Friday, 31 May 2013

Business Startups: How to Start your Business Successfully

Starting Up A Business: You Need a Business Plan 

Starting a business is an exciting and yet daunting time for everyone, from the seasoned veteran to the first time start-up. Starting up a new venture in any field is one of the most frightening steps anyone can take. Stepping out from the known and safety of being part of another community to stand alone with your idea sounds exciting and thrills people, but also creates a mountain of new and often insurmountable challenges.  

The excitement of starting a new business can be quickly matched (and outshone) by the size of the daunting challenge you have set yourself. Where do you start in turning your idea into a business? For many it is talking it through with friends and family, seeing if it has legs, if it is a runner, trying to find the next step in turning the idea into a business.     

Hidden Challenges Facing All Entrepreneurs

The next stage for many is to try to write down a plan of what they are trying to launch. This is where most people struggle, what to plan and how to plan what you are doing. How to turn your embryonic idea into a fully sized business is one of the hidden challenges facing every entrepreneur.

For many creating a business plan, is too big a challenge, re-defining it as a pointless exercise, or more realistic something they know they need to do, but want to postpone having to do it until the last moment, or later. Quite often planning their business is something entrepreneurs want to or try to delegate to other people. They want to keep the model flexible, or often in their head, I am working on it are other phrases I come across.

Putting All the Pieces Together

Yet to take any idea from embryonic idea to a recognizable business model, requires an investment in planning all the details of your business. Not just focusing on the core product or service, the exciting concept, but functional aspects of how the business will operate, from where and how, what operations have to be undertaken and by whom.   

Then a business needs to answer the biggest challenge, where will the customers come from and how. This key area is one, which entrepreneurs struggle to define publicly and honestly, relying on the old adage “build it and they will come.” But turning an idea into a successful business requires more than hope, it requires a clear plan, based upon a defined winning strategy driving a business model which makes sense and explains why it will succeed.

Optimum Solution  

The first step many successful entrepreneurs undertake is to review their idea and build their strategic plan, to take their idea from embryonic idea to a fully formed business model. From understanding your market and the size and scale of opportunity, to working out where to position yourself and what needs to happen to create interest in what you are offering and how you need to respond to it.

Developing a strategic perspective is a vital first stage in developing an agile and responsive business, by defining your strategic plan enables entrepreneurs to fully assess the whole business model, evaluating all aspects of your business and giving you all the ingredients for a business plan.   

Take Some Action

However you decide to start your business, do look for support. Run your idea past experienced people in bringing businesses to market, look at answering the difficult questions early, while optimism is vital, so is reality as is persistence.
If you are looking to develop your business model then look at developing your strategic plan for your business then why not look at my Business Planning Toolkit, how to take the guess work out of your business success video click here to see the video which will give you a clear strategic plan for your business.  

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

How to Find Growth: Business Planning Toolkit


The Key Role of Leader: Growth

The key role of every leader in any organisation is to determine the direction of where they are leading their organisation. A leaders success or failure is determined by what growth they achieve. You are leading yourself, your people, your shareholders, and your customers to where you want to go. All successful growth strategies set and work towards goals.

Leaders can often make sound and good decisions about things they can see and clearly understand. Often leaders, directors and owners have advice and support systems built into their day to day decision making, but when planning tomorrow's growth it is not always so easy. Many leaders struggle with looking and making decisions beyond the known horizon. It is hard to see beyond the tangible, beyond the concrete, beyond the known.

This is why I have created my Business planning Toolkit, built upon my 20 years of experience, to help you to learn how to successfully look and find growth opportunities and turn them into growth. My business planning toolkit will enable you to Take the guess work out of your business success.      

Leaders need to plan for growth.

Leadership success is always about delivering tangible growth, where have you taken your business and why. Knowing that you need to find growth is one thing, but knowing how to find the right direction to take, where to look and find real growth or answer the hidden real challenge of being able to assess which growth options to follow and which to disregard is quite another. 

Here's a great example of getting it wrong. The CEO of LA Gear grew his company from $11 million to $820 million in sales in just four years by focusing on unique, fashionable shoes that were expertly marketed.

Then chasing three huge opportunities they killed the company stone dead. To keep growth coming LA Gear sold excess product at deep discounts which devalued the brand, invested heavily into basketball shoes, not their core market and offered low-end shoes at Wal-Mart.

How to find growth 

There can therefore be good growth and bad growth, how do you know which one to nail your colours to as a leader. Growth opportunities need to be assessed and verified. They need to be understood as part of a long term strategy, not a quick tactical grab which helped to end LA Gear.

So leaders need to develop clear strategies which support and drive long-term brand value, and not grab at passing opportunities just because they have some big short-term numbers attached to them.  Assessing where you are going against long-term key performance measures is one key way which all successful major companies use, the balanced scorecard.

Putting all the Steps Together      

These are just some of the key steps which take your business from a cold start to a roaring firebrand, going where you want to take your business. I've put together my Business Planning Toolkit to Take the guess work out of your business success that takes you step-by-step through the simple steps of how successful business leaders plan their business.  

How to take the guess work out of your success

This step-by-step process that takes you through each step that builds logically and effectively to your effective growth plan. Short videos take you effectively through each step, with plain English explanations supported by a thorough workbook with all the templates you need to take the guess work out of your business success. From finding growth to setting goals and monitoring your progress towards them.

Here's 5 benefits from following my Business Planning Toolkit to find growth:- 

  1. 12 weekly 5 minute videos - watch when you want to online. 
  2. Simple steps - which move you forward one step at a time
  3. Robust processes used by successful leaders 
  4. 63 page Workbook - fully explained with all templates 
  5. My guidance to show you each step with key tips to avoid the pitfalls.

See the video which explains more, click: How to take the guess work out of your business success.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Successful Business Leaders Plan Their Business

Successful Business Leaders Plan Their Business

Executive Summary

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 I’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, despite this they receive little effective support from Government agencies despite being the backbone of the economy, employment, and innovation. Small business matters to every economy and those which plan their growth outperform those that don't.      

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 there are many reasons why owners have not put a plan in place and executed it. The excuses range from not having the skills, not able to make the time, or have the conviction of their thoughts. Nearly all business owners know they should have a plan 'we had one when we first started, but have not looked at it since’ is a common theme.  

The other key factor is being too busy fire fighting, to realise that preventing fires starting is the best way to not have to fight them.  If business leaders do not believe in their business plan and don't follow them, then the value of business plans in driving your business forward and achieving their goals is limited.  

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 or what to plan is another major reason why people haven’t and don’t plan their business. Where to start,  or knowing what they are trying to achieve immediately puts business leaders 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 clear GOALS

"The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen." - Lee Iacocca

Business planning takes time, resources (grey stuff) and commitment. Its 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. 

Great leadership is about developing a clear vision for your business and turning it into a plan with clear goals and objectives delivered through action plans. 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, in your market, with the customers you want. 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 outcompete 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 

See how great leadership can be enhanced by business planning skills to deliver innovative business plans using robust, tried and tested and easy to use business planning tools, click here to see my video on how to take the guess work out of your business success.

Other resources on Leadership:
Other resources on Leadership

Business planning toolkit,

Friday, 10 May 2013

Business Planning: What Goes Wrong and How to Plan An Effective Business Plan

The first rule for everyone in business, or going into business, is that a business plan is essential. Essential to get started, from validating your idea through to accessing funding, the business plan is the fundamental building block of any business.     

So why do so many people struggle to write effective business plans which they should be using as the corner stone of their business? Why do so many business owners rely upon key ideas held in their head and winging it, even with some of their biggest decisions?  And why do so few business owners trust, use and live their business plans?

Now these are all fair questions which individually leave business plans and business planning not valued outside those essential, must do to get started roles. For many, that experience is exactly why business plans and business planning gets such a bad press by business owners once they get past the start line.

What Goes Wrong

Fundamentally business planning has become a tool to get funding, not as your manual to drive your business. This bad habit, of building a business plan just to get past go, has resulted in huge effort to start on the right foot, but is not valued in keeping on the right track.  

The second major factor with business planning is that business owners often plan the wrong things. Writing a business plan is seen as "filling in the template" following the process and jamming words into format. They focus on producing financial figures which add-up, not on identifying the important factors which drive business success, such as developing and validating the right business model, or identifying real future growth opportunities and how the business is going to succeed in that market.  

A third major factor is that business planning often lacks solid forward information, too often relying upon historical data, the accountants view of what has happened, rather than looking forward to where markets are going. You can see this in many businesses whose business plan over focuses on turnover and cost management, rather than describing their model, their market opportunity, how they are going to enter the market successfully and therefore who their target audience is and why.      

Successful Business Owners Use Tools To Plan Successfully

Business owners do not live their plan because they simply don't believe in them, despite the fact they wrote it, or heavily influenced its writing. Owners need to use business planning tools to develop their business model effectively, creating solid foundations. There are a host a tried and tested business planning tools to help business owners effectively research their plan. using these business planning tools provides real evidence that underpins a good business plan.

Possibly the most important difference between businesses which succeed and exceed expectations and those which do not fulfill anything like their full potential is often the lack of solid foundations within their plan. A lack of research regarding their market, its nature and future, undermines confidence and knowledge of who the customer is and why they should buy your product or service.

Business owners over focus on the product or service not on the market, the target customer or market entry. What business planners need to focus on is quantifying and qualifying their market knowledge using business planning tools, to enable them to know what to put into their business plan, that provides the right evidence adds weight to your argument and provides a rationale behind the assumptions you make.  

Successful Business Owners Benefit From Using Business Planning Tools

The right business planning tools, used in the right order will provide business owners with the tools and the processes to go through to build an effective business plan, which is both reliable and robust, a solid base for making informed decisions about your business plan.

Using the right business planning tools, to research and inform your business plan, also provides confidence to business owners and senior management to trust your business plan. If you trust your business plan you are more likely to deliver it.

Using the right evidence, the right analysis and logical conclusions then business plans built upon effective use of logical step-by-step business planning tools provide business owners with a clear and robust plan with clear focus for their efforts. Using business planning tools makes business planning a value-added process built upon solid foundations, with clear insights about what's driving the market and why your business will be successful. 

Like to know more about business planning tools to build your business plan more successfully then click this link: business planning tools         
Here's some other thoughts about why you should be using Business Planning Tools to build your business plan on solid foundations why to use Business Planning Tools to build your business plan.            

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Cowden Consulting is a strategic planning and implementation business which works with business owners to grow and develop their business, with the tools to successfully build business plans, contact us to learn more: click here

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