Having begun my business career in a chain store retail environment the importance of achieving measurable goals -- particularly sales increases -- was baked into my brain. This was an era of very high inflation and a business that was not growing in step with rising prices was actually losing ground. It still makes for a feeling of puzzlement inside me now, decades later, when I encounter CEDF clients who do not establish relevant, defined goals for their own business growth.
Along the way, by owning my own retail operations, I began to better understand the nuances of defining goals and motivating teams to accomplishing them. If for example, one has a location impacted by a major change in customer traffic due to the disappearance of a nearby major store, the underlying need to accomplish growth doesn't go away, but the management approach sure does. When your team is feeling discouraged over the difficulty -- if not impossibility -- of achieving a goal, you need something besides a bigger whip.
This is just one situation where systems should take the spotlight. Like a baseball batter in a hitting slump who refocuses on fundamentals, systems can mitigate or even turn around what seem to be intractable challenges. But effective systems have to already be in place and ready to reach for. Perhaps, because I spent so many of my early years as a systems-builder in the organizations where I worked, the need for systems and processes seemed so obvious, for years I didn't understand their real value in supporting the accomplishment of goals.
I've run across a few articles in recent years about using systems over goals. Some by cartoonist Scott Adams inspired discussions in our Small Business As Usual podcast 18-4 with Caleb Roseme.
But I don't completely agree. A ship can have an efficient crew, working with great efficiency, but the rudder has to be pointed in some direction. As baseball great Yogi Berra supposedly said, "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else."
If you can forget the torture inflicted in eighth grade science class surrounding the forced memorization of the Periodic Table of the Elements, then you might be able to squeeze a smile out of the blog article posted lately on a website called FreeLogoServices.com.
Their business concept is pretty clever too. Offer online tools to help you develop your own logo and if you like your artistic efforts, the graphics file is yours for $39.95. And by the way, they’ll sell you business cards, coffee mugs, imprinted clothing, signs and other kinds of stuff to proudly display your artistic creation.
But back to the blog article and a tip of the hat to the company for knowing that content marketing has real value. They’ve created an infographic posting, which is an effective way to explain a complicated subject. And this is not just another pretty picture. Even though selling logos and promotional junk is their business, the posting serves to educate their small business clientele about the realities of branding.
They chose a trendy meme – reimagining the Periodic Table – to portray three distinct groups (remember the alkali earth metals?) for simplifying the general concept of branding. And they created 23 “elements” that zero in on concept specifics.
Even if you hate the thought of chemistry, perusing their “23 elements for branding success” will leave you better informed and with a useful checklist for assessing whether you have dealt with all parts of the formula for marketing success in your industry.
Once in a while, the conversation between a CEDF business advisor and a client turns to the possibility of the borrower selling the business. It’s surprising how unfamiliar many small business owners are with the standard approaches for valuing a company in their industry, or any closely-held company for that matter.
Admittedly the subject is complicated, and while there are basic formulas, often individual circumstances can overtake the usefulness of any single customary approach. Probably this is one reason there is a whole industry of business appraisers, although most of their work is confined to “bigger” small businesses.
This article provides a nice tutorial for those who need to get grounded in the realities of valuation. As you can imagine, it’s not unusual for a small business owner to sometimes have an unrealistic idea of how much their operation would bring. In companies where the efforts of the owner are key to the past accomplishments and future success of the enterprise, it can come as a shock as to how little value the office furniture, old equipment, leasehold improvements of a rented space and even the customer list can bring.
A hard look at the realities is important both for personal planning and making short and long term decisions about investment, expansion, and potentially, succession. A talk with your CPA is a good first step toward evaluating the cold truth.
As a business owner, do you have the personalities of the entrepreneur, technician and manager in balance inside your head? Do you have your time appropriately segmented and planned for efficiency? Bob Walsh, CEO of Sound Coaching Inc., in Bridgeport explains how he makes it work.
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