Category Archives: management

Pay yourself first

Profit is not a dirty word.

It may seem inappropriate, but it’s not. My advice to entrepreneurs is always to align your business objectives with your personal objectives. It’s the best way to ensure your ongoing commitment, patience and persistence through all the roadblocks, detours and setbacks. Like making a career choice; find out what you’re good at and what you also like to do – do that.

If you’re running a business, you want it to succeed. I know you’re not in it just for the money, but it needs to be profitable to be successful. Your employees, customers, suppliers, business partners and investors, the governments and communities you support, are all counting on you. Don’t screw up!

You can ignore the pontificating anti-capitalist critics who think profit is a dirty word. If your business is profitable, they’ll assume you’re among the evil, greedy, selfish capitalists ripping off customers and employees and killing the planet. Don’t bother to argue, explain or apologize; they’ve already stopped listening. Stay calm, carry on.

Your business success is measured by it’s profitability over time. You will be judged on how you made it and how you use it, not on how much you made. Did you lie, cheat or steal to earn it? Are you investing your profits back in the business? Are you paying employees fairly? Are you meeting your obligations to society, people and the planet?

You can pay yourself first; it’s important that you continue to be motivated and adequately rewarded for your leadership and good management in running a profitable business. It’s also important to have some of your cash flow going into other investments – to build your retirement funds, to diversify your portfolio and to avoid the risk of losing everything in a business failure. Just keep your own compensation within reasonably acceptable limits for internal and external equity.

Remember you are also counting on the support of the people who are watching you.

Be better. Do better. 

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com

Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

Managing Business Risk

How are you doing?

An often-neglected section in many of the business plans that I’ve seen from entrepreneurs is the risk management section. What can go wrong; what will you do about it?

And like all the sections in your business plan, it needs to be regularly reviewed and revised to ensure that it is still appropriate to current conditions and the plans and priorities of the enterprise. Now is a good time to review how you’re doing. Your risk management and mitigation strategies are certainly affected by current global conditions as we move from a two-year pandemic into the “living with Covid” phase at the same time as we’re re-structuring economic relationships and geopolitical alliances in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Risks to your business that were not anticipated two or three years ago are now affecting everyone.

My recommended approach to managing business risk, from start-up to exit, is first to distinguish between the risks you can manage and those that are outside your control. What could go wrong? How can you prevent it or protect yourself from the consequences?

Most risks are predictable, but probably not avoidable. Here’s my checklist for reviewing your risk management strategies.

Market risks:

  • Factors outside management control: economic cycles, decline in demand, changing customer preferences, trade restrictions, incentives and disincentives to certain business activities.
  • Economic conditions: Changes in government regulations, taxes, fees, foreign exchange, and interest rates.

Business risks:

  • Issues within management control: dependence on key employees, customers, and suppliers; computer security and disaster recovery; labor availability and staff turnover; new competitors and new business models; new tools and technologies; and changing demand trends.
  • Employee agreements, supply contracts, leases and insurance plans may provide some protection from worst case scenarios.

Are you prepared to respond to the next round of unexpected risks to your business?

Be better. Do better. 

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com

Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

Management science?

Or an art.

I was in engineering at UBC when I discovered that management was much more appealing to me than engineering. I didn’t ever enjoy the study of vector analysis or rock mechanics and I have zero mechanical aptitude, but I was hooked immediately after taking two optional courses – Economics 101 and Psychology 100.

That’s what management is all about! Both the science and the art.

After two years working as an engineer, I went back to school for my MBA at McGill. They attracted me by their scientific approach to management with courses on operations management, computer science, finance and economics, with a heavy dose of behavioural science. All the knowledge, tools and tactics I would need to become a successful manager, maybe even a future CEO of Alcan Aluminum, where I worked immediately after graduation. However, I received an even better education in the subject of management and corporate leadership from then President of Alcan and the most effective CEO I’ve ever known, David Culver.

But the debate continues – is it science or an art?

Henry Mintzberg argues that management is a craft and expecting to teach it to MBA students without experience is like trying to teach psychology to someone who has never met a real person.

My argument is that it’s a balancing act and fits the definition of any kind of expertise – a combination of sufficient knowledge and experience with a dedication to continuous learning and self-improvement.

Are you an expert manager?

Be better. Do better. 

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

Coach, Critic or Cheerleader?

You get to chose     

It doesn’t matter whether you’re giving or receiving. Which are you going to be, and which do you need, right now? Coach, Critic or Cheerleader? Choose one.

It’s an important distinction and a choice of role has to be made. In every relationship: manager & employee, coach & player, teacher & student, partner & parent. Do you need a coach explaining how to do it? Or do you need a critic explaining how to do it better?  Or do you need a cheerleader encouraging you to do more of the same?

It’s easy to be a critic – no prior knowledge or experience is required. Just have an opinion and be willing to share it.

It’s important to be a cheerleader – pay attention, be impressed, and share your enthusiasm and encouragement.

It’s hard to be a coach – you absolutely must have knowledge and experience, combined with empathy and skill in communication. Don’t be swayed by the flattery of being asked for advice or assistance, if you’re not qualified to coach, admit it. Or agree to be a critic, or cheerleader, only.

Be better. Do better.

Del Chatterson, Your Uncle Ralph 

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com

Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

Pandemic notoriety: Naughty or Nice?

Which list are you on?

 (This article is based on the ideas in Uncle Ralph’s books for entrepreneurs, DON'T DO IT THE HARD WAY & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans.

“Awesome! What a profit opportunity!”

Probably not what you will be reading in the press releases.

It will be all about the socially responsible entrepreneur, pivoting and showing remarkable resilience and creativity. Re-aligning research and manufacturing processes toward the production of face masks, hand sanitizers, personal protection devices, ventilators, emergency care facilities and Covid-19 vaccines.

Companies in the right place at the right time, like Amazon, FedEx, Pfizer and Uber all exploited the unprecedented opportunities of the global pandemic. Their billionaire owners and the happy shareholders saw unexpected jumps in revenue and profits while so many other businesses were devastated in the retail, hospitality, travel and entertainment industries.

But, since “exploited” and “profits” are dirty words, if not cardinal sins, to many people, did these companies end up on the Naughty List? Or did they do well by doing good as enlightened entrepreneurs are supposed to do. What about the businesses that failed to make the most of a good crisis?  They’re now on the naughty list of both their unemployed workers and their unhappy shareholders.

It’s been a challenging test for us all. As business owners and as customers and consumers, we now have to live with the consequences.

Which list are you on?

Be better. Do better.

Del Chatterson, Your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

A test of loyalty

Time for a change?

(This article is based on the ideas in Uncle Ralph’s books for entrepreneurs, DON'T DO IT THE HARD WAY & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans.

In times of economic crisis, we are faced with difficult choices in a stressful new environment. Loyalties are tested and we’re wondering if it’s time for a change. A change in suppliers, customers, management, or employees. Who are all looking at making the same choices for themselves.

There are two primary factors to consider:

  1. How strong is the loyalty already established?
  2. How have the two parties responded during the recent period of crisis?

The purpose of every business is to build loyal, long-term, profitable relationships with customers based on equally solid relationships with the management team, employees, and business partners. They have all been tested during the past year of the global pandemic. How have they responded?  Do they deserve to be supported or to be replaced?

And what about you and your business? What are your customers, employees and business partners deciding? Take a closer look and make sure everyone is making good decisions based on the right information.

Constant communication of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, will be important to re-establishing the loyal, long-term, profitable relationships that will ensure your success going forward.

Be better. Do better.

Del Chatterson, Your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com

Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

Read more Blog posts at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

Checklists for the re-start of your business after Covid-19

Good management is required now more than ever.

Looking back over the past three months, you may be thinking, OK, that was painful, but it has to get better from here. For most of us, the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on our businesses were unexpected disasters and the final consequences are not yet entirely understood. Nevertheless, we have to try and work our way out of it.

So what are the right management strategies and action plans to get through this economic turmoil and uncertainty with a more resilient and stable business?

Here are the lessons we’ve learned from previous economic crises and business setbacks:

  1. Do not rely on the headlines.

The media are not helpful to you.  They will provide neither balanced reporting nor insightful analysis for input to your planning or decision making. You will have to dig deeper. Make sure your market data and competitor intelligence is current and accurate.

  1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Keep employees and customers informed. They may be worried, confused and need to be reassured that they can count on you. You may not have good news for them, but they will appreciate hearing directly from you and are not being left guessing what's coming next.

  1. Keep on Selling.

Now is not the time to cut back on marketing and sales. Your efforts now will be even more conspicuous and effective if your competitors back out of the market and away from their customers. Be selective and very focused. Work on building stronger customer relationships by being relevant and responsive to the current economic circumstances.  Avoid the cry for help advertising that only confirms “we’re desperate and we need the sales.” Customers are looking for strength, not weakness. Calmness, confidence and competence are much more appealing to potential buyers who are still healthy and want reliable long term suppliers.

  1. Do quickly what obviously needs to be done.

If it’s clear to you it's also clear to the people affected. They’re waiting for you to act and will be more confident and proactive themselves, if they see you taking action. Face the facts, don't fight the facts.

  1. Adapt.

Remember Darwin's survival of the fittest: those who adapt to their environment are most likely to survive; not the strongest or the biggest. This is not the time to be stubbornly persistent about your plans. Look around and be creative. Your destination may still be the same, but the route, the vehicle and the passengers may need to be changed.

  1. Be confident, but cautious.

Recognize the difference between calculated risk and a hopeful optimism. Make a decision if the potential outcomes and their probabilities are reasonably clear, but hold fire if they’re not.

  1. Show conspicuous leadership.

No one can do it better than the person who is ultimately responsible and can speak with sincerity and integrity on the concerns, strategies and plans. Lead by example, not by rhetoric.

A 10 point diagnostic to develop the short-term action plan for your business

From my experience, most businesses benefit from a regular health check – a business diagnostic that takes a thorough look at the whole business and identifies priorities and the potential for better performance.

At this point, for the recovery and survival of your business after the coronavirus shutdown you need to take a closer look at these 10 checkpoints and identify the most urgent priorities to get your business up and thriving again in the new business climate of 2020.

  1. Start with an updated strategic plan. Find your last business plan and review it against the new business environment and operating protocols. Prepare the new road map with clear milestones and a timetable to achieving your revised business objectives.
  1. Use your updated strategic plan to guide management and employee decision making. Monitor results against the plan. Review, revise and react quickly to customer responses and the changing business environment.
  1. You’re still in a competitive business: Are you keeping score? Compare your key performance indicators to the top performers. Learn from experience and adjust as necessary to achieve better results.
  1. Evaluate your performance in re-building long-term loyal relationships with customers, suppliers and strategic partners. Ensure you are showing your loyalty in return. You will need the support of all of them.
  1.  What about the people you need most: your employees? Get their feedback on any new concerns. Do they still believe you’re a great place to work?
  1. Assess each of the six P's in your marketing mix in the new post-Covid world – Product, Positioning, Promotion, Price, Packaging, and Placement. Fix what's broken.
  1. Assess your corporate image against the biggest and best brands in your business. Do you still look as good as you really are compared to them?
  1. Re-evaluate your online services. Are your competitors raising customer expectations? Do it better now. Don’t wait to be asked. And remember to turn the WWW upside down and think MMM – Manage, Market, and Monitor for improved results online.
  1. Review all your marketing communications. Do they capture the four C’s – Current, Clear, Concise and Consistent? Make them relevant and appropriate to the new business climate.
  2. Review the use of information and automation technologies in your business. Are they part of the solution or part of the problem in responding to new demands for productivity and performance?

Share these ideas with your management team and use them to improve performance. You will do even better when we get closer to normal business conditions again and there should be fewer areas to improve on when you do the next business diagnostic.

Good management will be tested during these times, but good decisions now will mean a better business in the post-Covid future.  Keep at it and we’ll get there together.

Be better. Do better.

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more about Enlightened Entrepreneurship at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com

Read more of Uncle Ralph's advice for Entrepreneurs in Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

Read more articles at: LearningEntrepreneurship Blogs

 

Best Advice Ever

And it still applies - Don’t Waste Time!

One of the bizarre side effects of the economic shutdown and being told to self-isolate and work from home is that the pressure to be productive and meet deadlines seems to have evaporated. The sense of urgency has dissipated. Everybody is preoccupied with the pandemic and keeping themselves safe more than meeting their obligations at work.

With lots of time to ourselves, procrastinating is easy. Nobody’s watching. Who cares anyway? It can wait until we’re more in the mood for it. It’s a bad attitude and a bad work habit to get into.

This article from Uncle Ralph’s Random Ramblings in DON’T DO IT THE HARD WAY, is a timely reminder to make better use of the time available to you, pandemic or not.

The Best Advice I Ever Got

In three words: DON’T WASTE TIME.

In providing the following background story, I may appear to be ignoring that advice by taking more time to write about it and requiring you to take more time to read about it.

But the advice is really about making choices on how to use the limited time available in one lifetime. It does not exclude learning, relaxing, or quiet contemplation instead of continuous frantic activity. In this case, I am choosing to reinforce the message and help make it memorable by telling the story (in keeping with the theme of the book). You may choose to read it for the same reasons.

I was at UBC in Vancouver in 1964, my first year in Engineering. All first-year engineers were given the Engineering Handbook providing all the advice and information we needed to successfully complete the following four years of study. The book was full of useful material and started with welcoming comments from the Dean of Engineering, the University President and other dignitaries with all the usual flowery clichés expected in these messages.

One page was reserved for Steve Whitelaw, President of the Engineering Undergraduate Society. Steve was a popular President with a reputation as a very bright, creative leader. That reputation was based on his leadership in a number of engineering student stunts that made the national news, like the time they kidnapped another university’s mascot or hung a VW beetle from the Lion’s Gate Bridge.

His biggest coup was bringing to a conclusion the long campus debate over some weird concrete modern-art sculptures that appeared one-year on compass. They had received the scorn and contempt of ‘ignorant and uncultured’ engineering students, but were vigorously defended by the arts faculty and administration.

The intensity of the debate exploded on campus and in the local newspapers on the day the engineers went on a rampage and completely destroyed all the sculptures leaving them in heaps of broken concrete and steel. That’s when Steve finally advised everyone that the engineers had built and installed them all in the first place.

So his advice in the Engineering Handbook would have attracted our attention. It was a blank page with his signature and just three words:

DON’T WASTE TIME

Call it leading by example.

Be better. Do better.

And take care of each other,

Del Chatterson, your Uncle Ralph

Learn more at: LearningEntrepreneurship.com

Read more in Uncle Ralph's books of advice for Entrepreneurs: Don't Do It the Hard Way & The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans - 2020 Editions.

 

Random Ramblings from your Uncle Ralph

 In the current environment of a corona virus pandemic with its devastating effect on lives, businesses and economies around the world, this article seemed appropriate for reconsidering.

(An extract from Don’t Do It the Hard Way – 2020 Edition, p.117)

Managing in Difficult Times

Ignoring or avoiding a difficult business environment is simply not possible.  It will happen, sooner or later. A credit crisis, stock market meltdown, or a looming recession all affect the attitudes and actions of consumers, employees, investors, lenders and business managers. What are some helpful ideas to respond effectively?

Stay focused

Avoid being distracted by the bombardment of bad news. Stay focused on customers and employees, especially the ones that you have and want to keep. Don’t freeze. But don’t over-react.  Be calm, rational, reassuring and pro-active.

Don’t just share the pain, provide relief.  Misery may love company, but everybody still remains miserable if you just talk about it and do nothing. Try to be more creative and take appropriate action. Don’t neglect the good news; look for the silver lining in the dark clouds – maybe currency exchange and interest rates are down temporarily, so now you can expedite foreign currency sales or re-finance some lending to improve cash flow.

Be relevant

Take a close look at your customers’ changing needs and your product or service offerings.  Do you have recession proof products or are they vulnerable? Costumers will be postponing or redirecting their purchase decisions in the current challenging climate.  Can you keep their business with a new cost-reduced service or a more creative approach to packaging, pricing, terms and conditions?

Leverage the sense of urgency

Nobody is unaware of the current economic circumstances affecting your business. Employees are already aware of the issues and the problems in front of them, so it will be easier to get them to accept the solutions. That means it’s more likely that they are receptive to expense reductions, removing frills, postponing projects, reducing assets and conserving cash. It may be opportune to revise compensation or bonus plans, change distribution channels, move marketing programs to lower cost online approaches.

Take advantage of the sense of urgency that exists. Now is the time to resolve lingering problems; just be cautious not to do permanent damage to key employee, customer and supplier relationships that you want to retain.

Recognize the changing environment

You probably started the year under different assumptions that affected corporate budgets and business plans.  Sales targets may now be unrealistic and should be adjusted downwards to maintain the rewards and motivation for top performers who continue to deliver in spite of challenging times. Try to use an external benchmark to justify the adjustment and not give the impression that you are forgiving poor performance.

Look for opportunities generated by the crisis

If you have been smart enough to stash cash and build a relatively secure business, then you can take advantage of some unique opportunities that exist.  Build your team by attracting top performing employees who may be ready to move from shaky competitors into your welcoming arms. Or buy out a competitor, if the company is suddenly for sale at a bargain price.  The big boys are doing it; so can you.

Talk to your banker

Make sure she is not worrying unnecessarily. Or at least worrying for the right reasons and hearing them directly from you.

If you are in better shape than most and credit is available, then increase your credit limits now to handle the potential unexpected impacts and to support the new opportunities you may want to pursue.

Avoid being the unwilling prey

Recognize that competitors may also see you in difficulty and seize the opportunity to raid key employees or buy you out at a distressed price.  You need to keep close to your key employees and ensure their career plans remain with you. If you are a likely target for merger or acquisition, then start working on your choice of preferred partner and determine your business valuation under normal circumstances, not current crisis conditions. Then take the initiative before you lose control of the situation. You and your business will be better for it.

In summary:

  • Be brave, be flexible, be creative.
  • Analyze, decide, take action.

And don’t neglect to wash your hands!

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, 

Del Chatterson

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Uncle Ralph's Business Books

DON’T DO IT THE HARD WAY

“A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, only a fool insists on making his own.” 

Learn from how to be better and to do better by sharing the stories of experienced entrepreneurs and avoid the 7 Biggest Mistakes that entrepreneurs make.

 

 

 

The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans

“It’s about the process, not the product.”

This 2nd Edition Comprehensive Guide provides all the tools, tips and techniques you need, including Real life case studies, Sample Business Plans and Financial Templates.

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Buy a book. Tell all your friends, they’ll thank you later. 

Thank you all for your interest in my fiction adventure and my business books. Enjoy the read!

Del 

Author Website: DelvinChatterson.com

Delvin Chatterson, Author An entrepreneur and business advisor, consultant, coach and cheerleader for entrepreneurs, Del Chatterson has written extensively on business topics for decades.

He is now writing fiction with a short story collection in progress and this series of Dale Hunter crime novels. Originally from the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Del has lived and worked for the past forty years in the fascinating French-Canadian city of Montreal, Quebec.