Monday, July 16, 2012

Planning with Passion

Most phone calls I receive from clients have the same tone. They will say, "I need help with taking my business to the next level". As we continue the conversation I always hear them say, I know how to operate my business but it's tough trying to grow and maintain the current operation; there are only so many hours in the day. I have a friend that always says sometimes the hardest questions have the simplest answers.
Case in point:
I am passionate about helping businesses to succeed in their chosen area of expertise but my real personal passion is entertaining. I take pride in preparing for guests coming for dinner. Most of the time it is very casual but I do enjoy the formal sit down dinners with great conversation. These dinners take well orchestrated planning of the fine details from who to invited, where everyone should sit, what type of china to use, what type of food to serve (check on food allergies) and the list goes on and on.
Once I was in a conversation with a colleague attending one of my dinner parties who said to me, "when you plan dinner parties you put as much energy into them as you do a project for clients." I never really thought about it but when I put it in perspective my colleague was correct.
I use the same steps to develop a business plan as I do a well planned dinner party. Thinking of the steps in terms of my passion helped me with communicating to the client that was hitting a wall. I then changed my entire conversation with all of my clients from trying to address the problem to trying to find their passion. Once we find their true passion then we can parallel the problem solving steps to find the solution.
The Planning/Problem Solving steps are consistent but the activities change depending on the purpose or goal as seen here.  
Dinner Party
Determine the goal
(Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time sensitive)
The purpose of the dinner party is to have four (4) couples for a formal yet fun and exciting dinner with 4 star wine, surf and turf, current events conversation on Saturday night at 7pm.
The goal of the project is to improve productivity by 10% and revenue by 20% by the end of 2012.
Build the team
Select the guests that will “add value” to your party by their presence.
The Smith’s – College friends
The Carlisle’s – Neighbors
The Tall’s – My Colleagues
The Worth’s – Spouses Colleagues  
Select the team members that will add value to the project to reach the goal.
Bill – Finance
Jack – Engineering
Isabella – Legal
Dana – Operations
Send meeting request
Invitations are hand written and mailed to the guests
Meeting request sent through email
Plan the meeting outcome
Preparation for the event
Start time/sequence for food
Guests arrival time
Menu Sequence
Conversation topics (potentially)
Research subject before hand
Find articles to share with team
Plan the Agenda
Prepare an overview of the Project
Develop objectives
Plan Brain Storming of Solutions
Determine plan process
Utensils Necessary
Place settings with plate, glasses, silverware, stemware
Notepad, pencils, highlighters, calculators, iPads, Projectors, Chalk board
Determine a line item budget
Allocate cost associated with food, beverages, set up, clean up, invitations, etc.
Labor, materials, supplies, marketing, sales, legal, finance, operations, etc.
Determine roles and responsibilities
Greeter, Coat taker, Hostess, head of the table, seating assignments
Timekeeper, note taker, facilitator
Clear sequence of events
Cocktail hour
First Course
Second Course and so on  
Step 1 with responsible person and deadline, Step 2 with responsible person and deadline, Step 3 and so on
Phase completion indicators
Hostess acknowledge or most plates complete
Milestones completed
Project complete
Last guest leave
All items are completed
Guest comments, budget variances, goal accomplished, results obtained
Survey, budget variances, goal accomplished, results obtained
Process Improvement
Make adjustments for next event based on noted feedback
Make adjustments for next project based on survey results

Planning a large scale project that is expected to yield phenomenal results or an amazing dinner party that people will talk about forever takes a well thought out plan, attention to details and commitment to make sure the results are obtained. Underestimating the time commitment can be your worst enemy. I realized that my colleague was saying the best project planner is committed to the outcome and passionate about delivering a quality product regardless of the time investment.
Now I spend more time helping my clients find their passion. It's a simple solution: in your passion is the solution to your problem because as Jerry Gillies author of Money Love says, "you will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need". 
When in doubt of your ability to navigate business solutions, solicit the help of a professional. For more information, contact

Monday, July 9, 2012

Small business owners do not take the Golden Rule literally! “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.  Honestly, if we treated our clients as we treated ourselves we would be out of business. In my observations most small business owners have slightly changed the rule to: “do unto others as we SHOULD do to ourselves.” How many beauticians do you know are in need of seeing a beautician? How many physicians don’t take care of their bodies? How many financial advisors are in financial distress?
In order to develop a strong business certain practices should become routine. Leaders not only cast the vision but leaders MUST shape the vision.  It’s not easy but we as business owners have to maintain control to have the focus and direction to drive our business to our destination. Since most of us work better with a list, here’s our list to keep our business going forward:
1.       Organization is the single best gift that we can give to ourselves and our business. It helps to save a tremendous amount of time and energy. When things are in their proper place it eliminates the frustration of last minute running around looking for things. Getting organized is time consuming on the front end and requires maintenance but it saves so much time when you’re trying to impress a client or make it to a meeting. Also, it helps to calm your spirit which will keep you open to new possibilities.
2.       Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) help to keep your business on track. The best businesses continuously have their fingers on the pulse. They know at a moment’s notice whether their sales are up or down and they are ready to respond accordingly. Developing good key indicators for your business can take the assistance of a professional. Sometimes spending a few dollars on a consultant can keep you from losing the shirt off of your back. Once you have your KPIs then you can measure your performance against the industry to ensure you’re tracking on the proper trajectory.
3.       Customer, peer and vendor feedback can be one of your best business tools when used effectively.  Feedback not only helps you to know what you’re doing right or wrong but if you listen well it can help you know what the customer wants and needs. It can help you to beat out the competition. Feedback can come in many forms. You can sit down and talk to people but also explore the tools at your disposal 24/7 – the internet. Social media can give you the greatest insight in to the industry and what your business should or should not be doing.  Listen intently because as a friend told me, “when my worst critic speaks I take notes because I know that’s my weakest link and I seize it as an opportunity to improve”.
4.       Say thank you! This is the one lost art in our culture. Sending thank you notes and following up with people is adds tremendous value to your business because most people don’t to it. A current customer is always your best next customer. The best business compliment is to have repeat satisfied customers.  So being gracious to your customers ensures continued business. If they are happy they will refer another customer. The momentum of the customer satisfaction gratitude cycle is phenomenal and has a multi-fold payback!
5.       Take a moment to rest, reflect and rejuvenate! These three R’s are essential to your long term growth and viability.  Taking the time to rest allows your body to replenish everything that we destroy in a day. Meditating and remembering the things that you are grateful for at the end of a long day makes you rest well, gives you a fresh start for increased productivity and rejuvenates your energy to the highest level. Learning to include this time in your day or week will jumpstart your business more than anything else. 
Let’s face it, as professionals we take care of our client’s needs but don’t take care of our own. Harvey S. Firestone said, “You get the best out of others when you give the best of yourself.” Making our own business and ourselves a priority will help us to be successful entrepreneurs in work and in life!