Archive for Business Blueprint

Confused about planning?

It’s no wonder business owners are confused about planning. No one knows what it means!  Ask 10 business owners to write down 5 words they associate with business planning and you’ll probably get 40 different words! The only words you’ll get in common are words like “hard”, “challenging”, and “difficult.”

I had a discussion the other day with an attorney friend who asked me, “What’s the difference between a business plan and a strategic plan?” Now even I had to think about that one.

Here are some “classic” definitions of the word Strategy (as in Strategic Plan.)

  1.  A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.
  2. The art and science of planning and marshaling resources for their most efficient and effective use. The term is derived from the Greek word for generalship or leading an army. See also tactics.

There seem to be two major trains of thought here:  (1) having to do with the achievement of a goal and (2) having to do with military maneuvers. The thing that both of these definitions seem to have in common is that they are used to achieve a one-time result.


Here’s what I think:

If you’re spending a lot of time thinking up a strategy to achieve a specific result, and then using it only one time, it’s not much better than dumb luck! Here’s something more useful:

A Strategy is a repeated set of actions that produce a fairly predictable result!

Think about this.

According to my definition, if you have a set of actions that your business engages in on a day-to-day basis, consistently, repeatedly and regularly, you should be producing fairly predictable results. Now that’s what I call planning!

To give you a really concrete example, if a sales person makes 40 calls a day and, on average, gets 3 sales appointments and 1 sale closes for each 40 calls he or she makes, that wouldn’t this be a good sales strategy? Simply make 40 calls a day, and wait for the predictable result. Want more revenue? Increase the number of calls.

Now I don’t mean to tell you that this is easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. But think about it – how many of us run our businesses on the tracks of those who have come before us and shown us how things work in our industry.

Success leaves clues.

And some of these clues come in the form of predictability, consistency, patterns that you can identify and follow, and systems you can put in place to make sure that these consistent steps are followed. That’s what I call being strategic!

If you are interested in taking your business through a strategic planning cycle please CONTACT US for further information.

Living Your Passion

I’ve had a number of conversations recently with different people all dealing with the same challenge. Their question is essentially this, “How do I bring forth the best of me in a world that tries to pigeon-hole me?”

It’s kind of like when we were kids and our parents tried to encourage us in awkward places, “Just be yourself.”  What does that even mean, anyway?

By the time we become adults we’ve been sons, daughters, athletes, cheerleaders, scouts, club presidents, volunteers, employees, dancers, singers, whatever. We’ve become our labels!

For the past year, I’ve been morphing my business to align more with my core values, heart-felt passion, and desire to fulfill my life’s purpose. The results have been startling, if not shocking.

 ”Planning With A Heart” has been my brand name for years. In 2001 I authored a book by that name, and have branded my particular method and strategies for writing business plans and helping entrepreneurs develop their business roll-out. I’ve taught seminars, offered the coaching program, and now, am coming full circle to fulfill my passion as a business educator to empower more business owners to greater success in a world that is hungry for “win/win.”

“Planning With A Heart” is proud to offer “The Executive Experience”–a 3-day Immersive Adventure for Entrepreneurs. I’m offering an incredible package to people who want to participate in the re-launch of this interactive training and video product I’ll be creating. The program is a “business simulation” that takes you through the entire planning cycle, from vision and mission to product and marketing to finance and investors.

What’s different about “Planning With A Heart” is two things. First, it is a more intuitive, right-brained approach to business planning. Second, it encompasses both the inner person and the external actions and results. The reason is simple – for your results to change, you have to change!  For the results of an organization or business to change, the inner beliefs, attitudes, strategies, and mindset of the people in the business have to expand to allow the business to grow successfully.

In “The Executive Experience” business owners will have the opportunity to experiment with all of these elements, and more. While the format is to work on simulated businesses, the results I’ve seen in the past have been astounding. Real businesses have been started, and owners of existing businesses have made astounding breakthroughs that have enabled them to take their business to higher levels.

This is not a pitch. I’m just telling you what I’ve been up to. However, if you’re at all interested in learning more, please let me know. The website is still “dark” but we’ll be launching soon. So right now, I’ve got some amazing early, early bird specials going for both participants and sponsors. Leave me a comment or Contact Us here.

Economic Outlook: Moving Beyond Break-Even.

In today’s Huffington Post article, Jerry Jasinowski writes about the outlook of businesses striving to thrive and grow in today’s uncertain economic outlook. He spent a weekend meeting with various CEO’s and assessing their concerns. Here is what they identified:

  • the European recession, and it’s ongoing impact on the U.S. dollar;
  • China’s continued bias against American business, especially regarding intellectual property rights;
  • dangers of inflation due to the ongoing “quantitative easement” policies in the U.S. and abroad;
  • ongoing high unemployment and the need for updated skills and knowledge training for American workers.

This particular group of CEO’s seems cautiously optimistic. They predict U.S. economic growth at about 2% to 2.5% for 2012, not enough to absorb the excess workers still seeking employment, but good enough for most companies to get by.

What is the saving grace for American businesses? According to this group of CEO’s, most companies have “dramatically reduced their breakeven points” and strengthened their balance sheets. What this means is that many companies have restructured internally to do more with less — reducing expenses so that for any given expenditure on marketing (or any other investment, such as inventory, or equipment) has a shorter path to recoup those expenses.

This is an interesting concept, if you’ve never taken the time to think about it. What is your business’s “break-even” point? In basic terms, it is the sales level at which you neither make money (profit) nor lose money. It is the absolute minimum sales volume you need to sustain in order to not go out of business.

Let me be absolutely clear here. Your break-even must cover both your variable and fixed costs. Variable costs are basically what it takes to make the product — you buy raw materials, hire labor in proportion to the amount of “widgets” you make. Fixed costs are things you must pay every month regardless of whether you make any sales or not–things like rent, utilities, salaries. There are a lot of accounting nuances here, but that’s not the purpose of this article.

Example. You manufacture t-shirts. They cost $5.00 to make and you sell them for $10.00. You sell 100 t-shirts a month. So, your “gross revenue” is $1,000. Your “gross profit” is $500. If your overhead (rent, etc.) is $500/month, then you are just breaking even.

However, if you just think about break even, you’ll never get ahead. Break-even is like treading water. It’s not swimming!  It’s surviving. If you want to grow, and actually thrive, you need to continually infuse your business with fresh energy in the form of capital, innovation, efficiencies, etc. For example, in order to reach new customers in new markets, or more customers in the same market, you probably need to increase your spending on marketing. But if you are just at “break-even”, you don’t have those resources internally.

One of the great resources Creative Money MAGIK has available is the ability to obtain cash lines of credit for start-up and early-stage businesses with less than 2 years of business history. This is a great resource in today’s economy, and at current interest rates, they’re practically giving the money away!

If you’d like more information about how to look at your company’s break-even, or how to access credit lines for cash, please CONTACT US here!

Business Tools: Creating What You Want

I just made this video for you to learn more about the creation process – how we get from our ideas to the reality of “open for business.”

Check it out and let me know what you think!

Happy creating!

Business Planning Tools: Starting a business 2010

A lot of people I talk to today are still fearful about the economy.  While economic statistics indicate we’re out of the recession, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke forecasts a “moderate economic recovery.”  (Washington Post, April 14, 2010.)  Others are less optimistic, pointing to such factors as globalization, manufacturing obsolescence and even global warming to predict more coming chaos.

So what are America’s strengths? Why would NOW be a good time to start your own business? Why should you start a new business NOW?

I’ve said for a long time that Entrepreneurship will be one of the survival skills of the 21st century.  In 2010, we are uniquely poised to take advantage of our current situation.

In my generation (the Baby Boomers) we’re realized that there is no such thing as job security.  There isn’t even the security of retiring with a pension, and maybe not even retiring with Social Security.  Two questions arise for me from this.  One, why should I go to work for anyone else at all?  The other, when would now be a good time to start my own business?

Daniel Pink, former editor of Fast Company magazine wrote a book in 2002 called Free Agent Nation in which he documents the growing number of independently employed workers in the U.S. According to some of his numbers, fully one-third of the American workforce now operates as a free agent.  Included in this number are solo-preneurs, independent contractors, home-based business owners, network marketers, and small business owners.

With unemployment still hovering around 9.5%, (that’s over 15 million folks, folks!) and more people under-employed, or have just given up, there’s tremendous opportunity to do something useful with all this time on our hands.

If you’ve ever had a dream in your heart, have a hobby or an idea that you think you could make money at, now’s the time to start!

If you like this web site and are enjoying the information we are sharing here, please pass the web site address onto others so they can start Planning With A Heart™ also.

Doing Business Differently

Why Planning With A Heart you might ask. It all began a long time ago.

I was teaching in Prescott, Arizona (in the mid-1990’s) and involved with the Episcopal church there. The church was overflowing its physical building and brought in an architect to talk to the board about building a new building. The architect was “innovative.” He had written a paper, called “Vision With Planning.” What he proposed was that after he got the new building built, he would then lead a visioning session with all the members of the congregation to “vision” what we might want to do with the new space.

I became incensed! I thought he had done it backwards. Vision first, then planning! I wrote a paper in response, called “Planning With Vision” which later became “Planning With A Heart”. That paper is now a chapter in the book.

“Without a vision, the people perish.” (PR 29:18)

This quote has been interpreted in many different ways. To me it means that there is some hunger in our soul, some need for inspiration, without which we don’t lead as full a life.

A friend of mine, Enrique Montiel, often says, “We all contribute. Some of us contribute while we’re still alive; some of us don’t contribute until after we’re dead.” If you think about it, wouldn’t you really rather contribute now?

To contribute means to exercise your God-given talents and abilities to create a unique expression of you. Many of us do that in the context of business. To create a business takes both vision and planning. Vision, to see the future as it already exists, to know how the world will be after your vision is fulfilled. Planning – the blueprinting of your idea in as much specific detail as possible, to map out the vision that you want to fulfill.

Planning With A Heart begins by helping you to uncover the vision of your heart. It takes you through the process of fleshing out the details of your idea to make it a viable business in today’s economy. It is filled with exercises and examples to help you along the way. It is a process, not a destination.