Article #26, September 30, 2004
Think Strategically – Keep the Big Picture in Mind
It’s easy for entrepreneurs to become mired in the daily required tasks of running a business. Emailing, bookkeeping, attending networking breakfasts and lunches, filing and performing the business function are all important to the life of your business, so they are easy to justify.
We all know a business plan is necessary, but when is the last time you took a look at yours? I recommend every business owner set aside at least an hour a month to review her business plan and strategies. Every single month, ask yourself the following questions:
- 1. Are the actions I’m taking reflective of my vision and mission?
- 2. Are my actions getting me closer to my stated goals and objectives?
- 3. Are my goals and objectives still appropriate?
- 4. What is and isn’t working?
Having a 1-2 page business plan with measurable objectives is critical to maximizing the success of your business. This type of business plan will not get you venture capital, but it will keep you focused on why you’re in business.
After asking and answering the questions, you must then make decisions. You may need to rearrange your priorities. I suggest you take a long, hard look at your team periodically also. If your CPA, financial planner, coach, attorney, etc. are not cutting it, you need to cut them. These individuals are expensive, and if they are not helping you achieve your goals, there are plenty of capable service providers who would love the opportunity to help you succeed.
One problem women have more than men is the concern that they will be hurting someone’s feelings by terminating their services. This is business. I suggest you have a very serious talk with the person about your expectations first, and you may even need to talk with them a couple of times, but if they’re not cutting the mustard, then you have to decide what’s more important: their feelings or the success of your business. Would you want someone to keep you around if it meant jeopardizing their dream?
Do you know where you stand next to all your objectives? If the thought of ‘analysis’ makes you cringe, then start small. Total your monthly revenues from all of last year through last month. Put it aside and look at it with fresh eyes in a couple of hours. Just look at the numbers. Can you identify any trends? Seasonality? Your revenues should be increasing over time if you’re still pretty new, and your profits should be increasing whether you’re new or not. Is this happening? Do you have any ideas why?
Now total each quarter’s revenues and average them. Walk away again, come back and do the same analysis. Now what do you see? You should have a solid understanding of your revenues and expenses and know where you are against these goals at all times. Knowing these numbers will help keep you focused on your goals and give you confidence. If you don’t know where you are, how can you know how close you are to your goals? How can you even set appropriate goals?
One final note – when you begin to feel achieving a certain set of goals takes less effort, take the time to examine what comes next. With your success, will you now need to hire an employee or contractor? Will you need to create a new product? Expand your services? Remember the big picture! I’ve never heard anyone say having a successful business was easy, so make sure your expectations are in line with reality!