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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. 5. 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

 

The Magic of Entrepreneurship

Demonstrated by the street vendors in Rome

Find the magic of entrepreneurship. In the post-Covid-19 world you will need to be more creative, determined, flexible, responsive and persistent than ever. Be better. Do better.

What entrepreneurs do best is identify an opportunity and respond to it. They observe the market, test customer response and then deliver what works at the right time and place.

As a tourist in Rome a few years ago, I noticed that the street vendors had almost all decided that the thousands of meandering tourists were most in need of either bottled water or a selfie-stick. Those were apparently the best-selling impulse items and they were offered everywhere. I did appreciate the water bottles during long tours of the ancient ruins in the hot sun, but was already hating the forest of selfie-sticks that were invading all my carefully composed souvenir photos and did not want to join in the contest of who could get their cell phone farthest out in front of everyone else.

The street vendor sales strategy was simple and effective. A quick assessment of the passing prospects, a polite query then a quick decision to sell or move on to the next prospect. No time wasted on harassment or an obnoxious sales pitch. Pricing was competitive, one Euro for a bottle of water where the vendor was one of many and had a large stockpile and two Euros if he was alone in a remote corner with limited stock. The vendors also knew they were competing with bottles refilled from available public drinking fountains at no cost, so they all sold clearly branded and sealed bottled water that was ice cold.

But most impressive was their quick response to an unexpected thunderstorm and downpour chasing the tourists under cover. Like magic, suddenly all the street vendors were offering small collapsible umbrellas and cheap plastic rain ponchos!  Quality and price were not an issue, we needed them here and now, so sales were brisk for those that had them.

It was an impressive demonstration of effective sales tactics for entrepreneurs, whether you are a street vendor, a technology guru or the owner of a small business. Be ready to respond to your market, rain or shine.

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: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Yes, you need a Business Plan

From Start-up to Exit

It may seem unnecessary, uncreatively old-fashioned, boringly bureaucratic, and inappropriate for your brilliant business idea where you “dare to be different.” Nobody wants to look at a thick document full of industry jargon, market research mumbo-jumbo and spreadsheets up the ying-yang, do they?  Sorry, but yes they do.

The most important people for support of your plans will need convincing that you have done your homework and that you’re capable of delivering the results you expect. So don’t argue, just do it. Or if you still need convincing, read on.

Why Do You Need a Business Plan? 

It has a purpose. 

The most common reason for preparing a business plan is, “because the bank asked for one.” That is probably why most readers of the Guide to Business Plans are here. And that is obviously a legitimate reason for doing one.

But why is the bank asking for one? And do you need one for the same reasons? The answer is as simple as the familiar cliché: If you fail to plan; you plan to fail.

It’s hard to know where you’re going and how you’re getting there without a plan. It’s even harder to manage your progress if you haven’t defined your destination and set the milestones to monitor along the way. What route are you taking? What type of vehicle are you using? Who’s driving and who are the passengers? Why?

The bank, and any other investor or business partner, wants the answers to those questions to assess whether or not you are likely to succeed and whether or not they want to support you.

You need a business plan for all the same reasons.

Every business needs one, from the start-up to the exit.  

Documenting a Business Plan is an extremely useful process to focus the owners and the management team on their business model, strategies, and operating plans. The process will force consensus and decision making that might otherwise be neglected. It requires issues to be resolved and the conclusions to be documented after testing alternative solutions and their financial consequences.

A well-documented business plan will help you communicate the most important elements of your strategy and plans to the people who need to know them the most. Including you.
Maybe you’ve been successful in business for many years and never had a business plan. It's still a good idea for all the same reasons.  And now is a good time.

Maybe you’re ready to exit your business. Even better. A solid business plan will be the most important document you have to support the value of your business for sale or transfer to a new owner.

The greatest value of a business plan, however, is always in the process – involving your management team in a thorough examination of your business; its purpose, its strategies and its plans to ensure success. When it’s completed, all the key players will be more knowledgeable of the issues, the opportunities, the risks and the alternative paths considered and the reasons for the choices that were made; before committing to the final plan.

For a small business start-up, that management team may only be you. Maybe you’d rather keep your plans to yourself. But the business plan is still a valuable exercise. It forces you to answer all the questions that you should ask yourself and that will certainly be asked by the next people to get involved.

With a well-documented business plan you will be better prepared to meet all the challenges and more likely to succeed.

Be better. Do better.

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.

 

Starting-up is hard to do

Re-starting in a pandemic is even harder

It’s time to pull out your original business plan and start re-thinking and re-writing it. Assuming you have one, I’m sure it didn’t include a contingency plan to survive a pandemic shutdown. Now you need a new plan to re-start your business in a world recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

The value of having a plan and the process of preparing one remain the same as ever. Answering the original start-up questions again. Why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish? Who cares? How can I succeed?

Go back to basics. Develop a strategy and operating plans that are relevant and appropriate to the new realities of the next phases of the global pandemic. Don’t chase short-term opportunities. Somebody else will be better at manufacturing personal protective equipment or designing a contact tracking app. Focus on leveraging your unique strengths and capabilities into a new sustainable plan for long-term growth and profitability. Take advantage of the willingness of employees and customers to accept change and to demonstrate their loyalty to your business. Respond in kind with sincere gratitude and appreciation for their support.

Don’t make it complicated, the objective is to prepare a one page summary that answers these questions clearly and concisely:

  • What is the purpose of the business?
  • Who are the target customers?
  • What are the investments required to re-start?
  • What is the revenue required to be profitable again?
  • How soon can we get there?

The detailed analysis and planning needs to include your management team. Their input and commitment to the plan are essential before communicating it to employees and customers.

Some additional useful tips from The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans:

  • Review how competitors are adapting their business model in response to new restrictions and new opportunities.
  • Test alternative scenarios and their impact on the expected financial results.
  • Do not force your forecasts beyond reasonable expectations into the realm of hopeful fiction to arrive at a happy ending.
  • If the plan doesn’t work, revise it and try again.
  • Confirm the support of strategic partners, especially for financing.
  • Define specific measurable performance objectives and a timetable with set milestones.
  • Continuously monitor the results and make necessary changes to achieve your performance objectives.

It was not easy getting started the first time. It will not be easy to get back on track delivering valuable products and services to customers and meaningful employment to your staff. It will require the same determination, creativity and teamwork that worked the first time.

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.

 

Enlightened Entrepreneurship: The Action Plan

If Enlightened Entrepreneurship requires us to practice it, promote it and defend it, does accepting that mission make us missionaries?

Yes.

Your mission has a Three-Part Plan:

  1. Practice enlightened entrepreneurship and lead by example.
  2. Help other entrepreneurs be more enlightened and thereby more successful.
  3. Advocate for enlightened entrepreneurs and help to defend entrepreneurship against the unfair critics. “We are not evil!”

Start with awareness followed by leadership and management that confirm the value of merging our business goals with our social responsibilities. It is not sufficient to organize an occasional charitable event or community project to serve as a “guilt-eraser” or to counter-balance irresponsible behaviour in daily business operations. It is essential that daily business operations reflect our enlightened business culture and social values.

There will still be critics and non-believers. They cannot be ignored.

So enlightened entrepreneurs must continuously advocate, explain and defend the contributions of entrepreneurship to create a better world.

As more successful entrepreneurs join the conversation, the more convincing we will be.

We need you. So step up and join the cause.

Be a missionary for Enlightened Entrepreneurship.

I look forward to joining you.

 

Entrepreneurs don't read

And business fiction doesn’t sell

I’m trying to prove both assumptions are wrong. A futile exercise?

Maybe you can help.

Dale_Hunter_Series_facebook_banner_4-24 Version #3

First, entrepreneurs can and do read – mostly non-fiction books and articles, mostly related to business and self-improvement. I think we can agree, entrepreneurs are time-challenged and do not want to waste it on fiction. Many do try to keep current on the economic news, business issues and maybe the latest best-seller on leadership or entrepreneurship, but fiction? Not often. No spare time to read for enjoyment, except on the plane or on the beach. Even then it’s seldom fiction.

Are they missing the opportunity for some creative, lateral thinking? New sources of ideas, information and inspiration? Maybe, but their reading habits are already set and unlikely to change.

So my Dale Hunter Series of crime thriller novels set in the computer industry of the 1980s is about an entrepreneur, but it’s written for a wider audience. Appealing to both my 93-year old mother-in-law and my 14-year-old grandson and everyone in between. Different people like it for difference reasons.

You can decide for yourself. Enjoy the fun summer read!

A Free E-book copy of NO EASY MONEY at: Book funnel https://dl.bookfunnel.com/nbi0i5e10t (Offer ends Aug. 15th.)

PLEASE, TELL A FRIEND!

Any feedback, comments, suggestions or reviews are welcome.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Check out Uncle Ralph’s books:"Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Bad behaviour

Needs to be changed, not explained

Baby TrumpBad behaviour needs to be changed, not analyzed, explained, rationalized or excused.

Speculating over why it’s happening may keep the analysts and commentators busy, but it’s tiresome and irrelevant. If the bad behaviour can be stopped by removing the cause, then let’s do that, but if we cannot determine the cause, then let’s accept the fact that it will continue unless we change it.

The best way to help change the behaviour is to allow the negative consequences to be evident and obvious to the individual and to his supporters, facilitators and enablers.  It doesn’t matter if it’s an arrogant politician or selfish CEO, delinquent employee or spoiled 5-year old. Let's change the behaviour or change the player.

(OK, maybe not change your 5-year old, he'll grow up and improve.)

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Consultants: How to Choose, Use, and Not Abuse Them

sold!  Help them, help you

Since my first consulting project over thirty years ago, I have learned a lot about how to successfully manage consulting projects and the client/consultant relationship.

Here are some ideas that may help you with your consultants (and your lawyers, accountants and other professionals):

  1. Before you introduce consultants to the process, be sure you need what you want and want what you need. Beware of consultants that agree to do whatever you want, whether you need it or not.
  2. Look internally to confirm the three "C's" of consulting project readiness: Capacity in budget, time and resources; Commitment of management and staff affected by the process; and Capability to support the project and implement the conclusions.
  3. One more "C" – Compatibility. Select your consultants from an organisation that is compatible with yours - are you a corporate multinational or a local entrepreneurial business?
  4. Recognize whether your consulting needs are strategic: requiring outside expertise to inspire and facilitate your business planning process, or operational: bringing knowledge, skills and experience that are not available internally.
  5. Meet the operating consultant. It may not be the same charming, talented person that sold you the work.  And at those fee rates you don't want to train a recent MBA, who started last week and studied your industry yesterday.
  6. Test Drive: Check whether the consultant arrives with questions, not answers; will operate as neither boss nor employee; and will win the hearts and minds of your staff. Successful consultants will listen, understand, empathize, analyze, strategize and persuade better than normal people.
  7. Remember you are hiring a consultant to challenge and push you. You are not renting a friend to tell you how smart you are.
  8. Can you confidently expect a solution that will be yours not theirs?
  9. Ask for references.  Call them.
  10. Ask who is not on the reference list and why not.  Learn what they think causes a project to be unsuccessful.  And ask which list they expect you to be on when this is over.
  11. Ask for fee rates and a work plan with estimated hours. Then agree on a fixed fee for agreed deliverables with dates, documents and milestones.
  12. Don't let their progress reports interfere with your progress.  Get what you need, not what they need for internal "CYA" requirements.
  13. Check who else is billing time to your project.  Sometimes there is a very expensive partner back at the office who needs to keep his billing rate up. Your budget can be quickly consumed while he "supervises" from a distance.
  14. Avoid surprises.  Ask about additional expenses: travel, telephone and printing. Terms of payment?
  15. Do they have a satisfaction guarantee?
  16. Get the agreement in writing, read it before signing it.
  17. Watch for signs of trouble: such as, selling more work before the work is done; long delays between on-site visits; too much time spent "back at the office" and billed to you.
  18. And finally, remember consultants are people too. They want to boast about good work and satisfied clients.  You can help them help you.  Don't be difficult.

With all due respect and best regards to my favourite clients and consulting associates.

Be better. Do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

It’s another New Year. So what.

It’s still a good time to reflect and plan

(Sorry for playing the old hits with a repeat of my message from January 2016, but it’s still appropriate and applicable to 2018.)

In the ditchYou have already looked at too many year-end reviews and predictions for the New Year. The consensus seems to be that last year was bad everywhere and this year will be worse: more terrorist events and political stupidity, extreme weather and natural disasters, investments at risk of a bursting bubble and volatile economic conditions that will challenge every industry.

So if you cannot control the environment, what can you do differently this year? Aside from trying to stay out of the ditch.

A good general rule is to keep it simple. Focus on just two memorable accomplishments for the year – one personal, one professional. Richard Branson suggests that you refrain from making another to-do list, but work instead on your to-be list.  It is more important who you are than what you do.

Work on making memories.

If you look back on last year, how would you characterize your achievements? Personally and professionally, what were the outstanding memories? Did they just happen or were they your intent? It may not have been something that changed the world, but were they significant memories for you and the important people around you?

So what will your memories be for this year? Will it be the year for a major turning point in your career, or your business direction or your personal development?

Of course a more detailed plan is required, but I recommend to start with some simple objectives that are easy to remember without getting distracted by external events. Work on the issues that you can control and the actions that will make a difference. Be prepared for surprises and disappointments that are out of your control and develop the resilience and strength to get past them.

Have a good year. Make it memorable.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Visit LearningEntrepreneurship.com or contact DirectTech Solutions at www.DirectTech.ca for assistance on your strategic business issues, growth and profit improvement plans or your exit strategies.

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Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, "Don't Do It the Hard Way" and "The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans" Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

‘Tis the Season

For reflection and relationships

Family of Feet warming at a fireplaceForget the shopping and the frenzy of holiday season obligations and year-end deadlines. Take time for reflection and relationships. The Holiday Season should be dedicated to finding quality time for quiet reflection on life and the world around us and for the relationships that are most important to us.

First, with compliments to my wise wife, Penny and the Advent Conspiracy Video, re-direct some of your time and money to sharing with those in need of both connection and support to improve their lives.

Take time out to work on family relationships and be a better parent, grandparent, sibling, son or daughter.

Set aside for a while the pressing issues and challenges of your business and build better personal relationships with associates and colleagues who are more than cash-flow generating employees, customers and suppliers.  Wake up and learn like Scrooge did that there is more to life. Remember the part about having fun and making a difference.

Wishing you all the joys of the season and a very healthy and Happy New Year.

Your Uncle Ralph,

Del Chatterson