What are the secrets of a successful business?
The first is that successful businesses do the basic things right. Very few businesses can make money if they have a great sales team but cannot support them because they have a poor cash flow and cannot afford stock.
Very few businesses can survive if they have a sales team that does not understand what you actually want to provide and simply try and sell everything to everyone.
A business is an ongoing activity that does not run itself. As the owner you will have to set goals, determine how to reach those goals and make all the decisions every day. You will have to keep records, and determine costs. You will have to control inventory, make the right buying decisions and keep costs down. You will have to hire, train and motivate employees who have their own dreams for the future.
Attention to detail is the key to success and good management starts with setting goals. Set strict targets for yourself; and then question yourself if those targets are missed – especially as they generally missed! Be specific. Write down your goals and include how you will measure whether you achieved them. Beside each goal place a specific date showing when it is to be achieved.
Do not set targets for the things you want to do; the things you want to do will rarely be a problem, businesses collapse because there were things that the owner did not take care of.
Do not plan to reach too many goals all at the same time.
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Establish your priorities.
Plan in advance how to measure results so you can know exactly how well you are doing because if you cannot keep score as you go along you are likely to lose motivation. Make sure your plan is flexible to change as you succeed or fail, but make sure you clearly understand, in either case, why that success or failure happened.
Study trade journals, newspaper advertisements, catalogs, window displays of businesses similar to yours. Ask advice of salespeople offering you merchandise, try and buy from several suppliers rather than one until you know what your best lines, and the best prices you pay, will be.
Locating suitable merchandise sources is not easy. You may buy directly from manufacturers or producers, from wholesalers or distributors. Select the suppliers who sell what you need and can deliver it when you need it – there is no use going for the cheapest price if they cannot deliver.
You should always spread your purchases among many suppliers so that you gain favorable prices and promotional material. This will really help you become known as the seller of a certain brand or line of merchandise.
When to buy is important if your business will have seasonal variations in sales. More stock will be needed prior to the seasonal upturn in sales volume and as sales decline, less merchandise is needed.
Much of your success will depend on how you price your services. If your prices are too low, you will not cover expenses; too high and you will lose sales volume. In both cases, you will not make a profit.
Too many businesses sell low and provide the best service – you will soon find that is an easy way to lose a lot of money – be sensible; instead of trying to be the cheapest try and offer the best value – customers would rather pay a little more if they can guarantee they will always get what they want from your business.
Growing a business is hard work. Regardless of what you sell and how you sell it, getting and maintaining customers is a full time process.
However, there is a point where you reach self-sufficient business growth. This is the point at which your business becomes like a snowball rolling downhill and the process of rolling keeps the business growing. Your job at that point is to maintain steam and keep everyone happy.
That's the good news. So how do you get there?
There are four major components to attaining self-sufficient business growth.
Once you work through the ramp-up process and develop all four of the necessary components of self-sufficient business growth, you begin to experience success in spite of yourself rather than success as a result of yourself. It's not the point where you can sit back and rest on your laurels, but it is the point where you can occasionally slow down and take a deep breath.
Self-sufficient business growth should be the goal of everyone in business who desires to reach the next level. The next level is where ever you dream of being next but aren't at yet.
Everyone needs a day-to-day operating plan. But designing that operating plan to lead to self-sufficient business growth is a way to certain success
To establish your business on a firm footing requires a great deal of aggressive personal selling. You may have established competition to overcome. Or, if your idea is new with little or no competition, you have the extra problem of convincing people of the value of the new idea. Personal selling work is almost always necessary to accomplish this. If you are not a good salesperson, seek an employee or associate who is.
The following are some key points when looking at your business:
All businesses need insurance against risks, such as the theft of equipment or work-related injury to staff. Small businesses are more vulnerable to the impact of these incidents, as they often do not have the financial resources for unexpected expenditure. However, certain types of insurance are compulsory for some businesses.
The reasons for studying insurance are varied. For some, the study is undertaken in preparation for a career in the field. Others study to improve their knowledge of the subject in order to become more knowledgeable consumers. The average individual will spend a significant percentage of his or her disposable income on insurance over a lifetime, and one of the logical reasons for studying insurance is to learn how it can be used in personal financial planning. Still others study insurance as a part of the discipline of risk management, the managerial function that aims at preserving the operating effectiveness of the organization.
Take time to assess the risks you are insuring yourself against, and the amount of insurance cover you need. Try to review this at least once a year. Insure stock for its replacement cost price, without any addition for profit. Plant and machinery should normally be insured on a 'replacement as new' basis.
Most insurance policies require you to pay an excess to cover the first part of any claim. Make sure the excess on your policy is appropriate. Bear in mind that agreeing to a higher excess can significantly reduce the insurance premiums you will pay.
If most of your claims fall beneath the excess threshold, you should consider switching to a policy with a lower excess. However, this may cost you more. On the other hand you may want to avoid making claims just above the excess, if this would mean increased premiums in subsequent years.
Although each of these reasons is adequate justification for the study of insurance, whether that study should be considered essential for business students depends on the approach and the specifics of what is studied. Some have argued that the study of insurance per se is a narrow specialty, yet the broader discipline of risk management, of which insurance buying is only a part, is clearly a function that all future managers should understand. A proper understanding of the methods of dealing with exposures to loss is essential for organizational leaders. Although insurance is only one of the techniques that can be used to deal with pure risks, risk management decisions presuppose a thorough understanding of the nature and functions of insurance.
How can a business plan help my business?
Broadly speaking there are two types of business plan.
The first is produced for specific short-term business reasons, such as selling equity or persuading the bank to give you a loan.
The second type, the one we are talking about here, is an evolutionary plan which helps you develop your business. It details your ultimate objectives - such as growing your market share, improving your profit margins, expanding into new markets or selling your venture - and outlines the steps the business needs to take to help you get there.
It is vital if your business is going to do anything more dynamic than simply exist. And don't think simply existing is a realistic option. You may not want to change but your customers and competitors will. The market you currently sell in will be gradually transformed whether you like it or not.
The process of creating a business plan forced you to think about all of this and assess what your business must do to arrive at your final destination. This intellectual process will be wasted if you don't act on it. Taking your business plan out of the filing cabinet occasionally will remind you of what exactly it is you are supposed to be doing.
How will my business plan affect my day-to-day business life?
The objectives encapsulated by your business plan should be used to create a common vision you and your employees are striving to reach. You should all know what this vision is without having to check back with the original document.
Similarly the role each individual has to play in helping the business achieve its objectives should have been made clear to all through general company briefings and personal appraisals.
Using your business plan to help everyone set communal and individual priorities should ensure that all business decisions are made within the same context. If a proposal or activity doesn't conform to the business plan then its validity must be rigorously questioned.
Can I deviate from my business plan?
Your business plan should not be so rigid it stifles creativity and innovation.
The ability to act quickly on a good idea is what separates many smaller enterprises from their larger counterparts. If a new opportunity your business plan didn't foresee comes along don't discount it because it's not in the blueprint.
Do, however, assess it in the context of your original plans. If it's taking your business in whole new direction how will that impact on your other strategic objectives? Is it something that you really want to do or a mere distraction that will take resources away from where you really need them?
How often should I look at my business plan?
If you find yourself consulting your business plan every day to find out what to do next then you have written it incorrectly. A business plan is not a to-do list. Instead it is a benchmark document you can use to compare where you wanted to be with where you are and where you are actually going.
When you regularly review your business you should pick out some of the key performance indicators your business plan highlighted and assess whether or not you are on course.
If you are not, you need to understand why. Are there external factors you didn't take into account - perhaps a competitor launched something new? Or national disaster suppressed the feel-good factor and demand for your product or services slumped?
Are there internal problems - the loss of key personnel, production problems or lack of capacity to meet customer demand - that are hampering your progress? Or maybe your forecasts were simply wrong, in which case you may need to do a reassessment.
If your forecasts and projections were based on solid research you need to understand (give or take a reasonable margin of error) why the actual results were different and adjust the plan accordingly.
A business plan is a work in progress. You can never know everything that you will have to deal with so don't expect your business plan to contain all the answers. What it can do is help you keep your eye fixed on the distant horizon. While day to day distractions have to be dealt with you should never forget where your business objectives lie.
Great Businesses were planned that way!
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