Small Businesses Should Dump Strategic Planning

In today’s challenging business environment, it is increasingly difficult for small business owners and execs to focus on long-term business strategies for growth and opportunities when dealing with imminent organizational crises.Every business can be identified with some critical factors that underpin its operations. Whether it is a multi-national corporation, a medium size organization, or a Sole Proprietary business, each of these has its own peculiar challenge and there is no single dosage of “get-well-kwik” prescription that fits all.There is a mega mismatch of criterion in this instance and the reason is that majority of people are yet to come to the realization that the business planning strategy that works for mega organizations will definitely not be suitable as strategies for small businesses. This misconception came as a result of business-school textbooks and theories which were majorly tailored towards large organizations and people believe that the same theory works for small businesses especially as their ultimate aim is to grow and become large. But it doesn’t work that way.Every large organization has a responsibility to implement a working strategic business planning system that will help it stay ahead of competition and succeed in business. In order words, large companies must adopt a continuous strategic planning system, comprehensive budgeting and forecasting exercise, SWOT analysis, KPI reporting, and continuous improvement procedures to evaluate their outcomes.Interestingly, the opposite is the case for small companies. Small businesses should scrap strategic planning; and here is the reason:• They Don’t Have Time
In reality, small business owner don’t have the luxury of time to invest in days or weeks of strategic planning exercise. He or she doesn’t have huge human resource capability; in other words, the business owner in most cases is the CEO, Marketing and Operations Manager, as well as Customer Service Director spontaneously.This being the case, the only strategies for small business that is attractive to him are those that point him where the customers are.• It’s Expensive
The primary focus of every small business is to generate sales, this means that their top teams (if they have more than one) who are constantly seeking 1-2-1 opportunities with prospective customers through business network meetings, seminars, workshops and cold calling strategies cannot afford to be pulled off the road for an intensive business planning strategy as this impacts negatively on their revenues.• The Benefits Are Short-Lived
The nature of small business is such that it constantly adjusts its business strategies to find the one that suits better. The strategies developed during strategic planning sessions may therefore not serve any meaningful purpose to the business if they have to be changed in a short while.Okay, so Nkem do you mean that small businesses should operate with their eyes closed to planning? Nope!If you are a small business owner, what you need to grow your business faster is strategic thinking which is the practice that allows you to respond to every challenge and opportunity in a strategic way. Here are examples.1. Plan in the Corridor
You see, for small businesses, big ideas don’t often come from long strategic planning sessions simply because they don’t have time for it. Instead, they fall off along the corridors or in the elevators.The bottom-line is for you to constantly keep yourself within the circumference of power to be able to think as a strategist. That is what will make the difference for you.2. Challenge the Status Quo
In the ever dynamic business environment, small businesses should learn to challenge certain industry dogmas that exist to frustrate their growth. For example, at the early stage of my Business Coaching and Leadership Development Practice, I sought advice from some business advisors and consultants that almost killed my enthusiasm for my business. At different times each of them said to me, “it’s hard,” “it doesn’t work.”You see, sometimes in business, it is crucial for executives to make strategic business planning decisions that are inconsistent with accepted industry norms sometimes. When someone tells you “it won’t work,” I recommend that you find out and make notes of the reasons why the idea “won’t work.” Is the price is too high, or will customers not like it? Whatever the reason, find out what can be done to make it work?3. Deep Your Feet in the Water and Keep Going
As part of a business planning strategy, large companies take large risks which involve conducting exhaustive research before implementation takes place. As a small business owner, that is an expensive project to embark on, and you don’t need it.You can develop “tactical hypothetic” strategies for small business and test the market by proposing to r friends, members of your business network, or people who have expertise in the area. You can also seek the help of your business coach and mentor, find out the best way to breakthrough.

Business Planning for Women: Why Traditional Models Don’t Always Cater for Women in Business

An increasing number of women are starting small businesses.The number of small businesses that are starting up with women at the helm is growing and 30% of business owners in the UK are women (Labour Force Survey 2003). The reasons women decide to start their own business vary, with most reporting that they want to be their own boss, choose their working hours and enjoy better work life balance.However for many of these women the reality of running a small business does not live up to their expectations; it is difficult to fulfill their dreams for their business and they become disillusioned and overwhelmed with the ongoing struggle of running a small business alongside their other roles in life – mother, partner, friend, daughter, chef, chauffeur, socialite – the list goes on!One area that has been identified as a significant factor limiting the success of women in business is a lack of business planning.Many women entrepreneurs and small business owners fail to set aside the time to develop (and regularly re-visit) their business vision and strategy. As the old quote goes, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. It is generally agreed that if you want your small business to succeed, you have a much greater chance if you have a clear vision and an action plan for bringing that vision about.So what stops women who are starting a small business from developing an inspired and effective business plan?After all, we know that we should have a business plan but despite the best of intentions to succeed in our business, many of us don’t! Why is this? What is it that stops us sitting down and writing a clear plan and strategy for our business, especially when we know that we are more likely to succeed if we do it?We believe it is partly because writing a business plan is boring! Let’s face it, it feels like a chore so we don’t do it. We may get the resources together that we need, we may even get part of the way through writing it, but it is the rare few that actually complete a comprehensive business plan outlining a clear vision, strategy and action plan for their business. Often, we are chomping at the bit to get our product or service out into the world and figure we can simply skip the boring planning bit altogether right? We can certainly relate to this feeling because we struggled with business planning in the early days – we gave it a try but never seemed to get further than a few pages in!It is our view that traditional models of business planning do not cater for women in business!We believe that traditional models of business planning and strategizing don’t recognise that women in business have a life outside of work – that they have a partner, friends and family to think about and are not prepared to compromise on health and relationships to have a successful and profitable business. Women today want the best of both worlds; we think it is possible and that they deserve to have it!Conventional business planning and management approaches are grounded in the belief that work and personal life should be kept separate, a task impossible for most women today. This makes it very difficult for them to create and sustain a business that acknowledges their business ambition AND empowers them to bring about great relationships and a healthy and balanced lifestyle for themselves and their loved ones.So how can business planning be tailored to meet the needs of women in business?Whether you are starting out in business or you are well-established, we encourage you to prioritise business planning in order to ensure a strategic approach to business growth and success.Set aside the time and space to make this happen in your business now.
Acknowledge that traditional models of business planning may be a great starting point, but that they may not address your needs as a business woman who also values health, relationships and having a life outside of work.
Think outside the square and discover ways to plan your business that relieve stress rather than increase it. Look for tools that empower you to bring all aspects of yourself to the planning process – personal and professional – because the reality is that for women in business the two are intertwined and to be successful in one you must pay attention and care for the other!
Get creative in your approach – both to the process of business planning and also to the way you can incorporate the other aspects of your life into your successful business strategy.
Take action to implement your strategy so that it comes to life for you.
Commit to re-visiting with your business plan on an ongoing basis to ensure.Business planning is vital to the success of your business, and can also encompass all the aspects of your life.You do not have to sacrifice your health and relationships to be a successful business owner and entrepreneur. Take action now and plan for your success in business and in life.

How to Develop the Right Direct Marketing Mix For Your Business

Direct marketing is a type of marketing that communicates directly with the prospect or customer. It should have a clear call to action and is often measurable. It is generally used to acquire or retain profitable customers. There are a number of different channels available to you, each offering different benefits and costings.Direct MailEvery household in the modern world no doubt receives several mail shots per year. This is often referred to as junk mail generally because many people don’t like receiving it through their letterbox. Because of this negative connotation it is critical that any Direct Mail that you send is highly targeted and personalized. The more personalized and relevant your mailing is, the higher your response rates will be. If you have a large customer base, it is beneficial to segment them based on the data you hold about them. This way you can try and personalize your message to that particular group.Within your letter you need to have a clear call to action so customers know how to buy your product or service. If you are a complete beginner it would be beneficial to employ a creative agency to support you, however this could be costly.The biggest advantage of Direct Mail is that it is completely measurable so you can track how it is performing incrementally. You would need to set up a no contact control cell within your mailed population in order to understand who would have bought your product anyway. In terms of cost, Direct Mail is generally more expensive than online channels due to the postage costs so it is probably an option for a more established business with a larger marketing budget.Door dropsDoor drops are less targeted mail shots or flyers delivered through your letterbox. They are not addressed to the householder personally. You will have seen local takeaway and taxi cab firms use door drops and they can be effective as a localized marketing strategy for acquiring new customers. If you can offer a discount this will increase your response but don’t expect to see great results.TelemarketingThis is another form of direct marketing that can be intrusive so proceed with caution. There are outbound and inbound options depending if you call the customer or they are calling you. You must ensure that you have permission to contact them by phone otherwise you could be breaching data protection laws. It is beneficial to position the call as a courtesy call prior to offering any product or service. This will put customers at ease and make them more receptive to talking to you. This can be an expensive channel as you have the network charges to cover as well as staff if you don’t have time to make the calls yourself.Email marketingEmail marketing follows the same principles as direct mail in that you are mailing to your prospects or customer base. Again this is a measurable channel and is cost effective as you don’t have the postage costs to consider. The barrier to email marketing can be the filters that classify emails as spam. This could mean that your prospects don’t actually receive your email. This channel is a great way for you to connect with your customers or prospects and offer them real value.Direct SalesDirect sales is not specifically direct marketing as it generally involves sales agents selling your product or service but it is another option for your marketing mix. You could employ a direct sales agency to sell your product on your behalf for a fee. This channel can be cost effective if you have the right staff and a relevant offer for the customer.These are a handful of direct marketing channels to consider when you are planning your marketing activity. Each one has their own merit depending on your objectives for your business and your budget. Always bear in mind that it is important to have more than one marketing channel in your portfolio in case you start to see a reduction in your response rates. This can often happen when you are in a saturated marketplace.