Archive for category Planning

You did what?

Image courtesy of Idea Go from

Image courtesy of Idea Go from

Your business, what have you been up to? I know last time we caught up you had a lot to say about how things were not as good as you would have hoped and you now wanted to give things a boost… so…

  • Did you do more sales this week?
  • Perhaps you tweaked systems to get more sales? – Marketing – Management – Operations…
  • Did you make adjustments to what you offer so you can sell more? Products – Services, perhaps packages of items and or services to make them more attractive?
  • Maybe you gathered the sales team and had a chat about what’s working and figured out what they are up to?
  • You worked on your profile of your ideal customer and from that tweaked your marketing?
  • You reviewed your business plan
  • Worked on your SWOT analysis
  • Worked with your bookkeeper to get more figures on average dollar sales, profitability etc…

Perhaps you did these things instead…

  • You decided it was all too hard and sat about chatting about what you ‘think’ you are doing
  • You put in long hours but have little idea about what took place…
  • You keep telling people it’s all too hard…
  • Stood in the window watching a few people walk by and of those that did, few came in to buy…

Take a look at the first list, did you come close on any of these, or did the week magically ‘slip away’ again this week like in the second list? Chances are you lost the week to procrastination, talking but doing little else.

If you are running a business based on ‘best practice’ or are wanting to, then you should be asking what are the top businesses in my field doing and how am I matching or exceeding that? Chances are they are selling more than you buy using best practices.

Without sales you have no turnover and that impacts right down the line eventually. Therefore what you have to offer becomes a vital part of what you do, if people don’t want what you have in the first place then how can there be any sales?

Perhaps you need to explore what you have on offer, is it good enough for people to bother with or could it be better?

Is it time you took a reality check and figured out what you need to be doing to make your business perform better? Probably, create a plan then work it. Make sure more sales or ‘better’ sales is at the cornerstone of what you are planning.

If you need to pay someone to help you improve your buisness then consider doing that, it might seem to cost in the beginning, but eventually it should become an investment.


Steve Gray


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When business gets fuzzy

Perhaps you know what I mean just from reading the title, ‘When Business Gets Fuzzy’. Those moments when it’s all a blur, you can’t seem to get much done, but you are busy enough.

Image courtesy of stockimages from

Image courtesy of stockimages from

Your to do list looks like a scrawl of badly drawn doodles, your planning efforts with others become more like a blah, blah, blah session and nothing much seems to happen. You do alright chatting with your team, they like the time out and get some of their own doodling done.

Your business seems to continue on okay with work coming in and going out, but the details seem to be fuzzy at times. You get the sense you are turning up but not much is motivating you to be there, It’s like the light is on but no one in home. Perahps it’s not a big deal for now, but if this continues you could be setting your business up for a difficult time.

Let’s explore some ways to get the clarity and motivation back so the ‘fuzzies’ don’t wipe you out and flatten the business..

Make a list – The list shoud be about what you love about the business, why you got started, what you hoped to achieve. Go searching for what motivated you in teh first place, you might just find a solid answer amongst the list.

Get inspired – Other people in your busness or your industry will have good reasons for doing what they do, if they are inspired start asking them questions to search for answers that might just suit  you too.

Check the foundations – Just as a building needs solid foundations so to does your business. Have a look at the mission and vision, if you have one, and the values that underpin these. Are any of the values inspiring? If not why not… Ask your team about them and how they work with these or not. Now do what you can to shore up teh foundations and get things right again, the key to your ‘fuzzies’ could well be here.

To do list – Make it big bold and ‘bodacious’ make it so you want to work on it. In the age of techno gadgetry your to do list is probably buried alive in a bunch of ‘apps’ and while it can link to calendars, cook your eggs just right and hail a taxi for you (well almost)… Becuase it’s hidden, it becomes ‘out of sight out of mind’. Generally others can’t see it and that might be useful for some things on the list for others that’s a nuisance. Try a written list on brightly coloured paper for a change.

Set gnarly goals – You know goals can work in some situations, as  a milestone, as a point to aim for as a device to rally the troups with. Select goals your teams can achieve and ones that they can have ownership of, but what about you… what goals are you setting for yourself? Whatever the goals are, gather people around you that can assist you to make them happen. These people can become unreasonable friends or associates who can hold you to a higher performance level than you might be used to, it’s a sure fire way to beat the ‘fuzzies’!

Passion systems are go! – If you were once passionate about your business you might now have some pointers to get you back on track, kow that passion only really works if you have a system to make it work. All of the above points could do that.

Now you have read the six points, what comes to mind for you… A counselling session, a few new ideas, some ‘ah ha!’ moments or soemthing else? Let’s hope that whatever it is it makes sense to you and can provide a solid way forward so you can take the fuzzies on and make some clear decisions about what you want to have happen next.


Steve Gray

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We can’t do that here…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles from

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles from

Many enterprises have challenges trying to keep up with what’s happening in the world, technology changes, practicalities in the workplace, better processes and procedures so how do you keep up? If like other organisations you find yourself saying “We can’t do that” there will be reasons for it. Let’s pull out a few ideas and possibilities and take a look at what might be preventing us from achieveing the results we want.

Key imporovement areas

  • Best practice in all areas of the business
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Training
  • Innovation
  • Intrapreneuring/Entrepreneuring
  • Better induction and probation processes and procedures
  • Living Values

All of these things, and more, are some of the things that are making organisations ’employers of the year’. They have higher productivity, less staff turnover than others in their industry. They are also making organisations more profitable with stronger foundations to weather challenging times.

Yet all too often organisations don’t implement these things because of a few simple things. Want to know what they are?

Ignorance — The staff in control of an area don’t know what “best practice is’ or if they do they don’t want to do it because of a perception it will create more work for them. They think it may be better to bury their heads in the sand unless they have a solid directive from the boss to do

Loss of power or control — They are the boss, or the supervisor, they currently have a measure of control, you better believe it, anything that threatens this they will eliminate as fast as they can. Either by deriding it, trying it but making sure it fails or seeing it as a fad and dismissing it.

Fear of failure — Fear of success — Yes fear of… both of these are valid and are problematic. “We can’t try new things, what if we fail, it will  have cost us dearly and what’s wrong with how we are doing things now?” and for success… “We are a small business and want to stay that way there is no need for us to ‘go for the big time’ and try new fangled things…” SIGH… each of these loops around and devour each other, the more I don’t want to fail the more I probably will… These two areas are key points of business psychology and require careful handling. If you have team members who fit into these categories, are they the best people to assist your business to be all it can be?

We don’t know how — Things like Best Practice, Coaching/Mentoring, training and exploring business values. You may not know how to do these now, but what if you were to learn about them and slowly build your skills in these areas, or at least get some of your team trained in these areas. The aim is to build skills which can add to the flexibility of the organisation rather than being too rigid and unable to move.

We don’t know why — Why you should do something… Let’s see if your industry has developed  new technology and you have not kept up to these then you could be going backwards fast. Consider printing industries when computers started to make an impact on layout and design, effectively cutting out many people from the process. Things got easier and more cost effective for the client. Again it’s about ignorance, know what is cutting edge in your industry and business in general and aim to do it.

We don’t have the money — People said that when computers came in, they managed, some fought to the bitter end but one way or another computers made a huge difference. What else will cost money now but probably save the business in the future? LOTS of things, if yo have looked into each of the initial areas I mentioned you will know they can be highly beneficial to  your bottom line and profitability, while making the staff happier in the long run.

We don’t do change — Many people fear change, what if it goes bad, what if it costs us, what if… but what if it makes the business more effective, more profitable and have a better bottom line… Then that’s got to be useful right? Some see the glass half empty, some half full, others drink it and order the next drink. We all have choices, if your people won’t change they are probably  stuck in  some form of fear loop, seeing the worst rather than entertaining the possibility things might be better.

It’s up to you how you handle your business and develop that ‘can do’ attitude to make the most of what you have. Move to the can do approach to add depth and value to  your business, keep your staff happy and make more money in the process. The flexibility and strength this can add can be very useful in a highly competitive marketplace.


Steve Gray

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The Analysis

Sales bags

Image courtesy of Idea go from

Your business has been going for a few years, things are settled to some degree and you have accumulated enough financial data to start making some planning sense out of the numbers.

You know the amount you take home isn’t much and you avoid talking about it hoping things will pick up but things are not improving. You note to yourself how easy it is to lose track of what you need to do, crunch the numbers. So get to it and start crunching!

What’s that? You don’t know what to look for, well try these pointers as a starting point.

  • How many sales per week – How many people bought something, then ask how many items on average did they buy? these figures can be useful, if you know that 200 people came into your shop for instance and only 20 of them bought, that might seem a sad number, however if 15 of those 20 purchased 10 items that might make a big difference, especially in a store with higher priced items.
  • The average dollar sale – How much did you average for each sale you made, e.g for each person who purchased, what is the average they pay? If the average is high and you notice the daily takings start off low, then it’s reasonable to expect the next few sales will be higher.

Using the above as starting points you can now see where you have to focus your attention, either you need to get more people in the door, or get more of those currently coming in to buy more. Let’s say 80% of people in the door currently buy, then you need to find ways to get the average dollar value spent to rise. If the percentage of purchases is low then you might need to get the number of visitors to rise. Having both rise would be a big bonus!

In an age where most people are keeping a close watch on their business figures due to having to comply to tax guidelines and most are using accounting software to do so then you can extract lots of data from most of these programs or at least export the raw data to put into a spreadsheet to get the reports you really need.

I have the data what now?

  • More customers – If you need more, then your marketing needs work. Can your ideal target market readily find you? Focus on these people in the best way possible to boost your numbers. What about the level of new customers coming in each week, do many of these people stay or move on, then perhaps the customer service side of the business needs work to retain more of the already existing numbers of prospective customers walking in.
  • Higher average dollar sales – Try up-selling, “Oh if you buy that do you need this as well?” the add ons can be the difference between make or break some times. Try raising your prices, perhaps your prices are already too low (you do research your competitors…Don’t you?)

To recap you either need to be getting more of the right people into the business to buy, or you need to up the value of the sales made. Now search in the rest of our resources to find ways to do just that.


Steve Gray

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It’s all in the timing

Time man imageThis time of year, the rush leading to Christmas. You are probably thankful your team did the time management training earlier in the year.

They have their to do lists sorted, they can reverse goal set, use their diaries better, handle the agenda for meetings with greater clarity. You are thankful for all that, but you notice the gain in productivity went up then dropped down again after a few weeks after the training.

Some email and meeting  announcement reminders soon pick the pace up again but a similar thing happens. Time to check out what’s really happening.

Some of your team become obsessed with their list of ‘To do’s’ and have “nailed their day to the floor in five minute increments”. you are now really impressed by how that looks, yet you take a closer look only to find they have become focussed on details they don’t need to deal with

Instead of the more strategic focus you had hoped for with their goals and the sense of achievement people get from accomplishing them they have now become irrelevant minor tasks that they feel good about but it’s simply ‘creative avoidance’ of the bigger issues you want them to tackle. People like to take the path of least resistance and so the easy tasks get done.

You decide in your mind you need to tweak the ‘must have skills’ in all position descriptions to “must have a solid strategic focus”. That might solve the challenge in the future but what about now?

  • Get clear – About who can do what and what can be outsourced. Details like “Get envelopes for the mail out” can be an admin officer type task, not a Manager or Supervisors task
  • Talk strategy – If that’s what you want your people to do, make the strategic work the important focus of meetings, memos and the like
  • Show strategy – Show clear examples of how strategy can be worked on and implemented, the more this happens the more your people will have a clearer picture of what’s happening
  • Look within – Have you caught he same bug? Is your to do list and time management full of details you don’t need to deal with but you like the sense of achievement by ticking off a long list of tasks? Be the change you want to see in your world.
  • Start at the bottom – Make sure that the small tasks are being passed on so investigate from the bottom and see what they are up to.
  • Big picture thinking – What do you want the organisation to achieve? Make a list, now break that into doable strategic pieces for each area of the business. Create a diagram of these key goals and ask if everyone is focussed on these key areas

It may take a while to see the results of implementing these strategies but it’s what you should be doing, coaching and mentoring your people to achieve their goals more effectively.


Steve Gray

Beyond Values


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles

Regular readers will know I love talking about values. It came to mind recently that I should provide some more depth on the subject.

For the uninitiated, the values an organisation stands by are the foundation of its culture (the pattern of behaviours it follows).

So take a look at this list I have put together:

Values outline

The aim being to develop a starting point of areas to explore under each heading, in this example Respect and Quality

Your business can readily do a similar thing and build its own set of values and guidelines to ensure each area of the buisness is given suitable scrutiny, over time the details can be added to as issues come to light. In the end the result is a organisational device your people can use to ensure each value has been given due consideration, they feel they have input into it, they can see it as a positive force to live by and should be able to raise concerns at any stage with management to better the company.

Take a look, explore it and make sure your team get into the process of making it happen. Trust me… you will love the results.

How much or How can I?

Business 101 – How much should I charge? How can I build the business? Probably followed by… WHY should I build the business?

I like to go back to basics and the above questions seem to come up early in the starting phase of a business and are quickly followed by these ones

Image courtesy of Image Majestic

I can’t take a day off from my business – Do I make enough $$? I don’t know the difference between a business owner or operator? and what difference it might make… What do I really do that makes money? I need to plan more, but need to earn more… OH GEES!

All that thinking and before they know it the business person goes back to doing what they were doing prior to the questioning starting and then voom the cycle begins again. It’s called looping.

The theme here has some great questions in it, and the business operator probably needs to tackle them head on, one business I heard of has these BIG questions in a book on their desk and if they have any doubts they go back to the book and look at the answers they have written down in a book loaded with questions.

Not everyone has a book to fall back on, not everyone want’s one either, however I do believe we should have some way of being able to handle the ‘questions’ that dog us in business. For some it will be a workshop, a Coach, a Mentor, a Partner or other support device (like reading an article) which will provide the support.

It’s all about finding ways to move forward when things seem difficult. Finding ways to move from a ‘stuck state’ to a more open state where you can move freely to take action and get the results required.

Ok, so the questions… Some answers

  • How much should I charge? You should charge enough to pay expenses, and have a profit on top (to cover unforeseen costs and ensure you have a business and not just a job.) Now take a day off you earned it.
  • Building the business? You build your business by providing quality/suitable goods and services to your customers who will love what you do and tell others, you get more customers, have more profit margin and build on the planning, infrastructure and implementation phases to build the business further. Love customers so they love you and come back for more.
  • Why should I build it? You should build the business because it can do more when it is solid and not JUST over the edge of breaking even. When it does more it frees you up to live a little more and see the fruits of your labor. This in turn means others benefit from your risk taking and the rewards build from there.
  • Can’t take a day off from work… Then it’s probably too much like a job, a business has a profit, a Job = Just Over Broke… No days off means your staff will probably do better than you (four weeks leave – sick leave – work five days…) Clearly you need to build the capacity of the business to give you more time to LIVE, not just work (and yeah I know you love your work… sigh.)
  • Do I make enough money… Or do you mean does the business make enough money? Either way you probably need to figure out with your Accountant how much you should be making and ways to leverage what you are making, perhaps then chat to your marketing people about how to get more customers, then the planning people about how to make the whole business more structured to be able to thrive and not just survive.
  • Business owner or operator? Operators do, Owners own. You should aim to get to owning fast, the operating bit is all good and well but it falls down if you get ill.
  • What do I do that makes money? In the initial phases of your business probably a LOT! In the latter phases (as a business owner) perhaps less (physically anyway) therefore your aim should be to do more planning so the team you have built around you who are doing the operational ‘stuff’ can do it more effectively (a mix of efficiency V/S effectiveness) So get the business plan out, warm it up, and implement it now, then keep it close as you tweak the details of this business you own.
  • Earn more, plan more, do more… Perhaps in the early days the business plan was a big focus and then you got busy. Now you are back to planning and it should be the big part of what you do again. However add to that, add learning to the mix, learn more about marketing, leadership, people skills etc, all with the aim of building your business so it can be have greater stability and more security as it grows.

Avoid the ‘looping cycle’ and get moving with a growth cycle. Seriously, you can do more for yourself and the wider community if you are more of a business owner than a business operator. To make this a reality find people to assist you do more (without doing more physical work…), coaches, mentors, trainers, friends in business etc.

Your business should not be just you, but a bunch of people making your dream a reality, because you took the risks to get started, you should get the rewards. Start now people!

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