Taking Action

At Paul Terry & Associates we help small business owners build successful and sustainable enterprises. Our consulting process is focused on clear assessments, careful advice and taking action. Central to our approach is business action planning.

taking action

Your passion and a strong vision for your enterprise may have launched you into small business ownership. However, a great idea alone won’t make you a successful business owner. You must turn your initial ideas into realistic goals with a specific plan for action.

Whether you are an emerging entrepreneur or an experienced business owner entrenched in the complexities of running a business, business action planning can help you identify measurable goals and create specific steps to reach your desired outcomes.

Every area of your business – customer/client relations, business operations, ownership expansion, and your eventual exit from the business – can benefit from action planning. So how do you begin?

DEFINE YOUR GOAL

Put it in writing. Writing down exactly where you are today and where you want to be in the future will force you to think concretely. Taking the time to write down your goals may spark some new ideas, too.

Be S.M.A.R.T. – that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely/time-bound. You need to be able to clearly state what you want to achieve and your goal needs to be concrete and doable. Initially, steer clear of goals that might take you three to five years to achieve. Once you get comfortable with the action planning process, you can use it to tackle bigger, longer-term goals. For now, stay focused on something you can attain within a year’s time, or even less.

SET YOUR ACTION STEPS

Take it one step at a time. You are much more likely to attain your goal when you identify specific steps to reach it. Each step needs a realistic deadline and an estimate of how much it will cost you—not just in dollars but in your time and other resources.

Taking Action5

GET SUPPORT

Everyone needs someone to lean on. Trusted advisors and people in your business support network are essential during this process. They can be a sounding board while you create your plan and they can keep you accountable once you have a plan… every step of the way.

USE YOUR PLAN

Long and pretty isn’t necessary. A business action plan isn’t a fancy document—it’s a usable one. It needs to be accessible and referred to frequently. It might help to set reminders on your calendar to review it so that you can stay on track and make adjustments if necessary.

Still feeling daunted by action planning? We support clients through the action planning process every day –helping them create relevant goals, identify specific action steps, measure results and stay on track. How can we help you build a successful outcome?

Need motivation? Set a deadline!

motivation

Thanks to our colleagues, clients, students, friends, and friends-of-friends, PTA got the 250 votes (and more!) needed to make it to the second round of the Chase Mission Main Streets grant process.

Encouraged by a few colleagues, we decided to apply for a grant to expand expert mentoring.  We got a late start and had only two weeks before the application deadline to collect the votes required. Compared to a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign, this was a minor recruitment effort (as we just needed votes, not cash), but it was still an all-consuming process.

It seemed like a daunting task at first, but in the end it was a great experience… and we managed to achieve our goal two days ahead of schedule!

Reaching out to our wider community was energizing. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with colleagues, clients and students and engage around a common goal. We were inspired by the support and encouragement for PTA and our mentorship idea.

motivation

Though we often curse them… aren’t deadlines great? We had been considering a train-the-trainer mentorship idea for some time but needed an application deadline—and the requirement that we get our community’s votes behind us—to really focus and design a business action plan.

The pressure of a deadline, especially one that is publicly declared and right around the corner is a powerful motivator. Kickstarter has found that campaigns longer than 60 days in length are rarely successful. The urgency of an immediate deadline pushes us to make things happen.

The risk of disappointment or disapproval from others also motivates us to perform. Should you bet your friends that you’ll run through the streets naked if you don’t meet your deadline?  Most people don’t need that level of humiliation or a public contest to act. Sharing a goal with a business advisor, teacher or cohort of small business owners can be a great way to take action. What’s important is finding someone you can be accountable to and who will encourage you to follow through and make something happen.

Though the likelihood of winning a Mission Main Street grant is rather slim (only 12 businesses will win out of what may be 100,000 or more applicants), the process has motivated us to expand our consulting and teaching offerings. Thanks to this contest, we are now developing a mentoring prototype and pilot program for 2014.

What motivates you?

Planning for Business Success

Many people start small businesses and many seem to fail.  Risks always exist in business.planning

You can reduce those risks if you set aside time to plan in advance. This means defining your business offerings, doing specific market research, recognizing the essential management skills you need, and projecting realistic financial expectations… in short, you can reduce risks when you write and use a business plan.

Small business owners often say they don’t have time to write a business plan. There is too much to do and they want to get on with running the business. (Or, they may be intimidated by the planning process or simply be procrastinating.)

It’s true that some small businesses start without planning and do very well. However, once a business is launched and things get complicated, it can be confusing to figure out next steps. A good business plan helps sort out your options and can help you focus.

Business experts disagree about the importance of writing a business plan. Though some research has found that writing a plan greatly increases the chances that a person actually goes into business, there are business school professors out there, like Steve Blank, who say that real entrepreneurs don’t write business plans.

Although it may not sound like it, I actually agree with Blank’s approach. In his Lean LaunchPad classes, he’s pushing students to constantly talk to people and test their theories as they plan. A hands-on, real world approach is central to how I teach entrepreneurship, too. You cannot write a business plan in a vacuum and expect it to serve you well. You must get out there, connect with people, and constantly test your assumptions.

Writing, implementing and maintaining a business plan is hard work. Planning means learning to take the pulse of your business — over and over again. You have to be open to new ideas and be willing to learn from your mistakes. There is a reward for all that hard work, though. You end up with an operational management tool, a marketing plan, financial projections, and a means of communicating your business to others.

The primary purpose for writing a plan, though, is for the process itself. It forces you to be objective and critical, identifying weaknesses, challenges and opportunities and setting benchmarks to track progress. Doing research, talking to people, and analyzing your operation will give you confidence to continue with the business.

It’s really important that the plan reflects your unique owner perspective. The plan is a foundation from which each owner’s business judgment, personal feelings and intuition are measured. You should write it in such a way that you can use it, in a format that is easy to update. To be truly useful, a business plan should be a dynamic document — current, accessible and appropriate for the business. Don’t spend a lot of time making a pretty document unless a formal plan is needed to present to a bank or other investor. It doesn’t have to be perfect looking; the key is that it is useful for you and your business.

A business plan doesn’t guarantee success but it can help prevent serious mistakes. It is a great way to stay attentive to the important details of your business, to industry trends and competitors, and to new directions and business growth. A good business plan will help you maintain profitability, acknowledge and minimize potential risks, and develop confidence for future opportunities.

So how do you find the time to write a business plan? As Tim Berry says, “You don’t. You are always planning. Your plan is never done but your planning process is your key to good management.”

So, write that plan (or revisit your old one). It will be well worth your effort!

The To Do List: Getting it done

to do listThere is too much to do and not enough time to get it all done.  In fact, time management experts seem to agree that you will never really catch-up, and you will never get it all done.  So what to do?

Christopher Robin was explaining this issue to Pooh Bear during a long walk in the woods.  His wisdom went like this: ” Well, Pooh…there is so much to do.  So organized is what we do, before we do it, so when we do it, it is not all mixed up”.

Where do you focus? On what you most want to do? On the most pressing issues in front of you? On what seems most important? On what makes the most sense for your clients or customer? On what will make the most money?

It can be hard to know the best approach and what tools will make a difference.  Sometime it can be an online solution with an application or a bell that rings.  Sometime it is simply a short hand-written sheet of paper.

When running a small businesses we need to think about building skills to make time management better?  Is there a tool that works?  What is the best solution for you?  Do we write it out; do we use an on-line tool; do we post it on our screen; do we tell others so they will remind us; do we have a regular schedule so that we have the time set aside.

Yes…all or some of this list.  Whatever works for you and moves your business forward. If your time management system no longer works, try something else.  Do not let the procrastination rule you.  Keep moving!!!

Time for Action: Seven Steps

Planning and managing your time effectively is the single most important factor for the launching and management of a successful small business.  You may have great ideas, a great product or service and a receptive marketplace.  However, you still have to find and take the time to do all the work.  How do you get things done?

Does any of this sound familiar:

  • you feel pressured and overwhelmed with too many tasks and not enough time
  • you work harder than anyone else with endless meetings, calls and interruptions
  • you have ideas on how to improve but no time to implement.

Therefore, you become paralyzed, tend to sabotage, procrastinate or simply give up.  All of the above conditions are a common reality.  There is simply too much to do and simply not enough time to do it. There is no one who is available to help you and only you, of course, can really do it right anyway.  So the only other solution … you stretch, juggle and squeeze!

time for action

However, it is possible to get things done without such a “squeeze”.  You can change and learn to work smarter so you can meet deadlines, be creative and then celebrate each success with a reward.  You can start right away with one successful strategy and build from there.  Pick a routine, a time management tool, or office procedure.  Make it something simple and easy to initiate.  Then include a monitoring or reward system to acknowledge that you have made this technique your routine and it is making a difference.  We are talking about CHANGING BEHAVIOR…and we can do it one step at a time.

Here are seven simple suggestions that, if implemented, can really help:

1.   Write out a goal that is very specific and measurable. (You want to open your business for the holidays.  You must be ready with inventory and marketing collateral by the end of August or you will be too late.)

2.   Use the master “to-do” list and match each task to pre-set goals.  (Use a prioritized list of very specific action steps each with an estimated start date AND completion date).

3.   Prioritize your “to-do” list based on effective criteria that will help your business now.  (Make sales calls to new and old clients before you procrastinate to file old client files.)

4.   Eliminate unproductive meetings or any personal phone calls during the business day.   (Have meetings early in the day and make personal calls after 5 p.m or not at all.)

5.   Establish a predetermined place where you get things done efficiently (For example, try to answer all calls right at your desk near client files when you first arrive at work and make all appointments right there).

6.   Revise your plans constructively.  If something doesn’t work out, you have learned from a “mistake”.  (Learn from your OWN experience.  This is NOT a failure but a discovery of what didn’t work.  Take this lesson learned and change your next action accordingly.)

7.   Take your predetermined reward.  (Set up a reward in advance for your efforts.  When you have achieved the “success” that you have set for that hour, day or week and take the reward when you are “done”).

Plan and use your time well.  If your business is to be exciting and profitable, your attention to developing time management expertise will have a significant impact on your success!