...from the desk of       Elly Valas
Issue: 06-12   Date Dec, 2006
Elly Valas
Biz News You Can Use

Don’t look now, but 2007 is just around the corner.  It’s difficult to predict business conditions but we may have a rough ride ahead.  Housing starts are slowing, the job market is shaky and consumer confidence is lagging.  The National Retail Federation predicts sales next year to grow by only 4.5%--nearly 2% lower than the forecasted growth rate for 2006.

It’s hard to even think about the future in the middle of the holiday rush, but the season will be over before you know it.  It may sound trite, but you need to start planning now to ensure your success next year.
  • PLAN FOR PROFIT.  This year, budget your bottom line first.  After you determine how much money you want to make, work backwards to decide what your salesvolume, margin and expenses need to be to in order to hit that targetToo often, business owners rely on a “what’s left after everyone else gets theirs” philosophy instead of planning to be profitable. 
  • SELL THE STAKEHOLDERS.  Don’t let your profit plan be your own little secret.  Have you noticed you tend to eat less when those around you know you’re trying to take off ten pounds? Let your team members know the company is poised to grow.  Make sure your suppliers understand their roles in meeting your goals.  Let everyone know you’re going to get new customers, increase your market share and improve your margins.  If you show your players the goal line, they’ll help you score some points.
  • STOP!  Find the things you do in your business that may no longer be productive or may not be giving you an adequate return for the investment you’re making in it.  If a line you’ve always carried isn’t profitable, stop selling it.  If a promotion you run every year doesn’t generate traffic, stop doing it.  Unload your “we’ve always done it that way” mentality. 
  • GET TO KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS.  Knowledge is power.  Learn what motivates your clients and what they expect in a relationship with you.  Use surveys, focus groups and telephone calls to see how you can better serve them.  Get out onto the floor and into the field.  Reward customers for their information with gift cards, discounts or premiums. 
  • LISTEN.  Become a great communicator by using your ears more often than your mouth.  You can’t really hear when you’re talking.  Get feedback from your associates, your suppliers, other business people and your customers.  Practice active listening by taking notes every time you speak to one of your constituents.  Periodically take stock on how much you’ve recently learned just by listening to those around you.
  • INNOVATE.  Find a new product, a new service, a new customer group or a new promotional idea.  Re-energize your business with a new logo, new paint or a new location.  Add a newsletter, a website or a blog to your portfolio. 
  • TAKE A TIME OUT.   Quit patting yourself on the back for working 80-hour weeks for months on end.  Go on vacation, sit on a beach, take a walk in the park or stare out a window.  You can’t be creative when you’re burned out.  Find a way to charge your batteries.
  • MAKE YOUR HEALTH A PRIORITY.  Switch from donuts to fresh fruit and from coffee to water.  Quit smoking.  Walk 10,000 steps a day.  Join an exercise club or find a boot camp.  Your business, your team, your family and your livelihood depend on you.  Don’t risk it all for a few extra pounds.  And yes, you can find the time. 
  • GET OUT INTO THE COMMUNITY.  Those who give the most get the most in return.  Adopt a highway or support a charity.  Mentor an at-risk teen or take a scout troop camping.  Join the Chamber of Commerce or a service club.  Be the one who always says “yes” when called to serve. 
  • BECOME A LEARNING ORGANIZATION.  Start a book club in your company.  Discuss Who Moved My Cheese or First Break All the Rules or Jack and Suzy Welch’s book Winning in your staff meetings.  Start a tuition reimbursement program that encourages continuing education.  Invite team members to join you at industry events, trade shows and other meetings.  Challenge those on your team to learn new skills or new computer applications.  Use the web to build skills and improve competence. 
  • IMPLEMENT.  You’ve got great ideas and the best intentions but actions and outcomes are the keys to success.   Move from inspiration to action; from thinking to doing.  Keep your priority list and goals written on a white board.  Learn to find joy in marking things off of your daily task list.
  • REVIEW AND REFRESH.  Schedule time to review the progress you’re making in meeting your goals.  Look at your marketing plan to see if it’s bringing you the return you had hoped for.  Determine what you have to change to make your budget.  Meet with your team members at least twice a year to discuss their progress.  Update your plan to ensure continued growth and profitability.


Results of the last Business Trends Poll
What’s your most pressing business issue today?

41% of those responding said their most pressing issue was finding and keeping good team members and 24% said profitability was their biggest concern.  Watch for future issues of Biz News You Can Use for tips on managing staff members and improving your bottom line.

Business Trends Poll (06-12 ):
How do you think business will be in 2007?

    1. Much better than 2006
    2. Slightly better than 2006
    3. About the same as 2006 
    4. Slightly worse than 2006
    5. Much worse than 2006


To participate, click the button to go to Business Trends Polls at www.EllyValas.com

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