Clues You Need a Vision Plan for Growth – How to Write It



If you don’t have a written vision plan for fast growth, the reality is that you’re losing out on potential business.

A written business plan is best. But if you don’t have the time and resources to write it, go to plan B – a vision plan.

Many companies overlook writing it even though it only needs to be one page in length for most firms.

There are all kinds of clues – having to do with foresight and focus – why a young company should develop a vision plan.

vision stockimages.

Clues you need to write a vision plan:

1. If you have little revenue growth. The longer you wait to write a plan, the more obstacles you will face.

2. If you’re continually working long hours without a return on your investment.

3, If you’re starting to feel depressed on a daily basis.

4. If you’re feeling burnout.

5. If you can’t beat the competition.

6. If you don’t have any growth.

7. If none or few products or services are increasing in sales.

8. If your profits are being squeezed.

9. If your cash flow is tight.

10. If you don’t have sufficient followers on social media or fans.

The mistake most entrepreneurs make is that they think they’ll remember all necessary details. But they stray from their plans.

“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”

-George Washington Carver

It’s key to write an action plan for your pathway to success – what you need to do to get there. You must do this before you even think about a Web site, blog or press releases.

Important elements to develop your vision plan:

1. Understand who you are

Learn a valuable lesson from Plato, who lived 428 to 348 BC, and was the world’s most-influential philosopher.

Famous for his adage, “Know thyself,” he suggested there was something special about each person. You are, too.

You can’t make smart decisions unless you know who you are and what your company is.

If you’re a micro business, remember you’re synonymous with your company. That’s why individuals evaluate themselves and their companies perform a SWOT analysis of their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Do a self assessment of your strengths and weaknesses for what you want to achieve.

You can lessen the impact of weaknesses if you improve on your strengths. Write about how you will improve on your strengths.

2. Develop an executive summary

Then, in one paragraph, summarize who you are and what you want to achieve.

Describe the niche you plan to fill. Explain what and how your firm will look like.

Very importantly: Don’t be tentative. For example, Don’t write, “I can…”. You must write with conviction: “I will…” or “my company will…”.

3. Value proposition

Differentiate your company from your competitors – ideally 10 to 15 words in length. Again, write with strong conviction so your customers will trust you.

Answer these types of questions: What benefits do you provide? Why are you credible and relevant so people will pay you for products or services?

For example, my firm’s value proposition: “The CMS Approach will save you time and money while increasing revenue in marketing, human resources and special projects.”

From these elements, write your three-to-five-word branding slogan. For example, this site’s slogan: Proven Solutions to Maximize Revenue.

Develop a simple logo that illustrates the benefits of your slogan. Allow it to be developed as a 16 x 16 pixel favicon. A favicon is important to brand your Web site.

For example, since 1992 , here’s my logo:

3. Your ideal customer

Understand the answers to this question: Who is your best opportunity as a target audience?

In addition to customers or clients, you will need Centers of Influence — people who will influence business to come your way. Identify who they are and plan to treat them as customers.

4. Turn your strengths into benefit statements

For selling situations, you will have to focus on your most-important five strengths. Develop a benefit statement for each strength for easier selling of your product or service.

5. Key indicators

When you identify key indicators of your business growth, you’ll be able to devote the right investments in money and time. Then you’ll be able to measure the results.

Use SMART as an acronym – specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-specific.

6. Cash flow

Anticipate your expenses. Detail what will be needed in resources. Be conservative. Know how you’ll manage your inventory costs.

Once you determine what your resources will cost, add another 25 percent to allow for unexpected developments. Do a break-even analysis to determine when you will be profitable.

Know which revenue stream is profitable. Identify potentialities – what you can do to make more profit for the short-term and long-term. Don’t waste time reflecting on ideas that will only yield temporary growth.

As you proceed and grow, focus on developing multiple revenue streams.

7. Analysis of your main competitors

Understand why your competitors are successful in areas you’re not. Identify companies that are growing in unique fashions.

Identify the ways in which your competitors aren’t succeeding.

8. Human capital

Identify the qualities you need in people. Only recruit people who are inspired by your value proposition and who do quality work.

9. Increasing sales

Know your best sales opportunities. When do you sell the most? How can you improve?

10. Strategies

Fill in the blanks. Write the strategies in how you will succeed. Fine tune as you go along.

From the Coach’s Corner, finally, remember if you have a dream, it’s likely you’ll be able to draw on your experience to make it happen.

Here are related tips:

Finance Checklist for Strategic Planning, Growth — Strategic planning in finance for growth means avoiding trendy fads. Instead, it requires an ongoing down-to-earth approach in order to create value. Here are seven steps.

To Realize Your Business Vision, 8 Best Practices for Setting Goals — What ever your situation is, to realize your vision, focusing on the right details is a skill conducive for strategically setting goals. Here are eight best practices.

8 Simple Strategies to Give You Pricing Power — If you’re struggling with pricing strategies, you’re not alone. Many big companies struggle, too.

Marketing Tips to Run Your Online Business for Higher Profit — E-commerce has made it possible for entrepreneurs to get a fast return on their investments with higher profits. Here’s how they do it.

14 Steps to Profit from Online Customer Reviews — For competitiveness and profits, businesses can’t afford to ignore the potential of online reviews. They’re a factor in revolutionizing commerce. Reviews are important because they influence prospective customers to buy from you. They’re also beneficial in improving your Internet presence because search-engine crawlers consider them to be relevant.

“Where there is no vision, there is no hope.”

-George Washington Carver


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Photo courtesy of stockimages at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Profit Margins: 11 Tips to Increase Sales and Minimize Markdowns



Imagine being able to sell your products at full or nearly full margins. How would you like a dream situation – not having to mark down your products?

It’s important to develop and implement responsive, multi-dimensional strategies to maximize your sales.

Achieving a decrease in markdowns probably sounds like an impossible dream. Whether you sell computer products or high-fashion clothing, you can realize stronger profits with best practices in sales.

Here are 11 sales tips:

1. Update your Web site.

Consumers are increasingly shopping online. Women are leading the charge in shopping more on the Web. Make certain you have a strong brand personality – from branding slogan and logo to value propositions.

Massage your content and merchandising. You need high quality and accuracy in images and descriptions. Consumers love environmentally sensitive businesses, so if you’re progressive learn the right steps to brand and market your company as green.

Security breaches at major companies have prompted consumers to rethink shopping the nationwide box stores, especially in the all-important fourth quarter. This represents a growth opportunity for smaller businesses.

2. Avoid lowering price points.

You can’t compete on price with the big box stores, but you can strategize to compete on other values. Eighteen percent of consumers will only buy from you if you lower your price. That means 82 percent respond favorably if you target the five value perceptions that motivate them to buy.

From my article, The 7 Steps to Higher Sales, here are the five value perceptions – what your customers sub-consciously must perceive – to motivate them to buy from you:

Employees, Spokespersons – 52 percent. The key characteristics are integrity, judgment, friendliness and knowledge. Remember, about 70 percent of your customers will buy elsewhere because they feel they’re being taken for granted by your employees. And customers normally will not tell you why they switched to your competitor.

Image of Company – 15 percent. They are concerned about the image of your company in the community. Do know cause-related marketing can increase sales by double-digit percentages? So cause-related marketing is a big plus in forging a positive image. So is cleanliness and good organization.

Quality of Product or Service Utility – 13 percent. The customer is asking the question – “What will this do for me?”

Convenience –12 percent. Customers like easy accessibility to do business with you. That includes your Web site, telephoning you, and the convenience of patronizing your business. 

Price – 8 percent. Price is important, but it’s the least concern among the five value-motivating perceptions.

 3. Focus on service.

Your best asset is personalized service. This is especially critical around the holidays, as consumers are coping with extra stress. Consider hiring extra staff during the holiday-selling season.

Be prompt when you get inquiries and other requests. Make sure everyone is schooled in listening skills and are liberal in their use of the magic words, thank you.

4. Stay open longer.

Brick-and-mortar sales still outnumber online shopping. Consider extending your hours, particularly for  Q4 profit after Thanksgiving.

5. Include some freebies.

Take a page out of Costco’s playbook. The chain knows that consumers like added value. You don’t have to be a food retailer to emulate Costco. With certain products, give something for free.

For certain products, boost sales with a coupon offer or cheap gift card.

 6. Consider providing free shipping.

Extra shipping costs are a pet peeve with most consumers. Last-minute shoppers will appreciate shipping deals.

The one caveat: To consumers, clearly communicate your deadlines and inventory levels. Use words consumers readily understand like selection instead of inventory.

 7. Fine-tune your planning.

Arrange for unique products. Display some pre-wrapped, grab-and-go products that will entice harried shoppers.

Plan your calendar to make sales through the New Year. Shoppers are still in a festive mood and are conditioned to continue shopping. Your marketing should include events, product unveiling, e-mails and more.

 8. Track external exposure.

For items with your best profit potential, keep track of your marketing initiatives. You should be sure to align marketing with sales. That means coordination of all efforts to capture sales of products you know are popular in the marketplace.

 9. Listen closely to your prospects.

The voice of the 21st century consumer is online reviews. You can’t afford to ignore the potential of online reviews. They’re a factor in revolutionizing commerce.

Reviews are important because they influence prospective customers to buy from you. They’re also beneficial in improving your Internet presence because search-engine crawlers consider them to be relevant.

Beware of any negative reviews on your inventory errors or alleged Web site misrepresentations. Be sure to profit from online customer reviews.

 10. Be competitive with pricing from the start.

Once consumers shop you, you might not get a second chance. It’s a challenge but know your competition and customer buying patterns. Set your price points right the first time. On the other hand, don’t discount your prices too much.

You should manage the sweet spot – between your price-optimization and too-low pricing. For stronger profits, avoid typical pricing mistakes.

 11. Manage your inventory.

With proper inventory management, you can lower your expenses and increase your cash flow. For many businesses, that means taking a look at your inventory costs. When your products aren’t selling, obviously, it hurts. Products just lurking and collecting dust in your warehouse are costing you money.

If you mis-categorize products or over-stock items, you’re setting yourself up for markdowns. For the best cash flow, learn how to manage your inventory costs.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related tips:

To Cope with Rising Costs, Review your Pricing Strategy — Increased costs weigh heavily on the bottom line. If you’re being pressured by costs, it’s probably time to review your pricing strategy.

8 Simple Strategies to Give You Pricing Power — If you’re struggling with pricing strategies, you’re not alone. Many big companies have struggled, too. By way of explanation, according to a 2011 study, almost 90 percent of executives in a global survey forecasted their continued growth. However, they anticipated implementing just minimal price increases as they continue to slash costs, or at least closely monitor expenses, for positive cash flow.

Groupon Will Give You a Migraine for Ignoring Pricing Principles — Whether you’re an investor, small-business advertiser or even a customer, daily deal sites can give you a major headache. Continually, there are red flags about Groupon.

You Can Creatively Manage Your Cash Flow 7 Ways — If you’re taking the pulse of your business, of course, the first thing to consider is your cash flow. If your cash flow is poor, you feel poor because you can’t pay the bills nor can you use money for what you’d like to do. Your image can also suffer with vendors or with customers, if you don’t manage your cash flow.

“Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.”

-W. Edwards Deming 


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Management/HR – How to Increase Profits via Employee Turnover



As cost centers, human resources have opportunities to shine whenever they act as profit centers. And employee turnover presents opportunities for companies to make money.

Yes, that’s right. Employee turnover can help you make money retention.

Let’s examine why by starting with a brief discussion of old school and new-school thinking.

bm&w at ambro www.freedigitalphotos.netIn the management of human resources, it’s long been considered a best practice to focus on mutual benefits. That’s especially true in preventing employee turnover.

A state of mind with a zero-sum approach that impedes employee engagement – is so 1950s.

But it isn’t always easy to focus on mutual benefits in this competitive marketplace.

Meantime, employee turnover can be very costly. No one likes to lose a good employee nor is it fun to lose an employee who’s had access to proprietary information.

So it can be costly to lose an employee’s talent and knowledge, as well as incur new costs in recruiting and hiring a replacement.

For many such situations, non-compete agreements and legal precautions are necessary.

But turnover doesn’t always have to be a negative red flag and result in a critical loss.

Two reasons why:

— Turnover can serve as a positive warning for cultural issues, as long as you identify and solve the issues.

— Turnover can also be a positive sign that you’re developing your employees.

Design a balance sheet

If you have a turnover problem, it’s productive to learn why. You also need to learn which of them represent risks and those who aren’t.

There’s a big difference in terms of risk in employees who resign to work for your clients or vendors (e.g. group A) vis-à-vis your competitors (e.g. group B).

Employees in group A, represent opportunities for your growth. Such former employees might eventually serve as your brand ambassadors or provide you with competitive insights.

From employees in group B, people who go to work for your competitors, it’s a possible threat but not always. Distinguish between competition and customer.

Ask yourself: “Is this company a competitor in all lines of business?” If not, go easy.

Silver lining

You’ve heard the expression, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” A silver lining is a metaphor for optimism.  (It refers to a phrase written in 1634 by John Milton in Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle.”)

Just as a cloud can be an impediment, employers can take steps to make certain that employee turnover has a silver lining.

Instead of fretting over employee turnover and possibly amputating relationships, why not be optimistic and capitalize on the turnover?

With the right approach — to engage and partner with your staff – employee turnover is a stimulus for profit by enhancing competitive intelligence and business development.

You can spot countless examples in the interactions on LinkedIn and elsewhere.

Profit opportunities

Turnover is an opportunity to increase the value of your human capital. That’s possible when departing employees share their knowledge with co-workers before leaving the firm.

Many departed employees continue to maintain their relationships with their former co-workers.

Further, they share their newly learned ideas and information from their new employers with former co-workers.

Relationships are enhanced as employees continue to share ideas or even as they compete with one another.

Companies profit as their former employees and current workers promote themselves online, in industry associations and pro bono work.

Many companies have alumni networks which work well with their outreach strategies – for rehiring employees, company branding, strategic alliances and word-of-mouth advertising.

What are some other ways?

From the Coach’s Corner, related information:

Management: How to Help Employees to Grow Professionally — Managers owe it to the organization to help their employees grow professionally. It’s hard, time-consuming work. But the return on investment is terrific.

Human Resources — Strategies and Metrics for Business Profits — Professionals in human resources could use more respect in the C-suite. To silence critics and to garner praise for helping their companies to profits, obviously, it’s in the best interest of HR professionals to use the right strategies and metrics.

Trends — Employee Engagement and Business Success — Many companies will be more successful if they update their approaches in human resources. That’s the obvious conclusion from eye-opening information that was revealed in a survey of 40,000 employees at 300 companies. When companies implement outstanding human resources programs, they’re more profitable than their competitors that don’t.

HR Tips — So Your Recruiting Enhances Diversity, Not Sexism — Can we agree that a diverse workplace leads to innovation, problem-solving and enhanced enterprise communication? And, as you know, inequality is unlawful. Why then are there so many companies that unknowingly, perhaps, promote sexism? That’s right. An academic study shows that many job postings are gender biased.

Human Resources – Power Your Brand with Employee Empowerment — Are you investing in marketing, but not getting the anticipated return on your investment? If you’re disappointed by your ROI, remember marketing may or may not be the problem. Why? Consider there are two basic reasons for poor profits – again, that’s profits not revenue.

“It might be said that it is the ideal of the employer to have production without employees and the ideal of the employee is to have income without work.”

-E.F. Schumacher


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.  




Photo courtesy of Ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

14 Tips to Profit from Online Customer Reviews



For competitiveness and profits, businesses can’t afford to ignore the potential of online reviews. They’re a factor in revolutionizing commerce.

Reviews are important because they influence prospective customers to buy from you. They’re also beneficial in improving your Internet presence because search-engine crawlers consider them to be relevant.

Relevance is critical in a digital world to attract customers.

Online reviews provide you with a fertile source of unique and frequently updated content with relevant keywords.

Friends Free PhotoThey’re a source of valuable market research for understanding consumers.

This paves the way to allow you to provide enhanced service to your customers, which leads to higher sales as consumers develop trust in your company.

Even negative reviews are an opportunity for growth.

They help you to monitor your word-of-mouth for customer satisfaction, and to deal with any problems.

In effect, reviews are also tools for search engine optimization (SEO).

Effective SEO means you benefit from a fertile source of keywords for improved rankings, and research for better customer service.

Obtaining reviews

To get positive reviews you must be creative and assertive to ask for them.

Reviews are important because they influence prospective customers to buy from you. They’re also beneficial in improving your Internet presence because search-engine crawlers consider them to be relevant.

Here are 14 tips:

1. Lay the groundwork for positive reviews. Focus on exemplary customer service.

2. If a customer seems pleased by a purchase, ask the person to write a review when they get a moment. Avoid offering discounts or other incentives.

3. E-commerce companies can request comments via e-mail.

4. In some cases, businesspeople can provide written tips on how and where to write reviews.

5. Depending on your sector, get reviews planted in the same environment as your competitors. Do your research. For instance, consider HomeStars, RateMDs, Urbanspoon or TripAdvisor.

6. Invite reviews on generic review sites: Angie’s List, Citysearch, Consumer Search, Insider Pages, Google Reviews/Local/Places/+, Yahoo! Local Listings, and Yelp.

7. Encourage reviews on Web sites that carry extra business clout, such as the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports. Note: If you decide to act on this strategy, first develop a relationship with the sites.

8. Encourage consumers to share on their social networks. There are about 300 social-sharing sites. The most prominent are Facebook and Twitter. (LinkedIn discontinued its “Products and Services” service in April, 2014.)

9. Leverage the power of sites you control. Invite customers to share on your Facebook and Twitter pages. You might even add a section for testimonials on your own Web site. While you’re at it, insert your social-media buttons, and an “AddThis” toolbar for your customers’ use.

10. Send a personal e-mail to your frequent customers inviting them to leave a review.

11. If you are in frequent contact with customers via e-mail, include links to your online review profiles in your e-mail signature.

12. If you have a monthly newsletter, include a link to your social networks, especially Google+. If you want to start a newsletter, scroll down to the “Coach’s Corner” for a link to tips.

13. Install a review station in your business with a computer or tablet to make it possible for customer to sign-in to your online profiles to leave a review. Include a feature, “Review of the month.” Extroverted consumers will be likely to leave a review.

14. If you do get a bad review, respond right away with a soft, positive tone to show the world you care about providing excellent customer service.

Finally, a caution about Google reviews — don’t focus entirely on soliciting reviews via Google. Too many Google reviews are a red flag to Google’s crawlers.

From the Coach’s Corner, related tips:

SEO Tips to Rank No.1 on Bing and Google — Study — There are striking similarities with Bing and Google — Web sites for top brands rank the highest and No. 1 sites are dominant because they have quality content, as well as strong social media signals and backlinks.

Marketing – Have You Considered the Potential of e-Newsletters? — There are several benefits if you include e-Newsletters in your marketing mix. The most salient is that they’re a great way to achieve top-of-mind awareness with your customers. Further, as a form of content marketing, they’re a favorite of B2B marketers.

Why Companies Are High Maintenance to Customers (but Don’t Know It) — Businesses are losing more than they know because they inconvenience customers. Such negative customer perceptions result in lost opportunities in revenue growth, tarnished branding and smaller profit margins, according to a study.

Energize Your Customer-Loyalty Program with 6 Steps — The quickest way for established businesses to optimize revenue is to have a stellar customer-loyalty program — there are six steps you can take for repeat sales and referrals. If you’re not a great steward of your current book of business, it’s futile to look for new customers.

Make Your Blogging, Social Media and PR Work to Attract Fans — Businesspeople have discovered social media is a work in progress. It takes huge amounts of time, not only to implement innovations, but to succeed.

Want More Business? Build Trust with Consumers…Here’s How — With consumers trying to cope with information overload – you will increase sales with long-term customer loyalty – if you build trust by using best practices.

“Too many brands treat social media as a one way, broadcast channel, rather than a two-way dialogue through which emotional storytelling can be transferred.”

-Simon Mainwaring 


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.



For Stronger Profits, Avoid 11 Typical Pricing Mistakes



In general, how can you manage the sweet spot – between your price-optimization and costs?

Dennis Brown of the consulting firm, Atenga (www.atenga.com), says many companies make 11 pricing mistakes:

1. Companies base their prices on their costs, not their customers’ perceptions of value. “In certain circumstances, there are strategic reasons a company may decide to sell a product below its cost for a period of time, or to a certain market segment as a ‘loss leader,’ Brown writes. “However, when a price is set according to the perceived value of the product or service, sales are brisk, and profits are maximized.”

profits-618373_12802. Companies base their prices on the marketplace. Marketplace pricing is a resting place for companies that have given up, and where profits end up being razor thin,” he says. “Instead of giving up, these management teams must find ways to differentiate their products or services so as to create additional value for specific market segments.”

3. Companies attempt to achieve the same profit margin across different product lines. “Some financial strategies support a drive for uniformity, and companies try to achieve identical profit margins for disparate product lines,” he believes. “The iron law of pricing is that different customers will assign different values to identical products.”

4. Companies fail to segment their customers. “The value proposition for any product or service is different in different market segments, and the price strategy must reflect that difference,” he asserts. “Your price realization strategy should include options that tailor your product, packaging, delivery options, marketing message and your pricing structure to particular customer segments, in order to capture the additional value created for these segments.”

5. Companies hold prices at the same level for too long, ignoring changes in costs, competitive environment and in customers’ preferences. “It is important to recognize that the value proposition of your products changes along with changes in the marketplace, and you must adjust your pricing to reflect these changes,” Brown explains.

“The value proposition for any product or service is different in different market segments, and the price strategy must reflect that difference.”

6. Companies often incentivize their salespeople on revenue generated, rather than on profits. “Volume-based sales incentives create a drain on profits when salespeople are compensated to push volume at the lowest possible price,” he writes.

7. Companies change prices without forecasting competitors’ reactions. “Smart companies know enough about their competitors to forecast their reactions, and prepare for them,” he adds.

8. Companies spend insufficient resources managing their pricing practices. “In fact pricing is of outmost importance, and a key element of the marketing mix,” he says. “Good pricing strategies use hard data generated by modern methods such as Value Attribute Positioning, Conjoint Analysis or Van Westendorp’s Price Sensitivity Meter, to generate accurate hard data on the perceived value of a product or service, thereby enabling mangers to maximize their profits by optimizing their prices.”

9. Companies fail to establish internal procedures to optimize prices. “Price optimization data comes from focused research,” he points out.

10. Companies spend most of their time serving their least profitable customers. “While 80 percent of a company’s profits generally come from 20 percent of its customers, a careful review of the data often will show surprises, since a company’s largest customers are often only marginally profitable,” he says.

11. Companies rely on salespeople and other customer-facing staff for intelligence about the value perceptions of their customers. “Such people are an uncertain source, because their information gathering methodology is often haphazard, and the information obtained thereby can be purely anecdotal,” he explains.

Here’s a tip of the Biz Coach cap to the consultant’s philosophies. Mr. Brown’s points are valid.

You might also consider that many value-conscious customers would appreciate a cash discount in lieu of paying by credit card, which would also save you a credit-card processing fee.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are more profit-making tips:

Why Companies Are High Maintenance to Customers (but Don’t Know It) – Businesses are losing more than they know because they inconvenience customers. Such negative customer perceptions result in lost opportunities in revenue growth, tarnished branding and smaller profit margins, according to a study.

Classic Red Flags You’re about to Lose a Sale – How to Save It – You’re in the hunt for new business. You’ve done your research about a prospective anchor client. You’ve had some preliminary discussions. Now, you’re seated with the person and making your case. But will you seal the deal? Here are the red flags you’re about to lose the sale, and what to do about it.

To Cope with Rising Costs, Review your Pricing Strategy – Increased costs weigh heavily on the bottom line. If you’re being pressured by costs, it’s probably time to review your pricing strategy.  You’re not alone. No business is immune from rising costs in fuel; rent or real estate; labor; health insurance and ObamaCare; marketing; and equipment.

“How I Love Lucy was born? We decided that instead of divorce lawyers profiting from our mistakes, we’d profit from them.”

-Lucille Ball


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




For Profits, Manage Your Growth at the Right Pace



Entrepreneurs frequently try to rush their business growth. Certainly, growth is great but if you scale too fast, you’re looking for trouble. The key is to prepare.

Note: You aren’t ready to grow if you haven’t developed a business model that will enable you to attract customers – at less cost – than what they pay you.

How do you get there? Success comes after you develop habits that will help you build your brand, develop sound business operations and successfully deal with people.

bwi ambro www.freedigitalphotos.netHabits that lead to success:

1. Develop viable goals.

It’s OK to dream long term, but you must develop a foundation for growth with short-term goals. You must do all you can to alleviate uncertainty.

Think profits, not revenue, in order to create wealth, meaningful jobs and business sustainability. Develop a plan with the right strategies to create pricing power.

2. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.

Socrates is famous for “Know thyself.” He was right. You need to know what you don’t know and plan accordingly.

Anticipate challenges. Half of them involve your employees.

So prepare. That includes motivating your staff when you’re facing adversity.

It also means proper delegating.To propel profits, maintain high morale.

It’s also in your best interest to motivate employees to offer you profitable ideas.

3. Monitor your improvement.

Get an objective analysis by making the best investment possible to sustain your growth — find a mentor. With the mentor’s coaching, measure your progress at frequent intervals – each week is ideal – to make certain you’re on schedule.

Success comes after you develop habits that will help you build your brand, develop sound business operations and successfully deal with people.

4. Schedule your time.

Many entrepreneurs find themselves trapped into fighting proverbial fires and get easily thrown off track.

By Thursday afternoon, you should know your schedule for the following week. But, of course, allow for flexibility.

5. Network with others.

Find a group of people with whom you can trust to share your concerns, problems and goals.

6. Keep learning.

Do what you have to do for continuous learning. That might mean voraciously reading, or attending classes and workshops.

7. Be discerning.

Don’t chase every opportunity just to make revenue, but be careful before turning down new business.

8. Continually scout for the best talent.

Hire enthusiastic people who will complement your talents to help you realize your vision for success. Give particular consideration to hiring key employees and top salespeople.

Once your habits are ingrained, start thinking seriously about growth.

Plan to grow your business at the right pace:

1. Anticipate how your cash burn rate will be affected by growth. Your burn rate is how much money you spend.  Understand how much cash is needed to grow. Learn to manage your inventory costs and continually strive to increase your cash flow

2. Use caution in hiring. You’ll need more employees, but beware of the costs – recruiting, hiring, paying and retaining. Consider outsourcing wherever feasible.

3. Plan your milestones. Focus on your goals with pragmatic timelines, and increase enough cash to finance your acceleration and goals.

4. Create the right systems. Make certain to have the right systems in place – from solid operations checklists to financials and debt collection

5. Strategize to stay in the black. Because scaling requires cash, know what the four drivers that influence your profit. If you think you’re ready to grow, first anticipate your break-even point

From the Coach’s Corner, additional tips:

When there’s No Cash, 8 Tips to Organically Grow Your Business  — Organically growing a business is lot like organic farming. Organic farmers pay attention to the signs of nature as a planting guide. They use rich sources of organic matter to build and maintain soil fertility. If you’re like many entrepreneurs, it probably makes sense to grow organically. You might not have another choice.

Insights to Grow Your Business by FranchisingSome micro-business owners like their situations and don’t want to grow. Most entrepreneurs want to expand. If you, too, want to grow and if you use the right methods, your company can grow profitably. Also, when there’s no cash, you can organically grow your business.

When Should You Develop an Exit Strategy? Now…Here’s How — You should always have an exit strategy in place – no matter what. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a veteran business owner, you should always have an exit strategy.

“I don’t want to do business with those who don’t make a profit, because they can’t give the best service.”

-Richard Bach


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry. 





Photo courtesy of Ambro at www.freedigitalphotos.net

You Can Drive Business Profit with a Mid-Year Operations Audit


Are your profits flat despite a bigger marketing budget? Here’s how you can regroup before Q4 with a mid-year operations audit.



So, you’ve installed an elite marketing program, but you aren’t meeting financial projections? Well, there’s one likely suspect – your internal operations.

Find out where your human-capital problems are, so you can implement profit solutions. Consider an internal operations audit.

It can spot typical operational challenges such as dysfunctional supply chains; failures in green-business practices; IT security issues; and unnecessary risks that threaten business disruptions.

ID-10063936 podpadUse an internal audit to unearth the problems with 10 strategies:

1. Be respectful of your employees — don’t endanger morale

Many employees get nervous any time a big boss or management consultant suddenly enters their space with a clipboard full of questions.

Treat employees as experts. Be diplomatic. Explain the overall reasons for the audit. First, meet with your leaders and get their feedback then meet everyone individually before considering staff meetings.

2. Encourage your employees to participate in the process

That’s accomplished by active listening with open-ended questions to get information. This isn’t about telling employees what they’re doing right and wrong.

You need to know the realities they face in the operational costs of their daily responsibilities. In addition, they need to know what drives profit to improve cash flow. See who knows about profit drivers and who doesn’t.

The solution: Start creating a partnership with your employees. If employees perceive that a partnership exists, you’ll be closer to achieving the desired results.

3. Make certain you have a distinct, companywide understanding of all your systems

Employees can’t perform well in chaos. Check to see if you’re employing best practices that include solid operations checklists.

4. Examine everything – don’t be complacent

Don’t omit any area. Check every phase of your business. That includes employee morale. High morale among employees propels profits.

5. Take steps to empower your employees

Don’t be afraid of negative news. Welcome it. You can literally power your brand with employees who aren’t afraid to speak.

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

-Albert Einstein

6. Segue to profitable ideas

Don’t keeping focusing on the problems. Change direction.  Instead, encourage discussions for improvement in the challenges.

Ultimately, the goal is to motivate employees to offer profitable ideas, such as properly managing your inventory costs for positive cash flow. Remember, it’s a matter of principles, not finger pointing at personalities.

7. Double down – follow all salient areas and gauge your progress

You’ll need to know the most stubborn issues in order to save time and increase revenue. Your audit should reveal what’s changed and what hasn’t.

Hint: You can increase your business value with five basic business-process optimization strategies.

8. Continue to consider your employees’ perceptions

Not all employees will be on the same page with you for business growth. You can ease the process by dealing with their biggest concern – what’s in it for them – then, they’re more likely to cooperate enthusiastically.

Trust between management and your workforce helps. Implement leadership strategies for employee respect, and take steps to boost your employees’ morale.

9. Think and act like one of your valued customers

Your audit should consider your customers’ perspectives – what’s working for them, what isn’t and what would solve the issues.

Look for two common problems:

1o. Be pragmatic and balanced

Often, there’s a tendency to belabor the negatives without focusing enough on the positives. Make sure your reports are balanced.

If you’re not balanced, it will become unnecessarily difficult to market your changes to employees.

From the Coach’s Corner, related information:

8 Strategies When Sales Drop and Costs Cut into Your Profits — If your sales are down and costs are hurting your profits, you’re not alone. The irony is you can do something about it — with these eight tips.

13 Management Tips to Solve Employee Absenteeism — Absenteeism causes migraines for a lot of bosses. Obviously, your company will make healthier profits, if you don’t have an absenteeism problem.

HR Management – 8 Best Practices in Employee Delegation — Delegation is a fundamental driver of organizational growth. Managers who are effective in delegation show leadership. Here are eight best practices.

6 Steps to Implement a Cultural Change for Profits — If your company is lacking in teamwork, morale is poor and profits are weak, chances are you need to change your organization’s culture.

No one so thoroughly appreciates the value of constructive criticism as the one who is giving it.


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Photo courtesy of podpad at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Unhappy with Your Marketing-Sales? Assess Your Culture



If you’re dissatisfied with your revenue, it’s time for an assessment of your culture’s operation. Why? Superior cultures drive business performance.

Specifically, two key elements of culture – innovation and responsiveness – have a direct impact on your company’s sales success. You must be a top innovator to beat the competition, and your teams have to respond and execute strategic planning with cohesion.

They “have to work in tandem…to drive performance,” says George Chressanthis, a professor of healthcare management and marketing, and the lead author of a Temple University study.

argument-238529_1280He was joined by assistant professor Eric Eisenstein, PhD, and doctoral student Patrick Barbro in the study: “What is the Role of Commercial Operations Effectiveness on Improving Pharmaceutical Company Business Performance?”

True, it was aimed at the pharmaceutical sector.

But the lessons and applications are universal – the study’s authors provide the empirical documentation in the link between revenue and culture.

“We studied company self-reported data on their own commercial operations, totaling 26 biopharmaceutical firms in the U.S. for the period 2005 to 2011,” wrote the authors. “The sample of companies included large, medium, and small-sized pharmaceutical companies, and specialty and biotech companies.”

They said the “sample included companies that are headquartered in U.S., Europe, and Japan.”

Sales value

The report shows that the average company that improves its cultural innovation by just a .5 standard deviation of improvement is huge – a 17 percent increase in sales – $314,000 for each sales representative.

In a zero-sum game environment, the implication for under-performing companies is dour. Sales will go down every time a competitor achieves higher sales performance.

The study is ongoing and will take into account other variables, such as product differentiation.

“This will help us understand what, if any, changes we need to make in our analysis before submission of our work to an academic peer-reviewed journal for publication consideration,” explains Dr. Chressanthis.

For example, the study’s results have salient repercussions in the biopharma sector. In particular, he referred to companies looking for merger opportunities because they’re worried about their expiring patents.

Such companies should be investigating their target companies for evidence of a strong culture for a healthy merger ROI.

What if such a jewel is found? “What you don’t want to do is disturb that,” advises the professor.

Conclusions

“A commercially successful pharmaceutical industry is crucial to society for the future development of new drugs to address unmet medical needs,” wrote the authors.

“This research demonstrated the importance of executives being concerned not only about the level and placement of resource investments, but also in formulating a strategic vision that creates and fosters cultural organizational attributes necessary to sustain peak business performance,” they concluded.

And that’s true for any sector in business.

From the Coach’s Corner, editor’s picks for strategies to fix your culture and sales issues:

6 Steps to Implement a Cultural Change for Profits — If your company is lacking in teamwork, morale is poor and profits are weak, chances are you need to change your organization’s culture. Be forewarned, changing a culture is a monumental chore because it will take strategic planning and super powers of persuasion. Usually, it necessitates an outside participant to assess your culture and to facilitate the changes.

6 Rules to Keep Your Pipeline Full for Continuous Sales — It doesn’t matter what type of business you have. Even if your sales are great today, there will come a time when sales will crawl to a halt unless you take precautionary measures to keep your sales pipeline full. Yep, that’s right. Never take sales for granted — when it comes to sales keep on truckin’. Never stop marketing. Take good care of your customers, but make marketing your top priority — every day — to prevent a roller coaster ride of profit and loss.

6 Tips to Create New Sales with Successful Cold Calling — For most businesspeople in a lackluster economy, it’s important to create new opportunities with successful cold calling. Yes, it’s necessary to concentrate more efforts to create new sales. Attending mere networking events or depending on a high marketing budget aren’t sufficient for strong sales. OK, cold calling isn’t always easy, but you must if you want to dramatically increase sales in double-digit percentages. Develop and implement the right strategies. You’ll be in the all-important groove for a happy buying environment.

Four Tips to Motivate Employees When You’re Facing Adversity — Effective bosses have antennas to alert them over looming challenges. If they don’t have such an antenna, it’s important for them to develop one for multiple credibility reasons. Even the bosses of small companies can suffer from image problems externally and internally. Either one or both will adversely affect profits.

Overcoming Obstacles for Business Turnaround — 13 Steps — For a successful turnaround of financially troubled businesses, there are usually two obstacles to overcome. They include the ego of the business owner or CEO, and poor advice by the lawyers. It’s difficult for a business owner or CEO to accept the need for a turnaround specialist. Most often, they’re in denial about the company’s prospects or they don’t believe an outside participant can come to their rescue with restructuring services. An ethical turnaround specialist will do the right thing.

“If your culture doesn’t like geeks, you are in real trouble.”
-Bill Gates


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.





Profits — Understanding the Marriage of Technology and Human Behavior



Whether you’re selling products, services or both – your marketing/sales future depends on whether you’re up-to-date on technology. That’s because it’s so intertwined with human behavior.

An interesting article in Ad Age was a relevant reminder.

Entitled, “CMOs Explain Why They’re Flocking to Vegas for CES,” the January 2012 article explained why thousands of advertising and marketing professionals consider the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a must-attend event.

ID-100112923 marinThe obvious conclusion: CES is vital for their job security.

On a macro level, marketers attend CES to stay abreast of technology and the resulting human behavior – how people connect with brands. They understand the importance of profiting from emerging human behaviors.

Not to criticize, but that’s why it’s so puzzling that Microsoft ended its 15-year association with CES as the anchor sponsor. Yes, I understand the reasons given by Microsoft.

But when you own a franchise, you don’t give it away. You’ll never recoup it. And CES is the go-to tech event at the start of every year. Like soft drinks and Coke, Microsoft needs to be synonymous with new technology.

Further, there’s a matter of developing centers of influence. Bonding with people who can influence business your way.

It’s a chance to meet face-to-face with thousands of influential people and to stay abreast of technology. And as each year passes with new evolving technology, CES becomes more important.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are marketing resource links to keep up with your competitors –

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

-Thomas A. Edison

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Photo courtesy of marin at www.freedigitalphotos.net

Understanding Customers — Social Media Humbles Companies



Marketing is the understanding of your customer for the cost-effective process of selling the right product or service at the right time and at the right price.

Inexplicably, twice Verizon has now learned the power of social media. In Feb. 2017, it was forced to add an unlimited data plan after T-Mobile got great buzz and increased its market share at Verizon’s expense.

Ironically, Verizon had already joined the list of big companies failing to understand how poor research and judgment would draw fire from their customers and social media.

You might recall the wireless company announced a controversial $2 fee on their customers for making one-time telephone or Web payments. It was to take effect on Jan. 15, 2012. Less than 24 hours after making the announcement, Verizon was forced to rescind its scheme.

social-media-550763_1280Why?

Verizon was lacking in discernment, and the fee announcement instantaneously drew the wrath from thousands of jolted customers.

Social media was buzzing. More than 100,000 customers signed a Change.org petition demanding the company change course.

A regulatory agency, the Federal Communications Commission, announced it would investigate the issue.

In turn, Verizon was startled into reality. It was a sharp reminder that Verizon misread the situation. To be fair, Verizon isn’t alone.

More examples

Netflix backtracked on its decision to break up a division – morphing its DVD rental service into something called Qwikster.

Poor sales caused the CEO to take a cut in his remuneration.

Bank of America incurred the wrath of thousands of customers when it announced a $5 charge for using debit cards. Thousands of customers became credit union members.

What were they thinking? Why aren’t such companies aware of the implications of the Digital Age and the economy?

Marketing is the understanding of your customer for the cost-effective process of selling the right product or service at the right time and at the right price.

Apparently, executives need to spend some time in sales with customers. They need to think 1930s’ values for business success. Consumer attitudes have been reverting back to where they were several decades ago.

Verizon, Bank of America and Netflx should have enough marketing sophistication to understand the economic elasticity of consumer attitudes and fees.

To the businesses, they were only charging a little extra money. To their customers, it was a strong perception of greed and unfairness.

Customers now in charge

Add social media to the mix and the companies face a firestorm. Not only is it a waste of corporate time and money, such naiveté leads to a dilution of their brands and weakening of sales.

The Internet launched an era of consumer awareness. That was both good news and bad news for business.

It gave Web users unprecedented power – power for them to research brands and prices – and power to share critical information with countless other users.

And given this economy, Internet users and all consumers are more concerned than ever about value.

So it’s important for companies to use best practices to optimize their brands and manage their Web reputations.

It’s also a good time to review PR crisis-management tips, research their customers and make certain that they’re discerning correctly.

Again, the lesson:

Marketing is the understanding of your customer for the cost-effective process of selling the right product or service at the right time and at the right price.

From the Coach’s Corner, more tips:

Want More Business? Build Trust with Consumers…Here’s How — With consumers trying to cope with information overload – you will increase sales with long-term customer loyalty – if you build trust by using best practices. It may be an obvious approach, but it’s confirmed by a 2012 study that shows 84 percent of the respondents declared trust must be warranted before they buy.

8 Simple Strategies to Give You Pricing Power — If you’re struggling with pricing strategies, you’re not alone. Many big companies have struggled, too.

Critical Essentials to Develop the Best Marketing Formula — There are critical essentials for marketing, which includes the right channels and developing the right message. That includes the right branding slogan and logo. Unless your targeting upscale consumers, many consumers prefer value marketing — not cute, which doesn’t necessarily mean selling at a lower price than your competitors.

14 Steps to Profit from Online Customer Reviews — For competitiveness and profits, businesses can’t afford to ignore the potential of online reviews. They’re a factor in revolutionizing commerce. Reviews are important because they influence prospective customers to buy from you. They’re also beneficial in improving your Internet presence because search-engine crawlers consider them to be relevant.

“The only thing that’s worse than being blind, is having sight but no vision.”

-Helen Keller


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.






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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.