Small Business success

Vasilieff Consulting Tips from the Pros3.1  Looking Back will Propel You Forward When you start your Analysis and Planning process, I suggest you begin by looking back. Your history as a company will give you as much information about what to do next, as will your market. This review should include:

                  1.  How your company began
                  2.  What has worked and what has not
                  3.  Current company structure
                  4.  Current resources
                  5.  Market evolution
                  6.  Marketing
                  7. Competition

A thorough review of your history and activities over the past 1 to 2 years will allow you to clearly identify how you got to where you are today.  In some cases it may identify holes in previous planning and may help you avoid future mistakes. Additionally, if you have success, it will help you ensure you maintain the best-practices of the past. I often find that many people in a planning session may not have been with the company when earlier policies were implemented. A good review will bring them up to speed and help you avoid the wasteful and costly process of reinventing the wheel within your organization. Finally, Looking at your past is a way of letting it go. Those who were part of prior planning have a chance to see their work and enjoy it’s success. It is an effective way of collectively saying, we’ve done well, now we move on. Schedule a half day, review the past, then buckle up for the future.

Small Business Survival Newsletter Dec 2011

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3.2   Sure Fire Steps for Biz Dev Planning In our last newsletter (Fall 2011) I talked about why planning is so important, especially for small business. This newsletter will put the rubber to the road with 3 sure fire steps for getting your plan done. First, planning isn’t easy. It requires dedication, research, and attention to detail. The result, however, is worth the effort. With a plan you gain direction, focus, and motivation. Your team, whether 2 or 22, comes together around a common goal. You establish a common knowledge-base of information, and every member of your team has a written roadmap that will move everyone in the same direction towards your success. The goal is to define: Where You Are – Where You Want To Go – Exactly How To Get There Sound good? Great – Let’s get started. 1) REVIEW: I used the “Tips from the Pros” section of this newsletter to highlight the reasons for reviewing your past as a company. If you haven’t read it, take a moment to look it over before you read on. How Your Company Began – Your beginning is possibly the most informative point in your history. You studied your market, organized a business, and jumped into the pool to swim with the sharks. Without even talking with you I know you worked long hours, banged on lots of doors and somehow survived, and maybe thrived. Knowing what you did to achieve your success is important, not because you will repeat all of it, but so you remember what you did and why. Often this will help you identify past goals and inspire new creativity. Make a list of your activities. In your Review you want to cover these 7 categories:

What Has Worked and What Has Not – Looking back you may shake your head at some of the things you tried. Make a list of what worked and what didn’t. Keep it available, it will be a good reference in your planning.

Current Company Structure – Your company has changed. Maybe it has grown and maybe it has contracted to endure the current recession. Identify how you have changed over the year(s), include departments and key positions.

Current Resources – Staffing and financing are two huge items for most companies. Identify your current resources. You already identified your current staff, so now add your financials and any outside vendors.

Market Evolution – Almost every market has changed in the past 24 months. Most have contracted, some have gone away, and a few have expanded. Look at the development of your market and identify shifts that impact your organization.

Marketing – Go through your archives and collect copies of past marketing campaigns. Identify those that were successful and those that weren’t. You don’t have to be too detailed about this, just make a note on each one. We’ll refer to this later.

Competition – Outline the competition. Identify successful companies and their positive qualities. Specifically look at organization, product, and marketing. Identify emerging competition and their position in the market.

2) ANALYSIS: Analysis is the process of gathering information on your company, your products and your market, and looking at them with a fresh, objective eye. Easy enough, you say, but this is where an outside advisor or consultant can be of great benefit. I’m not suggesting you have to hire someone, plenty of companies do this on their own. The benefit of an outside advisor is simply their ignorance. An expert advisor can contribute a wealth of knowledge to your analysis and planning process, but what they don’t typically have is a familiarity with your company, and this can be invaluable. Ignorance, in this case, allows them to critically analyze everything with an objective eye. This objectivity allows them to identify positives and negatives without a personal investment in the outcome. No history, attachment, relationships or commitment other than to the truth and your success. No matter how you conduct your Critical Analysis, here are 3 simple steps to getting started:

Compile Data – Using the data collected in your Review, organize your company and market data into an outline or spreadsheet format. Your goal is simply to have this information easily accessible.

Compare – Compare your current situation with the current data you’ve compiled about your market and competition. Identify where you can compete more effectively and where you cannot. Identify additional resources required to improve your competitive position.

Conclusion – In a brief report, identify what your company is doing well and is not doing well. Identify where you can compete and cannot. Identify what changes are needed to maintain your current position, and what changes are needed to expand your current position in the market. Now outline new goals based on these conclusions. You may find that you’re already addressing your total market, or you may find that you can expand relatively easily. You may find you are focusing on markets in decline while new markets are emerging. Use this data to refocus your company where you can be most successful.

3) PLANNING Up to now everything has been collecting and reviewing data. Planning for Business Development is the fun part and where the art of business development comes in. Understand that your objective is to create a plan that will propel your company forward, with every person and activity working like a piston in a V12 engine to create more horse power. Your Review and Analysis has helped you identify where you are and where you want to go, now you define how to get there. Creating a Business Development Plan is an extensive and sometimes complex process, so let me boil it down to 5 steps.

Identify Your Market – using the data you’ve compiled and your new goals, identify the market you can reach. Many companies assume their potential market is the total number of prospects in the USA or worldwide. This is seldom the case. Your market is defined not only by its needs, but by its demographic. Based on your resources and market development efforts you can only reach a certain number of potential customers. Know that

limitation and build your market development and marketing activities around that. Don’t over-reach.

Redesign Your Marketing Plan – Refer back to your current activities. Throw out what doesn’t match with your new goals and outline new activities that will address your new goals.

Build A Multi-Faceted Marketing Plan – Using the data on your organization, resources, activities, and markets, build a multi-faceted plan that will address a wide range of potential customers in your newly defined target markets. Be specific enough to identify not only the initial activity, but all follow-on activities. Include the objective of each activity and the message each activity will use to complete its portion of the plan.

Build A Budget – This can be limited to financial expense or expanded to include man-power and other resources. This is an estimate, but it is important for your overall company planning and budget process.

Create a Written Report – Document the Review, Analysis, and Planing process you have completed. Include your full Business Development Plan and Budget. Print this report and distribute it to the individuals involved with Business Development. This is a working document. It is intended to be used on a daily basis as a reference and guide for everyone involved with business development. It can be distributed electronically, but I find a hard copy to be a palpable, hands-on experience that most people like and will use.

This outline is an oversimplification of an extensive process that every company should undertake. We have developed a process that allows companies to complete this in two days of their time. With focus, companies can complete it in a several weeks. Regardless of how you approach Business Development Planning, know that the benefits far outweigh the investment. Organization, direction, focus, team-building, and proper allocation of resources are just a few of the many benefits. 

If you haven’t done a review recently or completed a Market Development Plan, now is the time. Markets are changing and new opportunities are opening daily. A good reference is our 2-Day Consultation Agenda available online.

In future newsletters I’ll discuss small business development from the owner/manager perspective and address some of the challenges. If you have suggestions for articles, please email me at

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