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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Evaluating your Business using S.W.O.T Analysis

In today’s business world, keeping up and surpassing your competition is a constant battle that requires vigilance, intelligence and strategy.  Many businesses use a strategic technique called the S.W.O.T Analysis to stay on top of their game.  S.W.O.T Analysis or sometimes called the S.W.O.T Matrix is a structured planning method used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieve that objective. (Wikipedia) Let’s take a closer look at this strategy and planning technique and how it can help your company distinguish itself from competitors.

Progress and change are inevitable in our tech dependent business world.  S.W.O.T. is an excellent tool, developed in the 1960’s and still used today, to explore the strengths and weaknesses of innovation – whether it is a  business plan, an idea, or a product.  It also enables businesses to identify internal and external factors needed to achieve the goal.  For example, internal factors may be strengths and weaknesses specific to the business.  External factors would be the opportunities and potential threats to the business by outside influences.  Once these influences have been discussed by the business team, an effective business plan can be formulated according to this data.

S.W.O.T. Analysis can be used as a kick start to a brainstorming/strategy meeting or as an in depth strategy tool to evaluate the rewards and risks of a business proposition.  For either method a S.W.O.T chart or matrix should be used to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.  Questions that you may want to use as discussion for each section could include:

Strengths –

  1. What advantages does your organization have?
  2. What do you do better than anyone else?
  3. What unique or lowest-cost resources can you draw upon that others can’t?
  4. What do people in your market see as your strengths?

Weaknesses –

  1. What could you improve?
  2. What should you avoid?
  3. What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?

Opportunities –

  1. What good opportunities can you spot?
  2. What interesting trends are you aware of?
  3. What partnerships/connections do you have that provide opportunities?

Threats –

  1. What obstacles do you face?
  2. What are your competitors doing?
  3. Are quality standards or specifications for your job, products or services changing?
  4. Is changing technology threatening your position?

 

Once your team has spent time looking at each component of the evaluation  – a plan of action can be created to solve the problem issues you have identified and take a set course of action to successfully complete your goals.

Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader

Guest Blogger, Jenn Livingston – I’m a business consultant and writer who specializes in business technology, customer relationship management, and lead management.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather team them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

The journey from manager to leader is tangible. There are so many examples of leaders who have shared their journey. A manager is someone who tries to control people, resources, supplies and customers to hit targets. A leader inspires others to control themselves and take care of resources, supplies, and customers in full motion toward the mission, goals and vision. There are certain personal characteristics that leaders seem to have in common:

  • They are proactive instead of reactive-Good leaders always think ahead and works to prevent problems instead of react to them.
  • They have good initiative and a strong drive. They immediately take care of problems. They are decisive and lead with passion.
  • They have ability to inspire others with honesty, humor, and a positive attitude.

Not everyone can be a great leader, but everyone can aspire to lead.
In order to grow from manager to leader, there are important steps to take. When managers take these steps they walk toward the goal of being a leader.

Take Initiative and Make Decisions
To take initiative, a good leader is always looking at the big picture to see if there are problems or barriers that are keeping the company from attaining its goals. From this, develop strategic initiatives that work today and down the road. If there is a problem, a leader makes sure the problem gets solved.
Decisions need to be made judiciously and quickly. Avoiding making decisions really diminishes the appearance of leadership. It is important first to carefully survey the facts and information around a decision. Then comes the analysis of the problem through a cost-benefit analysis or other problem solving technique. Finally, a decision is made by choosing the best option with the least risk and the most benefit. It is important that decisions are communicated to everyone with a need to know, quickly and completely.

Communicate both Receptively and Expressively
A great leader is a great listener. A good leader is often the last to speak in a meeting, taking care to hear and understand the points that others are making. It helps significantly in decision making when a leader understands what the employees are thinking and feeling. Good leaders know how to use this information to formulate strategic goals and initiatives. Often sales men who have had corporate sales training excel in this area and make good leaders.
One of the biggest employee complaints in surveys is lack of communication. When employees don’t have good communication, they believe that managers aren’t good leaders. When leaders don’t learn employee respect they can’t lead. There are many ways to communicate in an organization. Good leaders strategically organize communications with meetings, emails, reporting, newsletters, etc. to assure that everyone understands the goals and initiatives.

Be Accountable
The most important thing that a leader can do is walk the way they talk. Don’t over promise and under deliver. It destroys morale. If you say you will do something always make sure that you do it. Failure to be accountable is failure to lead.
Lead by example. Leaders show that they are not above doing anything an employee will do. They come to work early and leave late. They communicate their whereabouts and work hard. They are the example of what they want their employees to be.
Leaders can admit when they make a mistake. A smart leader will admit they make a mistake in front of employees fairly often to create an open environment where employees feel free to make mistakes and then learn from them.
Do more interesting work, grow employees and improve productivity by starting down the path of leadership. “Given the right circumstances,” says Hock, “from no more than dreams, determination, and the liberty to try, quite ordinary people consistently do extraordinary things.”

Family Succession Planning for Business

According to a recent study by Thompson Law, a vast majority of small business owners and larger corporate owners intend to pass the family business on to their children or other family members, but less than 30% have a succession plan. The Family Planning Institute further supports this report by citing that while 88% of business owners plan to have a family member running the business five years past their exit, that a mere 30% survive into the second generation, 12% into the third generation and a scant 3% into the fourth generation.  These numbers show that there is a major disconnect between the optimistic belief of family owners and the stark reality of how many businesses really stay “in the family.”  Let’s look at the problematic issues in succession planning as well as some tips to make a transition as smooth as possible.

Issues in Family Succession – Family businesses have several issues that work against the successful continuation of the business. These include:

  • Alignment of family interests – An extremely common problem that rears its ugly head during turnover from one generation to another is the alignment in interests of one generation to another.  One family member is looking ahead to retirement and maintaining his retirement income through the company while the person taking charge has a completely different set of ideas and goals that may not match the former owner.  This can make for a sticky turnover.
  • Family Disputes – Business goals and interests can be one problem but complicated family dynamics can be an even bigger problem.  These issues can become even more complicated if there is a divorce or death that causes emotions to become a factor.
  • Financial Issues – Buyouts can become financially problematic when looking at the balance sheet only.  According to Forbes Online the true value of a business should probably be based on an earnings capitalization model, a concept unfamiliar to many smaller family companies.

Tips to Make Transition and Family Succession Easier

  • Establish a Timeline – It is hard to get a successor without a target transition date in mind.  Plan well in advance when at all possible to prepare the team to the event.  Setting clear goals and milestones, and working backwards from there allows you to break things up into manageable steps, and enables you to have a more effective plan.
  • Create a Succession Plan – This should include deciding on a successor, deciding on active and non-active roles for family members, and identifying additional family support where needed.  This should be done as openly as possible and with the assistance of a specialized attorney in Business and Family Succession Law.
  • Address Financial Issues – Examine tax issues, transfer of ownership, written agreements and a summary of the value of the company.
  • Create a Detailed Transition Plan – Consider things like training your successor, introducing the team, and a smooth exit strategy for the “old” team.

 

 

The Right Bank for your Business

Finding a bank that is reliable, easy-to-access and supportive should be a top priority for small business owners.  Choosing the right bank for your company could completely impact daily operations and become a solid foundation on which you build and expand your small business.  As an owner or manager of a small business you will need to consider what the business’ current needs are as well as what future aspirations may be before choosing a banking institution.  How then should a small business go about choosing a bank that is the “right fit”  and what questions should be considered before a final decision on a bank is made?

  • Bank Size – In the world of banking size does matter.  Small, neighborhood banks offer an intimate and human level of interaction which could be advantageous when you need fast cash and can contact a member of the bank easily regardless of your balance sheets. The value of your good name might carry more weight in a smaller bank. A local bank’s mission is to help a neighborhood thrive so they may go above and beyond the call of duty to help your business grow. On the other hand, a bigger bank can offer better interest rates, more flexibility in loan terms and a larger offering of products to fit your needs. Investigate what your needs are as a business to decide to go with a larger bank or one that is invested in the local economy.
  • Bank Features – Things to also consider when choosing a bank include any special features that may be offered to small businesses.  For example:  What is the fee structure like?  Nothing is free so look closely at the fee structure for everything from using the ATM, writing a check, and getting a monthly account statement. But also take note of other bank services you may need down the road, including wire transfers and credit-card processing. In addition to analyzing fees ask: What are the current interest rates?  Is online access easy?  Does the bank specialize in your special needs?
  • Compatibility – Do not underestimate the intangible aspects such as customer service and personal compatibility.  If you have a good personal connection to your bank, you’re more likely to have a successful working relationship. Ask other small businesses in your area what banks they recommend if you want a good personal relationship with your financial partner.
  • Technology – Is your company tech savvy and wants to take advantage of bill pay by phone or deposits by phone?  Do you want easy platforms for online banking?  Some banks embrace technology more than others so consider asking about what technology they practice for daily banking needs.

As you ask yourself these questions while choosing a bank don’t be afraid to go with your gut.  Which bank feels most like the best fit?  Meet with the business officer at each bank to thoroughly discuss your company’s needs and how they can be a vital partner in your business.

 

Value of Videos for Business

If a picture is worth a thousand words then what must the value of a video be for business?  Statistics show compelling evidence that videos are an area that marketing experts can not ignore.  According to Video Brewery. . .

  • 100 million internet users watch a video that is business related daily.
  • 90% of consumers found watching a video helpful in understanding a product or service better.

These numbers should hopefully convince you that adding video to your website can only be a positive for your company.  If you need more convincing, here are some more benefits of videos for business.

  1. Persuasion – 80% of people who watch a video about a product or service say they are more likely then to buy it.  Video has the power of persuasion that words alone do not have.  According to Wire Buzz, video caters to the brain’s visual and auditory systems, picking up on cues like body language, facial expressions, imagery and music. This elicits an emotional bond that will influence a person’s choices and actions.
  2. Trust and Credibility – When a consumer watches a video, they make a connection to the business that can not be made over the phone, in an email or in an advertisement.  There’s something about seeing a person that connects us on a human level. In a way, watching a video about your business is forming a relationship with you and your brand.
  3. SEO and Video – Search engines are looking for signs that your content is engaging to determine if it is worth a high ranking. Blogging, dynamic content and of course, video are ways of signalling to the search engine that your page is active and engaged with the consumer.  This in turn boosts your search engine results!
  4. Ease of production – Making a video, whether it is introducing a new product, announcing a sale or new offer, or just showing the proper use of a product in a “how-to”  can be as easy as aiming your iphone and pressing play.  While many companies hire professionals to produce their videos, “homemade”  videos created right in the office can be just as persuasive and show off the inner workings of your business more than a production set can.
  5. Shares!  – One last thing to think about when considering making videos for your business website is that each video can be shared repeatedly with other consumers.

Maintaining Customer Loyalty

Securing customer loyalty in today’s tough market should be at the top of every business owner’s “To-Do” List.  The statistics are well known.  It takes more time, effort and company money to procure a new client than it does to maintain the loyalty of a current one.  Therefore maintaining the loyalty of your customers should be of paramount importance.  Let’s examine some conventional and not-so-conventional techniques to keep customers returning to your business.

  • Good Communication – Once you have a client one of the best ways to keep them is to keep the conversation going.  This might be in the form of emails, regular check ins or even through holiday cards or postcards with reminders and special offers for returning customers.  If your business has a social media component, keep the information flowing through those avenues as well.  Post important articles, offers or current info about your field to keep customers coming back.
  • Customer Service – Going hand-in-hand with communication is the customer service component.  If a client calls, writes or somehow communicates an issue or question, get on it right away.  No one likes to wait when they have an urgent business issue so try to make them top priority and provide them with top class customer service.  This will be remembered when it comes time to renew a contract or decide on purchases.
  • Incentives and Special Offers – Everyone loves a good deal especially when it rewards loyalty. Customer incentives give people a reason to return to your business. They come in a variety of forms; buy two and get one free, frequent shopper points, rebates, adding a free service to the sale, gifts, and gift cards all offer enticement for people to choose your business when they decide to spend their hard-earned dollars.
  • Anticipate the Needs of the Customer – Once you have begun to understand your client and the needs of their company, now is the time to show off your organization and customer service abilities by anticipating the clients needs.  For example, do you know that the client offers a big sale in the fall?  (B2B) Check in with them prior to the event to make sure all their needs are met.  Does the client usually have a huge boost in service calls at a certain time? Be ready with all their needs in advance.  In fact, check in with them to show that you are thinking about their company in advance.
  • Admit your faults – In the case that customer service or some other component of the B2B or B2C relationship has failed make sure to right those wrongs.  If a mistake was made, apologize and be sure to show the client how the company has learned from the error.