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04/03/14
when you are in a routine is a good time to re-evaluate your business plan
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 10:18 am

[this article is from: http://www.infoentrepreneurs.org/en/guides/review-your-business-performance/  ]


Once your business is established and running well, you may be inclined to let things continue to run as they are.

However, it’s actually time to plan again. After the crucial early
stages, you should regularly review your progress, identify how you can
make the most of the market position you’ve established and decide where
to take your business next. You will need to revisit and update your
business plan with your new strategy in mind and make sure you introduce
the developments you’ve noted.

This guide takes you through this essential process, detailing the
stages you should go through to assess how well your business is
performing, highlighting your strengths and areas that could be improved
and suggesting the actions you need to take to implement the
improvements that you’ve identified.

Why it’s vital to review the progress of your business

It’s easy to focus only on the day-to-day running of your business,
especially in the early stages. But once you’re up and running, it can
pay dividends to think about longer-term and more strategic planning.
This is especially true as you take on more staff, create departments
within the business, appoint managers or directors and become distanced
from the everyday running of the business.

Reviewing your progress will be particularly useful if you feel:

  • uncertain about how well the business is performing
  • unsure if you’re getting the most out of the business or making the most of market opportunities
  • your business plan may be out of date, e.g. you haven’t updated it since you started trading
  • your business is moving in a direction different to the one you had planned
  • the business may be becoming unwieldy or unresponsive to market demands

It is also useful if you have decided that your company is ready to move on to another level.

Setting the direction

A clear business strategy will help to answer any concerns and show practical ways forward.

Questions you might want to ask include:

  • What’s my direction? To answer this you need to look at where
    you are now, where you want to go over the next three to five years and
    how you intend to get there.
  • What are my markets - now and in the future? Which markets
    should I compete in, how will they change and what does the business
    need in order to be involved in these sectors?
  • How do I gain market advantage? How can the business perform better than the competition in my chosen markets?
  • What resources do I require to succeed? What skills, assets, finance, relationships, technical competence and facilities do I need to compete? Have these changed since I started?
  • What business environment am I competing in? What external factors may affect the business’ ability to compete?
  • How am I measuring success? Remember, measures of performance may change as your business matures.

It’s doubtful whether you will be able to answer these questions on
your own - involving your professional advisers, your fellow directors
and your senior staff will all help to make your review more effective.

Assess your core activities

A good starting point for your review is to evaluate what you
actually do - your core activities, the products that you make, or
services that you provide. Ask yourself what makes them successful, how
they could be improved and whether you could launch new or complementary
products or services.

Key questions about your products or services

It’s useful to address these questions:

  • How effectively are you matching your goods and services to your
    customers’ needs? If you’re not quite sure what those needs are, you
    could carry out further market or customer analysis. See the page in this guide on how to conduct a customer and market analysis.
  • Which of your products and services are succeeding? Which aren’t
    performing as planned? Decide which products and services offer both a
    high percentage of sales and high profit margins.
  • What’s really behind the problems of a product or service?
    Consider areas such as pricing, marketing, sales and after-sales
    service, design, packaging and systems during your review. Look for
    “quick wins” that give you the breathing space to make more fundamental
    improvements.
  • Are you reviewing costs frequently? Are you keeping a close
    enough eye on your direct costs, your overheads and your assets? Are
    there different ways of doing things or new materials you could use that
    would lower your costs? Consider ways in which you can negotiate better
    deals with your suppliers.

Answering these questions will give you the basis on which to improve performance and profitability.

Assess your business efficiency

Many new businesses work in a short-term, reactive way. This offers
flexibility - but can cost time and money as you move from getting the
business going to concentrating on growing and developing it.

The best option is to balance your ability to respond rapidly with a
clear overall strategy. This will help you decide whether the actions
you take are appropriate or not.

At this stage you should ask yourself if there are any internal
factors holding the business back, and if so, what can you do about
them?

Consider the various aspects of your business in turn.

Premises

  • What are your long-term commitments to the property?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of your current location?
  • Do you have room to grow, or the flexibility to cut back if necessary?
  • If you move premises, what will be the cost? Will there be long-term cost savings and improvements in efficiency?

Facilities

  • If you manufacture products, how modern is your equipment?
  • What is the capacity of your current facility compared to existing and forecast demand?
  • How will you fund any improvements?
  • How do you compare with your competition?

Information technology

  • What management information and other IT systems do you have in place?
  • Will these systems cater for any proposed expansion?
  • Will they really make a difference to the quality of product or
    service your business provides? If they don’t, can you change them to
    make sure they do?
  • Do you make best use of technology such as wireless networking and mobile telephony to allow for more flexible working?

People and skills

  • Do you have the right people to achieve your objectives?
  • Do they know what is expected of them?
  • Do you operate a training and development plan?
  • Do you pay as well as the competition?
  • Do you suffer from high staff turnover? Are staff motivated and satisfied?

Professional skills

  • Do you have the right management team in place for growth?
  • Do you have the skills available that you need in areas such as human resources, sales and IT?
  • Do your staff need new or improved skills or to be retrained?

Review your financial position

Businesses often fail because of poor financial management or a lack
of planning. Often the business plan that was used to help raise finance
is put on a shelf to gather dust.

When it comes to your business’ success, therefore, developing and
implementing sound financial and management systems (or paying someone
to do it for you) is vital.

Updating your original business plan is a good place to start.

When reviewing your finances, you might want to consider the following:

  • Cash flow - this is the balance of all of the
    money flowing in and out of your business. Make sure that your forecast
    is regularly reviewed and updated.
  • Working capital - have your requirements
    changed? If so, explain the reasons for any movement. Compare this to
    the industry norm. If necessary, take steps to source additional
    capital.
  • Cost base - keep your costs under constant
    review. Make sure that your costs are covered in your sale price - but
    don’t expect your customers to pay for any business inefficiencies.
  • Borrowing - what is the position of any lines of credit or loans? Are there more appropriate or cheaper forms of finance you could use?
  • Growth - do you have plans in place to adapt your financing to accommodate your business’ changing needs and growth?

Conduct a competitor analysis

Now that you have been running your business for a while, you will
probably have a clearer idea of your competitors. Gathering more
information may cost time, money and effort, but there are many benefits
to knowing more about what your competition is doing.

What you need to know

The type of competitor information that will be really useful to you
depends on the type of business you are and the market you’re operating
in. Questions to ask about your competitors include:

  • who they are
  • what they offer
  • how they price their products
  • what the profile and numbers of their customers are compared to yours
  • what their competitive advantages and disadvantages are compared to yours
  • what their reaction to your entry into the market or any product or price changes might be

You will probably find it useful to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities, threats) analysis. This will show you how you are doing
in relation to the market in general and specifically your closest
competitors. See the page in this guide on models for your strategic
analysis.

How to find out more

There are three main ways to find out more about your competitors:

  • What they say about themselves - sales
    literature, advertisements, press releases, shared suppliers,
    exhibitions, websites, competitor visits, company accounts.
  • What other people say about them - your sales people, customers, local directories, the Internet, newspapers, analysts’ reports, market research companies.
  • Commissioned market research - if you need more detailed information, you might want to commission specific market research.

Conduct a customer and market analysis

When you started your business, you probably devised a marketing plan
as part of your overall business plan. This would have defined the
market in which you intended to sell and targeted the nature and
geographical distribution of your customers.

From that strategy you would have been able to produce a marketing
plan to help you meet your objectives. When you’re reviewing your
business’ performance, you’ll need to assess your customer base and
market positioning as a key part of the process. You should update your
marketing plan at least as often as your business plan.

Revisiting your markets

A business review offers you the opportunity to stand back from the
activity outlined in your plan and look again at factors such as:

  • changes in your market
  • new and emerging services
  • changes in your customers’ needs
  • external factors such as the economy, imports and new technology
  • changes in competitive activity

Asking your customers for feedback on your business’ performance
will help to identify where improvements can be made to your products or
services, your staffing levels or your business procedures.

At the same time, it is important to remember that while reviews of
this kind can be very effective - they can give your business the
flexibility it needs to beat off stiff competition at short notice - it
is important to think through the implications of any changes. In the
new phase of your business you’ll need to plan your finances and
resourcing carefully at all times.

Use your review to redefine your business goals

To remain successful it’s vital that you regularly set time aside to ask the following key strategic questions:

  • Where is the business now?
  • Where is it going?
  • How is it going to get there?

Often businesses are able to work out where they want to go but don’t
draw up a roadmap of how to get there. If this happens, a business will
lack the direction needed to turn even carefully laid plans into
reality.

At the end of any review process, therefore, it’s vital that work plans are prepared to put the new ideas into place and that a timetable
is set. Regularly reviewing how the new plan is working and allowing
for any teething problems or necessary adjustments is important too.
Today’s business environment is exceptionally dynamic and it is likely
that you will need regular reviews, updates and revisions to your
business plan in order to maintain business success.

Continuous improvement

In addition, a simple planning cycle can greatly
enhance your ability to make changes in your business routine if
necessary. Good planning helps you anticipate problems and adapt to
change more easily.

Expert input

You may find at this stage in your business’ development that you
need external skills to help you with the changes you have to make. In
this case you might consider:

  • employing skilled consultants in areas where you cannot afford to develop inhouse skills
  • appointing an experienced non-executive director who can provide a regular, impartial assessment of what you are doing
  • using a management consultant to help you identify how you can
    strengthen or change your management structure to grow the business

Models for your strategic analysis

There are a number of useful business-analysis models that may help you think more strategically about your business.

The SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses,
opportunities, threats) is one of the most popular. This involves
looking at the strengths and weaknesses of your business’ capabilities,
and any opportunities and threats to your business. Once you’ve
identified all of these, you can assess how to capitalise on your
strengths, minimise the effects of your weaknesses, make the most of any
opportunities and reduce the impact of any threats.

Opportunities and threats in the external environment

It’s important to remember that opportunities can also be threats -
for example, new markets could be dominated by competitors, undermining
your position. Equally, threats can also be opportunities -for example, a
competitor growing quickly and opening a new market for your product or
service could mean that your market expands too.

A SWOT analysis can provide a clear basis for examining your business
performance and prospects. It can be used as part of a regular review
process or in preparation for raising finance or bringing in consultants
for a review.

Once you have collected information on your organisation’s internal
strengths and weaknesses, and external opportunities and threats, enter
this data into a simple table.

  Positive Negative
Internal Strengths Weaknesses
External Opportunities Threats

Other tools include:

STEEPLE analysis - a technique for understanding the
various external influences on a business – Social, Technological,
Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal and Ethical.

Scenario planning - a technique that builds various plausible views of possible futures for a business.

Critical success factor analysis - a technique to identify the areas in which a business must succeed in order to achieve its objectives.

The Five Forces - the theory that there are five
defined factors that influence the development of markets and businesses
- potential entrants, existing competitors, buyers, suppliers and
alternative products/services. Using this model you build a strategy to
keep ahead of these influences.

Breaking down your strategic review

As owner-manager of your business or as a member of its management
team, you should stand back once in a while and review your business’
performance.

The areas you need to look at are:

  • Your market performance and direction - how well you are performing through your sales results, which markets to aim for next and how to improve your performance.
  • Your products and services - how long your existing products will meet your customers’ needs and any plans for renewal.
  • Operational matters - your premises, your
    methods, technologies used, your processes, IT and quality. Are there
    any internal issues that are holding your business back?
  • Financial matters - how your business is financed, levels of retained profit, the sales income generated and your cash flow.
  • Your organisation and your people - your structures, people planning issues, training and development.

Next steps

The five steps above will give you a clear indication of any issues
that you need to address quickly in order to maintain your business in
its early stages.

If you feel all of the areas above are strong, you can start to plan
for the next phase and build a cohesive strategy to develop your
business. However, if there are areas that need attention, deal with
them now so that you can move forward. There are a variety of growth
options for every business - it’s important that you settle on the right
one for you.

Also, once you’ve isolated your best route for developing your
business, you can boost your chances of success by planning it carefully
and monitoring your progress against an updated business plan.


Original document, Review your business performance, © Crown copyright 2009
Source: Business Link UK (now GOV.UK/Business)
Adapted for Québec by Info entrepreneurs


comments (0)
10/02/12
keep in touch with recruiters
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 10:58 am

As a little kid remember that Santa kept a list and checked it twice, you should too.

Recruiters get paid when a candidate is placed into a position so they are TRYING to place in you a position so they can get paid. Cool huh. That makes them your best friend this side of the bar and the beer tap.

So even when you are in a contract or in a job… and you get emails or phone calls from recruiters…
1- respond with ‘I am on contract until (date) please keep me in your files’
2- not available right now but this would be a:
                a- great option if I was looking
                b- a little too junior for my skill set
                c- a little too senior for my skill set
         so here is my resume to hold on for future reference.

and thank them for their time and ask that they keep sending you stuff and if you know anyone in your network that may be looking for a position that fits them… you will forward their email.

Since you are their best friend to.

So twice a month go through all your emails and respond accordingly. This keeps everyone in the loop and keeps / builds relationships where you are helping others that can and will be your bestest friend when you are looking.

Worked for Santa…

comments (0)
09/30/12
you are your brand
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 5:00 pm

If you were working on a business plan and picked up a business plan for dummies book, you would be asked in the first chapter to define your brand. Specifically:

When you are thinking about the question, ‘How am I going to find work’ if my job/contract/project no longer available to continue? The answer is… treat yourself now as if you were a business and you were doing business 101 getting ready to pull the trigger and market your new product/service/company. You are a company of one.

So — what is your brand?

Think of it this way, when you are in a job review and your manager says ‘John you did a great job at __________ and because of that effort you did that everyone commented favorably on, I am going to have you ________ from now on. How does that sound to you John?’ — what is it that your manager just complemented you on? What is strength that you excel at and are known for? Is it that you can lead a good meeting, keep a meeting on track, write memo’s that clearly define and summarize problem/resolution options, are you good at research or tracking down status reports on projects? There typically is something that you do better than most.

This is your brand, this is what you want to figure out how to position and focus on when you talk to potential employers recruiters or co-workers.

You don’t have something like this that you can nurture into a ‘we have to have John on this project’ by project leaders? Well then that’s a horse of another color and we can remedy that.

comments (0)
09/29/10
Things to manage on Twitter
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 9:36 am


searching for #web20
tricks, I found #findwork
jump to a cool tool - - #tweetdeck
for managing your effort http://lnkd.in/gyyGju this is what you can do:

comments (0)
09/28/10
Welcome!
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 9:41 am

This is the first post test post… on how to find work. #findingwork  in twitter, monster, craigs list, linkdin and other approaches.


 Blog-able Stories

 #findingwork is a sales process ::

:: JUST DO IT ::

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