Monday, December 17, 2012

Business Communication

Sharpen Business Communication

Communication is at the core of all our relationships, both business and personal. Business communication must be aligned with the pace of our new world, or it is ineffective. We’re at the mercy of our warp speed digital communication that bombards us with messages we often did not ask for and are irrelevant to our business activity.

Here are some important tips to improve communication and break through all that digital noise and allow us to reach the intended audience.

v Pitching for Business?

-        Ask the right questions by understanding your customer’s needs.

-        Communicate professionally. Make sure written communication is proofread and has an appropriate signature. Make sure phones are answered professionally and people speak articulately.

-        Schedule and prepare well. Make sure you provide potential clients with adequate uninterrupted time to speak. Prepare an agenda and share it before the meeting so all parties can prepare.

-        Communication is a two way street. Express your ideas clearly but be sure to listen. Silence can be a powerful communication tool.  Ask good questions to show your interest and involvement with the customer.

-        Follow-up in writing. Give your customer an overview of the meeting and ask for feedback.

v Customer Service

-        Quality products should be supported by equally strong communication with customers.

-        Make your customers feel they are a priority in your business.

-        Make sure if problems occur they are addressed and fixed.

-        If miscommunication seems to be the source of the problem use a different method; make a phone call to replace email. If the issue requires more than a few sentences to explain, call and speak with the customer personally.

v Networking

-        Communicate confidently. Firm handshakes, eye contact, and smiles are important communication signals.

-        Have a 30 second “elevator speech” that presents an effective first impression.

-        Speak in a relaxed way that makes your audience comfortable.


Work on refining these communications skills to maximize your opportunity for success. That is my take on the subject. What is yours? Let me know.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Business Networking

Networking – Keys to making it work

Having a network of business peers and associates can be invaluable in developing new business, sharing business issues, developing relationships and expanding exposure of your business.

Here are a few keys that may be of value:

v Use networking to gain visibility but be sure to give back to those who may help you.

v Set goals when networking.  Are you attending to learn? To make contacts? Or to make business connections.

v Show your leadership skills by leading discussions and stimulating conversation.

v Follow-up. If you meet new prospects or contacts be sure to make a follow-up call to indicate your pleasure in meeting the person and try to set a date to exchange further ideas.


If you extend efforts to become more involved with a variety of networks there can be a significant payoff in terms of developing  new business opportunities and contributing to others without jeopardizing your own business goals.

Look for different groups to join that can enhance your business. Take no opportunity to network lightly – expand your knowledge base.

Please let me know what you think.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Business Problems

Problems facing small business


External problems

External problems are countless, including the state of the economy, the high cost of insurance, taxes, red tape, health & safety, lack of bank lending, competition within Canada and from abroad, and the list just goes on. Many of these issues are beyond control of the individual business so we will focus on internal problems.

Internal Problems


Finding it and managing it. There is never enough. Fast growing companies can outgrow available resources. Underperformers can’t acquire cash.

Leasing vs purchasing can lesson stress while commercial loans, credit cards and overdrafts are expensive. Care is needed to protect the business’ overall credit rating.

Lack of a Clear Plan

Many businesses don’t know how to plan. Lack of a plan aggravates the cash problem by wasting cash chasing tempting diversions; it is wasteful to throw money at problems hoping for a quick fix. Equally important is revising your plan according to changing economic and business conditions and to ensure your survival in a recession.

Ineffective Leadership
This issue takes many forms. It is frequently in the form of depth of leadership. The owner of the company is too hands-on and a) does not concentrate enough on his primary role as a leader rather than a manager; and b) fails to enlist support of competent managers and staff or through recruitment and outsourcing. This may cause the company to stop growing and eventually could lead to failure.

Sales/Marketing Competence
This leads back to planning and leadership. Many businesses have not defined what their USP is. Don’t try to compete in conflicting areas, such as lowest price and highest service. One lowers revenue and the other adds to costs. Part of the planning process for a product should include a clear answer to one question, “why should they buy from me?”

Lack of Execution
This may be the largest issue facing small business. This lack can be in a number of forms including:

-        Poor execution of strategy

-        Failure of new product development

-        Owners spend only minimal time on strategy

-        Poor communication of strategy to employees

-        Lack of performance measures and little performance analysis


These are some of the problems from my viewpoint. What do you think?





Monday, November 26, 2012

Financial Measures

Keep your eye on these financial yardsticks



Good financial management is essential to allow business owners to make proper decisions through the year as business conditions change. Periodic quarterly or annual reviews are not adequate.

Performance should be reviewed monthly against goals established for the year.

Key indicators to review include:

·       Revenue Growth: are sales increasing year over year and meeting targets?

·       Profitability: is the business making adequate profit compared to goals. Are profit margins improving?

·       Liquidity: are short term obligations covered?

·       Cash Flow: are you generating sufficient cash to operate? Is bank financing required to help fund growth?


Sometimes businesses can measure their performance against competition within the industry. That may help highlight areas where improvement may be needed.

These were just a few considerations. Please let me hear your thoughts.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Stress Management Tips

Almost by definition as a small business owner you face a variety of tasks daily that pull you in many directions simultaneously. At times it seems you may buckle under the pressure of impossible demands but this good news is these anxiety attacks are temporary.

Here are a few things you might do to keep stress down:

1.     Think Positive. Often stress starts with negative thoughts. Thinking positive weeds out the bad thoughts. That doesn’t mean wearing rose coloured glasses and ignoring issues it just means dealing with problems and emphasizing the positive.

2.     Let it go. Many things are beyond our control. Accept whatever your limitations are and don’t worry about factors over which you have no control.

3.     Stay Fit. Learn to relax, stretch and find some quiet time to ward off anxiety. Find the time to exercise regularly; being in shape helps deflect stress. A well balanced diet also improves fitness levels. Finally, get enough sleep to allow the body to restore itself. Deadlines may be more flexible than you think.

4.     Say no. As owner you become a jack of all trades and get stuck doing it all. Sometimes the hat just doesn’t fit so you have to say no and get someone with the appropriate skillset to do the task.

5.     Manage your time. Find a method that works well for you. Tools are available on line to manage daily workflow. Strengthen your skills for delegating, communicating and using the team.


Those are some of my thoughts for keeping the fun in the job and reducing stress. Let me know what you think.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Business Planning

Benefits of a Business Plan

This is a continuation of last week’s discussion and provides insight into some of the benefits derived from developing a business plan.


·       A business plan can be used to set targets for new alliances and selected portions of the plan may be shared with key partners.

·       A plan is a useful document to share with professionals that support your business. Sharing your plan with your lawyer, accountant and others may allow them to provide stronger support because they better understand the business through the plan.

·       Planning to sell? A plan helps buyers understand the business, what it is, what it’s worth and why they want to buy.

·       Valuation. A plan facilitates valuation of the business for formal transactions such as divorce, inheritance, estate planning and tax issues.

·       A business plan is needed when starting a new business or if you are looking to create a new business or expand your existing business.

·       Exit Strategy. Finally, if you are planning to exit the business to retire or to change business interest a plan is a vital element for success.


As part of my role in the business community I have shared many ideas with owners and facilitating business plan development has been one of those functions for which business owners have contacted me.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Business Planning

Why do I need a Business Plan?

A business plan is an essential ingredient to executing your business strategy.

Benefits include:

·       It provides owners with a current assessment of the business and a roadmap for the future.

·       It is necessary to secure financing for growth.

·       It is a process that requires you to think through every part of your business and may prevent serious mistakes.

·       It allows owners to oversee the business and measure performance against goals.

Own it

For a business plan to be effective those who have to implement it should own it. Good management requires setting objectives and managers must participate in goal setting. The strategic planning process can be an exciting way to engage key managers and contribute to strong team building and thus ownership of the plan.

Share the Process

It is critical for owners to share their ambitions and goals with managers. Business objectives should be explained with the management team, employees and new hires. Parts of the plan can be shared with new employees as part of introduction and training in the business.

The next blog will provide additional insights into the benefits derived from having a business plan.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Keys to Success

Keys to Business Success

Too many business owners focus solely on their profit-and-loss statements. "It's critical to focus more on the business assets, what's going to allow you to expand your reach and grow your company?" You should find ways to grow your client base, new employees, systems, and partnerships. Planning and execution is what will grow your client base, thus your company.

Mission Statement: Most businesses either don't have a mission statement or it so general that it has no meaning. Think about what you're trying to achieve and include that big vision in your mission statement.

SWOT Analysis: a comprehensive SWOT analysis (assessing company strengths, weaknesses, market opportunities and market threats) is critical to assess your opportunities, generate ideas and create a focused approach.

Marketing Strategies: Take a good look at your current marketing strategies. Spread out your marketing dollars and try new channels; by the end of the year you will have another valuable business asset: proven knowledge of which marketing tactics work and those that don't.

Company Goals" Set goals for a five-year target point. What income level do you plan on achieving in that time? Will you sell the company, remain at the helm, or go public? Plot your course, and then break down your goals and strategies into a one-year plan. Which opportunities are best to execute this year in order to achieve your five year goals?

Competitive Analysis: It is important to be prepared for the inevitable—competitive challenges. Take a good look at your competition and define what steps they could take that would really frighten you and ask yourself if you could deal with it or if your business would be massively hampered. The next step is to determine what you could do under your current circumstances to pre-empt the worst case scenario.
If your competition acquires another company as a part of their growth strategy, for instance, what can you do now to control the impact of such a move?

Define your team: "Even solopreneurs should have a team. Don't try to do it all on your own. Consider your virtual assistants and other outside contractors, or employees if you need to have them. Where do you want to be one year from now? What skills will you have to acquire? Who do need to grow your company? How can you get those resources in place?

Operations Plan: Finally, consider the importance of an operations plan. Looking at your five-year plan and what you want to accomplish, define your marketing strategies, any additional services or products to offer, and all of your key initiatives for the year. You may need chart so that you have a visual for each project.


Those are some thoughts on keys to Business Success. What do you think?



Sunday, October 21, 2012

Key Growth Strategies

Key Growth Strategies


Turning a small business into a big one is never easy. The statistics are grim. In other words, most businesses start small and stay there.

But if that's not good enough for you—or if you recognize that staying small doesn't necessarily guarantee your business's survival what follows are some options that can help you create a growth strategy of your own.

v Internal Growth

·       Market Penetration. This is the least risky option of selling more products to current customers. Find new ways for customers to use your products.

·       Market Development. Develop ways to sell product to an adjacent market by expanding to another city or province.

·       New Distribution Channel. You may expand by offering product on line.

·       Product Development. The classic growth strategy offers new products to existing and new customers.

v Integration

·       Horizontal. This strategy would involve buying a competitor. This not only adds to growth of your business but eliminates a competitor.

·       Backward. This involves buying a supplier and in addition to growth provides increased control of the supply chain.

·       Forward. If appropriate you could buy a component of your supply or distribution chain. This provides increased overall margin through profits at each level of product sales.

v Diversification

·       This involves growing the company by buying another company in a sector unrelated to your business. This can be risky and certainly requires an understanding of the new market place.


Growth strategies are never pursued in a vacuum, and a company needs to be willing to change course in response to feedback from the market. Too often, companies take a year to develop a strategy and, by the time they're ready to implement it, the market has changed on them.

The marketplace generally rewards those with agility, decisiveness and ability to capitalize when opportunities are presented.




Monday, October 15, 2012

Business Management

 Why not Hire the Best?


In many businesses the most important asset is the employees going through the doors every day. These individuals impact your business in many ways with their actions and decisions. As leader the owner controls one of the most important decisions for the organization and the hiring process can be critical to the overall success achieved.

Here are a few pointers to consider when hiring:

Ø  Develop a precise plan

Identify the key skills a candidate must have to succeed. Also define the important attitudes that enable the candidate to excel at the job. Stick to the plan.

Ø  Be diligent in selecting a candidate

A thorough interview process is important in choosing top candidates. This is particularly important with senior management positions. Take the time to test for qualifications; a vague, wandering conversation of informal questioning will at best be a hit and miss approach. Results will be equally inconsistent.

Ø  Share the Process

To improve results, involve others to gain a different perspective. Choose peers that the candidate would work with and perhaps even involve key customers if you enjoy their confidence. These contacts will bring additional insights into the personality and style of the candidate and add a point of view of the person’s ability to integrate into the organization.



The more perspectives you bring to the process the greater the chance of success in hiring great people in the organization.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Business Management

Guest blog

This week’s article is from Lora Crestan, Business Strategist + Coach for her own company – Lora Crestan who has kindly offered to provide some timely thoughts on refreshing your business.
Lora may be reached at: or 519.735.6820
Endings Need to Happen

I remember when I wrote my first business plan.  I had dreams of where I would be in 5 years, 10 years and even beyond.  I knew exactly what I was going to do, how I was going to do it, and who my client base would be.  Guess what?  Business plans are for flushing out ideas and rebuilding as your business develops.  BIG LESSON.

EVEN BIGGER LESSON, letting go of the ideas, projects and processes that really were going nowhere except to drain energy, resources and sometimes finances.  How do you, as a business leader, get to make these decisions?  These are the really tough ones.  In many organizations, this can apply to people as well as projects and processes.  Everything gets tougher when people are involved, either as the owners of the project or the ones that need to change.
What to do?
Here are a few things to start to build into your business:
  1. Review your business plan quarterly and actively change what needs to be changed.  For example, if you are planning to launch a new product and the proto-types have not exceeded quality expectations, that date will have to change.
  2. Plan and have open discussions about what or who needs to end.  In determining this, you will need to have frank and open conversations that look at the benefits to the company and people involved.  Be realistic about how many resources you are prepared to invest before you pull the plug – that includes time, people and money.
  3. Learn to understand the life cycle of your business, it’s products and it’s people.  When you are developing plans to grow, what is the exit strategy or succession/evolution plan for each stream.

These may start you on your way to developing a more open understanding of endings that need to happen so that your business can continue to flourish.  Take your time and try them out.  Give us your feedback and thoughts....or if you stuck along the way, we are here to help!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Business Management

Benefits of Strategic Planning

Strategic Planning provides a number of benefits to an organization including:

Ø  An opportunity to clearly define the purpose of the organization

Ø  Establish achievable goals consistent with the mission and within a timeframe the organization can achieve.

Ø  A vehicle for communicating goals among employees and key customers

Ø  Provide a forum for employees to establish ownership of the plan and facilitate accountability.

Ø  Ensure the most effective use of the company’s resources.

Ø  Provide a vehicle to focus on key priorities.

Ø  Set a roadmap for future changes that will be needed.


The key to effective Strategic Planning is to implement the process and continue planning as the organization and external market environment changes. Certainly the plan will need annual reviews at a minimum to be an effective tool.

A Business Plan is used to define the “HOW” of implementation.