Business Season Cycles

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When December approaches I often find myself reflecting on the year just passing and thinking of the aims I had at the beginning of the year.

I tend to have ‘themes’ for each year which guide where i am going to concentrate my efforts and invariably find Winter the season for cutting back, eliminating and letting go.

As business owners we all try to do too much, start new things without finishing them and procrastinate on our goals.

I see Spring as the season to think about new products and services, new ways to wow our customers, The Summer for making new contacts and getting those products out – so much nicer to network when the sun is shining! – and Autumn for nurturing all our relationships, cementing joint ventures.

Winter reflection is very important to me – its not something I do overnight. Good incisive questions like;

What was it that I did so well, that I should do more of it because it made the biggest difference to my business?

What’s the next thing and how does it help achieve my overall long term goal?

What did I enjoy, what didn’t I enjoy, what else can I delegate? Was i bold enough?

What’s my main theme for the year to help my own personal development?

These and many more need answering before any new goals are considered. It might just be a question of reviewing and updating current ones.

 

Strengthen Your Marketing and Get More Leads!

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How to Generate More Leads

Above is a link to my latest e-book to help you generate more leads and improve your marketing message.

There is nothing for you to do except open it – Its a gift from me!

The reason I’m sending it to you is just to help you improve your marketing message and remind people of  my Business Growth Academy at the same time.

Look out for my next  event – a joint venture with Stadio Marketing – on Building your Fans around Your Pitch. We’ve delivered it in Ipswich and it was very well received. Dates to be confirmed soon

www.nacbusinessgrowthacademy.co.uk

 

How to Focus on Your Ideal Customers

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In this post we will cover:

  • The 80/20 rule in your business
  • How to figure out who your ideal customers are
  • How to figure out what your ideal customers want

The majority of your revenue comes from your ideal customers. This is great news!

I’ve described the 80/20 rule of business before, but it’s the premise for this whole post.

80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients, and
those 20% are your ideal customers.

Generally, these customers are loyal, spend a lot and spend often. They may be demanding, or ask you to stretch a little bit further, but they’re fair and they’re profitable. You make a substantial amount of money from them. You want to keep these customers in your business, and keep them exceptionally happy.

The rest of your customers can be organised on a sliding scale all the way down to your c-list, or unprofitable customers. These are the people who waste your time, energy and resources. They’re never satisfied, and nearly always cost you more to serve than they actually spend in your business.

The most profitable – and enjoyable to work in – businesses know how to spot and cater to their 20%, as well as how to spot and fire the difficult customers.

This post is about optimising your customer base so you can

a. serve happy, pleasant customers
b. see more repeat business
c. have happier staff
d. make more money

To identify the bad apples, you’ll have to first make a list of your ideal customers.

Go through your database of customers and make a list of the customers that make you answer yes to the following questions:

  • Has the customer purchased from you on several occasions?
  • Is the customer profitable?
  • Is the customer strategically important to your business?
  • Has the customer spent a significant amount of money in your business?

While you do this, you may also wish to make a list of customers who made you answer no to one or several of those questions. Those customers could potentially be unprofitable, or undesirable ones that you need to review.

When you are trying to establish how profitable a customer is, think about how much they spend, how often they spend, and what they buy. Do they buy high-margin or low-margin items? Have they referred other customers to you? Do they pay on time? Do they buy products or services at full price? Each business will have a different set of criteria to evaluate this, but use those questions as guidelines.

Your ideal customers are those that are highly profitable, and a dream to deal with. You’re more than happy to accommodate their requests, and go above and beyond their expectations. These are the customers you will want to cultivate more of in your business.

Your ideal customers are the ones that:

  • Ask you for the products and services that fall within your expertise or speciality.
  • Value your products and services, as well as you and your staff.
  • Pay a fair market price.
  • Challenge you to be better at what you do.
  • Support your continued business and professional growth.
  • Help you move in new strategic directions.

Once you know who your top clients are, ask them what they want and value in your business so you can continue to provide great service.

Why do your ideal customers buy from you? And what more can you do to encourage their business?

Consider sending a survey out to your A-list customers, and provide an incentive for them to complete and return it. Craft the questions to elicit a true picture of your strengths and weaknesses, and include a combination of multiple choice, ranking and open ended questions.

Ask your ideal customers questions about:

  • The products or services they love or would love to see.
  • Customer service elements that are important to them.
  • Why they chose your business?
  • How your business could improve?
  • How could you do more business with them?

You may also wish to create a survey for your staff to identify anything in your business that they feel could be improved. They work there everyday too, so they’re a great resource pool for ideas and enhancements.

Take the information you collect from these surveys, and use it to genuinely improve your business. Fix any problems, and eliminate any activities or services that weren’t identified as valuable. Maximise the activities and services that were identified as valuable.

 

 

If time were money, how would you manage yours? – Part 2 Self Management strategies

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Here are a series of effective strategies for improving your time management skills, and for doing more in less time.

The strategies described below will help you take charge of your schedule and use your time in a more effective manner. Grab your pad of paper and start by choosing five or six strategies to try, take some notes as you read through and decide which you will try first.

Remember this is an individual process – everyone works differently – so if you have to try a few different things to get some meaningful results, that’s okay/normal!

Prioritise your tasks > You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what is most deserving of your time investment.
> Choose what needs to be completed now, what can be completed later, and what can be delegated to someone else.
> Focus on your top three priorities at any one time, and consistently revise your list so that the highest priority items are on the top, and the lowest priority items are at the bottom.
Delegate > You can’t do everything, so you need to decide what you absolutely need to do, and what others can finish.
> You also need to accept that while it may seem “faster” for you to complete a task initially, spending the time to teach someone to complete the task will save you hours later on.
> Delegation is a vital skill that you need to refine, practise and master as a manager.
Focus on your skills > If you have a good understanding of your own strengths and weaknesses, you can use this to your advantage.
> An effective way to manage your time is to only do the things that you know you are good at, or required for, helps to make money, and delegate or outsource the areas where you are not as strong.
Say no > Learn how to say no, and you will reclaim dozens of hours every week.
> It’s so easy to say yes to something in the moment, and later feel overwhelmed when that task is added to your to do list. You may feel pressure to say yes to everything as a business owner, but you do have a choice.
Keep a strict schedule > Create and keep a strict schedule for yourself that supports your productivity, and minimises distractions.
> Include personal and work time in your schedule
> Schedule time for things like closed-door work, work planning, email and phone responses, internal and external meetings, “me time”, family and exercise.
Make decisions > As a successful business owner, you will need to learn to make good decisions quickly and efficiently, without wasting time with deliberations.
> You can only make the best decision with the information you have, in the time frame you have to make it. No one expects you to be able to see the future – be decisive, make some mistakes, and learn from them.
Manage interruptions > Establish which hours of the day you are most productive, and set those hours aside for yourself to finish important tasks, uninterrupted.
> Schedule open door hours, and closed-door hours.
> Schedule windows of time for reading and replying to emails, and for answering and replying to phone calls.
Manage interruptions Avoid duplicating efforts > Take note of how many tasks are completed more than once, or by more people than necessary.
> Establish clear communication systems and procedures to minimise this, and make sure all your employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
> Use tools like checklists, meeting minutes and individual task assignments to minimise mis-communication and duplication in tasks.
Stop procrastinating > If you are a seasoned procrastinator, the idea of “just stopping” is usually much easier in principle than in practice.
> The best way to overcome procrastination is to use your willpower to stop. Refining this skill will help to prevent you from procrastinating in the future.
> Try working in blocks of focused time, with breaks or rewards at the end, and break down big tasks into small manageable ones – called ‘chunking’.

Effective time management is just a formal way of saying that you make good choices about how you spend your valuable time.

It really just boils down to making choices, and setting up a structure that enables you to succeed. You have to try a few different strategies and structures to see what works best for you.

Remember that self management is a personal investigation that will look different for everyone. Some people can work in the middle of a loud, crowded room, and others need absolute silence to function at a high level. Respect your own needs.

Next time – How to add value to your business

If time were money, how would you manage yours? – Part 1

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Time is far more precious than money. There are a finite number of days that you will spend on this earth, while money is something you can usually get more of.

If you are 35 years old with a life expectancy of 75… you have already spent 12,775 days on Earth and have 480 months left to fulfill your life destiny. If you plan to retire at the age of 50 you have 180 months to make enough money to retire (a million pounds doesn’t put a dent in retirement nowadays…) and in those months 1,440 days are weekends… so you have 3600 workdays to make it all happen. What are you waiting for… time to stop confusing being busy with being successful!

The fact is that many business owners – like yourself – actually manage their money as though it is more precious than their time. They started the business to choose their own hours, spend more time with their family, and be their own boss. But, somewhere along the way the only goals that mattered became the financial ones. Or, the only item worth measuring and managing was money.

Your time will never be managed for you – you have to make a decision to choose to spend your time wisely. To take ownership of your own schedule, and use the power you have to change what isn’t working. I’ll show you several tools to get you started, but first let’s take a look at what your time is worth first, to attach time to money.

If everytime you do something (that is really a distraction), you might want to think of how much it’s costing your business!

Here’s a really simple exercise to determine what your time is worth based on your annual income and the number of working hours in a year.

Target annual income A. £
Working days in a year B. 235
Working hours in a day C. 7.5
Working hours in a year D. 1,645
A / D = YOUR HOURLY WORTH E.

It’s also unrealistic to assume that each of the 1,645 hours in a year is a productive one. Various studies have put actual productivity at anywhere between 25 minutes and four hours per day. That’s a lot of room for improvement!

Now, this calculation doesn’t factor in overtime hours, taxes, or expenses. If you work as a consultant for an hourly rate, it doesn’t factor in the cost for you to provide your services. The point is, this is your hourly worth in the best-case scenario.

When you start thinking about time management, the goal is to get more done in less time, and thus increase your hourly worth (among other benefits, of course!). It’s also a way for you to start proritising your actions when you consider the hourly rate it is costing the business.

Going on FB for an hour might not seem so attractive if you think of the monetary value as well as what is not getting done!

Part 2 – some tools for self management