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HOW OPTIMISM KILLS BUSINESS PLANNING

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optimist

Are you knee deep in plans to grow your business next year? If so, consider that the very ideas that support how you grow your business and where you should invest likely already exist. However, you may be overlooking them.

It’s natural this time of year for CEOs and Executives to reflect on the performance of their organization during the past year and whether the year was good, mediocre or poor, most of the CEOs that I’ve worked with are able to sustain an optimistic view of what the new year will bring. This makes sense, but have you considered that being too optimistic can actually limit our ability to assess what needs to change?

Being too optimistic can actually limit our ability to assess what needs to change.

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Don’t misunderstand me here, I’m all for being optimistic and in fact wrote earlier this year on how a realist is a pessimist in disguise. The problem is this optimism lets us (and those around us) off the hook too easily.

There are three ways in which optimism can kill business planning:

1. Optimism shifts our attention away from cause. If sales were down what were the contributing factors? An optimistic view might lead us to believe that it was the result of the loss of a key customer account. The outcome was the loss of the customer, however the issue that requires resolution is why there was an inability to predict the customer departing and how any these factors might further impact other customers.

2. Optimism supports static rather than a dynamic strategy. I can’t tell you how many business planning meetings I’ve been involved in in which strategies or key objectives are dismissed as a result of optimism. “This is just a one off situation” or “This hasn’t happened before, so doubtful it will happen again” are optimistic statements that result in an unwillingness to consider how existing strategies need to change.

3. Optimism diminishes a sense of urgency. Although being optimistic can maintain a positive attitude, where the factors above exist optimism can also diminish any sense of urgency. Slower then expected growth that is tied to market factors rather than poor processes or ineffective planning can mask the need for rapid action.

So while you reflect on how the business performed during the past twelve months, consider asking “why” and “how” more often.

If revenue was flat, why?

If the contributing factors included the loss of a key customer account, why was the account lost?

How might these factors influence other customers? Why wasn’t this cause predicted?

Optimism serves motivation, but it should limit our ability to effectively assess and understand our performance shortfalls and opportunities.

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Why You're Going About Business Planning Wrong

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Businessman pressing a Value concept button.

It’s the time of year when CEOs, business owners and executives alike are considering growth. Whether 2015 was a down year or revenues were significantly up over last year, you can never ever stop considering how to grow your company.

Why is this important? Because your competitors are constantly thinking about how they can grow their business, and taking some of your market share is likely at the top of their list.

You can never ever stop considering how to grow your company.

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Here’s the thing though. Many of the CEOs are going about growth in the wrong way.

Over the next few weeks I want to share with you some ideas to help you create plans to ensure that 2016 is your biggest year yet. As a starting point however I wanted to bring up a point that I’ve discussed before – customer value.

You see it really doesn’t matter what you think is the best method to grow your business because you aren’t the customer. Business growth results ultimately from three fundamental components:

1. What customers value in your products/services today.

2. What customers will value in your products/services tomorrow.

3. What customers value in products/services that you do not provide, but that are complimentary.

In this brief video I outline the concept of customer value, specifically how you need to position customer value in order to frame your business for growth.

Click here to watch video

When you’re done, take a minute to review some additional resources in order to help you in your planning for 2016:

 

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AMBITIONS TO OUTCOMES

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the start of a new year has you considering some things you would like to tackle this year. If your like my clients, then at least one of the following is likely atop your agenda for 2014:

  • Help your employees become more connected with your vision for the businesses.
  • Increase the morale and commitment of your employees to the company.
  • Delegate more often with the confidence that tasks will be completed at the level of quality and timely fashion that you desire.
  • Increase the amount of time you spend considering and acting upon strategic business issues.
  • Find more free time away from work, meaning you are physically and mentally enjoying your down time.

Do any of these sound familiar?

These are great ambitions but without investing some time and effort into positioning these as objectives, they are likely to remain as unreachable ambitions. Fortunately in the same way that organizational strategies are built, you can also set goals; and I’m not talking about weight loss goals either.

I’ve been setting business and personal goals, as well as helping others achieve their objectives, for over a decade. Based on my success and that of my clients who apply my approach, I thought I would take a moment to share with you my simple but effective approach to goal setting, helping you make 2014 the year where you convert your ambitions to outcomes.

Here then is my pragmatic five-step process:

1. Take fifteen minutes to consider the outcomes you would like to achieve in 2014. From, “more vacation time,” to, “buying a new car.” Scribble down some notes on each – key words, phrases, or any specific details that come to mind.

2. Spend the next few minutes circling or highlighting those goals that are the most important to you. Select a maximum of ten.

3. Next take five minutes or so and write a more specific statement about each goal you highlighted. For example "More time away from work" would become something like: “I will take four weeks of vacation by December 31, 2014.

4. Now review your list and make any changes or adjustments necessary to ensure actions are clear (clarity results when someone not familiar with your written goal can read it and interpret it's meaning). The key is to end up with written goals that are specific and measurable. Also make sure the date you set is reasonably achievable.

5. Lastly and most importantly, take some sort of action on this goal immediately. Using the example above of four weeks of vacation, go into your calendar (written, electronic, or otherwise) and block out four weeks of vacation. You may wish to engage your significant other in this activity as well. With the time blocked out, book something that will consume at least the first week of holidays such as a vacation to Disney. (Who doesn’t love Disney?)

Now if you think this is cheesy and won’t work; you’re wrong. Similar to initiating change or a business strategy, by setting clear goals, working backwards from the goal to determine the actions to take, and finally taking some sort of action to set your goals into motion, you will achieve them.

What have you got to lose?

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IF Everything is a Priority, Nothing is a Priority

If Everything Is A Priority, Nothing Is A Priority
 
If you've ever met me in person, you have likely heard me ask  “What are your greatest challenges?” I am always curious to find out the issues and opportunities that business owners and executives are facing.
 
Interestingly the response I most often hear is the following: “Shawn, I have so many priorities it’s hard to determine what I should be working on at any one time.”

Sound familiar?

The most difficult challenge however is not in managing these multiple priorities, but in ensuring that those priorities you are focused on are those that you should be focused on. If you have so many priorities that you can’t keep track of them, then you need to change the filters you are applying relative to determining what is truly a priority.
 
I thought I would share with you a process I work through with my clients, in the form of three very distinct questions. Let me precursor these by saying that the key to gaining clarity here is to be honest with yourself and ensure your answers are very specific; vague responses don’t provide sufficient evidence to make any real determinations.
 
In order they are:
1.     What are the key areas on which my job performance is measured?
2.     What are the top three responsibilities I hold in the eyes of my superior?
3.     What is the most important thing I can do to support my subordinates?
 
If you are honest and detailed in your response to each of these questions, you can quickly identify and gain clarity around your true priorities.
 
A coaching client of mine was working like mad to manage a team of technicians across Canada. He spent much of his time traveling from province to province, directing, supporting, training and in some cases firing and re-hiring staff. Two years ago he ended the year feeling that he had made significant strides, his boss however felt quite the opposite and as a result his bonus was retracted. My client understandably, was outraged.
 
Then I asked him to spend some time considering the three questions above (which incorporate gaining clarity around what your specific job performance is measured against) and as a result he significantly re-adjusted how his time was invested. I am happy to report that in his most recent performance appraisal his same boss sited him as having “exceeded expectations.” Bring on the bonus!
 
So my point here is that you can't let multiple time pressures, employee demands, or in some cases even customer needs influence your true priorities. Work through the questions above and you will find that you will have considerable clarity relative to how you should invest your time. After all, there is only so many hours in a day.

© Shawn Casemore 2013. All rights reserved.

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New Year? Bring it on!

New Year? Bring it on!

If you are like me, you will be spending some time during the holidays reflecting on the highs and lows of twenty-twelve and more importantly, planning for professional and personal growth in twenty-thirteen. I find that goal setting for a new year is an exciting way to ring in the new year, and if you are looking to make changes or improvements, setting goals is the only way to hold yourself accountable to achieving new outcomes. Here are some questions that I consider during this time of year that I thought might be helpful for you in your reflection and planning.

Reflection questions to ask yourself:

1. What was the most rewarding thing(s) I accomplished in 2012?

2. What would I like to continue building/growing/improving in 2013?

3. What did I accomplish in 2012 that I didn't think was possible?

4. What was I complimented for in 2012 that I wasn't expecting? How can I exploit/expand it?

Planning questions to ask yourself:

1. What are my top three personal and professional goals for 2013?

2. How can I improve my energy and vitality in 2013?

3. How can I find more time to pursue my passions (i.e. leave work on-time, travel less)?

4. What new opportunities or experiences will I pursue in 2013?

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome. Taking time to reflect and plan is important to ensuring clarity relative to where you are heading in life (both personally and professionally), and whether your likely destination is what you desire. Planning for the new year is one sure fire way to make sure you avoid unnecessary insanity.

Wishing you health, prosperity and (most of all) excitement in 2013!

© Shawn Casemore 2012. All rights reserved.

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