Your Business, Positioned To Succeed

Since you’ve made the commitment to go into business, as a Freelance Solopreneur who offers B2B or B2C services or an Entrepreneur, who employs a leadership team to operate a complex venture you, the founder and leader, will be expected to position your enterprise for profitability and success.

Strategic planning is the process by which business leaders aim to create sustainable success for their organization and it is the essence of business planning.  Strategic plans typically forecast the upcoming 36 months.  Strategic planning is eventually undertaken by all business leaders who fully grasp their responsibilities.

Freelance Solopreneurs might request that their advisory board members participate in the strategic plan development.  Entrepreneurs can count on their team leaders and they may also invite other staff members to contribute to the process.

Step 1: A SWOT Analysis to reveal where the organization is today

Suggest that the planning team use the classic strategy planning tool, the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) Analysis matrix.  SWOT asks the planning team to acknowledge and document the current reality of the organization, in preparation for deciding how and when to move forward with plans for growth.

In the SWOT, basic information such as identifying resources that can be considered competitive advantages and factors that are considered minuses, start the process. Note that the Strengths and Weaknesses categories ask the team to acknowledge internal factors, that is, conditions that the organization can influence.  The Opportunities and Threats categories hold external factors that the organization can strive to exploit or avoid as needed, but are unable to control.

Perhaps the most important document for the planning team to examine is the Income (Profit & Loss) Statement.  Over the previous 8 to 12 quarters, have total net sales revenues met the forecast projections? What is the trajectory of (top line) gross sales? The P & L includes categories for each product and service that is sold and reveals the history of sales, gross and net.  That data allows for reasonable projection forecasts to be made for sales revenue performance in the near term and up to three years out.  From the P & L. the team will also acknowledge production or acquisition costs of goods sold for each product and service; all marketing and advertising costs; selling costs; fixed operating expenses; payroll expenses; and taxes, local and federal.

Your accountant will be an excellent resource for financial data analysis (whether or not your team includes a fiscal controller) and will be able to recommend attainable goals that will strengthen the company’s fiscal future, information that is essential to the SWOT process.

Statistics and other Information on market share, current and newly arrived competitors and changes in technology, government regulations, or the priorities and preferences of target markets, which can either help or hurt the plans for long-term growth and success, can be culled from quarterly or annual marketing data and reviewed during the SWOT process.  Quality control, operational processes and customer service protocols should likewise be included in the SWOT Analysis.

Step 2: Use the SWOT results to determine your company’s best growth goals

Once the strategy planning team has a clear picture of the current conditions of the business, the next step is to decide what growth could look like for the organization.  It is strongly recommended that the team research potential growth opportunities for the business, to first understand where expansion can be expected to be sustainable and second, the short and long-term expectations for the proposed expansion.

Plans for operational efficiencies, such as improvements in service delivery, customer service protocols, quality control and inventory management could also be evaluated and strategies for improvements formulated during the SWOT, since these elements can impact business growth and perception of the brand.

Decision-making is a huge part of leadership and the team will demonstrate its prowess here. in Step 2. Your team will have been guided by a comprehensive and candid SWOT Analysis, which allows the team to develop plans and move forward with confidence.

Step 3: Strategies, Action Plans, Monitoring and Review

Once the direction for growth has been determined and the financial and operational upgrades needed to promote that growth have been identified, then a list of growth objectives can be proposed and agreed upon by the planning team.  Once the growth objectives have been officially accepted, then the affiliated strategies and action plans, with time tables and milestones to mark interim demonstrations of success, can be developed, discussed and accepted by the team,

Major planning initiatives benefit from monthly or quarterly review, so that incorrect assumptions and forecasts can be quickly revealed and corrections made.  An internal communications plan designed to keep plan participants and non-participating staff apprised of the strategic plan’s progress supports the motivation to continue to carry out the action plans that drive success on the ground.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Business Planning for Nonprofit Organizations

A successful nonprofit organization requires not only a vision and mission that resonate,  but also a good business model and well thought out operational,  marketing and financial plans.  There must be a sufficient number of constituents in need of programs and services that the organization would provide.  Planning to ensure growth and sustainability into the future must be carried out.

Over the last 5 years or so,  foundations that make major grants to nonprofit organizations have begun to require that aspiring recipients submit a business plan in the application materials.  Apparently,  a proliferation of grant requests has prompted many deep-pocket foundations to demand evidence of viability and responsible leadership and management in nonprofits they agree to fund.

The goal of nonprofit organization leaders is to ensure that all programs and services offered by the organization reflect its mission and are expertly delivered.  The organization must attract a desirable number of constituents,  be fully staffed and operate at optimum capacity.  Good relationships with donors must exist and sources of reliable funding must be in place.  The leadership team should have reason to be optimistic about the organization’s ongoing viability and relevance within target constituent groups.  A business plan (and strategic plan) will see to it that nonprofits put those building blocks in place.

Business plans differ from strategic plans in that the focus is on finance.  A start-up nonprofit organization in search of initial funding,  or an existing nonprofit that has plans to expand or upgrade programs,  services,  capital equipment or office facilities will find that developing a business plan will better demonstrate the organization’s viability to potential major donors and strengthen the case for financial support.

When preparing to write the business plan,  the leadership team will take a big-picture 360-degree view of all aspects of the organization,   including the social and economic environment in which it operates,   target constituents groups,  the business model as it relates to the mission,  the financial health of the organization,  specifics of the proposed expansion or upgrades,  the funding request and details of how funds received will be utilized.  The business planning process will also encourage leaders to:

  • Connect the dots between the mission and programs and services delivered
  • Acknowledge operational efficiencies and strengths
  • Establish performance metrics for programs and services offered
  • Clarify the profile of the constituents and identify emerging needs for services and programs
  • Update and refine marketing and communication strategies and channels
  • Identify short and long-term funding needs and identify where funds will be designated

In small organizations,  the Board of Directors,  along with the Executive Director,  will write the business plan.  In larger organizations,  the Development Director,  Operations Director,  Finance Director and other senior staff share the responsibility.

The business plan for your nonprofit will compel the leadership team to acknowledge and address critical questions that face the organization and demonstrate to potential major donors that plans are underway to overcome challenges,  exploit opportunities,  improve constituent services and more fully express the organization’s vision and mission.

For more information on business plan writing tailored to nonprofit organizations,  please tune in to Writing Wednesdays on Wednesday December 4 at 3:00 PM EST  (2:00 PM Central, 1:00 PM Mountain, 12:00 PM Pacific)  http://www.writingtomakeadifference.com/archives/4007

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Be An Inspiration

Let’s end  this ugly year, this annus horribilis, on a high note!  I’d been looking for the right way to close 2009 and put us in the frame of mind to create a much better year in 2010.  I think I’ve found what I was looking for– maybe you will agree?

I recently read an excellent article by Alaina Love, writing for Business Week Magazine on December 22, 2009.  Ms. Love is a nationally known leadership expert and president of Purpose Linked  Consulting.  She is also co-author of “The Purpose Linked Organization: How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results” (2009).

Ms. Love presented what she calls the Inspiration Continuum: 10 behaviors and characteristics that she feels identify a true leader.  Whether you are a Freelancer,  CEO of a company large or small,  or a senior manager I think you will find this information applicable to your circumstances.  I pass this string of pearls along to you and hope that you will be inspired to integrate this wisdom into your business practices:

1.   Authentic rather than phony

The words,  actions and beliefs of inspirational leaders are consistent.  These leaders are not phony or pretending to be someone they are not.

2.   Reliable rather than erratic

Employees know they can count on inspirational leaders to guide the organization to clearly defined goals on a well thought-out course.  They do not confuse an already struggling workforce with erratic behavior and constantly shifting priorities.

3.   Anchored rather than disconnected

These leaders are well positioned in the flow of the business and the organization’s culture.  They are clued in to contemporary trends and issues,  rather than disconnected from current realities.

4.   Optimistic rather than pessimistic

Inspirational leaders demonstrate a world view of possibility and abundance.  They are not unaware of the challenges and difficulties the organization may be facing, but they choose instead to focus on both how and why the organization will be successful.

5.   Self-aware rather than unconscious

They understand their strengths and passions as well as their vulnerabilities and blind spots and they work diligently to leverage the former and minimize the latter.

6.   Driven by purpose and passion rather than power and fear

Inspirational leaders understand the tremendous power of a well-articulated purpose and a passionate workforce that embraces it.  They get results not through wielding power and inculcating fear,  but rather by creating a vision in which others can become engaged.

7.   Inclusive rather than divisive

These leaders value the input of others and seek out opinions from a widely diverse base.  They recognize that divisiveness and exclusion do not lead to quality results or strengthen teamwork.

8.   Focused on others rather than self-focused

Inspirational leaders focus first on creating a positive environment for others and leaving a valued business legacy and only secondarily on their own needs.  They will make tough choices that benefit the business over the long term,  rather than trade the future for a short term gain.

9.   Respectful rather than manipulative

As the economic dust begins to settle and organizations reinvent themselves, inspirational leaders recognize that the business environment is dynamic and may require even more changes that affect jobs.  They appreciate the importance of treating employees at all levels with respect and insist that any implemented programs or processes are consistent with this core value.

10.  Able to foster other leaders rather than demanding followers

Inspirational leaders spend a significant chunk of time identifying and grooming leaders throughout the organization.  They are fully aware that the future of the business is directly related to developing individuals who are even better leaders than themselves and recognize that a business dependent on any one leader for its success puts itself in a vulnerable and tenuous position.

Thank you for taking the time to find and read my under-the-radar postings.  Please know that your interest, support and comments are much appreciated.  My objective for this blog is to present information that you can use to build a better business.

I am new to the blogging scene and still on the learning curve.  How am I doing?  Have I achieved my objective—or at least appear to be on track to do so?  What are the hits, what are the misses?  What topics have I covered that you especially enjoyed or found most useful?  What topics would you like to see addressed?

Thanks for reading and best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year.

Kim