niallstrickland

About niallstrickland

Niall Strickland is CEO of HowsMyBusinessDoing.com and creator of HowsMyBusinessDoing online business analysis software. He is an MBA with 35 years of international business experience.

HowsMyBusinessDoing Blog Selected as a Finalist in Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016

By | 2017-11-04T02:04:39+00:00 September 2nd, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

HowsMyBusinessDoing Blog Selected as a Finalist in Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016. Many thanks to all of you who got the chance to vote for our HowsMyBusinessDoing blog in the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards 2016. We are really proud to have reached the final stage of the competition in the B2B category. The winners will be selected on 15th September. Remember that the blog is for all SME businesses that want to improve how they operate and become more profitable. If there is any business topic that is of interest to you, and that we have not already covered, please email us and we will endeavour to write about it. To discover more about Littlewoods Ireland, please click here

Getting Your Business Online

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:35+00:00 August 19th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Getting Your Business Online. It may seem ridiculous to some of us who have had a website for years, but many SME business owners have still not made the leap into the great unknown of creating a website and an online shop window for their business. There are all kinds of reasons cited for this including: I don’t need a website I am not technology savvy It’s too expensive I would not know where to start There is nobody in my business to look after it I have no need to sell online I have nothing to say What does a website cost? In my view, most of these excuses are pretty lame. The day of paying between five and twenty grand for a website is long gone, unless you are a corporate entity with very specific high end requirements, and it is no longer a costly exercise to create [...]

LWI Blog Awards 2016

By | 2017-11-04T02:07:28+00:00 August 17th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Our blog has been shortlisted for an award in the B2B category in Littlewood’s Ireland annual competition, based on the usefulness of our blog articles for small and medium business owners and managers. Many thanks to those of you that have voted for the HowsMyBusinessDoing blog. We really appreciate it and we will continue to deliver our perspective on business issues that matter. If there is any topic that you would like us to cover, please drop us an email to let us know.

Capital Raising Options for Entrepreneurial Businesses

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:37+00:00 August 12th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Capital Raising Options for Entrepreneurial Businesses. If you are an entrepreneurial business owner, with ambitions to grow your business beyond a life style business and to create tangible wealth, then you will need to figure out a way to fund the business growth beyond your personal resources through capital raising. This presumes that you have not inherited a substantial nest egg or have not made your fortune selling a previous business. Most of us start off our businesses with our own personal resources or savings and this is known as bootstrapping the business. Many of us have in the past relied on family and friends to fund the first growth steps of our business, with soft loans or sometimes cash in exchange for shares in the business. When banks were more borrower-friendly, they often bridged the funding gaps with term loans or working capital financing. Those businesses with pledgable assets [...]

How To Break SME Businesses Out Of This Stagnant Cycle?

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:37+00:00 August 5th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

How To Break SME Businesses Out Of This Stagnant Cycle? The recession is over according to economic commentators but have you really felt the benefits of an expanding economy? Are your SME businesses finally enjoying an upswing in economic activity? Well here is the interesting thing, most of the small and medium business owners I talk to are saying that business is not much better than it has been over the last 5 to 7 years, with the exception of some temporary spikes that have proved to be unsustainable. Yes, there are some exceptions and some SME businesses are doing significantly better than in previous years but the positive upswing is not widespread enough to sway significant new investment in small and medium businesses as a whole. Many SME businesses, which have seen an increase in sales, are saying that it is largely attributable to pent-up consumer demand. Long postponed [...]

There Is No “I” In Team

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:39+00:00 July 29th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

There Is No "I" In Team. As small business owners, we often start off alone or with just a small group of supporting employees, but perhaps not a team. As the business owner or CEO, we take ownership of the majority of headaches and frustrations. We are most likely to be the first to arrive at work each day and the last to leave. Everybody else gets paid before we do. The business frequently centers on us and our experience and knowledge, and without us there would be no business. Does this sound familiar to you? The problem with this business model is the absolute dependency it has on one person. If the CEO gets sick or debilitated for a long period of time, then the business is in danger of collapse. As a husband, wife, father or mother, if you fall over and die prematurely it leaves your family [...]

Business Planning – Where to Start?

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:40+00:00 July 22nd, 2016|Uncategorized|

Business Planning – Where to Start? Some business owners and managers, who have never written a business plan before, can suddenly wake up to the need to put some structure on their journey into the future, instead of leaving it all to chance or deciding to - let’s see what happens first. This awakening to the need for business planning is key to building a predictable and sustainable future for your business. However, all too often the business planning commences before the business owner grounds himself in the here and now. This can render the business plan useless or completely ineffective. This means that you need to take a step back from the future and ground yourself in the past before you start the business planning process. So once you take the important decision that a business plan is necessary for delivering a coherent and realizable future for you business, what [...]

How Introverts or Extroverts Impact Your Business

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:41+00:00 July 15th, 2016|Uncategorized|

How Introverts or Extroverts Impact Your Business. I have always been an introvert and I have often wondered if this was a product of my upbringing, a hereditary predisposition, a cultural bias, or whether it is simply a choice I made at some stage of my childhood. Looking to friends and acquaintances that I would classify as extroverts, I have had similar questions in my mind about them. This recently prompted me to read a book by Susan Cain, entitled Quiet, which delves into the two aforementioned personality types. It is a well-researched book that takes both a practical and an academic view of personality types and how they can seriously impact our behaviors, our view of the world, our careers and our businesses. What is an Introvert? According to Jung, introverts are drawn to the inner world of thought and feeling. Some common traits they share include: Needing to [...]

Communication in Your Business

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:42+00:00 July 8th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Communication in Your Business Developing good communication within a business may sometimes be a low priority simply because most executives spend so much time communicating externally with customers, prospects, suppliers and other market participants. However, internal communication can be every bit as important as external communication. Whether you have a large team of employees or just a team of one or two, it is important that you have an awareness of the benefits of good internal communication. There are several elements to good communication. The first element relates to the message content. The second element relates to the mode of communication. A third element is whether the messages are in one direction or two directions. Communication between all employees at all levels should be respectful. Good communication starts with good listening. Don’t be in a rush to get your point of view across. Listen carefully to what others have to [...]

Understanding Your Competition

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:42+00:00 July 1st, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Understanding Your Competition. When you decide to get involved in selling a product or service into a market, do you spend any time analyzing that market and the potential return you can hope to get? Do you look closely at existing competitors to get an understanding of market dynamics? Do you feel you know your competitors sufficiently well to allow you to make rational decisions about competing in a market or niche? This article looks at the attractiveness of your industry and how you can better understand your competition. It is important that you have a clear understanding of the competitive landscape in which your business operates. If you do not gather market intelligence about the industry, your competitors and their business strategies, you will find it difficult to compete effectively for your share of the customer spend. Knowing your competitors and profiling how they operate allows you to make [...]

Importance of Clearly Articulated Business Goals

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:43+00:00 June 24th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Importance of Clearly Articulated Business Goals. Do you have a woolly idea about where you want to take your business or do you have specific goals written down that everyone in your business gets to see? Do you spend so much time dealing with day-to-day business issues that you tend to ignore your goals and hope that they will be achieved anyway? A business will not get anywhere meaningful without having clearly articulated and written goals. Going through the process of writing down your goals is often the catalyst that ensures your business goals are achieved. Setting meaningful and achievable Goals is just one element of the business planning process. Business planning is a trickle down method of capturing what your business is all about. Your core values drive your vision for the business. Your vision for the business allows you to clearly articulate a meaningful mission statement. Your mission [...]

Are You the Ideal CEO for Your Business?

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:45+00:00 June 17th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Are You the Ideal CEO for Your Business? You may have started the business you are now running but are you the best person to take it to the next level of success? Are you bigheaded or humble? Do you possess the skill set and broad list of competencies that are necessary to be a leader in your industry? Perhaps you are in fact the ideal person to be CEO. However, do you have the honesty and humility to examine your suitability for the CEO role and to deal with the consequences of your soul-searching? You can never underestimate the importance of leadership in a business. In good companies, leadership exists at every level of the business but it must start at the top with the CEO. If your business has an inspirational CEO that leads from the front, it is likely that this leadership style will be emulated by [...]

Business Owners and Personal Productivity

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:46+00:00 June 10th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Business Owners and Personal Productivity Do you ever consider your personal productivity? When you run your own business, you are taking more risk in the hope of earning a greater reward for your effort, when compared to working for somebody else. But does it always work out this way? The answer is only sometimes. The vast majority of people running their own SME businesses work harder and get paid less than they might get paid for working elsewhere. In fact, the business owners are often the last to get paid and actually survive on what is left over, because their staff and key suppliers must get paid first to keep the business going. This was not the original dream that the entrepreneur had for the business. So how can the typical business owner change this situation and increase the odds of getting the financial return they deserve? One way is [...]

Magic of Mind Mapping For Kids – Revisited

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:47+00:00 June 3rd, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Magic of Mind Mapping For Kids – Revisited. Back in 2009, I created a short video about the benefits of mind mapping for kids. It attracted thousands of views and still does. So why is this? Well, we all love our kids unconditionally, and we want to give them every chance in life. Some are fast learners and some have to work a little bit harder to get the same grades in school. However, mind mapping is a great leveler which can give all kids the opportunity to shine as brightly as the best kid in the class. I started teaching my own kids how to create, and use, mind maps when they were only 6 or 7 years of age. But when I was growing up, I was not aware of this fantastic tool for structured thinking, effective note taking, and a prompt for recalling vast amounts of connected [...]

Workplace Stress

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:48+00:00 May 27th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Workplace Stress. Dynamic environments frequently cause stress and this has implications for business owners, managers and regular employees as they go about their jobs. We normally associate dynamic environments with high tech businesses that are growing and moving rapidly in order to keep ahead of the demand for their evolving products. But workplace stress is no longer just a feature of high tech businesses. The recession in 2008 has had a profound affect on most business environments, as financial pressures have created stress in the workplace, even in what were typically benign business environments. Even government departments must get by on less, while greater productivity is being demanded of employees and civil servants alike. A certain level of stress in the work environment can be positive as it spurs managers and employees to be demanding of themselves and in what they produce. This may often be the greatest stimulus of [...]

Business Analysis – Get A Handle On Your Business

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:49+00:00 May 20th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Business Analysis - Get A Handle On Your Business. Instinctively, we know what we know about our businesses. But what about the things we don’t know and perhaps should know? This gap in our knowledge can have serious consequences for the business. How often do you do a root and branch review of your business or do you ever take a look under the hood? If you do it at all, is it all encompassing or do you just look at the numbers? Does the feedback become a prompt for action? Let’s face it, most business owners keep any eye on the key performance indicators (KPI’s) and ignore everything else. They don’t see the need to look any deeper. They certainly don’t go to the expense of getting an external business analyst or consultant to look at the business, and they just keep on moving forward once there are no [...]

Ageism In Business

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:49+00:00 May 13th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Ageism in Business - Fact or Myth? Modern living has delivered a number of benefits in terms of how long people are now living, particularly in western society, and life quality for the average person is much higher than it was even fifty years ago. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule and poverty still exists even in the richest countries, but on average people are living longer and enjoy the benefits of modern medicine, which keeps them active and healthy for longer. So what impact does this have on the workforce? Well, here in Ireland where I live, the average mandatory retirement age is 65, even though state pensions are now being kicked out to 68 years of age before they commence. Now consider what happened during the recession. Early retirement was offered to many people in the 50 to 55 year age bracket. These so called middle-aged people [...]

Some Barriers To Scaling Your Business

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:49+00:00 May 6th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Some Barriers To Scaling Your Business. Now that the recession is behind us, more and more businesses are looking at how they can make up for lost ground during the last 7 or 8 years. Our political leaders are talking up the economy and we all want a piece of the often-discussed bigger pie. The recovery has been somewhat uneven thus far, and unfortunately not every boat has risen with the rising tide. So how can we overcome the barriers that still exist and win our own share of the spoils delivered by the pickup? There are several barriers we must all overcome as we strive to scale our businesses. They are as follows: Access to capital Leadership Scalable infrastructure Market dynamics Let us deal with each of these in turn. Access to Capital The banks helped to drive global economies into recession due to poor risk management and because [...]

Speeding Up The Cash Flow In Your SME Business

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:50+00:00 April 29th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Speeding Up The Cash Flow In Your SME Business. How many times have we seen so-called “profitable” SME businesses go to the wall? It happens every day in fact. Perhaps it is because some SME business owners simply don’t appreciate the difference between profit and cash. If you get paid in cash, you can recognize the profit immediately, and be in a position to make payments to suppliers or pay for business overheads. If the sale is on credit, you need to wait until you have received payment and it gets cleared through your bank before you can recognize the profit. Until this clearance takes place, you have not in fact made a profit and there remains a risk that you could make a loss. This delay in receiving payment means that you may not be in a position to make payments that may be due to your creditors. SME [...]

What Does The 80/20 Rule Mean For Your Business?

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:52+00:00 April 22nd, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

What Does The 80/20 Rule Mean For Your Business? Recognizing the implications of the 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, can have a profound impact on your business and your life. But why is this? Well, if you apply it to your business or your life, you will quickly see that 20% of your inputs will yield 80% of your outputs or that 20% of your effort will deliver 80% of your results. Applying this rule to your business can stop you from wasting 80% of your time on activities and customers that only generate 20% of your income. It all sounds too simple to really work, right? Maybe, but first consider the following imbalances, which perhaps exist in your business right now: 20% of products sold in a business typically account for 80% of the revenue 20% of the customers of a business typically generate 80% of [...]

The SOSTAC Marketing Model For Online Businesses

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:56+00:00 April 15th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

The SOSTAC Marketing Model For Online Businesses. A useful tool for creating a marketing plan was developed by best selling marketing author and consultant, Paul R. Smith, in 2011. He calls it SOSTAC ®. It provides a simplified approach to creating a business or marketing plan for anyone who has never had to create one before. I am a great admirer of Smith’s work and I am reproducing the central tenets of it here today to create awareness of the tool. PR Smith published an update to his original work for digital marketers in 2015, and this is available for purchase on Amazon. This article reflects on Smith’s updated model. The SOSTAC model’s core components are as follows: S – Situation Analysis – where are we now? O – Objectives – where are we going? S – Strategy – how do we get there? The big picture view T – [...]

Project Management in Small and Medium Businesses

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:57+00:00 April 8th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Project Management in Small and Medium Businesses. Change is inevitable in any business as we grapple with market and economic forces. Staying the same is often not a realistic option, if we want our businesses to survive and prosper. So, as owners and managers of small and medium businesses, how do we deal with change management? Some of us muddle through. Others put together change management or project management teams from within their business. A small minority of smaller business owners choose to bring in project managers to help them with the change process. This is particularly prevalent in projects, which involve IT system changes and where the skill set that is needed, simply does not exist within the business. So what does project management involve and what are the core components? The diagram below gives an example of some of the fundamental components most often seen in managing a [...]

The Work Life Balance Conundrum

By | 2017-06-01T12:13:59+00:00 April 1st, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

The Work Life Balance Conundrum. If you run a small or medium business, chances are that you will sometimes struggle to maintain a proper work life balance. It happens to all of us at some stage. When we are in the office, we are constantly in motion and the day gets extended at both ends, as business pressures demand more of our time. This can often be compounded by the harsh reality that when we are at home, our minds are still in the office. This is not fair to our loved ones and it is certainly not being fair to ourselves. The harder we work, the more unbalanced our lives become and this can become a cycle of unrepentant misery and guilt. The real challenge is to be able to take a helicopter view of your situation and to recognize what is happening. You may believe that you are [...]

Happy Customers – Lessons in Customer Care for SME Businesses

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:01+00:00 March 25th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Happy Customers - Some Lessons in Customer Care for SME Businesses. Customer care comes naturally in some businesses while some businesses simply fail to recognize the importance of their customers. This blog explores acceptable standards of customer service and the impact excellent customer service has on customer loyalty and profitability. Customers need to be seen as the highest priority focus in any business. If you are not entirely focused on satisfying your customers, you may find that your competitors will go the extra mile and the customers may no longer belong to you. Good companies go to enormous lengths to ensure that their customers are satisfied. Many businesses claim to have a strong customer care focus, but delivering on this is not easy. Unless it becomes embedded in the company culture, and people get rewarded for customer service excellence, it may become a good intention that is not consistently fulfilled [...]

Gender Equality In Business

By | 2016-03-18T12:53:12+00:00 March 18th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Gender Equality In Business. It may seem strange to be still talking about gender equality in business in the 21st century. It harks back to the 19th and 20th centuries, doesn’t it? Well yes, that is certainly where it belongs. But has gender based discrimination in business really gone away? The answer is unfortunately not. I have been in business for forty years and I have had the privilege to work for several periods overseas in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as working for the majority of my career in my home country in Ireland. I have also made it my business to travel the world and observe many different cultures. Having worked in large corporate organizations as well as in small and medium businesses, I have observed the inequality suffered by female employees, particularly in the 80’s and 90’s, and it sadly continues to this [...]

Corporate Governance and Business Ethics In SME Businesses

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:03+00:00 March 11th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Corporate Governance and Business Ethics In SME Businesses. Many business owners may think that Corporate Governance and Business Ethics only have relevance for larger businesses. However, in my view, small businesses should look to the same principles to regulate how they operate and follow proven processes and practices that demonstrate how they meet with the highest standards in social, regulatory and market environments. So what is Corporate Governance and where does it come from? Corporate Governance can be defined as "a system of law and sound approaches by which corporations or companies are directed and controlled, focusing on the internal and external corporate structures, with the intention of monitoring the actions of management and directors and thereby, mitigating risks which may stem from the misdeeds of corporate officers.” Origins of Corporate Governance Corporate Governance standards have evolved over the past 25 years in the light of abuse and fraud within [...]

Smart Goals Vs Dumb Goals

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:04+00:00 March 4th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Smart Goals Vs Dumb Goals. Smart Goals - If you have ever been on a business course, you will probably have learned the principal of Smart Goals. Smart Goals are used as a framework to help a business owner to focus on the journey forward and to put some structure on how the end-point of the journey can be reached. The framework is as follows: S – Specific M – Measurable A – Achievable R – Realistic T – Time-bound Specific simply means that you must focus on defined goals, rather than on wooly aspirations. You need to write each of the goals down and refine them so that they are meaningful for you and your business. Measurable means that they must have a value that can be measured so that there cannot be any arguments about whether the goals have been achieved or not. For example, if one of [...]

Benefit of Intelligent Business Questions

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:05+00:00 February 26th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Benefit of Intelligent Business Questions. Do you ask intelligent business questions? I have been in business a long time and I have been advising many businesses of different sizes, and in many different sectors, about how to improve their performance, for more than 15 years. It is interesting to note how a point of view can completely alter the context and substance of a topic or question. To get the right answers, it is imperative that you first ask the right questions. When meeting with potential clients, the conversation often starts with a series of questions that relate to fears of the clients. Once a bond of trust develops, the conversations then move to the frustrations that the clients are experiencing in their business. However, if the clients cannot get past the fear stage, then it becomes unlikely that I will be able to help them. Perhaps the place that [...]

First Steps In Growing Your Business – Get The Right Help

By | 2016-03-11T13:01:51+00:00 February 19th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

The First Steps In Growing Your Business, Get The Right Help. Growing your business is easy, right! Successful businesses often start small, grow over a period of time, and then hit against a restrictive barrier before they can scale to new heights. Many never make it to the next level of success. Maybe it’s not so easy after all, so why is this? Getting a business off the ground takes a certain skill set and determination on the part of the business owner(s). Having the right products or services obviously helps. Once trading, businesses tend to evolve over a period of time, wherein the skill set within the business and the infrastructure that supports it, allow the business to grow to a certain size. However, to get to the next stage in the growth cycle, there needs to be a seismic shift within the business to get it over the restrictive [...]

Company Culture and the Daily Huddle

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:08+00:00 February 12th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Company Culture and the Daily Huddle. Many small and medium business owners are slow to recognize that company culture is equally important in small and medium businesses, as it is in larger corporations. I published a short video on this topic a few years ago, which attracted several thousand views around the world, and I am giving access to it again here today as a reminder of the importance that business culture has on business performance. Click here to view the video – it runs to just over 3 minutes. When a business is small and has very few employees, it is easy to have open communication channels and for daily dialogue between employees to exist. As businesses grow larger, silos can begin to form, where employees operate in clusters and information sharing tends to stay within these silos. However, the business structure does not have to be like this. [...]

Scaling and the 3 Pillars of Execution Capability – Part 3 – Infrastructure

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:08+00:00 February 5th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Scaling and the 3 Pillars of Execution Capability – Part 3 - Infrastructure. Two weeks ago, I introduced the topic of creating execution capability for businesses what want to scale. I talked about how people are one of the 3 critical ingredients needed to scale a business and I introduced some ideas about developing roles and responsibilities, effective recruiting of employees, and leadership and management styles that work. Last week, I talked about the importance of building effective processes in your business. Scaling and the 3 Pillars of Execution Capability – Part 1 – People This week, in the final installment, I discuss the role of infrastructure and the part it plays in Execution Capability, and how the 3 pillars collectively can create the proper circumstances to allow you to scale your business. Scaling and the 3 Pillars of Execution Capability – Part 2 – Process INFRASTRUCTURE Even Steve Jobs [...]

Scaling and the 3 Pillars of Execution Capability – Part 2 – Process

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:09+00:00 January 29th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Scaling and the 3 Pillars of Execution Capability – Part 2 – Process. Last week I introduced the topic of creating execution capability for businesses what want to scale. I talked about how people are one of the 3 critical ingredients needed to scale a business and I introduced some ideas about developing roles and responsibilities, effective recruiting of employees, and leadership and management styles that work. This week, I will be talking about building effective processes in your business. Scaling and the 3 Pillars of Execution Capability – Part 1 – People PROCESS Process is all about defining and refining how tasks are carried out in your business. Frequently, processes simply evolve over time and you may hear people claim they carry out a task in a particular way, simply because they always did it that way. This is not good enough if you want to scale your business. [...]

Scaling and the 3 Pillars of Execution Capability – Part 1 – People

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:12+00:00 January 22nd, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Scaling and the 3 Pillars of Execution Capability – Part 1 - People. Even though many of us entrepreneurs choose to operate as sole-traders, there comes a time in our business when we must decide to accept the status quo, and whatever limitations come with that, or decide to scale the business to something much bigger than we have right now. A decision to scale our business means stepping outside of our comfort zone and building execution capability that gives us the chance to succeed at a totally new level. This does not come without risks. It means that we must invest in our business and in ourselves. It requires us to add a layer of complexity to our business that may initially make us feel uncomfortable. It requires us to look outside ourselves and to accept our personal limitations. It frequently means putting our own money or savings on [...]

What Is A Customer Avatar and Why Is It Important?

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:13+00:00 January 15th, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

What Is A Customer Avatar and Why Is It Important? We all have a general sense of whom our ideal customer or client is, but have you ever taken the time to describe him or her in detail? The picture of your ideal customer is sometimes called a customer avatar. It can actually be quite revealing if you create a persona with attributes, commonalities, likes, dislikes, worries, frustrations and even a name. So how do you approach creating a customer avatar? I use mind mapping to create my customer avatar, which captures core data about the customer. This mechanism creates a visual picture on a single page that allows me to manipulate different elements, until I have a clear definition about who my ideal customer is. You will find that if you consider your top ten customers, that they will share many traits in common. Your customer avatar may in [...]

Can I really afford the new equipment my business needs?

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:19+00:00 January 8th, 2016|Uncategorized|

Can I really afford the new equipment my business needs? It may seem obvious to some of us that we simply cannot afford to invest in a new computer system or a new piece of equipment for our business, if there is no money in our bank account to cover it. Wrong! If we wait until the money is in our bank account, chances are that we will never be able to afford it. The key here lies in the word invest. If we make an investment in our business, we expect to make a positive financial return on this investment. If you take a look at the cost of the investment, and balance this with the potential return that will be generated by the asset over its useful life, then it may make sense to go ahead and make the investment. Take an example of a piece of computer [...]

Benefits of Defined Roles and Responsibilities in Your Business

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:25+00:00 January 1st, 2016|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Benefits of Defined Roles and Responsibilities in Your Business. When startup businesses begin to achieve a measure of success, it becomes necessary to start adding structure to the way in which the business is managed. One of the areas that need special attention is human resources management and roles and responsibilities in particular. I have discussed the recruitment and selection process in another article -(http://howsmybusinessdoing.com/what-is-topgrading-and-how-can-i-use-it-to-hire-the-best-employees/). However, before you can recruit successfully, you need to clearly identify why you are hiring people and what you expect them to do after they are hired. It is not sufficient to identify a bottleneck in the business and to look to recruit someone to relieve the pressure point. This type of short-term gap filling is clearly not a coherent business strategy. The process of defining a role in a business, and the responsibilities to be undertaken by a new hire, is best done before [...]

Identify Your Management Style – Micro-Management or Empowerment?

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:30+00:00 December 18th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Identify Your Management Style - Micro-Management or Empowerment? If you run your own business, and perhaps have moved from being the only employee, to having a number of employees working for you, it can be a challenge to let go and to allow your employees to get on with the job you took them on to do, instead of resorting to micro-management. You must learn to accept that not everyone does their job the same way that you would do it. You might even be surprised to find that your employees can do the job even better than you can. When employees are added to the team, the CEO’s new job is to coach the team and to focus their personal energy on what is most important for the success of the business. If you micro-manage your staff, you need to take a long hard look at your own performance. [...]

What Is Topgrading and How Can I Use It to Hire The Best Employees?

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:41+00:00 December 10th, 2015|Uncategorized|

What Is Topgrading and How Can I Use It to Hire The Best Employees? Would you be surprised to hear that out of every 12 people hired, that 3 are C players (mediocre to poor performers), 6 are B players (average to good performers) and only 3 are A players (consistently excellent performers)? This means that only 25% of the people your business typically hires, are at the top of their game. This is kind of scary, particularly when you consider that the cost of mis-hires is multiples of a person’s salary. And it does not get any better if you use outside agencies to help you hire talent. So what is an A Player? Well, they tend to exhibit the following characteristics: They are smart in terms of intellect and business savvy They are passionate and driven to succeed They are trustworthy They are consistent high performers They are [...]

Do You Use Spin Selling in Your Business?

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:51+00:00 December 3rd, 2015|Uncategorized|

Do You Use Spin Selling in Your Business? The concept of Spin Selling has been around since 1987, when Neil Rackham first published his well-researched book “Spin Selling“ on this topic. I believe that the methods described in Neil Rackham’s book still offer great benefits and I am writing about it here for SME business owners that have yet to hear about Spin Selling, and hope they might use this knowledge in their businesses. The easiest way to explain the sales model is with a diagram, which I have crafted from the original data in the book. I have split the model into two different halves. The top half looks at the typical high-level stages in a sales call. A sales person starts with the preliminaries, wherein trust is established and the sales person seeks permission to move to the next stage. Next comes the investigative phase, wherein the sales [...]

How to Build Effective Structures in Your SME Business

By | 2017-06-01T12:14:57+00:00 November 27th, 2015|Uncategorized|

How to Build Effective Structures in Your SME Business. When we are setting up a small SME business, we are often on our own and don’t have the luxury of delegating tasks or building functional or operational structures that support the business. For many of us, it is a case of surviving on our wits one day at a time, and focusing on the income generating activities that keep the business alive. But you can only do this for a while before you burn out, or the business collapses due to lack of resources. So why would anyone want to take on the risk of starting their own business? Some of us go into business because we have a great idea; others do it because they don’t want to work for someone else or in the corporate world; and there are some of us that do it simply because we [...]

Implementing Effective Credit Control Procedures in Your Business

By | 2017-06-01T12:15:02+00:00 November 20th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Implementing Effective Credit Control Procedures in Your Business. Do you take credit control seriously in your business? Do you use effective credit control techniques to minimize business risk? Do you take a systematic and structured approach to assessing customers before deciding to grant or renew a credit limit for each of your customers? Do you actively monitor your customers in relation to their payment performance? Do you closely watch their performance in the market place and with other suppliers to give you an early warning of trouble coming down the tracks? Do you take decisive action in relation to cutting off credit lines when you need to? Your answers to all of these questions will determine if your business is being put at risk or not. It’s all about how you run your credit control function. If you don’t offer credit to customers – great – then this article is [...]

Business Analysis Tools for SME Business Owners

By | 2017-06-01T12:15:09+00:00 November 12th, 2015|Uncategorized|

Business Analysis Tools for SME Business Owners. Not every business owner has the means or desire to hire a Business Consultant or Business Advisor. So what should a business owner do if he wants to get a good understanding of how his business is performing, particularly in relation to how it is performing compared to other businesses? Well a good place to start, is to find out what business analysis tools for SME business owners are useful and readily available. The image below shows a model of the typical business analysis tools that can easily be used by SME business owners. It can look a little bit intimidating at first but don’t get anxious about all the different options. You don’t have to do them all and you can chose the ones that are most appropriate for your business, before giving a few of them a try. Analysis Tools [...]

The Benefits of Continuous Learning and Benchmarking your Business

By | 2017-06-01T12:15:31+00:00 November 5th, 2015|Uncategorized|

The Benefits of Continuous Learning and Benchmarking your Business. “Nobody knows my business better than I do” is a proud boast I sometimes hear when talking to business owners that have worked in their own SME business for a long time. They do not consider the possibility of benchmarking their business against other leading businesses. Many believe that they cannot actually improve their business or that an external person can offer meaningful insights that could actually make the business perform better. I frequently admire their confidence in their own abilities and perhaps some of them might be right – they do know it all. However, what if there was even a small chance that the small or medium enterprise (SME) business owner is wrong? What if he hasn’t heard about the new tools or techniques used by some of his competitors? Could it be possible that he could be adding [...]

What does a Management Consultant or Business Advisor actually do?

By | 2017-06-01T12:15:34+00:00 November 2nd, 2015|Uncategorized|

What does a Management Consultant or Business Advisor actually do? There is sometimes great mystery around the question - what does a management consultant or business advisor actually do? This is particularly important to know when you are considering engaging one for your small or medium business. An even bigger question is “what value is delivered to a business owner who engages with a management consultant or business advisor?” Let us explore the answers here. A typical management consultant or business advisor is a business person with practical experience in managing a business effectively, and implementing best business practices learned while honing his craft. Ideally, he is not simply an academic who puts concepts to the test in the real world but instead, he is someone who has worked in and around a wide variety of businesses, and often specific industries, where he has particular expertise. This, most often, is [...]

How to Command and Control Your Business using Mind Maps

By | 2017-06-01T12:15:40+00:00 October 29th, 2015|How's My Business Doing Blog|

How to Command and Control Your Business using Mind Maps. As your business grows, it increases in complexity and this creates more demands on the business owner or the CEO. Keeping all the balls in the air at once can be difficult if not impossible. So is there a special skill attached to managing a large number of things at once or is there a tool that can help the business owner to cope? In fact, there is no special skill involved, but using the right tools to keep you on track can transform your business and your life. I am a massive fan of Mind Mapping and I have been one for the past 30 years. In all this time, I have found no other tool that can surpass the simplicity of its use or its ability to turn complex data into easily understood structured information. However, beyond the [...]

What is this Vision, Mission and Objectives thing all about?

By | 2017-06-01T12:15:43+00:00 October 27th, 2015|How's My Business Doing Blog|

What is this Vision, Mission and Objectives thing all about? There is much written about the importance and desirability of having a vision, mission and objectives for your business but what is it really all about? In reality, it is simply a framework for understanding both long-term and short-term aims for your business and the underlying reasons why you take on the hassle of running a business at all. Lots of business owners see it as an academic exercise that must be completed as part of the business planning process. However, it is more fundamental than that. It is also much easier to understand when you simplify it into its individual components and you view it as a set of steps with the owner or CEO overseeing each step from the top of the staircase. It really starts on the top step, where the CEO oversees the business he is [...]

Now that the Recession is over, what should Small & Medium Businesses do next?

By | 2017-06-01T12:15:54+00:00 October 23rd, 2015|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Now that the Recession is over, what should Small & Medium Businesses do next? It has been a tough few years for small & medium businesses and those of us operating in the small and medium business space have undoubtedly felt the impact of the financial crisis. We have endured years of cost cutting and job losses in order to survive, but those of us that remain in business are in a reasonably strong position to start growing again as business and consumer confidence improves. Our biggest challenge now is our lack of investment during the bad years, which in many cases has been forced on us, due to weak earnings, economic uncertainty, and widespread lack of available financing. We are now seeing moderate growth rates in the UK and the United States, driven by consumer demand and low inflation. In the United States, labor markets have improved, buoyed up [...]

Why Would I Want to do a Business Health Check on My Business?

By | 2017-06-01T12:16:01+00:00 October 16th, 2015|How's My Business Doing Blog|

Why would I want to do a health check on my business? When we work in our own businesses, we tend to get caught up in the day-to-day decisions and the administration of daily challenges. We often fail to lift ourselves above our daily routines to take a helicopter view of where we are going, and the steps that we are taking to get there. Sometimes, we even get so caught up in our daily tasks that we don’t fully understand where we are, how effectively we are running the business, or how much better we might be doing if we only took time out to measure the status quo. Here are some important questions you should be asking yourself: Am I an expert in all the different facets of my business? Where I may have some shortcomings, have I got someone employed to pick up the slack? Do I [...]