencies?

2.     Secondly, identify the key measures of your success. Key success measures by which you can measure, Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), typically pick 3 to 5 headline measures of performance.     

3.     Thirdly combine your strategic advantage and success measures (KPI's) into tangible and measurable goal.

4.     Define the wording, using clear language, until you have a concise and precise statement of your mission, which expresses your ideas, measures, and desired result.  

5.     Now communicate it effectively so everyone owns the mission statement within the company, make it public and ensure it is owned from the top with passion.

Communicating mission statements effectively to everyone is a defining piece of making the mission live. After all the hard work in having one so often they are filed away, or framed and stuck on the wall and forgotten. Instead successful Mission statements are launched to everyone and owned. 

I’ve run embedding program within companies to ensure that everyone inside businesses and organizations “own” the Mission and build it into their everyday activity.   

If you don’t follow through then all the effort is wasted and the opportunity is lost, so remember to focus on making your mission statement memorable and relevant. The leadership also needs to own the mission statement and make it live throughout the company.

If you do this businesses and companies can achieve significant improvements which can include: building higher loyalty from staff, higher levels of customer service; improved stakeholder and channel support and lower costs for winning new higher value customers. These are just some examples of the benefits from having and using a mission statement successfully at the front end, one other major advantage is that you have a foundation upon which to build your business plan.  

Richard Gourlay









Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Successful People Plan Their Business

Business planning often gets a bad press, yet those who do sit down and plan their business are so much more focused, confident, and successful than those who float along with the economic tide. Over the past ten years as a strategic planner we’ve worked with hundreds of business owners and seen how those that create a plan and implement it, do so much better then those owners who try aimlessly lead their business on a wing, a prayer or a dream.  
According the latest BERR report, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME’s) together accounted for 99.9 per cent of all enterprises, 59.8 per cent of private sector employment and 49.0 per cent of private sector turnover. SME’s really do matter to the British economy, and yet they receive little effective support from Government agencies despite being the backbone of the economy, employment, and innovation.     

Why Businesses Don’t Plan       
“If you don’t make things happen, things will happen to you” Lanes Company
Having questioned business owners over the last decade the reasons why owners have not put a plan in place and executed it, the excuses range from not having the skills, make the time, or have the conviction of their thoughts. The number of owners  who know they should have a plan ‘we had one when we first started, but have not looked at it since’ is a common theme, as is being too busy fire fighting to realise that preventing fires starting is the best way to not have to fight them.  
Do business owners not see the value in developing a plan for their business? On the other hand, is the classic perception for business owners that frenetically staying alive is seen as being successful? For many not knowing how to plan is one major reason why people haven’t and don’t plan their business. Where to start and how to know what they are trying to achieve immediately puts people off planning. Business planning is also often at fault, the most common reason people have a plan is to secure funding from banks, that’s when banks did fund business start-ups (now they just offer a high interest mortgage backed by the Government). Therefore, once people have received funding they no longer see the main advantages of planning (and the real advantages are not around money). 

Planning Skills – Have some GOALS
"The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen." - Lee Iacocca
Planning takes time, resources, (grey stuff) not the executive trip to some exotic away weekend planning, but some time allocated to review where you are as a business, how your sector and industry are performing and what you want to achieve in the future. Whether it is looking at the next year or planning the next five years, everyone who owns or directs a business is responsible for setting its direction. However, just having a plan in your head, with the classic defence of ‘its flexible at the moment’ is either ducking the responsibility or deluding themselves.
The only way to have a plan rather than a dream is to have it written down, turned (if it is not already) into an action plan which is resourced and owned by someone to deliver. Only then do businesses go forward in a deliberate purposeful way. Only then do the right things happen because you made them happen and only then can everyone, employees, shareholders, customers, channel partners and even other halves, see your dream, share your dream, deliver your dream. That’s when planning works. It is a written document, which lives within your company, and it doesn’t matter if you are a one-man (woman) band or running a multi-national Plc.

What Planning Delivers
"In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it." – Robert Heinlein


Planning provides focus in strategic direction, its provides clarity of where the business is and where it is going as well as a vehicle for getting from where you are to where you want to be. Planning time provides time to reflect on personal and corporate goals, time to share and channel new ideas while reviewing existing activities.
Planning in a structured and open format develops clarity of purpose and a clear understanding of the organisational and individual skills people have and can use to leverage advantage. Bringing in outside views widens the planning horizon, which can drive businesses forward, which is why many successful businesses use non-executive directors or outside specialists to help drive their business forward. That is one reason why so many people volunteer to get support from people like the Dragons from Dragon’s Den, they are looking for expertise and advice which gives them confidence to go forward as much as the money.   
British business owners need to plan, more often to keep being successful. Good planning creates and sees opportunities as owners and directors lift their heads up from the daily grindstone. How often should you plan? Well it all depends on the speed of your market’s evolution, but even stable and stagnant businesses should review their business every year, and not just a light dusting (add ten percent and change the year) but strategically review what and how well they are doing.
It is only by looking for fresh opportunities and how to take best advantage of them, by planning your business around those opportunities that companies successfully compete in today’s business environment.
  

Planning is not a four letter word
“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage" Jack Welch
The old adage, compete or get beat, is more relevant today than it has ever been. The rise of the Internet means there are no secrets, competitive advantage lies with those who can see an opportunity and adapt fastest to take advantage of it. Those owners and directors who see and go for opportunities become the stronger ones, and that is where good strategic business planning provides it real advantage.
By orientating a company to where it can retain better, win new and develop existing customers companies that plan their success out compete in their sector, and equally importantly have everyone focused on where they are going. From the smallest to the biggest every business needs to have a plan that is written down, owned and guiding your business in the direction you want it to go. 
Good Luck
Richard Gourlay
www.cowdenconsulting.com


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