About Business Model Tune-Up

To survive and thrive in today’s business environment, it is therefore essential for Solopreneur consultants and other business owners to make an annual assessment of their venture’s business model and evaluate how the organization can deliver the right services in the right way and demonstrate to clients that the value provided improves the bottom line and makes clients look smart to the higher-ups.

The business model is the blueprint for the process your organization follows to connect with clients, deliver services and make and sustain a profit. The business model reflects what you believe about what clients need and value; the way in which those needs ought to be addressed; the types of solutions offered; and what clients will pay to obtain those solutions. Additionally, the business model shows organization leaders how to make the enterprise function efficiently for both leaders and clients. Perfecting it is the cornerstone to success (along with a healthy dose of good fortune!).

One direct way to reality-check your business model is to take a good client to a restaurant for some combination of libation and/or meal at the conclusion of a project, when the client’s trust in you is high because you’ve delivered the goods and exceeded expectations. You will likely be able to persuade your client to open up and tell you what’s going on in his/her organization as regards challenges and opportunities, plans for the future, services that are valued and the preferred method of delivery for those services.

You are certain to learn all sorts of useful information that will show you how you might refine, adjust, package and/or price your services for many of your clients. Knowledge of client priorities and concerns is the first step to winning future projects, says Alexander Osterwalder, co-author of “Business Model Generation” (2010) and founder of The Business Model Foundry.

Knowing how your clients can get the job done without you is also useful information (although painful!). As mentioned earlier, your real competition may not be another Solopreneur consultant but the client, who decides to table the project indefinitely or do it in-house. That’s not easy to counteract.Your only defense is a solid business model that helps you position and promote your solutions as preferable in some vital way.

Developing Strategy

Asking the right questions ensures the right solutions are applied to the right problems. For example, you are a wannabe farmer who was recently inherited a herd of cows. With no farm experience, you do not know where to begin so you go to a farmer’s conference. In the conference you focused all your efforts on increasing your knowledge of how to make your cows produce more milk. You did this because research showed that milk consumption was up and it was the most cost effective way to increase revenue. You go back to your farm to try all the processes you have learned. After one week of no result, you call one of the conference gurus to express your frustrations. The guru out of compassion comes over to your farm and discovers your cows are all males: Males do not produce milk!

This wannabe farmer failed to ask the most basic question of his business, “What am I working with?” As silly as this may sound, failing to ask the important questions causes entrepreneur to do silly things. As a consultant, I have had clients call me thinking they had one problem only to find out they really had a totally different problem. Knowing the right question to ask is half the battle. Without the right questions, the right solutions can never be found.

The fundamental question of business is, “what does my customer/ potential customer want?” Any business owner has to battle with this question one time or the other. You are in business to satisfy customer needs and the only reason you stay profitable is because your customers find you relevant.

In meeting your customer needs, it is not enough to figure out your customers pain points because sometimes, customers have pain points, but are not willing to pay to get a solution. Sometimes, people get accustomed to living with dysfunction. You have to make a distinguishing factor between what your customers want and what they will pay for. This is done by asking the right questions. The right questions should be focused around the underlying assumptions of existing market strategies: Questions concerning the transfer of real value to current and potential customers should be addressed. Asking the right questions, leads you to solutions that deliver optimal value to your customer while eliminating non value added costs.

Make Functional Business Plan

An expert’s marketable strategy ought to comprise of four particular parts:

  • your identity and who is best served by your (statistical surveying)
  • an arrangement of objectives or points alongside deadlines (unmistakable objectives)
  • a depiction of the way to accomplish objectives (advertising)
  • an assessment shape to outline advance

There are basic advantages in having an arrangement set up along these lines. Initially, and possibly most vital, you will have a point of view to track your work, to know its progressions.

Most all new business administrators, and particularly specialists, know that it is so natural to get covered in the everyday materials and assignments. Simply working at the jobs needing to be done, working through the most squeezing things that need to complete, can wipe out from your visual perception the genuine bearing and reason for your business.

No vision or losing your business vision can be deadly to another counseling business. Additionally, it can happen genuine fast to begin specialists since such a large number of work alone. Without a mentor or quick accessible associates to ricochet thoughts off, it is anything but difficult to lose point of view. A marketable strategy is one of the surest approaches to keep your bigger picture in core interest.

The second advantage is a useful method for measure. Your objective might achieve some customer work in six months, or diminishing office printed material by half, or going up against 50 new customers, or producing 500 asks. On the other hand something similarly valuable. Be that as it may, regardless of what objectives you spell out in a strategy for success, when they are associated with particular timetables you have a strong intends to investigate the advance of your work.

Program Planning and Control

In general, Earned Value Management is a technique to measure project performance and progress objectively and many industrialized nations utilize this technique in their procurement programs, including the United States.

Each program designed to win a government contract requires comprehensive solutions to enhance the costs, schedule, regulations and technical challenges. Oftentimes, the companies bidding for government contracts do not have appropriate knowledge and experience, as well as the right people and tools to maximize their competitive advantage. That is unfortunate as in many cases all attempts are defeated not because the company is not competent for the government contract, but because it did not proceed in compliance with all governments regulations and because the Program Planning & Control have not been established effectively.

Sound Program Planning & Control, as well as Program & Technical Management are absolutely vital to evaluate and bring in qualified teams of people, deliver integrated cost and schedule management solutions and use the right tools and technology to maximize the success. All of the above described skills can typically not always be facilitated within the company itself so if you need help from an outside consultancy, there’s always that option as well.

It takes decades of experience building up effective program planning and control solutions, supported by proven processes, templates and guides. You will ideally need to show the following advanced skills and support in various areas:

  • Support throughout the entire program, from pre-proposal to program execution.
  • Knowledge of federal regulations and procedures necessary to produce compliant products.
  • Cost and schedule management, as well as assessing risk and opportunity within the program.
  • Providing technical installation, training and support for desk top and enterprise scheduling software.
  • Assistance with required CCDR cost reports to the government.
  • Establishing a compliant EVMS to meet all government guidelines and requirements.
  • Fast and flexible approach to program design and problem solving.
  • Proven track record of success and excellence.

One good tactic is to conduct a mock EVMS review similar to the one the government will carry out. This might seem trivial at first, but a mock review can reveal and identify possible problem areas and correct them before it is too late. You can either do this internally, or hire a non-biased 3rd-party.

Before embarking, your organization must understand the challenges the procurement environment poses to a private enterprise, and demonstrate experience and expertise in Program Planning & Control. This pre-planning will be a valuable asset in the entire process of winning a government contract.

In competitive procurement environments, EVMS requirements are complicated and challenging to navigate. However, if you know the items that the bid necessitates, you can either perform them yourself or obtain the help from a strategic consultancy. Here are a few advantages of tapping professionals.

Product of Organizational Strategic Thinking

Organizations are always at risk of developing inertia which means they are doing the same things the same way to meet current, rather than future, goals. Plugging along with no vision for the future usually equates to a lack of innovation, uninspired myopic employees and eventually an organization unable to compete well in the marketplace. The business environment is now in a state of constant transformation due to globalization and technology advancements, so organizations that fail to do strategic planning risk failure. However, calling together executives, managers and unit heads and ordering them to prepare a strategic plan is not likely to be successful because they may not know how think strategically.

First Things First

Successful strategic planning requires strategic thinking. People who are able to think strategically can bring new perspectives and contribute a fresh point of view. This is one of the reasons that an organization with a diverse workforce tends to perform better financially. The business has access to new perspectives and new approaches through its employees. Diverse employees are not locked into conventional thinking, so there is a large capacity to imagine new ideas and solutions to future market needs.

The characteristics of a strategic thinker are quite different from conventional thinkers. Blake Woolsey with the Mitchell Communications Group, a public relations firm, did an excellent job of describing eight characteristics of strategic thinkers. A strategic thinker is future-based, curious, a good steward of resources, a risk taker, able to recognize projects that are urgent and important, able to adjust and modify approaches based on circumstances, a life-long learner, and creative. The strategic thinker is proactive, rather than reactive. Being a proactive thinker means actively looking ahead to find new business opportunities and to identify unique solutions that enable the business to take advantage of those opportunities.

Let the Ideas Flow

Strategic thinking is a bit of an art form. Ordering someone to think strategically in preparation for strategic planning will not work. Assuming key people do want to overcome conventional thinking, there are several strategies for developing strategic thinking. One is to ask business leaders to question how work is currently done and to learn if their employees understand how their effort connects to strategic priorities. Doing the same things the same way without question stifles imaginative thinking. Another strategy is to hold sessions where business leaders are asked to suspend criticism and judgment as people imagine the future. Unfortunately, everyone has conscious and unconscious biases, so it may take some real effort to avoid being judgmental.

Other strategies include giving employees at all levels of the organization access to communication tools that let them present new ideas and solutions that others can comment on. For example, employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can carry on crossover communication between groups or include diverse people in their groups (i.e. a woman’s leadership ERG includes men or an ERG for Hispanic employees has representatives from the African-American employee community). People who surround themselves, in the office or in ERGs, with only others who agree with them and have the same background are likely stifling the imagination and creativity needed for strategic thinking.

Sustainability Products

According to Nielsen research, the second set is nearly 55% of the consumers of the 60 countries that were a part of the research conducted by Nielsen. They are more concerned about the social and environmental impact that the product will have. They are basically the segment who needs to be targeted for the upliftment of the business along with keeping up with the sustainability models. They even check the seal to confirm whether the product is sustainable or not before the purchase is made. As such the products need to be marketed likewise.

There are certain positives of achieving sustainability in business:

  • It helps in boosting up of the reputation of the business. Lately BMW i3 has been getting the dividends for being reputed likewise.
  • As the percentage of the consumers looking for sustainable products are ever rising, it results in increase of sales.
  • Certain companies like Apple Rubber have even managed to decrease their cost of production by going for sustainability initiatives.

Sustainability has been recently seen as one of the most essential marketing tool for apparel companies like Eco-Fashion Trends who has been planning to drive the market only by marketing sustainability over the next few years. Apart from that Kellogg, ConAgra, General Mills, etc. has been forced to re-plan their marketing strategies in order to merely survive in the market from the perspective of the food giants.

Only setting up of the sustainability goals and marketing likewise might not be sufficient though. It must be complemented by the proper implementation and the execution of the goals.

  • The primary thing perhaps is a knowhow regarding whether the sustainability goals are compatible with the business goals or not. These should not become parallel lines. They should rather be interconnected and interdependent aspects.
  • A specific knowhow regarding how often the goals needs to be reset are required. This would particularly depend on the market survey and the knowledge of what the rivals are up to.
  • Regarding the implementation of the new goals we are generally confused about the pace and timing of the setting up and the resetting of the goals and knowledge about their limitations if any. These need to be looked after with immense importance.

Finally, we can conclude by saying that the myth named sustainability has grown up so fast that it can obviously be used as an essential tool of marketing as it has its own set of consumer and as such target segment which is so large that a company can do some serious business depending mainly on them only.

Hidden Value of Customer Co-Creation

What if I told you there’s a better way? The lines between creator and consumer, buyer and seller, author and reader have blurred. If you invite the consumer, buyer, or reader into the creation process it incites ownership.

We all take pride in the work that we do. We want it to be the best that we are capable of and we are rewarded both intrinsically and extrinsically when we have a sense of ownership. Customer co-creation not only incites ownership, but generates a greater “ownership mentality” in your clients. That’s a big win. People proudly display their kid’s “artwork” on their refrigerators. They don’t display the work of the neighbor’s kids. But, if your kid and the neighbor’s kid co-created a finger painting masterpiece you now have two families anxious to display it.

You share context. Each of us has a limited well of experience to draw from. When we share context with others it gives our solutions depth and richness far beyond what anyone is capable of doing in isolation. Diversity of thinking and inputs yields better outcomes. That’s another win.

Co-creation makes for stronger content. When we combine your chocolate with my peanut butter the result is a far more creative solution.

We live in a world where we all want to participate. Teachers don’t just have students memorize state capitals anymore; they have kids create maps and globes and 3D representations. Which method do you think generates higher learning retention?

How can you involve your followers and clients in the creation process? I think it’s often as simple as just asking them. You need to maintain your position as the expert but you do so in a way that invites them to participate in the sculpting of a solution. Their input matters; it makes the solution stickier, more relevant, and more effective. They will now be your biggest advocate and internal sales team because they too will have the pride of ownership.

My advice is to look for an opportunity to experiment. Customer co-creation isn’t for every situation; there are times where you need to be the expert and do what you do. I wouldn’t want my plumber to allow me to co-create a plumbing solution given that I have little interest, passion, or insight in that area. However, there are opportunities where you can manage an engagement that has a co-creation element to it. You’ll wind up with a better, richer client; a more engaged, satisfied client; and the experience itself is refreshing and intellectually gratifying for everyone.

Creating Repeatable Business Growth

Define What You Want

Starting at the top, do you know what you want? Are you looking for awareness, prospects, referrals, authority, respect, recognition, local networking, open doors, branding, more sales, retention, upselling, or something else?

Be sure you know exactly what YOU need. Specifically, what is it that will boost your business to the next level? What is it that will cause the exponential growth you seek? What exactly did you want to “go viral” and how would that have helped you?

Once you know what your business needs, the next step is figuring out how to get it.

Figure Out How to Get What You Want

Mike had one pressing need: RETENTION. Together, we created a book (print cost was less than $1/bk) that was given to his customers. The book explained the benefits of the nutritional supplements that Mike’s company created and sold. Each supplement order included the small book, which increased retention as people became more knowledge about the product. As a result, the company’s profits went up by $100,000-$200,000 per month because customers stayed on the product for 2-3 additional months.

Dave wanted one thing: more SALES of his core product (a $2,000 leadership program). We created a book (less than $1/bk to print) that was sold to his franchise sales reps (for $3/bk) who in turn gave the books to their prospects. Business soared! The leadership program sold faster than ever. Dave promptly reprinted 5,000 more books and repeated the process.

Beth wanted more BUSINESS. As a commercial architect, she was always looking for more jobs, leads, and referrals. We created a children’s book, full color with a glossy hard cover, that cost around $5/book to print. Every person she did business with received a copy. And when the clients went home and read her book to their children, they could not help but remember Beth! And recommend her! And her business grew.

Chris needed a JOB. We created a small book (at about $4/bk to print) that turned 8 job interviews into 8 job offers! His challenge became which job to choose.

Bill wanted REFERRALS. As a home inspector, he wanted as much business as he could handle. He bought a DIY home-maintenance book (for around $10) and gave it to his customers as a small “thank you for your business.” One customer referred Bill to everyone he knew who was selling or buying a home. One $10 book turned into countless referrals!

The stories are endless, but each of these real examples show the incredible power of repeatable business growth. To get more retention, sales, business, jobs, or referrals, all these individuals need to do us push their own REPEAT button!

They know what they want and they know how to get it. Their growth is repeatable!

Then Do It

When you know exactly what you need to grow your core business, and you have a proven way to get the growth you want, the only thing left is to do it. And then you can do it as many times as you want. REPEAT… REPEAT… REPEAT is now at your fingertips!

This is far better than any “viral” success because you are the one who controls it. You created it, and that means you are in charge. You can tweak it and refine it. And you can do it again and again.

Critical Business Thinking

Whether you realise it or not, our thoughts are so powerful… powerful enough to start the creation of new products or services. In fact everything that has ever been made or devised once was a thought in someone’s mind before it was brought into reality. It’s crazy to think that once the technology you are reading this on was once a figment in someone’s imagination…

But however good thoughts are, things wouldn’t materialise into actual products or services without action being taken to make those thoughts a reality.

So that brings about an interesting question… if everyone is having thoughts and crazy ideas about what can and cannot be done, why doesn’t every idea materialise into reality?

Well, it all comes down to action. Thoughts and visualising are fantastic tools. But they must be followed by action if they are to make a difference. So that creates two kinds of people..those who bring their thought inventions into life for the world to benefit from… and those who let their thoughts disappear into the ether never to be materialised.

The first group of people are those who take action and are generally successful. They are doers. They follow through on their thoughts with action and plans. They are optimists and generally expect to be able to make things happen. The second group are mediocre by comparison and have much more passive personalities. This second group of people either don’t believe in their own abilities, or worst still believe but postpone any action… waiting for tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes. And the world never benefits from their ideas.

Generally, everyone wants to be in the first group, because when people take action and follow their dreams and inspiration they gain confidence, they develop a deep sense of self-reliance and inner security. Whereas the people in the second group find their confidence is whittled away over time and they end up settling for mediocrity.

So how does our thinking affect our businesses? Well, it all comes back to Henry Ford’s saying, “whether we think we can, or think we can’t, either way we are right.” If we have an active personality and set of beliefs we will look for opportunities and take advantage of them when they come along. But if we have a passive set of beliefs we will hold back, unsure of ourselves and our abilities, and in doing so will inadvertently hold the business back.

Writing Good Business Plan Takes Time

Preparation is Most of the Work

The preparation, research, and planning which leads up to the actual writing of the plan constitutes most of the time required to create a business plan. Planning and strategizing cannot simply be done in a day or even a few days. Not only is it important to get feedback from advisors or other trusted parties, which can take time, but the entrepreneur himself must let the plan ruminate a bit in order to uncover aspects he may have missed or thought about incorrectly previously.

Research Time

Research for the business plan may be the most time intensive element of this preparation. Research should, ideally, be more than secondary sources such as articles, blogs, and industry reports. Primary sources, including interviews, surveys, or focus groups with customers, vendors, and competitors, are very important and more persuasive. Developing data from these types of sources takes a good deal of time. Even information in secondary sources must be pored through carefully to find the nuggets of interest for the business plan. Finally, research into the costs of the business can require calls and even negotiations with vendors to learn about rates and volume discounts. There is no easy shortcut for this type of direct research, which can make launching a much easier process if this legwork has been carefully documented.

Writing Time

Finally, the writing cannot be rushed, as convincing prose does not generally flow under intense time pressure. Time must be given to allow for the writing and then revision of the plan itself. Finally, time should be allowed for proofreading by qualified individuals other than the entrepreneur. This is the only sure way to spot mistakes in the plan at this late stage.