Blog Archive


How To Build A Successful Business Budget.

A look at how to go about budgeting effectively for your business.

A great budget has to be based on reality, has to be as accurate as possible, and has to be flexible enough to handle the unexpected, whether it is a disaster, or it is a golden opportunity. It also has to take into account all the mundane stuff you don’t think about very often. So where do you begin?

Get a spreadsheet or pen and paper and let’s start thinking about your business.

Hopefully you have a financial breakdown of your budget from last year showing revenues, routine and capital expenditures and your profitability, or perhaps a formal profit and loss statement? It will help even more if you have a cash flow statement and a balance sheet. All you really have to do now is figure out what is going to be different in the coming year or years, so you can estimate how your financials will change. Perhaps you want to change things so you are more profitable? Which, in simple terms means selling more of your profitable products, putting your prices up (which can negatively affect volume), or decrease your expenditures (without negatively affecting the customer experience)?

If you don’t have financials from last year or are starting a new business, don’t worry, let’s start from scratch. Perhaps you are working on a business plan for a new business or just want to change your existing business. Either way, you need to understand your market and your customers and how they will respond to your product or service. What will they pay and what level of interest (volume of sales) you will receive. And, you need to know in detail, what it will cost you to run your business – there are more hidden costs than you may first think.

Revenue

If you can, it is best to make a schedule that shows each sale, the price and timing, and when you think you will get paid. Some companies are lucky enough to be paid at the time of the sale, while most have to do the work or provide the goods, then send out an invoice and then get paid later, so there is a significant delay between providing the product or service (the sale), and receiving payment. Another challenge with revenue is predicting just how much you will sell – if you are overly optimistic you may end up spending too much and if the sales do not come in, then you could lose money rather than make money. It is also possible to be too pessimistic, which for a manufacturer can be devastating. Not making enough products to meet demand means lost sales and unhappy customers, apart from not making the money that you could have if you had more products available. In predicting revenues, you need to test your self with the question, what if the revenues are less, or what if they are more, and try to evaluate exactly what your sales will be.  Market research can certainly help, particularly in better understanding your competition, how your product measures up to them, but also how they may react when your product starts to sell, and how you will respond to their actions.

Expenses

Again, working out your expenses for the coming year is much easier if you have a year to look back on and can see what you spent your money on. Simply ask yourself, how will next year compare to the last year, what is different, what am I trying to achieve and what will I need. But if you are trying to change your business in some way or it is a new business, you need to think about what you need to run your business – so lets start with a list.

Expense Considerations

  • Cost of Goods or Services: if you make a product, this is all about what it costs to make the product. Include people, machines, raw materials, utilities, storage, quality systems, and facilities. For a service, it is people, materials, equipment, quality systems and facilities.
  • R&D: if you have an R&D function in your business, then it is about people, materials, facilities and equipment.
  • Marketing and Sales: consider people, materials, facilities, equipment, travel and entertainment, promotions and advertising.
  • General and administrative: include facilities, insurance, legal fees, office expenses (phones, internet, computers, office supplies), utilities and any other expense you can think of.

Profitability

For a business to be a going concern, you need to be making a profit, so make sure the revenues you can generate is sufficient to cover all your running costs and leaves you with a profit. If it doesn’t, you have to think hard about your pricing, your volume of sales and your expenses. If you run your business at a loss for too long, you will run out of money and your business will have to fold.

Cash Flow

Similarly, it is important that your business is not only capable of generating a profit from selling your product or service, but that it is also generating cash for you too. Your cash flow statement will take into account monies spent on capital equipment and its depreciation, changes in your accounts receivables and accounts payable and changes in your inventory.  You can be profitable, but cash flow negative, which means you are still leaking money – perhaps people are not paying fast enough for your work so your accounts receivable are increasing, or you are producing too much inventory? Both have the effect of increasing your working capital, which detracts from your cash flow.

Enough Cash?

There is a lot to think about when you are budgeting. For example,  do you have enough cash to run your business until it is profitable and cash flow positive? The cash flow statement helps tell you how much you are going to need. It is a matter of making sure you have enough either from cash generated by the business or cash saved or raised for the business. If you do not have enough cash then you need to think about raising more cash from investors or through loans (balance sheet).

Watch the Spending

Remember, keeping your costs as low as possible will improve your profitability and cash generation, and yet we all know that you have to invest in your business to help it grow.  However, I think it is critically important that you do not get too far ahead of yourself – make sure you are not spending money without getting a financial return.

Contingencies

Finally, think about what could go wrong, what could go right and what opportunities could occur. How would you deal with this with your budget? This type of contingency planning is essential so that you build enough flexibility into your budget to allow you to absorb as many changes as possible, which may occur.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Leadership, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (add email address to box, top right corner, then accept the invitation you receive by email).  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FREE GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING; BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN,  TIME MANAGEMENT PLANNING, NEGOTIATING TO WIN, DUE DILIGENCE AND EFFECTIVE BUSINESS MEETINGS. VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK.

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, leadership, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Business Plan Execution: 3 Steps To Keeping Your Business On Track

A look at how you can ensure you execute your strategy as planned.

You have a great business idea, a great product or service, or both, the market is there, you’ve developed a business plan, pulled together your team, rented your facilities and equipment and you are ready to go. But, how do you make sure the business, and what makes your business special to your customers, stays on track? I will discuss three important aspects of business plan execution in this blog: making sure everyone on the team understands the strategy or game plan; making sure you identify the important aspects of your strategy, and making sure you emphasize, track and reward these important driving forces and your differentiating competitive advantages with your team.

Make Sure The Team Understands The Game Plan

First, it is important to ensure your team understands what you are trying to do with the business and where you plan to take it in the future. They also have to understand what it is you believe makes your company stand out in your market, how your product or service is different, and what values and behaviors you expect to be portrayed to consolidate this advantage with your customers. Lastly, you have to explain to your team, what your short and long term objectives are, how they can each help you achieve the objectives, and what this means for them.

Tracking Your Business

Everyone is familiar with tracking your results, but most companies track the wrong things or put too much emphasis on one aspect of their business and not what is really important. It is not always easy to track what is important and essential to your business, and there are certainly lots of things you could track. The most common measures incorporated in any business are, of course, financial and accounting measures. There are dozens of financial measures and so-called key business indicators that can be tracked, charted, discussed and influenced. What’s the point of tracking how profitable your business is if you are loosing customers because they are dissatisfied with the service you provide? You must define the two or three measures that really matter to the success and growth of your business?

Stay Focused on the Essence

The answer is in your business plan. What is it that makes your business standout from the crowd? What is your competitive advantage? What are the drivers of your business? This is what you must measure. Track and reward the behaviors that exemplify what your company stand for; track your competitive advantage, and track the key drivers of your business. In fact, track the very essence of your business.

In one of my recent companies we were known for our quality of work; the documentation was always correct and we were on time and on budget with our projects. The key drivers to our business were new and repeat customer contracts, accurate assessment of the work, and execution of the project. So guess what we tracked? New contract acquisition, accuracy of project assessments and execution of projects in terms of documentation accuracy, project cost and time versus the initial estimate. It paid off big time – the company is booming.

Don’t get me wrong, you still need to watch the numbers, make sure your margins are not being eroded, that you are not spending faster than your revenues allow, but to excel in the long term, you have to carefully foster your competitive advantage and make sure that this important aspect of your business stays on track. Find a measure that works, chart it, discuss with your team successes and failures; make it your mission, your creed and your focus. You must also track and discuss the key drivers of your business so you continue to generate growth in your business. And don’t forget to reward those behaviors that exemplify your values – it will pay you back copiously.

Good luck – let me know if I can help?

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Leadership, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link (add email address in top right box marked subscribe. Then accept the email invitation).  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FREE GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING; BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN,  TIME MANAGEMENT PLANNING, NEGOTIATING TO WIN AND EFFECTIVE BUSINESS MEETINGS. VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, leadership, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

6 Key Components of your Due Diligence List for an Asset Purchase.

What to look for if you are buying, and what to prepare for if you are selling.

To perform a reasonable due diligence before purchasing an asset (a business), you really need to know what it is you are buying. To achieve this you need access to key business information and an expert team to help you assess the asset from different angles. Minimally the team should consist of individuals with market and product knowledge, legal and accounting expertise, manufacturing and distribution expertise, and if research and development is a major part of your purchase, an expert in the field will be necessary.

I recommend you request a list of due diligence materials as part of the process of assessing the business you want to purchase. The documentation will help you hone your concerns or issues that may be best addressed in a face-to face meeting. You should seek to obtain as much information as possible, but minimally the following list:

Financial Information

  • Lasts three years financial statements (P&L, Cash Flow and Balance Sheet), with a breakout of sales, margins and profits by products, geography and distribution channel.
  • Management reports: ask for budgets and planned versus actual management reports.
  • Accounts receivable history and a list of delinquent customers.
  • Financial statement projections (P&L; Cash Flow and Balance Sheet) for the next three years, with a breakout of revenues by product and key assumptions. An explanation of planned capital expenditures, depreciation, debt coverage and repayment, financing and working capital arrangements.
  • Capital structure of the company showing all shareholders, warrants, options, and any dilutive securities and vesting schedules. Schedule of past financings and valuations.
  • List of all debt instruments with terms and conditions, and any off balance sheet liabilities.
  • Latest federal, state and foreign tax filings and carryovers.

Business & Product Related

  • Business and Strategic plans: defining product definitions, positioning, pricing, distribution, marketing strategy, business drivers, economic and market trends, a competitive analysis, industry trends, customer demographics, customer feedback, government and legal aspects.
  • Description of each product, customer demographics, historical and projected growth rates, market share, major competition, competitive advantages and differentiation, cost structure and profitability.
  • New technologies and new products or product enhancements timing, advantages and costs and projections.
  • Top 20 customers for each product with pricing and revenues, customer feedback, complaints, list of lost major customers.
  • List of strategic relationships, structure, implications, history, and current issues.
  • List of key competitors, products, strengths and weaknesses, basis for competition, market share and trend. Key concerns.
  • Marketing plans for key products: positioning, pricing, promotion and advertising, distribution channels, results of different marketing activities (new customers and sales), new customer prospects, pipeline analysis, new business plans, sales force productivity and compensation plans.
  • Disaster recovery plans.

Manufacturing

  • Top 20 suppliers, purchase history, relationship, quality and delivery consistency. Back up plans.
  • Sourcing of product, relationship, manufacturing process, quality control and systems. Compliance with all government regulations.
  • Status of manufacturing facilities, plans to ensure standards and modernization. List of employees, status, pay levels, unionization. Disaster recovery plans.
  • Cost history and trends by product.

R&D

  • Overall strategy, plans and budget, past and present.
  • New technology and product development plans, status, cost, timing, risks and likelihood of success.
  • Specific rights or technologies required for current and future products.
  • Key personnel, biographies, expertise, contracts and performance.

Management

  • Organization chart with list of employees, status, pay level, duration of employment, function, and location.
  • Historical and future headcount plans, along with turnover.
  • Senior management biographies, compensation history, contracts and performance reviews.
  • Compensation plans, benefits and management policies.
  • Any serious personnel problems and resolution, past and present.

Legal

  • List of issued and pending patents, licenses, trademarks, copyright and trade secrets. Any freedom to operate analyses.
  • Copy of all contracts and agreements relating to the business.
  • Copy of all insurance policies and history.
  • List of all lawsuits filed by the company or against the company.
  • Any SEC, tax or regulatory problems.

Due diligence is no easy task, but it is essential. The owner of the business may only let you view some of these materials at their location because of their concerns for secrecy, but the more you can review before visiting to discuss the acquisition, the more likely you will have a better sense of what you are buying and its strengths and weaknesses. Don’t forget to ask why they are selling the business and what value they put on the business. Both can be very revealing in influencing your decision to buy.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Leadership, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (add email address to the subscription box – top right – then accept the invitation you receive by email).  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FREE GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING; BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN,  TIME MANAGEMENT PLANNING, NEGOTIATING TO WIN AND EFFECTIVE BUSINESS MEETINGS. VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, leadership, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my blog at https://mpconsulting.wordpress.com or visit my LinkedIn account at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markpconsulting

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Raising Money For Your Business: When Will Your Investors Get A Return On Their Investment?

Last week I talked about how and where to raise money for your business. I focused on banks and private investors. Either way, when you ask for money they want to know when they will be paid back and how much they will make. This week I will talk about how to answer that question. It means you have to have a good handle on how your business will grow and to be able to translate the growth into at least a 3-year projection of revenues, profits, and cash flow. You may have to go out further if your company’s product has a long development time (think Biotech).

Projecting Value

The key to answering this question is to know your market and your product, in other words, to do your homework when it comes to projecting what you can sell, and not to be overly optimistic. In fact, it is better to be more pessimistic with your assumptions, because if you beat your commitment, your investors will be really happy. To answer the question you will need to project your revenues and expenses, and to ascertain your cash flow. It is important to be accurate and realistic. With revenues you need to know how much you will sell and at what price. How quickly will your sales increase and given the market conditions and how likely this is. It may be helpful to create an optimistic and pessimistic view to address different assumptions of how your business will evolve.

By forecasting your day to day expenses for creating and making your product, office rent, insurance, and materials, you can start to see when you might turn a profit and more importantly when you will start to generate cash (which allows you to pay back loans but also to generate value for your company).

In the case of a bank loan, the terms are usually laid out fairly clearly and you will probably have to start paying it back immediately, so factor this into your finances. If your business takes off quickly perhaps you can pay back the bank sooner and save on the interest, unless you need to reinvest your free cash to build the business, which may in the long term, be a better for the business. Loans from family and friends or investors may have different terms, but again, this has to be factored into you running the business.

Exits

In the case of investors who take an equity interest in the company for the money they give you, they will definitely be interested how much money they can make and when. This essentially means you will have to create both an estimate of future value and a mechanism for them to take their money out of the business. Unless you are a public company, the only way for the investors to get their money out is:

  • To take your private company public with an Initial Public Offering
  • Sell the company
  • Buy the investors out, or
  • Have new investors buy them out

You can forget IPOs in the current market, although the time may come when this is an option again, but not in the foreseeable future. It is probably best not to tell sophisticated investors they can get out when you do an IPO, as they know this is not a viable exit today, except for an exceptional few.

If you are in a market where buying up small companies by larger ones is common place, such as, Biotech, Internet businesses, Technology, Medical Devices, etc., then selling the company at some point in the future could be an excellent exit for some of your investors. You could also potentially think about buying out your investors in the future, but be careful. Most investors in early stage businesses are looking for a significant return on their investments, such as in biotech, early investing venture capitalist would look for a 10X return on their investment. To the extent you can negotiate buy out clauses under specific circumstances, then this may provide you and your investors with an out.

Valuation

To answer the question of how and when you might sell your company as an exit for your investors, it is important to have a sense of what your company valuation will be if you achieve certain financial goals within a certain time frame.  By projecting your revenues, profitability and cash flow, you can now estimate the value of your company. There are several methods you should use in order to establish a reasonable valuation.

  • Comparative value: look at the value of comparable public and private companies with revenues and profits in line with what you predict for your company.
  • Discounted cash flow estimate of value: this method estimates the value of your company based on your cash accumulation over time, which is discounted to reflect value today.
  • Net asset value:  this essentially just values the assets in the company after having paid off all the creditors and does not take into account the future value of the company.
  • Private investment valuation. This is the valuation of the company that was established at the last private investment.

The latter two methods do not make sense for a future value prediction for an investor, but are important measures when discussing loans with a bank. Details of these valuation methods were explained in an earlier blog (6/13/11).

Having established your financial projections for your business, and having checked your assumptions to make sure they are reasonable and supported by what is happening the market place, you can now ascertain by what time you can pay back a loan completely, or look at a potential timing for selling your company, raising additional funds, or even an IPO.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Leadership, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (top right: add your email address and accept the confirmation you receive in your email).  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FREE GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING; BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN,  TIME MANAGEMENT PLANNING, NEGOTIATING TO WIN AND EFFECTIVE BUSINESS MEETINGS. VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, leadership, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

How To Ask For Money For Your Business, And Get It.

You have a great business idea. You’ve done the market research, tested your product and potential customers like it and say they would buy it. You just need the money to get started. So how do you find the money if you don’t have it sitting in your bank account? Well, very simply, you go where the money is and ask for it…but you had best be ready for the questions you will be asked before you make your request.

This week I will discuss how to prepare to ask for money for your business. You can of course turn to friends and family, who tend to be the least demanding, but if that is not an option, then it is the banks, angel investors, venture capitalists or the public markets. Raising funds in the public market has a very strict set of requirements and process which require a lot of work both before and after fund raising, and may be covered in a later blog. I will focus in this blog more on raising money with banks or investors. Most importantly you need to prepare carefully before you ask for money, because you only get one chance, and you don’t want to blow it.

The expectation with banks, angel investors, venture capitalists, or any other sophisticated investor, is that you will have done your homework before you enter their doors. The minimum requirements going into such a meeting, are:

  • A clear business plan.
  • Projected financials of the business.
  • A definite amount of money you are asking for.
  • What you intend to do with the money.
  • Your contingency plan if the business does not go as expected.

The Business Plan

The business plan should explain the business opportunity for your product and what it is that makes your product unique and better than what is already out their. Make sure you have market research to back up your assumptions including data that supports what you expect people will pay for the product. You need to explain how you will acquire sales whether through marketing and advertising locally or globally, social media, print or word of mouth. In my experience, most of the grilling focuses on your understanding of the market place and how your product will compete with what is out there already, as well as products that are in development. It is also important to make sure you can answer how easily it would be for others to replicate your product or service. I have an earlier blog that describes in detail the key elements of a good business plan (April 11 2011), and a free guide available on request.

Financial Projections

Your business plan should contain financial projections based on how you see the business growing. You should have at least 3 years projected with the first year broken out by month. I recommend you create a profit and loss statement, a cash flow statement and a balance sheet. If you are not familiar with financial statements you may need the help of an accountant. My advice is that you are prudent with the revenue projections. You could even consider creating an optimistic and pessimistic projection as well as the most likely projection so you can explain what you would do if the business takes off more quickly than you think or if the uptake is slower than you believe. This will at least show how you intend to deal with both scenarios should they occur.  With regard to your expenses, be accurate. Make sure you think about the type of people you will need, their salaries and benefits, the equipment you need, the facilities and insurances. Obtain estimates where possible and include all aspects of your running costs. If you are making a product, don’t forget that you will have inventory to consider and a time lag for selling it.  Consider when the business will be profitable, watch your margins (gross profit and operating profit), and when will the business be generating cash.

Cash Needs

It will become apparent from your financial projections, particularly in the case of the pessimistic scenario, just how much money you will need until the business is generating sufficient funds to sustain itself and your future. It is really important to ask for enough funds to see you through as going back for more if you have not achieved your goals or did not estimate accurately, will be very difficult to obtain. I like to look at when the business is consistently generating a positive cash flow. If you are going for a loan, don’t forget to factor in the payments on the loan and paying back the principal. If you are asking investors for cash in exchange for equity, then you will probably have to estimate when they will see a return and how much (I will cover this in a future blog).

Use of Funds

It is fairly typical for any investor to want to know how you intend to use their funds. Stating that the funds are for working capital is rarely a sufficient explanation. Better to have several concrete items you can point to, for example, building initial inventories, establishing a customer base (initial marketing campaigns, website, social media, etc), establishing an office, manufacturing facility, warehouse, etc.

Contingencies

Finally, I think it is really important to challenge yourself, or have someone else challenge you, with what could go wrong with your business, and if it does, what would you do? You may even want to make this part of your business plan. This exercise will help you prepare for criticisms and questions and your ability to answer will help persuade the investor that you are taking your idea very seriously and provide them with the confidence they need in you to make that investment.

The better you prepare, the more chance you will have of successfully convincing others to invest in you.  In the case of a bank loan, you will also need collateral equal to what you are asking for. The bank does not want to lose out if your business fails. So, good luck, and let me know if you need any help; I will be happy to advise you.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Leadership, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog at http://mpconsulting.worpress.com.  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FREE GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING; BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN,  TIME MANAGEMENT PLANNING, NEGOTIATING TO WIN AND EFFECTIVE BUSINESS MEETINGS. VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK.

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, leadership, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Effective Action-Oriented Business Meetings

How many times have you been to business meetings that start late, or someone hogs the time with their ideas, there is no agenda, nobody came prepared, no decisions were made and nothing was agreed? This week’s blog suggests a number of practical steps to ensure you don’t waste your time, that meetings become places where decisions are made and action is taken! In other words, meetings become action-oriented, and move the business forward.

Every good meeting needs an agenda with a clear statement of what needs to be achieved, what information needs to be read and understood, what needs to be discussed, what decisions need to be taken and what action must follow. It should start on time and finish on time, and not waste anyone’s time that is present.

Agenda

Meeting agenda’s need to be carefully thought through, and not just a list of discussion items. What is it you want to achieve? What is the relevant background information? Pull it together and send it around. What business decisions need to be made? Who needs to be present? What information does the meeting need?  How much time do you need to review the information, discuss it and make a decision? When should the meeting be and how long should it run? Who is going to take minutes and action items? Ask if others should attend.

Attendees

Don’t invite people that don’t need to be there, or who don’t add anything to the meeting, or are not allowed to make decisions. Persons present must be able to add value, understand the issue and contribute to the decision. If they don’t tick all the boxes, don’t invite them. It is important to identify who is the meeting leader and or facilitator and who will take the minutes. The facilitator is critical to ensuring the meeting starts on time, stays on schedule, obtains input from everyone and achieves the goal of the meeting.

Time

Make sure the meeting is scheduled far enough ahead to allow time for everyone to understand and research the agenda issues and read any materials you send with the agenda. For the meeting itself, make sure you allow time to describe the goals and decisions needed, summarize the materials sent around, and allow enough time for discussion, particularly for the more contentious issues. Leave time to make and discuss any decisions and actions that need to be made. Start punctually. Keep to schedule and finish punctually. Try to keep all meetings to no more than 1 hour, and if possible only 15 – 30 minutes. Nobody likes meetings that start late or finish late.

Presentations

If you must have presentations in the meeting: define the time for each and restrict the number of slides to 1 per minute maximum.

Discussion

Make sure everyone has a say. People speaking too much should be asked to complete their thought and then others need to be invited to speak. Lay out the options available on a blackboard or flipchart; write down the pros and cons. Make the decision. Discuss the implications and actions needed by whom and by when.

Minutes

Capture the goal of the meeting, the materials discussed, the persons present, the date, highlight the discussions, the options and the decisions made. Define the actions making sure you include who is responsible and the time by which they committed to complete the actions. Send it to the team, and responsible heads of each group. Keep it to one or two pages and send it out within 24 hours.

Follow up

If follow up is required, then put a note in your calendar to follow up and make sure each action item is completed.

By utilizing this guidance your meetings will take on a new life; they will move the business forward by minimizing the time necessary to reach decisions, define clear actions with timelines and a person responsible for achieving the action, and maximize everyone’s time to get on with their work.

If you need help implementing Effective Meetings across your organization, let me know, I would be happy to help.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Leadership, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (top right corner: add your email address under subscribe and the accept the invitation you receive by email). There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FREE GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING; BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, AND TIME MANAGEMENT PLANNING. VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, leadership, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Business Leadership Strategy: Negotiating to win?

Negotiations are an every day part of business. Whether it is negotiating the price on a service or a bulk purchase of product, or negotiating a multimillion-dollar deal, there are certain aspects that are common to all and important if you want to be successful in negotiations. In this blog, I explore some of the key aspects of business negotiations that will help you achieve successful outcomes.

1. Do your Homework

Before you start any negotiation, it’s important to do your homework. It starts with simply defining what it is you want, what you want to achieve. Is it just to sell a product today, or to develop a customer who will buy again and tell others to  deal with you? There may be a list of requirements, in which case, break them down into what you must have to make the deal work for you and what you would like to achieve but could live with out.

It is also important that you have a reasonable understanding of the value of what you are buying or selling. So research the value of past similar deals, understand the differences in value and how the markets may have changed.

Consider the party you are about to negotiate with. What are their motivations and needs? What do they really want, what do they value and what’s their deal history? The better you understand who you are negotiating with, the better chance you have of meeting both your needs and striking a valued deal. Research the going rate for your service or product you are selling or looking to buy. What do you offer that is better than the competition and worthy of a higher price?

To win at negotiations, does not necessarily mean beating your opponent to a pulp, particularly if you hope to have a long-term business relationship. For you to win, both parties in the deal need to feel they have won what they want. This is not to say that you should give up what you want. There is a point when a deal does not make sense, and you need to know when this is the case for you. Know what you want, the value of what you are buying or selling, and what you are not willing to accept. A term often used in negotiations is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement or BATNA. It is important to know the value or cost of not closing this particular deal, and what your alternatives are.

By understanding what you want, who you are negotiating with and what they want, what the value of the deal should be and what your alternatives to a deal are, before you start negotiating, will put you in a better position to create a successful outcome.

2. The Negotiation

In my experience, stating your position first in the negotiation can provide a real advantage in terms of setting out the value expectation and ensuring you achieve the best deal. This approach has the effect of anchoring the negotiation around the value you have put on it. It is of course a risky maneuver if you have not done your homework first.

If the other side goes first, then it is up to you to counter the first offer. But before just jumping in with a value closer to what you want, stop for a moment and ask them to explain the assumptions behind their offer. What is it that they put value on and what is it they don’t value and, what is the reasoning they used to create their offer? Understanding their motivations and what they value will help you consider your counter offer. In a large complex deal, this is an essential step in putting together a thoughtful counter offer that considers their approach to valuation.

Never accept a first offer. Ask for concessions; ask for more value, even if their offer was better than what you had hoped for. If you just accept an offer, the other side will feel they offered too much and that they have lost out to you which, could negatively affect future negotiations. If you have to concede a concession, make sure the other side knows you are doing this and try to make it contingent on a reciprocal concession.

Be careful of the negotiator that lays down standards by which the negotiation will be held to that can be invoked later in the negotiation to hold you captive.

3. Negotiating Quick Tips

  • Sitting across from those you are negotiating with can create a competitive atmosphere, whereas sitting next to them may create a more collaborative interaction.
  • Try to listen more than talk, ask questions to gather intelligence and a better understanding of what your counterparts are trying to achieve, and don’t be afraid of silence.
  • I find face-to-face meetings are much more effective than remote negotiations and is essential if you have not met the person before. Watching the body language is essential to truly understanding what is going on.

4. Closing the deal

There comes a point in a business deal when most the key issues have been hammered out. I am a firm believer that great deals get done quickly and efficiently because both sides are motivated to get the deal done and to clearly state what they want, so don’t let the negotiation drag on too long.  When you sense the end is in sight, this is the time to close the deal; to try to bring it all together and seal it. You can test this out easily just by saying so; if the other side feels the same, then suggest closure on the final points, perhaps a final concession on both sides. Agree it and shake hands. Make sure you put it in writing.

Negotiations are more of an art than a science. No two are the same. Good clear, honest communications are essential. And, don’t forget, walking away from a deal that does not make sense is a success too.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Leadership, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (add your email address to the box in the top right hand corner and then accept the invitation you receive by email).  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FREE GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING; BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, AND TIME MANAGEMENT PLANNING. VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, leadership, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Business Leadership Strategy: How and When Do I Grow My Business?

You are up and running. Your business seems to be working. But how do you grow it? How do you make it really take off and double or triple the sales? And is it the right time for your business to hit the “grow” button?

Are You Profitable?

Ok, well first things first. Before we hit the grow button, let’s just check a few things are working properly. Are you profitable? Does the value you have placed on your product or service, the price you charge and receive after discounts, rebates and delivery of the service, cover your production costs, marketing, administrative and any new development your business is involved in? If the answer is no, don’t hit the grow button just yet or you could land your self in a lot of problems. If you have a good gross profit margin ((sales – cost of goods)/sales), and it is just about selling more before you do cover your other costs, then maybe you are ok, but if your gross margin is small, ask yourself just how many sales you would need before you can cover your costs and make a profit; and remember, those costs may increase as you grow your top line.

Are You Generating Cash?

A second question to ask yourself is: Are you generating cash? After all your outlays and expenditures to get the business going, are your revenues sufficient now to pay for everything and still leave you some cash to spare? If the answer is yes, we are definitely ready to hit the grow button. If the answer is no, then ask your self this, as I grow my top line, do my expenditures grow in lock step, or have I paid out for everything I need so that the expenditures as a percent of sales should decline as sales grow? If the answer is yes the expenditures will grow in lock step, you may want to hold off growing too quickly until you figure out how to be more profitable and to generate a positive cash flow. If on the other hand you have made most of the investments you need to and there will be little more investment required to generate more sales, then your business could be ready.

Hit the “Grow” Button

So, you are profitable, or can see your way there; you are generating cash, or should be very soon, how do you grow the business? To grow your business you need to sell more product, which means either your existing customers buy more frequently, or they buy more products or you find new customers. I believe in keeping things simple, so let’s start with a simple business truism. It is so much simpler to grow your sales with people who already like your products than to convince new customers to start using your product.

Strategy 1: Increase the Type of Products Bought By Existing Customers.

Your existing customers already like your products and are willing to pay for them, so based on your knowledge of them, offer them some of your other products and services. Because they already trust you and your products, the hurdle to sell them something else is much lower than trying to sell to someone that does not know you.

Strategy 2: Increase the Frequency of Products Bought By Existing Customers.

For the same reason of trust and their like for your products and services, it is much easier to entice your existing customers to buy more frequently. Perhaps use an enticement such as a frequent buyer program with benefits they would appreciate, or a discount for more volume purchased.

Strategy 3: Increase Your Number of New Customers.

Finding new customers can always be a challenge. Having a clear strategy of new customer acquisition is an important part of any business; this is where your marketing and advertising strategy is critical to your success. You can learn from your existing customers – what convinced them to buy your product? Utilizing your existing customer base to introduce others to your products and services can really pay dividends and help your business grow exponentially. Going after a different demographic or geography may require different tactics. Remember, the key is to differentiate your business from the competition and to fulfill a desire of the new potential customers.

The trick to growing your business rapidly is to get the balance right between the three different strategies. Spending all your time on recruiting new customers at the expense of spending time on your existing customers can very rapidly turn your business the wrong way, but likewise spending all your time on your existing customers can limit your potential for growth. The optimal solution is to create initiatives for each of the different strategies and track what works and what doesn’t for your business.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Leadership, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog at http://mpconsulting.worpress.com.  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FREE GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING; BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, AND TIME MANAGEMENT PLANNING. VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, leadership, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Business Leadership Strategy: Disaster Recovery & Crisis Management Plan.

It will never happen to me? That’s what most people think. But disasters do happen. If you want your business to survive, think ahead and create a disaster recovery and crisis management plan, now!

Most disasters are predictable; like the Japanese nuclear plant disaster earlier this year and the hurricane that hit the East Coast in August. Even though their probability of occurrence was low, they are both predictable, but how many people and businesses were prepared to deal with the crisis it created and had a disaster recovery plan in place to make sure their business survived. The answer is not many.  Creating a disaster recovery and crisis management plan makes sense. It doesn’t have to take much of your time, but it is worth giving it some thought over a weekend.  Here’s how to prepare a plan. You may want to do this as a team: with your senior staff perhaps? The more creative input you can get, the better.

Step 1. Define Worst Case Scenarios

What are the worst-case scenarios for you? Perhaps an earthquake destroys your building and equipment, or an electrical power outage that lasts for several weeks? Fire? Flood? Theft? Hacked website? Perhaps it is simply bad press about one of your products, or a key supplier is knocked out by a disaster? Make a list of everything you can think of.

Step 2. Define How You Will Deal with the Worst Case Disasters

In thinking about each type of disaster you have listed, now answer the questions that follow. What are the first things you and your employees should do in each of these scenarios if they occur during work hours or if they occur at night or on the weekends? How does everyone get out of the building safely? How can you continue operations? How will you communicate with employees if your premises are wiped out? How will you handle customer calls or inquiries?

Step 3 Define What You Can Do To Mitigate Against Down Time of your Business

In each scenario, is there something you can do now to minimize the impact? For example, installing a back up power system, storing back up data off site; installing or renting backup servers at an alternate site; storing data using cloud computing may be a sensible approach so you can access your information from anywhere – just make sure the servers are not in the same building.  Make sure you have sufficient supplies or that you have multiple suppliers in different locations so that if they are hit by a disaster, you can still continue to operate. Take a close look at the weaknesses of your business: can they be strengthened? Make sure you have adequate insurance; and consider adding a business interruption rider to provide working capital. What about storing some emergency supplies in case of shortages? Make sure you have a good relation with your bank so you can get a loan if necessary, and retain certain amount of profits, cash and retained earnings to help keep the company going during a down period.

Step 4 Public relations strategy

Having a public relations and communications strategy prepared in times of disaster or crisis is critical to ensure the best outcomes for your business. Make sure you define who is responsible to talk to the media and to communicate with customers about the disaster, particularly if it is something that negatively affects your business. Define a general tone and approach for each disaster. Building a relationship with the local press before a disaster strikes is an excellent way to ensure you get the best support for your business during a crisis.

You may want to also ask the input of a consultant in the field so you can tap into their more general knowledge and to ensure you haven’t missed anything obvious. Once you have an outline of your Disaster Recovery and Crisis Management plan, make sure you go over it with members of your staff, so they can add other ideas, but more importantly, so they know what to do.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Leadership, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog at http://mpconsulting.worpress.com.  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FREE GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING; BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, AND TIME MANAGEMENT PLANNING. VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Business Leadership Strategy: Which MBA Makes The Most Sense?

Last week’s blog discussed the value of MBAs, whether it is worth pursuing such studies and what it can mean to your job prospects. This week I will assume you have decided to pursue an MBA, and I will address the question of where to study, what to look for in an MBA course and the type of jobs that may be open to you once you have an MBA.

Which Business School?

The latest best Business School MBA program rankings for 2011 had no surprises:

  • Stanford University, Stanford, CA
  • Harvard University, Boston, CA
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan School), Cambridge, MA
  • University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), Philadelphia, PA
  • Northwestern University (Kellogg), Evanston, IL
  • University of Chicago (Booth), Chicago, IL
  • Dartmouth College (Tuck), Hanover, NH
  • University of California, Berkeley (Haas), Berkeley, CA
  • Columbia University, New York, NY
  • New York University (Stern), New York, NY

This ranking is based on average undergraduate GPA, acceptance rate, average starting salary and bonus, and proportion of graduates employed at graduation. Clearly some of these schools are difficult to get into, but once in, the education is first rate and their students have an excellent track record for employment at graduation with some of the best starting salaries. Businessweek also provides a list, which is broken down into full-time, part-time and executive MBA programs. Most of the schools you will recognize, but there are some that you may not. I have included references to both these lists in the resource section below.

My recommendation is to go to one of the best recognized schools you can afford. The name recognition can be very important in landing a great job and salary post graduation, and will also be of value in future job searches too. You will probably need several years’ business experience to get into some of these schools; apart from anything else classmates with experience really enhance the experience.

MBA Course Content

There are other factors I think are important in the school and MBA course you apply to, such as:

  • A course that offers a broad understanding of business activities as well as the ability to specialize in several areas.
    • The basic course should include: accounting, quantitative analysis, marketing, economics, and organizational behavior minimally.
    • Additional course options should include: strategy, finance, legal, operations, international marketing, etc
    • Accounting classes have to be a significant part of your course so you are able to analyze, solve problems and make judgments and decisions using the language of business – money, margins and profits.
    • I highly recommend attending a school that uses a case study approach so you have a chance to discuss real-life problems and challenges in a team setting.
    • It is important you are taught by professors and not their assistants, and that the professors have been in business and experienced ups and downs, problems and successes.
    • Seek out schools that offer a high interactive content and participation aspect to their MBA classes.
    • And, finally make sure they stress teamwork as well as individual work, so your experience at business school mimics the real world and allows you to learn from others.

Post MBA Careers?

The great thing about an MBA is that you can approach a broad range of industries, services and business opportunities with the knowledge that you have a good understanding and foundation on which to build, along with a bunch of useful tools you will be able to apply to problems and challenges. Some of the more lucrative careers can be found in the booming technology industry, in the management consulting world, investment banking and large industrial firms, but you could also consider starting a business or joining a small enterprise too.

Top MBA Hiring Firms (from CNN Money)

  1. Google
  2. McKinsey & Company
  3. Bain & Company
  4. Goldman Sachs Group
  5. Apple
  6. The Boston Consulting Group
  7. Walt Disney
  8. Nike
  9. J.P. Morgan
  10. Johnson & Johnson

I provide below a few resources to get you started on your search for the right business school and MBA class, as will as some reading on the type of careers that you may consider post graduation. Good luck and I hope you have as much fun as I did.

Resources:

http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/mba-rankings

http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/rankings/

http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/mba100/2009/full_list/

http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/mba-jobs

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe (top right) and link to my blog.

FREE GUIDES ARE AVAILABLE ON STRATEGIC PLANNING; BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, AND TIME MANAGEMENT PLANNING. VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Business Leadership Strategy: To MBA or Not To MBA, That is the Question?

This week’s blog attempts to answer a question that many business people or budding business people ask themselves at some point in their career.  As someone that trained as a scientist, but then changed careers to marketing, and worked in a large company, I know getting an MBA seemed essential to me as a stepping stone to positions of higher responsibility, the corner office and more pay? But is it essential? And, does it pay off?

For An MBA

For me, at least, and many of my colleagues that pursued an MBA, an MBA provided the knowledge and understanding of how to analyze, structure and assess a business. How to plan and create a business, make financial decisions, strategize, target customers, develop marketing and public relations initiatives, and ensure one operates within the law and ethical boundaries. It taught us about organizations, people management, and accounting, how to inspire, grow, manage through difficult times and gave us a vocabulary and sense for how to approach, dissect and solve business challenges.

The US Small Business Administration estimates that 70% of new businesses survive at least two years and almost 50% survive for five years. One of the top reasons for business failure is reported to be a lack of business understanding and expertise. Although an MBA cannot teach you everything it does teach you the basics so that you don’t fall into the obvious traps.

I am also a firm believer in the need to continually learn, and an MBA can certainly challenge you to think about businesses from a number of different angles, and there are certainly a lot of lessons to choose from, both those that lead to success and those that lead to failure. In fact, one of the real attributes of an MBA is the ability to understand and look at a business in different ways, both in terms of new opportunities and also the risks associated with the business activities.

Against An MBA

Most entrepreneurs I know don’t have an MBA and do quite well without one. They are definitely not essential to success – you only have to think of Gates & Zuckerman as examples, and you can certainly learn a lot on the job and if your employer provides training. And there is nothing to stop you from reading up on other areas of business that interest you.

There are also a few negative associations with some individuals with MBAs, for example, some are seen as over analytical and suffer from analysis paralysis; others are thought of as analytically strong but low on practical skills and managing personnel. Studying for an MBA can certainly be expensive in time and cost, and can take you out of the work environment where you could be learning.

Does an MBA pay?

The salary levels of jobs that require an MBA certainly pay well, and my impression is that an MBA can certainly help you get on in the business world. A recent survey by Businessweek put the median pay for MBA graduates at $88,000, but range is very broad with the highest paid reaching $150,000 after newly graduating (only about 4%). So, it can pay well, and it does open the door for more diverse jobs, particularly if you are willing to move around both in different functions but also geographically (more of this next week).

MBA or Not?

I did an executive MBA (2 year course, sponsored by my Company, while I worked), and I have to say it was very helpful from both a practical standpoint of being productive in my day-to-day job, but also helping me work out what I wanted to do next. It definitely helped me in my career and in my personal goals to take on different responsibilities and expand my capabilities. You still learn much more on the job, but I felt more prepared to tackle new challenges; it provided a solid foundation on which to build. If you want a career in business, in a large company, it is definitely an asset to have; if you want to have a well-rounded understanding of what makes business tick, then yes again. Is it essential: no.  I have served with many successful businessmen and women on boards that do not have MBAs, and they do just fine. But, if you want my biased opinion, if you plan a long career in the business world, it is definitely worth having an MBA.

Next week I will talk about where to go to study for an MBA, what business school, what type of course work you should be looking for, and the type of jobs and careers this can lead to.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog at http://mpconsulting.worpress.com.  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, AND A TIME MANAGEMENT GUIDE, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Deciding Your Business Priorities. A Question of Leadership, Strategy, Time Management and Business Acumen.

This week’s blog is centered on the age-old problem of business decision making, and if you have, or not, the luxury of choosing what you work on, prioritizing what needs to get done now, today, this week, or at sometime in the distant future. It’s important for your future success that you work on the important strategic, tactical and day-to-day business issues, not just the perceived urgent requests.

Information Overload

It’s back to the old time management issue, particularly when you look at your calendar and every spare second is taken up in meetings, but you have half a dozen reports to get done, a business plan to write and the continuous flow of emails, texts, tweets and Facebook input to deal with? Ughhh. Time for coffee!

So what do you do in the face of so many challenges? What do you choose first and what do you spend your most productive time on? Are you one of those people that every time your computer or phone beeps, you check it to see what has just come in? If you are, it will not surprise you to learn that you are probably wasting a lot of time, and not getting the important business priorities done.

At this point, most people turn to pen and paper and write a list, and there is no doubt this can help, but it still may not be making you shine at work. To shine, you have to be productive and you have to get things done that others want and expect you to get done. So maybe you change the list to reflect those things that have to get done, but what about all those meetings? Never fear, I have the business leadership tool you are looking for.

The Business Priorities Decision Grid

I am going to suggest you try something simple, but really effective. You just need a pen and paper or computer screen, and your calendar. You also need to understand the business priorities set by your boss.

  • Draw a 2 x 2 grid on your paper – take up a whole page.
  • Write on the left of the top left hand quadrant: “URGENT”.
  • Write on the left of the bottom left hand quadrant: “NOT URGENT”
  • Write on top of the top left quadrant: “IMPORTANT”
  • Write on top of the top right quadrant: “NOT IMPORTANT”

Now instead of your usual list of “to do” activities, write into one of the four boxes each of the things you need to do, but always ask yourself two questions:

  • Is it URGENT?
  • Is it IMPORTANT?

You get the picture. Include meetings in this too – maybe there are some you don’t have to go to?

Now take your calendar.

  • Choose 2-3 convenient times during the day to check email, texts and other social media. Give your self time to answer them. DO NOT be tempted to look at emails and texts every time they arrive. In fact turn off the sound.
  • Now add in the meetings that are Urgent and Important.
  • Now add a block of time for Urgent and Important action items in a time slot that is your most productive time of the day; we all differ in this regard.
  • Next, block in time for the Important but not urgent items later in the week.
  • Anything in the Not Important, and Not Urgent can wait until you really have time on your hands.
  • Of the items in the Urgent, but Not Important list, try and throw out as many as possible, and then slot the rest in amongst your schedule.

If you now action this plan, I guarantee you will now make progress towards your Important activities.  Good luck. Let me know how you get on.

Results from Case Study 4. Strategic Priorities. What Next? Thanks for all your responses. There are too many to reprint them all or to put your full commentary, but here are some of the paraphrased ideas and comments you made.

Case Study 4. Some of Your Suggestions

  1. 1. The most important problems to deal with is the manufacturing issue. No product, no sales. Focus on this first, and then go after the other problems. SY.
  2. 2. It a real mess by the sounds of it. The first thing the president should do is to create a new strategic plan, get everyone on board, and then start picking off the real issues. DF.
  3. 3. A new leader should start by understanding the business – quickly run through a SWOT, financials, product, etc. Thinking strategically or trying to lead without a solid understanding of the facts will lead to a disconnect with the organization. FH

Case Study 4 What Actually Happened.

The first thing the president decided to do was to create a strategic plan. The president utilized the senior management team and a cadre of outside experts to provide insight and ideas to create the plan. The plan included a focus on the disease indication where the API had shown an ability to modify the disease, and a need to bolster the biotechnology expertise within the group. Consequently, the president brought in new heads of quality and manufacturing with expertise to solve the quality testing problem and to prepare a manufacturing plan that would support the business needs for board approval.

Once the strategic plan was in place, the R&D group were asked to create a detailed development plan in line with the strategy. The new API manufacturing process was made part of the manufacturing plan. This was followed by hiring an experienced physician to run the clinical studies. It took longer than 100 days, more like 200 days, but  the company was back on a firm footing.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog at http://mpconsulting.worpress.com.  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

A NEW FREE GUIDE ON BUSINESS PRIORITIES WILL BE PUBLISHED LATER THIS WEEK. FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Strategic Business Leadership Case Study 4. What Problem To Tackle First in a New Leadership Job?

MP Consulting provides a short strategic business case study that calls for your leadership knowhow and asks that you send your next steps and solution to mpconsultingservice@yahoo.com. We will then publish one or two of the solutions, and provide a short summary of what really happened for your consideration.

Case Study 4: What Problem To Tackle First?

They say the first 100 days in any new leadership position are the most important. After the first 10 days at a new company the new president had identified the following business and strategic issues:

  • After launching a new product just over a year ago, supply was halted after 6 months because the pharmaceutical product was not passing one of the quality release tests, resulting in a halt of supply and disappointed customers not able to obtain product.
  • Manufacturing leadership did not have a clear plan and support to scale the manufacturing process and were concerned they would run into supply problems.
  • The R&D group were spending money like it had gone out of fashion, had no development plan, and no focus.
  • One small specialist group had created a new process to potentially triple yields of an active pharmaceutical ingredient but no one was paying attention.
  • A major pivotal clinical study was underway but underpowered.
  • A research study had shown that one of the active pharmaceutical ingredients had disease-modifying capabilities in a disease area where symptomatic relief was the only treatment available.

It is hard enough to figure out one or two major problems, but how would you suggest approaching this array of issues? Which would you focus on? And, what needs to be done first?

Case Study 4: What would you do next? How would you resolve this?

Please send me your next steps, comments and solutions to the Strategic Business Leadership Case Study 4 and I will publish some of the responses I receive and what really happened, next week.

Results from Case Study 3. Buy A New Product or Not? Thanks for all your responses. There are too many to reprint them all or to put your full commentary, but here are some of the paraphrased ideas and comments you made.

Case Study 3. Some of Your Suggestions

  1. If the IP is not clean so the company can commercialize the product they should not move forward. Manufacturing to commercial scale can also be a real challenge for a small company. The acquirer should look at alternative – third party manufacture, or taking it in house. If this cannot be done or does not make commercial sense, do not move forward with the acquisition. PR
  2. According to the case study there are two problems:
    1. Getting a ‘freedom to operate’ analysis. This is an essential part of the intellectual property assessment. Without this it is not advisable to go ahead with the product.  But if there is pressing time then a specific clause should be introduced into the agreement, which looks over the issue and tries to safeguard MSB from any fallout from the patent problems.
    2. Replicating a manufacturing process for larger and bigger scale production. As mentioned the manufacturing process is very simple. MSB has a experience in producing and marketing these kinds of drugs and it should be comparatively easier for it to replicate the process in one of its current manufacturing locations or set up a new place ( based on the cost of setting up is much lower than the expected profits). OKK

Case Study 3 What Actually Happened.

It was determined that the current manufacturing facilities were not up to scaling and market launch and so MSB would have to take on the manufacturing activities. However, the cost of the product was such that the return on investment would more than compensate.

On performing a “Freedom to Operate” analysis of the intellectual property, several potential overlapping patents existed that caused MSB to question its ability to move forward. Several attempts to obtain licenses to the overlapping patents failed and MSB dropped its interest to move forward.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog at http://mpconsulting.worpress.com.  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Strategic Business Leadership Case Study 3. Buy A New Product or Not? … and results from Case Study 2.

MP Consulting provides a short case study for you to consider and asks that you send your next steps and solution to mpconsultingservice@yahoo.com. We will then publish one or two of the solutions, and provide a short summary of what really happened for your consideration.

Case Study 3: Buy A New Product or Not.

Like many medium size Biotech companies, one eye is always watching for new product opportunities that hit the radar. This particular company (let’s call it MSB) was interested in products that were already approved and which fit with its strategic interest in drugs that fell into two or three market segments where it had marketing expertise and a sales team already in place.

When product DD005 was brought to MSB’s attention, it had just completed Phase 2 clinical studies and demonstrated a high degree of efficacy and safety in the patients treated for one indication, but it was questionable whether the company could afford the expensive Phase 3 studies required to gain marketing approval. There were four potential indications for the product, each indication representing an approximately $200-$300 million market opportunity. They had just received Orphan Drug status and two other companies were actively looking at the product. A non-binding term sheet to purchase global rights in exchange for a back-ended consideration was sent along with a request to perform due diligence.

The due diligence focused on manufacturing, intellectual property, ownership rights, clinical trial agreements and data, and market assessments. MSB’s own market assessment, confirmed the market potential at approximately $1.3 billion, and the completed clinical studies were well designed, performed well, and confirmed DD005’s efficacy and safety. Product DD005 was covered by several patent applications and one patent had issued, but there was no “freedom to operate” analysis. The manufacturing process was simple, but the premises and processes were not up to MSB’s standards. It was questionable whether the manufacturing process could be scaled in the current premises to make sufficient product for launch in the USA, let alone support a market launch globally.

Case Study 3: What would you do next? How would you resolve this?

Please send me your next steps, comments and solutions to the Strategic Business Leadership Case Study 3 and I will publish some of the responses and what happened next week, together with a new case study if the feedback is positive.

Results from Case Study 2. Projects That Just Won’t Die. Thanks for all your responses. There are too many to reprint them all or to put your full commentary, but here are some of the paraphrased ideas and comments you made.

Case Study 2: Some of Your Suggestions:

  1. The project manager should be fired for misappropriating funds. I wouldn’t let someone like this work for me; I couldn’t trust them. PR.
  2. It is clear that Project ABC has a “champion” who was able to generate new data without asking for additional resources. The decision, which killed the project two years earlier, needs to be re-evaluated. If the data supports the current business goals of the company, a detailed proposal to resurrect Project ABC can be adopted as long as it has a carefully constructed budget with monitoring responsibilities; a mechanism for evaluation of any timeline slippage and, approval from all those in the company’s executive group. AA.
  3. If the data is good, support the product and invest in it to bring it forward. You should also have a serious talk with the project manager about being more upfront. RU.

Case Study 2: What actually happened?

The Head of Program management was furious that the project should reappear again, after being killed twice. Apparently the project manager really believed this was a great product, had taken it upon herself to talk to some customers and one or two sales people, convinced herself there was a study she could do to prove it’s worth. She then used funds saved from her budget ear-marked for other projects to generate the data. The data was impressive.

The result was that a great product came out of this. The project manager was congratulated for her tenacity and innovation, but also told that she should have followed the process to update the oversight team and come back to the budget meeting after her discussions with the customers and sales people to gain approval to move ahead and to spend funds that could have been used on other projects.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog. There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Strategic Business Leadership Case Study: 2. “Projects That Just Won’t Die” … and results from Case Study 1.

MP Consulting provides a short case study for you to consider and asks that you send your next steps and solution to mpconsultingservice@yahoo.com. We will then publish one or two of the solutions, and provide a short summary of what really happened for your consideration.

Case Study: 2. Projects That Just Won’t Die.

I am sure you have experienced projects that just won’t die after everyone has agreed it is not worth pursuing, but some how it stays alive, and keeps reappearing at odd times such as review meetings and strategy discussions. Sometimes it has progressed and there is new data and other times not. In this case study, the company is a relatively large growing healthcare company with a large number of new development projects including medical devices, services and new pharmaceuticals. At budget time, each project manager provides a brief update of the project for the multidisciplinary management team that includes, progress on the goals set, decisions that have been made, and a proposal to continue the project, or not, with a set of goals that can be achieved with the help of certain defined resources (manpower, equipment and $).

At a particular budget review meeting, it was typical to have a discussion of resources and priorities. Inevitably, some projects did not receive a high enough priority to receive funding and consequently were either put on hold until funds became available, or were cut as projects not worth pursuing further. One such project, let’s call it Project ABC, did not receive a high enough priority to warrant further funding, progress had been non-existent, and marketing was not interested. The decision was made to cut the project, stop work on it all together and transfer the human resources to other projects.

6 months later Project ABC resurfaced at a budget meeting, but was killed again. Two years later Project ABC resurfaced again, this time with new data attached to it and a proposal to resurrect the project and move it forward.

Case Study 2: What would you do next? How would you resolve this?

Please send me your next steps, comments and solutions to the Strategic Business Leadership Case Study 2 and I will publish some of the responses and what happened next week, together with a new case study if the feedback is positive.

Results from Case Study: 1. Senior Staff Dispute Over Product Development Process. Thanks for your all your responses. There are too many to reprint them all or to put your full commentary, but here are some of the paraphrased ideas and comments you made.

Case Study 1: Some of Your Suggestions:

1. It is the President’s responsibility to manage subordinate issues. The VP’s report directly to the President. Call the parties together and figure out what the problems are and the best way to solve them. I’m not saying that the President should solve the problem; I’m saying that he or she should lead the discussion to ensure that emotions don’t block the path to a solution. DW.

2. Beckett comes to my mind “But he had turned, little by little, a disturbance into words, he had made a pillow of old words, for his head”. Open their minds to see plainly the disturbance they have created, not as individuals but as a group. The President can then give a clear order to the group being the starting point to observed Fair Process. DB.

3. Call an emergency short meeting with the 2 vice presidents, Financial manager & HR manager. Tell them you will both “live & work” today in the same office – alone – in order to come up with a harmonized strategy that you will both sign. If they don’t manage to find a common language and overcome their egos consideration should be given to replace them. GM

4. I believe the President needs to bring these parties together along with the HR rep, listen to each party explain themselves, then give them the solution he/she feels is appropriate for the business needs. They should then be asked if they will buy in and move on for the benefit of the overall success of the business. 
The President needs to make it clear what his/her expectations are, and that they will both be held accountable to achieve their respective goals and objectives, professionally and work together for the common good. CC.

Case Study 1: What actually happened?

The President spoke to each Vice President again separately and together to reiterate what was expected stressing they had to work it out. Both pointed the finger firmly at the other for being the cause of the problem, but based on all the feedback, it was clear that the head of Regulatory Affairs was largely the problem. She was a brilliant individual contributor but not a team player. She worked at her own pace, which was pretty fast, but did not interact well with others.  Both VPs came up with a joint plan to correct the activity but the VP of Regulatory soon slipped back into her old ways. She was asked to work on the team aspect of her job and to make this a priority, she received training and counseling from the Vice President of Human Resources, but the problem persisted and created huge problems with the project teams and their progress. Essentially she became a major bottleneck. After a year of trying, the President reluctantly let her go and brought in a new head of regulatory. The relief within the organization was instantaneous, and teamwork started to improve.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog at http://mpconsulting.worpress.com.  There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Strategic Business Leadership Case Study: 1. Senior Staff Dispute Over The Product Development Process.

MP Consulting provides a short case study for you to consider and asks that you send your ideas, next steps and solution to the case study, to mpconsultingservice@yahoo.com. One or two of the solutions will be published, along with a short summary of what really happened for your consideration.

Case Study 1: Background

In a well financed Biotech company developing a range of products with disease modification potential, its’ lead product was in the middle of a pivotal clinical study prior to submission for approval, and early phase clinical studies were underway in several other indications. Even though the company was well financed, clinical studies were a huge drain on the annual budget, which was also supporting the scaling of a complex manufacturing process in house, and several new preclinical research projects.

The company used a portfolio strategic approach to deciding which projects received funding, and inevitably half the projects did not make the cut. The culture was typically intense, fast paced and required constant review of progress, results and new data. Project Managers were responsible along with a chosen team of individuals from the key disciplines, to deliver on project objectives. The project managers reported to a Vice President of Strategic Program Management, and the team members reported to their functional Vice Presidents of Research, Regulatory Affairs, QA/QC, Clinical & Medical Affairs, Manufacturing, and others, as well as having a responsibility to the team leader.

Case Study 1: The Problem

The Vice President of Strategic Program Management told the President that she was not receiving support from the Vice President of Regulatory Affairs. Specifically, her complaint was that team representatives of the Regulatory Affairs group did not turn up for meetings or turned up ill prepared to address the issues the team had laid out as the agenda for the meeting. She went on to say that she had repeatedly brought this to the attention of the Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and was told she was too busy to worry about it.

On confronting the Vice President of Regulatory Affairs about this issue, explaining the importance of the project management process, and the need for timely regulatory affairs input and support, the President was told by the Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, that the Vice President of Strategic Program Management was blowing it out of proportion, that she was trying to take over Regulatory Affairs, and that she was too regimented in her approach with regard to the project teams.

The President asked both Vice Presidents to put the company first and work together to resolve this dispute immediately, that the company needed to move the key projects forwarded as expeditiously as possible, that a coordinated effort was vital, and that they both needed to set an example to their staff to work together.

A few weeks later, the President was receiving a steady stream of reports from a variety of project team members that matters were getting worse.

Case Study 1: The Challenge

What would you do next? How would you resolve this?

Please send me your next steps, comments and solutions to this Strategic Business Leadership Case Study to mpconsultingservice@yahoo.com and some of the responses will be published along with what really happened next week, together with a new case study if the feedback is positive.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog. To subscribe, add your email address to the subscription window (top right) and confirm your subscription when you receive an email invitation. There are a number of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account at

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Strategic Business Leadership: How Do You Address A Subordinate Who Is Not Performing?

MP Consulting discusses the importance of clear, honest, timely, and assertive communications in the work place; with your colleagues, your subordinates and your boss.  It also does not hurt to be assertive at all times!

Do you put off having the discussions with a subordinate who is not performing or who has done something wrong?  Do you skirt around the issue, drop hints but never come out and say what you really should? Or do you let it go and decide to address it later, like at there annual review in 9 months?  Or, worse still, they make you so angry one day over something minor that you then blurt out a whole litany of problems you have observed over the last year, leaving them shocked, angry and bemused?

Passive – aggressive behavior, avoiding conflict, lack of confidence, and low self-esteem are just some of the reasons behind the relentless poor communication that goes on at most companies and businesses most of the time, and for that matter, at home or with friends.  I particularly don’t like the passive – aggressive types. Just when you think everything is ok, there is an explosion of emotion over something small probably because the individual has been bottling up what they really wanted to say in the first place. But one of the hardest things to do, if you are this way inclined is to provide balanced feedback when someone is not performing in their job. Most managers find this difficult at the best of times. But failure to provide honest, clear and timely feedback does not help you, the subordinate or the company.

Let’s take a real example and break it down. Your subordinate has just completed a project to assess an investment in a new venture, which could increase your business’ profitability. The analysis was very positive and the project is moving forward. On checking the analysis, it turns out the individual forgot to include several major costs, which makes the venture a non starter. You know she tried hard, and she is a really nice person and you are putting it off mentioning the flaw in the analysis. The consequences to the company however could be significant if the project goes ahead. What do you do?

  • Do you let it go and hope everything works out ok even though it could losemoney for the company?
  • Do you tell her what a great job she has done, but say you might not be able to go ahead with the project for other reasons?
  • Do you confront her with the problem and tell her what an idiot she is?
  • Or what?

First, it is only fair to your subordinate to be fair and honest with them at all times – this is how you would want to be treated isn’t it? Letting it go is not an option as this would be harmful to the business. Giving false praise or camouflaging bad news with praise will not help your subordinate learn or grow from the experience, and telling her off and attacking her self esteem and self worth are certainly not the answer.

So how do you approach it? The simple answer is, assertively, without blame, and by focusing on the poor behavior and the consequences of that behavior. Furthermore, you want the individual to learn from this mistake and have a chance to put it right.

So try this 4-step process:

  1. Define the poor behavior and consequence to the business.
  2. Explain your feelings about it (the consequences to your relationship.
  3. Be silent; let it sink in and let them respond.
  4. Provide a positive reinforcement and give them a chance to redeem themselves.

Something like this:

  1. “Rachel, the cost of distribution was missed out of the Pandora Project you just completed. If the cost were included we would not make money and it could have a very negative impact on the business.”
  2. “It makes it difficult for me to trust you with important projects if I have to double check everything. How do you suggest we move forward?” Be silent and don’t say anything. The chances are that Rachel will suggest she redo the analysis and that she will take extra care next time or use a check list or bounce it off another colleague. If she does not suggest this, then you can.
  3. “Rachel, I hired you because you are capable of doing this job, and more in the future. So redo the analysis and make sure in future you check these details. I know you can do this and be successful here.”

Stating the facts about the poor behavior rather than attacking the person, and making sure she understands the consequences to the business and to your relationship is an important part of assertive behavior and does not threaten or demean the other person. Letting your displeasure sink in is also an important part of the lesson. But it is important to leave the discussion on a positive note and to give the person a chance to put it right and feel they can repair the relationship.

By being assertive, you do the right thing for the company, the right thing for your subordinate and the right thing for you. So start today, and be a leader in your business, setting a new standard of communication; it could be the most effective strategy you employ.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (top right – add email address and accept the confirmation email you receive shortly in your email account). There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

5 Strategic Elements To Create Great Teams For Your Business

MP Consulting discusses the importance of teams in your business whether it is within marketing, development or some other function, or a cross-functional team set up to solve a specific business problem or strategic challenge.

Every business with more than one employee relies on teams of people to get the job done, whether it is the day to day running of the business, developing a new product, solving a strategic problem or launching a new line. Great teams are not just about getting great people round a table to solve a problem, but giving people a clear vision of the challenge, making sure they understand what is needed and when, and then giving them free reign to create a solution that provides the best business outcomes possible.

1. The Right People.

What makes a great team player? Some of the most important traits are the ability to listen, to work well with others, to be creative, enthusiastic, and not to be shy to share their ideas. Competence within their chosen profession goes without saying, but they also need to be committed to the business and it’s goals.

2. Create a Shared Vision.

All teams require a shared vision they can relate to and agree with, as well as a good understanding of what needs to be achieved and how. Providing the outline of the vision is an essential element for the team, but allowing them to help shape the final vision is also important. The company leader should be able to define a broad vision for the team and provide the key business goals he or she wishes to achieve. They should also be able to define key constraining parameters – for example, the market niche they wish to serve, or a particular customer or client need that the business currently does not fulfill. Guidance should also be given on the expected outcomes, which can act as a measure of the team’s success.

3. Rules for the team.

It is really important to define rules for the team including roles and responsibilities. A team leader is key component, to make sure the team stays on track. The team should be encouraged to define their own rules, roles and responsibilities, which includes a timeline, reports, expected outcomes and the final success criteria. It is vital that all team members commit to the goal and the team, and agree to abide by the rules.

4. Insist on Trust, Cooperation, and Innovation.

How is this achieved? It is up to the team members to insist on trust, cooperation and innovation. It is important for the team to agree to listen to every idea and input and give them due consideration; to insist and agree that everyone will pull their weight as part of the team (or risk being thrown out), and that the business milestones will be met and that everyone will pitch in if additional help is needed on any of the tasks.

5. Provide Support, Encouragement, and Rewards

For any team to be successful, it needs the appropriate level of management support, adequate resources to complete the task, and encouragement to create the best outcomes. Many teams fail due to a lack of resources, so be clear on what resources are available, what the budget for the project. Individual and team effort should be rewarded if the team achieves the pre-agreed outcomes. This can take the form of bonuses, praise, time off, gifts or any number of other rewards.

By providing a compelling vision, the right guidance, support, and encouragement, I believe any group of individuals are capable of becoming a great team and deliver an outstanding business outcome!

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (add email address to subscription window – top right – then accept the invitation in your email account).  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Strategic Business Leadership: 6 Winning Tips To Create a Knock Out Business Presentation

MP Consulting explains how to create a knock out business presentation by preparing great content, making it clear and concise with a strong business punch line, and practicing to ensure perfection.

How many times have you sat through a PowerPoint presentation and been bored stiff? Or worst still, had no clue what they wanted or what they were about? If you are making a presentation to raise money for your business, to seal a deal or sell a product, nobody wants to be bored, and nobody wants to know every little detail or problem you overcame. Your goal is to impress, to show your business understanding, to show your strategy makes sense, to show your product is the best and to show leadership in your industry.

So here are a few must do’s for your next business presentation.

1. Get to the point: What’s the bottom line? What’s the one message you want your business colleagues to walk out remembering about you. You have to start and finish with this. If you are looking for an investment, tell them how much you need and why they should invest, in less than 30 seconds. If you are trying to seal a deal or sell them a product, tell them why in the first slide, then you can explain a little detail, but then finish with a powerful image and conclusion of your key message.

2. Clear, concise, stay on the point. Business presentations need to be clear and concise, easy to read and to understand:

  • 4 or 5 bullets per slide; no more than 30 words (good size font)
  • Minimize your industry and company jargon and minimize fluff.
  • Graphics: make them clear and simple to understand; don’t over complicate.
  • Images: use them to stimulate the imagination and to explain what you are talking about: “a picture’s worth a thousand words”.
  • Video: make sure it is pertinent to the business issue and edit it to say what you need. Keep it short.

3. Timing: Make sure your presentation is not too long. Whatever time you are given, leave 10 minutes or 30% of the time for questions. The number of minutes available to you after you subtract question time is the maximum number of slides you should present (about 1 per minute maximum). Don’t try and pack every piece of information into the presentation.

4. Great Content: The best content is part of a story! So what is your story; what makes this message so exciting and so interesting? Don’t forget that the audience wants to hear what you have to say, but don’t try and tell them everything, let them ask if they really want to know more. Put in the important aspects that support your message and leave out the rest.

5. Practice: I don’t care how good you are or how many times you have presented, you need to practice what you are going to say in order to make sure you are getting the points across that you want to and that the presentation is clear and flows well. Try it out on some business co-workers or friends and let them critique it. Check the timing and check the facts, spelling and grammar.

6. Prepare for Questions: Define a list of questions that your audience is likely to ask of you or your company; what will be their concerns; what else might they want to know? Then set about preparing answers that are short, sharp and to the point, which will save you having to think on the spot.

A great business presentation does not happen by luck, it takes preparation, practice and the techniques I have described here. If you use these tips, you will make a knockout business presentation and leave a lasting impression.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (enter email address in the subscription box – top right, then confirm the email invitation your receive).  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK http://bit.ly/ikBWe5

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Strategic Business Leadership: Clear Vision, Clear Strategy, Clear Goals, Excitement, Motivation, Follow-Up, Adjustment.

MP Consulting discusses the essence of great strategic leadership and business success? You probably have heard much of this before, but putting it together is the key to success and missing one aspect can scuttle the ship. Make sure you are paying attention to the key aspects of great leadership.

Leadership is not easy. It requires vision, determination and an ability to persuade many that they want to be part of the solution to the challenge. In the first instance it is relatively easy to get everyone on board, fired up and raring to go, but what about a year or two down the road when not everything has gone to plan. Then what…?

A Clear Vision

Without a clear vision of where the company is going, it is really difficult to get anyone interested. So ask yourself why you are doing this, what is this business all about, how does it help others and what can it evolve into? Having spent most of my business life in the pharmaceutical and medical device worlds, creating an empowering vision has always been relatively easy: “We are in the Business of Saving Lives”, “Extending Life Expectancy”, “Improving Life Style”, and many others related to health and well being. It has to be honest, it has to be unique, it has to be attainable, and it has to draw on an inner need and drive that everyone can relate to – so get their input.

A Clear Strategy

I have covered this topic in previous blogs on Feb 21, Feb 28 and March 7 this year culminating in a fail-safe guide to developing your own strategy. Essentially, it is all about making sure you understand your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as the real opportunities and threats you face. It is particularly important to understand your customer’s needs and your competition. With this in place it is possible to formulate strategies that take into account your strengths and the opportunities as well as deal with the threats and weaknesses. Take a look at my blogs or get a copy of the Guide for Strategic Planning.

A Clear Set of Goals

Once the vision and strategy are clear, then it is down to executing the business plan or marketing plan to make it happen. It is worth spending the time to draw up a comprehensive plan (see my blogs on preparing a Business Plan, 4/11, or preparing a Marketing Plan, 3/21), so that clear goals of execution can be assembled with measurable results by a certain deadline, with one person responsible. It is then important that each person responsible understands their goals and how to achieve them.

Excitement & Motivation

This is where the vision plays an important role, making sure all contributors are involved in formulating the strategy and goals, and making sure the energy levels are high. Providing individuals with challenging goals that stretch them is a vital part of this as well as making sure the “team” really knows how to work together. A few timely team-building activities can be vital to help generate the excitement. (I will cover this in a later blog). It is also vital that everyone understands they will be held accountable for achieving results and that their results will be rewarded. Tying results to rewards are key – both for individuals and for teams.

Follow-Up

Regular follow up is essential, both with progress reports on projects and feedback on individual contributions and teamwork. I always found it useful to have individuals define variances to plan, and any potential options and recommendations for any changes. This helped them start to problems and resolve issues as they arose. The follow up activities can be on an individual basis and team basis, and is an opportunity to reinforce the vision, strategy and goals.

Adjustments

Adjustment of the plan is a vital part of ensuring your strategies and goals remain real and appropriate, taking into account changes in the environment, the competition, new developments within the company and the unexpected. By asking for variance reports (variance to plans), and forcing individuals to identify alternate options to get back on plan or to accelerate the plan, along with recommendations, forms the basis of the all important adjustment needed to get back on track or to get ahead.  The biggest mistake a lot of companies make is forming a strategy or set of goals and sticking to it even if the world has changed.  I am not saying one should change strategies every week, but one should review it regularly based on major changes that occur, so that you can ensure your company continues to grow and thrive.

Leadership is about keeping your eye on the ball, and making sure everyone else does too.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (fill out your email address in the subscription box, top right of this page, then accept the invitation you receive by email). There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK http://bit.ly/ikBWe5

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Social Media Company Business Models? What Works? And What Should I Use For My Company and Business?

MP Consulting discusses the coming of age of the first Social Media Companies and the types of business models they have chosen. Which business models will win out in the Social Media market and still be around in 10 years? And what makes sense for your Social Media Company and Business?

Ten years ago a similar discussion was raging in the dotcom world. Which business model makes sense for the new technology companies? I remember seeing dozens of business models that just did not makes sense: business models that ignored profitability or cash flow, and focused on number of subscriptions or traffic volume. This time round, the business models being used by Social Media companies seem to be more grounded, but will they work in the long run? Here are a few business models being used today and for you to consider for your Social Media company:

Advertising Business Models:

Concept: Create a huge following and then attract advertising $. The more traffic to the company’s site the more one can charge. If demographics of the traffic are available, this also can help sell ads. Multiple business variations of the theme exist including pay per click and pay per action.

Examples: Yahoo (partial), Google (partial), Facebook, and many other companies.

Pros: Tried and proven business model that has worked for companies for example, historically, TV and newspapers. Easy to set up.

Cons: Competition is fierce (the large traffic businesses get all the high value ads). Low profit margins generally. Difficult to get established without huge traffic volume.

Subscription Business Models:

Concept: Charge a subscription fee (monthly or annually) to access a service or product.

Examples: Netflix, World of Warcraft, Zune

Pros: Tried and tested business model that works well for service based companies where the service is continually required.

Cons: Need to keep the service fresh and provide improved value for money over time. High attrition rate.

Premium Service Business Models:

Concept: Offer a free service and then charge for premium services with advanced features for paying members.

Examples: Linkedin, Skype, Flickr, PollDaddy. FreePressService

Pros: Customer base that joined the free service are there to help define the upgrades they would like and pay for.

Cons: The biggest challenge is knowing how much to give away free to make people use the service, but want to upgrade to acquire other features, and to make sure the enticement to upgrade provides great enough value to the consumer.

Traffic Business Models:

Concept: makes money by driving traffic, leads or sales to an affiliate company website. Need high traffic and your subscribers need to trust your recommendations, and your ads need to target their needs.

Examples: Bloggers, Shoe Money.

Pros: Much easier to make money if your site is high traffic.

Cons: Requires high traffic, high trust and a good understanding of your subscribers needs.

Virtual Goods Business Models

Concept: Selling virtual goods for money to use in games or websites – functional, status items or decorative virtual goods.

Examples: Facebook, Acclaim Games.

Pros: High margin business.

Cons: Making goods that people want to buy. Lot of competition to make virtual goods.

Blended Business Models

Of course, most of the successful companies have a blended business model. Linkedin, for example, sells services directly to customers (companies), which accounts for about 45% of its revenue and uses a Freemium model for its subscribers to pay for premium services (about 25% of revenues). Interestingly, its advertising revenue is picking up and was approximately 10% of revenues in 2010. The question is will they be able to continue to grow and which business model will provide the financial results required (revenue and profits).

Facebook primarily uses advertising to generate revenue (an estimated $1.86 billion in 2010), but is also doing well with a Virtual Goods business model too. Although it is still a private company, it was leaked that Facebook made $355 million profit off revenues of $1.2 billion in the first 9 months of 2010. This is much better than many expected. Twitter seems to be using a blend of paid advertising and a freemium approach with its “promoted tweets”.

The advertising business model is not for the feint of heart as one needs huge traffic to drive any significant revenues. For Social Media start up companies, it may be better to use one of the other business models or a blended version. Of course, you could always go with the traditional approaches – sell a product or service? You could even, dare I suggest it, make something?

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (Subscribe: add your email to box – top right, and accept subscription email when you receive it).  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK http://bit.ly/ikBWe5

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANY VALUATIONS: WHAT IS YOUR COMPANY WORTH?

MP Consulting discusses the recent increases in social media company valuations, the concern that a bubble is forming, and 4 different ways that are being used to value social media company’s pre-public offerings and public market trading.

Valuations of Social Media Companies are going crazy.  Facebook is looking at an IPO with a value of $100 billion (or 50 times revenue), which would shoot them into the top 30 Fortune 500 most valuable companies; more valuable than Merck, Goldman Sachs, and Apple. Linkedin is trading at a value of $6.9 billion (34 times revenues and about 460 times earnings) and Twitter’s last series B private financing valued it at $7.7 billion (51 times revenue). Great valuations if you own the stock, but are they really worth this or is this just a repeat of the dotcom bubble of 10 years ago? Certainly the multiples being used would suggest an overvaluation, so buyers beware!

So just how are private companies valued, and how can you value your own company?

Method 1. Comparative Value

A typical and quick method to value your company is to compare yourself to companies in similar market sectors, of similar size, that are valued either by the public markets or through private financings. One can then look at valuation as a multiple of revenues or earnings and use the average multiple from several companies to apply to your revenues or earnings. As we see from the examples above, social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin are valued at 30-50 times their revenues.

The drawbacks of this method are that no two companies are the same; the products are probably different, the market segment may be different, the demographics of the customers may be different, the stage of the company’s evolution are probably different, and the management team is different, all of which could result in a very different company with a very different outlook.

Method 2. Discounted Cash Flow

This method estimates the present value of future free cash flows of the company. One has to be able to construct a financial model of how the company will evolve, forecasting sales, costs, equipment needed, staff levels, investments and other factors so that one can calculate how much cash the company will have in the future. Free cash flow is essentially the cash you are left with after paying out for the products or services you create. Free cash flow is equal to your earnings – tax + depreciation – change in working capital (current assets – current liabilities) – capital expenditures. Free cash flow is also equal to your operating cash flow minus capital expenditures. By applying a discount value one can calculate a present value of the cash flows, and a value of the company.

The drawbacks of this method are in the assumptions made regarding the future revenues of the company, the costs involved and the appropriate risks level assumed relating to product acceptance, competitive activity and other industry and economic risks.

Method 3. Net Asset Value

This method essentially assumes all the assets of the company are sold off, all creditors are paid, and what is left is the value of the company. This method does not take into account the future potential of the company and therefore is used more as a baseline value estimate.

Method 4. Private Financing Valuations

This method is the closest thing to a public market valuation. Many private companies talk about the post-money valuation of their company after their last round of private financing, and it is true those investing in the company established this value. However, depending on the investors, the company’s value could vary substantially in a public setting and may be biased by the private investor’s personal interest in the company’s future success.

Valuing Social Media Company’s, which are only just starting to figure out their business models and how they might make money, is not easy. The excitement and enthusiasm behind some of the initial IPOs is understandable for this new wave industry, but we should be careful to remember the trends of the past with new technology industries and how valuations became over inflated only to collapse and assume valuations more in line with other companies.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (enter email address top right, and return confirmatory email I send to you).  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

4 PEOPLE MANAGEMENT TIPS TO MAKE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANY OR BUSINESS A SUCCESS

MP Consulting discusses the age-old challenge of getting results in your business through the people you hire and work with. This includes hiring the right people, developing them, treating them fairly and getting rid of those that do not perform.

Building a team is not easy. Building a great team is even harder. If you want a great team to build your business and to form the foundation for future growth, you have to choose people carefully, develop and mold them into strong, capable individuals that can work together and exhibit the behaviors and performance you desire, and remove those that don’t.

Hiring

The golden rule is always hire the best; don’t compromise. The key behavioral traits and criteria to look for in people that will serve you well are:

  • Enthusiasm & energy
  • A thirst for knowledge
  • An enjoyment of working with others
  • Measurable results achieved
  • Honesty and integrity

If you link these attributes to 3-4 key must have’s for the job you are hiring for, you will have a winning team player.

Developing

Provide training specific to the job to expand individual’s capabilities; teach business skills and understanding to help the individual and the business. A lot of training can be achieved on the job, working in teams or on their own, on specific projects. A certain amount of classroom teaching can provide the business tools necessary. Evaluate people accurately and in depth regularly as part of a leadership and continuous improvement program.

  • How are they performing?
  • How is their behavior?
  • What are they good at?
  • What are they not good at?
  • Assess their leadership skills and expertise in different areas?
  • What are they interested in?
  • What is their promotability?

Always keeping in mind what the company needs are, will allow you to move people around to perform different tasks and projects. Make sure you keep great talent engaged and excited.

Fair Treatment

Consistency is the key. Treat everyone the same. Set clear measurable goals and priorities and tell people the result you want and how you expect them to get it. It is important to evaluate people regularly.  Annual reviews are fine, but there should be no surprises during any review because you have been giving feedback (good and bad) throughout the year and documenting specific examples. I liked to give feedback formerly on a monthly basis and immediately after every major task completed.

Linking rewards to outcomes is essential. Reward the doers and those that get results and exhibit the desired behaviors.  If someone comes up short, tell them immediately, don’t wait for annual reviews, provide additional coaching, and give them another chance. Remove rewards such as bonuses, pay increases and options until the performance returns.

Firing

Again consistency is important. If someone does not perform a second time, tell them immediately where they are going wrong, if they do not understand or do not feel they can perform as expected, let them go. If they are not suited to the job, move them to another position. Provide them additional coaching, and provide them a detailed plan of what is expected to turn around their performance with a timeline and an understanding that failure to achieve the results will lead disciplinary action (usually over a 2-3 month period). If they don’t turn it around, let them go.

Managing people is not easy, in fact, as one rises up the corporate ladder, more and more of you time will be spent dealing with people issues; hopefully mostly the first three of the topics discussed today. I plan to cover each of these topics in more depth at a later date, but if you have any questions, let me know.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog by adding your email address to the subscription window (top right), and confirming your request when you receive an email.  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

3 STRATEGIES FOR IMPLEMENTING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS PLAN

MP Consulting discusses 3 essential elements to implementing a successful business plan, or a strategic plan, or a marketing plan or any other plan in your business. They are, very simply, Engagement, Discipline and Accountability.

Over the last five months I have discussed numerous plans and how to formulate them so you can maximize the potential of your business.

  • The Strategic Plan: March 7, 2011
  • The Business Plan: April 11, 2011
  • The Marketing Plan: March 21, 2011
  • The Public Relations Plan: May 23, 2011

But how does one implement these plans so they work and create a great business rather than have the plan sit on a shelf and just gather dust, or go at it half-heartedly and still not achieve what you really want?

Engagement

First, and most important, as I have stressed in my planning blogs, is that as many persons involved in implementing the plan as practically possible should be engaged in the planning process: in helping define the key parameters, carrying out the research, discussing and helping synthesize the information collected into clear conclusions, ideas, concepts, and plans. This engagement is critical to helping achieve buy in and commitment to the plan, which will be necessary to implement the plan effectively. Once the plan is formulated, the next important aspect is Discipline.

Discipline

Implementing a great plan to get a great outcome requires great discipline to:

  • Communicate the final plan to all involved,
  • Discuss the plan, challenge it and agree to it,
  • Ensure everyone understands their role in the plan and the key interdependencies,
  • Defining clear responsibilities with clear outcomes and timelines,
  • Regular review of progress towards key goals and milestones,
  • Holding those responsible accountable for the outcomes.

This all sounds good, and everyone sets out to perform well, but what often goes wrong or is missing from the implementation aspect is accountability. By this I mean the sense in all involved that there is true recognition of those that achieve results and for those that do not.

Accountability

A lot of companies talk about rewarding for performance, but very few really hold their employees accountable. The key steps to holding people accountable, rather than just talking about it are:

  • Tell people clearly what results you want and discuss how to get the results.
  • Performance reviews of individuals: define goals that were hit or missed.
  • Reward people for producing results and behavior traits you want.
  • Differentiate rewards such as options, bonuses, and salary increases.
  • If an individual comes up short, provide additional coaching, withdraw rewards, give other jobs, or let them go.

By applying Engagement, Discipline and Accountability, your plan will be successful, your employees will feel engaged and rewarded, and your company will be positioned for further success.

FOR FREE GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, A SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, AND A SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN, VISIT MY BLOG: CLICK ON THIS LINK

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments and subscribe and link to my blog (to subscribe-top right: enter your email and accept the invitation that appears in your email). There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

4 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF A GREAT SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN

MP Consulting discusses 4 important elements of a great social media public relations plan necessary for your business and brand to shine and grow in good times and in bad.

Social media sites can provide a powerful and timely tool to communicate important information and news regarding your company, your accomplishments, activities, products and services. This makes Social Media sites great for public relations activities. Think of public relations as a marketing strategy to compliment your marketing plan and branding initiatives.

Public relations is not just press releases and meeting and greeting people at your local chamber of commerce. Public relations is about getting your name out there, establishing and reminding people who you are and what you stand for, reinforcing your brand and building a relationship with tomorrows as well as today’s customers. Of course, it can be a double-edged sword; not just good news travels fast in the social media world, but bad news too.  So be prepared with a Public Relations Plan that addresses how you want to communicate with your customers and the general public with good and bad news; and how you want to respond to positive and negative comments or even a crisis. It’s important.

Elements of a Social Media Public Relations Plan

1. Defining Your Business

  • What does your company stand for?
  • What are its values?
  • What do you offer that others don’t?
  • Who are your customers or clients and what social media sites do they favor?
  • Define your monitoring of customers, competitors, the industry and the trends that affect you
  • What are your goals
  • What are your key messages

2. Defining Your Communication Plan

  • Define your public relation goals, both general and specific
  • What are the key messages you wish to deliver, to whom, through what media, how often, and by whom?
  • Define all key marketing materials to be used.
  • Ensure consistency of the messages across your Social Media sites and in all marketing materials
  • Define who is responsible for public relations.

3. Define Your Interactive Plan

  • Define which media and which social media sites to track, which responses to collect.
  • What discussions do you want to have?
  • What do you want to find out (market research, product feedback, new trends, etc)
  • Define the timing, materials, messages, channels and responsibility.
  • Create a timely report to keep the organization abreast of the interactions.

4. Define A Crisis Communication Plan

  • What could go wrong: internally or externally?
  • Who and how will you respond to the different type of crises that could occur?
  • Create a prevention plan to minimize the chance of a crisis.
  • Define the crisis management team and responsibilities.

The public relations plan for the company should not be restricted to social media, but rather, social media should be one avenue by which you reach out and develop your relations. In choosing which Social Media sites to utilize, one should focus on those where your customers or clients tend to favor. Of course, your website, blog and presence on other sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, etc, should all carry the key messages and image you wish to present to your customers and clients. Consistency of message is very important.

The beauty of social media and the numerous sites which allow interaction, is that, for the first time, you have a new opportunity to interact with your customers and would-be customers without going to a meeting or cold calling them. This is why public relations via the Internet and social media sites is a unique opportunity to all companies to enrich their customer relationships.

FOR A FREE COPY OF MY 4 STEP SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN GUIDE OR ONE OF MY OTHER GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, OR SOCIAL MEDIA IN BUSINESS, CLICK ON THIS LINK http://bit.ly/ikBWe5

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog (top right: add email address to “subscribe” and confirm when you receive an email invitation).  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

MP Consulting Services specializes in the areas of strategic planning, marketing and social media. Mark Philip, principal at MPCS, has over 20 years experience in managing businesses, both small and large, has orchestrated multiple turnarounds, built product pipelines, launched new products, sold companies and created significant shareholder value. Let me know how I can help you with your business challenge.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

KEY BUSINESS INDICATORS: UNCOVER THE SECRET TO SUCCESS

MP Consulting reveals some of the most important measures for your success as a businessperson. Whether your company is big or small, there are certain aspects that are key to your short and long-term success. What are these important parameters? Which ones should I measure? Which ones are irrelevant? Which ones will help me succeed?

Complexity

Most businesses, particularly those that are large or growing, can be very complex. If you try to track everything you could spend all your time tracking and plotting data rather than doing those things that drive your business and make it successful. Key Business Indicators (KBI’s), or Key Performance Indicators (PMI’s), are not just a series of financial or business measurements, but a set of key criteria, which, if the work necessary to improve the indicator is done well, will result in your business being a true success.

Financial measures are not enough

Of course you track sales and profits and cash, these are all important measures, but what is it that drives your business, what is it that differentiates your from the competition and makes you stand out, what is that drives people to buy your product or services, and what do you need to spend more time on to make sure they continue to buy from you or that you continue to add new clients or expand what they purchase?

What are KBI’s really about?

For me, key business indicators or PMI’s are more than just measures, they are about boiling down your business to the critical aspects that make you successful, putting in a carefully thought through plan to develop your business to be even more successful and then focusing on only that which matters. KBI’s are about FOCUS.

What is important?

If you focus on what really matters to grow your business, to make it a success, you will succeed. I always find it useful to revisit the business strategy at this point (see previous blog and guidelines). Do the assumptions still make sense? Does the strategy still make sense?  Does the business plan and marketing plan still make sense? Are you doing the right things? Are you spending the time on the right aspects of your business? Where do you need to spend your time to really pull it off?

Once you have done this, defined the most important things you should be doing because they will make you successful, then you can define your KBI’s.

What makes for a great KBI?

A great KBI must relate directly to the important activity of your business that will help you be successful, it must be measurable, it must be controllable, it must be sensitive to the changes you can bring to bare.

KBI’s should follow the SMART criteria:

  • The measure has a Specific purpose to the business
  • It is Measurable
  • It has to be Achievable
  • It has be Relevant to the organization
  • And it must be Time phased, which means the value or outcome must occur in a specific time frame.

KBI’s that work

  • In one of my previous companies acquiring new customers drove the business, and so the KBI was new customer acquisition compared to a forecasted value. We didn’t have to worry about the revenue, if we signed a new customer, the revenue was guaranteed and the profitability was pretty much set as long as we didn’t do anything crazy.
  • Perhaps your business is driven by repeat business of satisfied customers, so you need to be doing things to make sure people are coming back. The KBI could be tracking the frequency of repeat business, for example, the $ per repeat customer over time, or the level of satisfaction of repeat customers, etc
  • In another scenario, where the more a customer buys the more a business profits, think restaurants, then the KBI could be $ spent per customer.

The essence of a good KBI is that it makes you and others focus on what is important to the business without being too distracted by everything else that is going on around you. In larger companies, it is often the practice for each department to have their own KBI’s to ensure they are focused on the appropriate activities.

FOR A FREE COPY OF MY GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING,  BUSINESS PLANS, MARKETING PLANS, OR IF YOU NEED A PRIMER ON HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA IN BUSINESS“, CLICK ON THIS LINK TO LEARN HOW TO OBTAIN YOUR COPIES

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and Other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog (top right – add your email address, and accept the link when you receive your invitation by email).  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

8 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR CASH FLOW

I thought this week you may like a change of subject, but one which I have received numerous requests to cover and that is: cash and cash flow, what it means to your business and how you can manage it to ensure your business thrives.

Cash is King

I am sure you have heard many times, that in small businesses and start-ups, CASH IS KING! What do they mean?  Well, you need cash do just about everything, from investing in your idea, to making your product, to support the day to day running of your business.  Until you get enough cash coming in the door to more than cover your outgoings, life can be very tough. So, look after your cash and NEVER run out of cash!

You may well have a product that you can sell at a profit on paper, and you may well be profitable in your business overall, but cash flow is critical, particularly when you are small.  If you have a steady flow of outgoing expenses, like rent, inventory, travel, but are not receiving a steady flow of income because your clients don’t pay on time or they only pay after having tried your product for several months, then you could run into cash flow problems.

So what exactly is cash flow?

Cash Flow is defined as a revenue or expense stream that changes your cash position within a specified period of time. Cash inflows often come from operations (revenue), financings, investments or donations. Cash outflows are usually from expenses or investments made.

Cash flow is like watching the balance of your personal banking account: there are lots of bills to pay and sometimes only a few revenue payments, and banks really don’t encourage you to have a negative balance. One of your goals as a businessperson is to get to positive cash flows as quickly as possible. Always make sure you know your cash balance. Remember, a cash balance is not the same as a bank balance.

Cash flow in a new business

When you start out a new business it is really sensible to plan out a monthly cash flow statement to make sure you stay in the black. Essentially you need to predict all the money that you will receive and all the money you will pay out each month. Ideally you want to be cash flow positive all the time, but that can be difficult when you are starting out and trying to attract business.  The trick is not to overspend, especially if your revenues are not growing as predicted.

Cash flow challenges

Even if companies are profitable, it may be that they do not have enough cash to cover all their obligations. Companies go bankrupt because they cannot pay their debts, not because they are not profitable!

Some of the more common problems encountered that lead to cash flow problems, include customers that do not pay their bills on time or at all; continuing to invest heavily and spend money on non-essential expenditures when the sales volume does not materialize, no tracking systems for revenue and expenses or inventory management, unattractive customer payment options, lack of incentives for customers to pay on time, and numerous others.

Cash flow remedies

There are number of remedies for many of the cash flow problems listed; here are eight ways to help keep your cash flow balance positive.

  1. Discounts for on time payment: To induce clients to pay promptly, one can offer a small % discount if invoices are paid within a certain time frame – usually 1-2% within 30 days of invoice.
  2. Customer credit checks: To make sure you have a good chance of being paid on time by a new customer, it is always wise to run a credit check which will tell you if they have a history of slow or none payment. Buy credit insurance if you can afford it.
  3. Budget tracking: it is good business practice to prepare a budget that forecasts both your expected revenues and expenses so that you can make sure you are on track. If revenues fall short of your predictions, you may want to cut back on some expenses so you do not get ahead of yourself and wind up in a low cash position.
  4. Tracking systems for cash flow improvements. Keeping track of inventory and supplies and procurement will help you identify waste and improvements you can make to save money on these costly activities.
  5. Shorten Product or Service Turnaround Times: By shortening the delivery time of the product or service, you may be able to receive revenue sooner.
  6. Offer credit card payment and cash payment options: Offering credit card payment as an option, may speed up payment, and one could consider making this the only mode of payment.
  7. Inventory financing: one can consider inventory financing where you use a line of credit to finance the manufacture of product for a client and so free up cash.
  8. Improved payment scheduling. For certain services and products it is possible to ask for a staggered payment schedule – for example, % payment up front, milestone payment, and final payment on delivery of the final product. If possible retain control of the final product until payment is received.

Remember. Never run out of cash and always keep your cash flows positive. Cash is KING!

FOR A FREE COPY OF MY SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, OR MY GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, MARKETING PLANS, AND BUSINESS PLANS “, CLICK ON THIS LINK TO LEARN HOW TO OBTAIN YOUR COPIES

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and Other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog (subscribe at top right and confirm your subscription when you receive an email).  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESS: BRANDING

MP Consulting Services discusses how to use social media as a branding initiative for your company, your product or you. Brand awareness and brand recognition are driving forces in all businesses. Do it right and the dividends can be significant. Do it wrong, and it can be a catastrophe.

Social media can absolutely be used to create awareness and clarity of your brand, and the products and services you offer. Your brand image and positioning should be carefully thought through as an important part of your overall social media strategy. It is important to ensure consistency across the different social media sites you use which will enhance the perception of your brand.

So what is branding? Kotler defines it as “a name, term, sign, symbol or a combination of these, that identifies the maker or seller of the product” [From: Principles of Marketing, by Philip Kotler and Gary Armstrong]. Kotler goes on to say, “Building a brand is a roll-out process, not a drop everywhere in the world at one time. The key to brand-building is to have something good that you roll-out in a very intelligent way. Maybe even invisibly for a while because you want to be under the radar screen of competitors.”

For me, it’s all about understanding where you are going and positioning your product or company in such a way that you differentiate from your competition and then ensure this message is repeatedly emblazoned in all your customer facing media, taking care with the consistency of the message and imagery so that the world knows you by this. I therefore, highly recommend that before you run off and write a positioning statement, that you first do your homework.

A little market research can go along way to identify trends in your industry, your market, your customers and how you can uncover your specific advantage over your competition [see my last blog for details on ideas of how to conduct your market research].  As a second step, I would also strongly suggest that you construct a strategy that helps define where you want to go with your company or product [again, see one of my past blogs on Strategic Planning]. It doesn’t have to be overly formal or long, it can be done on a single sheet of paper, but the process of thinking about where you are going in light of the current trends, opportunities, the competition and focusing on your strengths, can have a dramatic effect on how you position your company, product, or you, and consequently, how you define your brand.

With the homework behind you, you now have a competitive analysis, a sense of how you can differentiate from your competition, who your customers are (very important) and the opportunities out there that play to your strength. Now you can write your positioning statement that defines your brand, and you may also create a short phrase that captures what you stand for. You may also want to adopt an image as part of your brand, even if it is just your name.

Now the BIG secret, all of this research and positioning is fine but to establish and develop your brand you now have to be great at what you say you do, and deliver consistently.

To build a powerful and successful brand, it is not enough to have a great positioning statement or logo, or tag-line, it is all about what you do and how others perceive you.  The success of your brand depends on how well you deliver what is expected of you, and so in starting out with a new brand it is best to absolutely excel at a very focused expectation rather than build an expectation that you will never be able to fulfill.  This is why it is so important to define your customers carefully. If you have done your homework correctly, you will have identified an unmet need that you can target and which you or your product has the ability to fulfill.  The feedback from your customers on this very point is essential because it is the ability to fulfill the expectation, which will establish your brand.

Another important secret is that your brand does not have to standstill. It can evolve to address a larger market (think FEDEX) and even to extend to other markets (think VIRGIN). But, don’t over stretch. Once you have a brand that defines you the way you want, you need to cherish it and take care of it.  Don’t worry, if a competitor copies you and dilutes your brand, you can redefine it and morph it into a new set of values and expectations.

In this more in depth series of blogs entitled Social Media for Business, I want to focus on how you can use social media sites and the Internet for different purposes.  Branding is an important step in defining your company, product or you, and can bring tremendous benefits when trying to grow your business. To learn more about using Social Media to enhance your business you may want to read my other blogs, and if you have questions, please let me know; I am happy to help.

FOR A FREE COPY OF MY SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, OR MY GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, MARKETING PLANS, AND BUSINESS PLANS “, CLICK ON THIS LINK TO LEARN HOW TO OBTAIN YOUR COPIES

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and Other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog.  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESS: MARKET RESEARCH

MP Consulting Services discusses how to use social media for market research purposes. Whether investigating a market, a competitor or an industry, social media sites can provide significant information to help you drive your business to grow.

I first reviewed how social media sites could help you and your business in one of my early blogs called: “9 Killer Apps for your Social Media Marketing Strategy”.  If you haven’t read it, it will really help give you an overview of how different social media sites can help in 9 different marketing applications. See my earlier blog.

In this more in depth series of blogs entitled Social Media for Business, I want to

 

Can't See The Wood For The Trees?

first focus on how you can use social media sites and the Internet for market research purposes. If you are asking why, just check out my guides on Strategic Planning, the 5 Step Marketing Plan and my simple guide to writing a persuasive Business Plan. Market research is an essential step in understanding your market need, your customers, your competitors and the trends that may affect your business. So let’s start with what I specifically mean by market research.

Well, with any business it is important to understand the needs of the market both in terms of the specific desires that drive the market and the size and growth of the market, what is being done to meet that need today, who is meeting the need or trying to and with what product, and what are the competitor product’s strengths and weaknesses? So, market research can be broken down into several different aspects:

Market Research for Business

  • Market and product needs
  • Size and growth of the market
  • Market and industry trends
  • Customer/Client demographics
  • Competitive products and companies

So where to begin? I think it helps to start with a simple statement of what you think the market and product need is, who the customers are, and then jump straight into a Google search for that topic and see what appears in the first two or three pages – what companies, what groups, what customers, what products. Now refine your statement and start to pursue the market, the competition and the customers.

Market – use Google, websites, and companies to look for estimates of the size of the market in terms of customers, $ sold, product unit sales, geographic and demographic distinctions, market growth and current industry trends. For example, you may find a company or product site that talks about the market, its growth and trends, or you may find a copy of last years market research on the industry.

Competition – Company and product websites and blogs are a great place to start to make a list of the competitor products, how they are positioned in the market, their strengths and weaknesses and the strategies used. The same companies and products may also have a presence on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and YouTube, where you can find feedback from customers regarding the products, and how they are or are not meeting their needs.

Customers – You may find interest groups on Linkedin, but also looking at your competitors blog sites, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook will give you an introduction to the customers, the demographics, concerns, interests and desires.  But your own blog site and social media sites are also a great place to meet your customers by writing about your product or service, or better still providing information that they may find useful and then carefully listening to the feedback and following up with those interested enough to follow you, ask you questions, or post comments on your sites. You can also utilize this two-way conversation to explore new product features or to refine the service you are providing.

Okay, so hopefully you are starting to get the idea of how you can start to build a significant database and understanding about your market, the competition and your customers by utilizing the Internet and social media sites. To learn more about this you may want to read my other blogs, and if you have questions, please let me know; I am happy to help.

FOR A FREE COPY OF MY SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS, OR MY GUIDES ON STRATEGIC PLANNING, MARKETING PLANS, AND BUSINESS PLANS “, CLICK ON THIS LINK TO LEARN HOW TO OBTAIN YOUR COPIES

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and Other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog (top right: enter email address, then accept the email you receive).  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

For More Information: visit my LinkedIn account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS: GET STARTED NOW

One of the requests I receive most frequently is for a simple Social Media primer to help someone understand the basics of how Social Media is being used in business today.  First things first: DON’T PANIC. It’s not too late, in fact, Social Media is just evolving to becoming more business friendly and so it is a great time to start; but you should definitely start now.

Millions are Entering Social Media Networks

Literally millions of people around the world now regularly use some form of social media to gain information, stay in touch with friends, research

 

Millions Entering Social Media Networks

various topics and shop for products and services. The evolution to use Social Media as part of one’s business has really only taken off in the last few years. Most, if not all, businesses have websites where you can find out about their products or services, but most became, and some still are, static monuments, which allow little interaction.

Business and Social Media

With the introduction of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media sites, it wasn’t long before Businesses realized that not only should they be part of this new phenomenon, but that the interactive nature of these sites offered a unique opportunity to both listen and interact with their customers and potential customers, understand what they liked and did not like, and also provide a new marketing channel to try and influence customers to buy more.

(FOR A FREE COPY OF MY “SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS”, CLICK ON THIS LINK)

So, let’s just put this into context for a moment. Recent estimates claim:

  • There are approximately 2 billion internet users worldwide.
  • Google experiences some 3 billion searches per day.
  • Facebook now exceeds 500 million users.
  • There are over 130 million blogs worldwide, with approximately 1 million posts per day.
  • Linkedin has over 75 million members in 200 countries.
  • YouTube will serve 75 billion video streams to 375 million unique visitors in 2011.

If you ask; “Who is using Social Media”, the answer is, apart from your family, friends and colleagues, your customers and your competition. There was an interesting quote in BusinessWeek:

“For companies, resistance to Social Media is futile. Millions of people are creating content for the social Web. Your competitors are already there. Your customers have been there for a long time. If your business isn’t putting itself out there, it ought to be.”

The scary thing about this quote is when it was made. No, it wasn’t last week. It was February 19, 2009, over two years ago, and the expansion of Social Media has been pretty much exponential since that time.

What Should I Do?

So, if you are new to the notion of using Social Media in your business, don’t think of it as something your have missed or that you have to immediately switch all your business activities over to the net. Think of it more as a set of alternative marketing tools that will help you better understand your customers, to be able to reach them in different ways, and that you will be able to interact with them in a unique way that allows you to enhance your business.

Get Started

To get you started, why don’t you join Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin and just watch and listen for a while. I will cover some of the specific Social Media sites and their marketing uses and capabilities, and how you might use these in your business in future blogs. Don’t worry, I am always here if you need me.

(FOR A FREE COPY OF MY “SOCIAL MEDIA PRIMER FOR BUSINESS ”, CLICK ON THIS LINK)

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and Other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog (Enter Your Email in the Top Right Hand Corner, and Confirm Your Acceptance When You Receive An Email).  There are lots of free guides and presentations available at my site, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, then fill out the comment section on my blog or send me an email.

For More Information: visit my linkedin account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Simple Guide to Writing a Persuasive Business Plan

I have had a number of requests to provide you with the outlines of a good business plan.  But what is really interesting is the number of reasons you gave for wanting a business plan. Some are just keen to figure out how they can make their business successful, others need to raise capital from investors or through loans from banks and others, and others are looking to sell their business and want something to show people as a plan, but also to use it as a tool to maximize their valuation. So here goes – the all purpose business plan in a nutshell.

Level of detail

A good business plan should clearly define its product or service, lay out how the business intends to operate, in which markets and how it intends to generate sales and profits from its well defined client or customer base.  The level of detail in a business plan, very much depends on how you intend to use it; whether as personal guide to running your business or to convince others to make an investment or partner with you in some way, or a dozen other possible uses. If it is just for personal use, then it may not need to be too detailed, but if one intends to use it to gain investments in the business, then it will require to be robust enough to stand up to scrutiny from the investors you approach.

The essence of the business plan

The most important part of the business plan is the process of creating it which forces you to think about strategic, operational, tactical, human and financial aspects of how this business will work. It will require research and investigation with regard to your customers, markets, and competition; it will require you to be creative in thinking through what it is you are offering and why someone should choose your product or service over those offered by others. It will require you to figure out how to reach your customers, with what type of message and which channel or media to use, it will require you to think about how it will be made and shipped or where a service will be provided, how you will ensure the quality of your product, and to ensure you are meeting your customer’s needs. And, it will require you to forecast sales and expenses and how and when you might make a profit or at least have enough cash to continue to grow your business.

Scrutinize your assumptions

If one has done one’s homework properly, then the business plan should be able to stand up to fairly rigorous scrutiny, but be prepared to answer a few questions. What assumptions have you made and why, and be prepared to discuss what you would do if your assumptions turn out to be wrong or that the market changes in some way. So let’s get started; below, you will find the outline of the key ingredients of your business plan. Space does not allow me to elaborate further on the content, but if you are interested, I would be happy to provide you with further details…

(FOR A FREE COPY OF THE DETAILED BUSINESS PLAN GUIDE, CLICK ON THIS LINK)

Key Content

  1. Executive Summary
  2. The Industry, The Company, The Product, (The Technology)
  3. Market Research and Analysis
    1. Customers
    2. Market Size
    3. Competition
    4. Market Share and Sales
  4. Marketing Plan
    1. Overall Marketing Strategy
    2. Marketing Goals
    3. Pricing
    4. Sales Tactics
    5. Advertising and Promotion
  5. Development Plan (Technology Driven Products)
  6. Operating Plan
    1. Location, Facilities and Improvements
    2. Strategy and Manufacturing plan
    3. Labor force
    4. Distribution
  7. Management Team
    1. Organization
    2. Key Personnel
    3. Management Compensation and Ownership
    4. Board of Directors
  8. Financial Plan and Contingencies
    1. Sources and Uses of Funds
    2. Profit and Loss Forecast
    3. Pro Forma Cash Flow Analysis
    4. Pro Forma Balance Sheets
    5. Contingency plans

(FOR A FREE COPY OF THE DETAILED BUSINESS PLAN GUIDE, CLICK ON THIS LINK)

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and Other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, click on this.

For More Information: visit my linkedin account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Social Media Marketing Secrets: What should I be tracking?

I recently surveyed my readers to find out what they would like to hear more about in regard to Social Media Marketing. There was a definite interest in what it is you should be tracking and measuring, so that’s the topic for this week.

First, I am a big believer in measuring the effects of something new. Too many people have told me, and I have told myself, that some new marketing scheme works, or that the new marketing ploy is driving new sales, only to find on more careful analysis and measurement that it is having no effect at all, but rather, something else is driving the change in sales.

If you don’t measure it, you won’t know if it works.

Ok, so let’s just assume for now, we all agree you have to measure the effects of a new marketing activity. So what is it you should measure?  Be careful now, don’t get sucked into the old mistake of using a measurement because it is easy to record. Unless you know for a fact that the measure you are going to use relates to what you really care about, don’t use it.  So to answer this question, what should I measure, the answer has to be what is it you are trying to achieve with the new marketing activity?  If you are trying to increase sales – measure sales.  If you are trying to increase repeat sales, measure sales from existing customers, if you are trying to increase new customers; measure new customers (and their sales).  You get the idea.

Measure that which you are trying to achieve.

So what should I measure with my social media activities? Twitter Followers and Retweets? Blog Subscribers, Linkedin Discussions, Facebook Likes, Website Visitors and Click Throughs, Google Pageranking,… the list goes on. But again, the question is what are you trying to achieve? If you are trying to increase sales, then measure sales. But how do you measure the impact of your Twitter activities on sales when you already have a dozen traditional marketing activities underway.

How do I relate a Social Media Activity to Sales?

Well, by way of example, one could end each Tweet with a link to a “landing site” on a blog or website that asks for customer information when they purchase or request information. By using, for example, the bit.ly shortened URLs, you can measure how many Tweets result in a click on the website (bit.ly offers a free tracking service), and you can record how many of the bit,ly links result in a sale thus giving you not only initial interest at the Twitter level, but then the conversion rate to a sale.

What about Tracking Customer Opinions?

Don’t get me wrong, not everything has to be about sales, if you are looking to expand your community or to learn from your customers what is hot or not, then you can track

 

Example Goals, Objectives and Metrics

the number and content of discussions on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, as well as the more obvious direct feedback in the form of comments created by your blogs or website content. See the table to the right for some examples of your marketing goals and specific objectives, and what the appropriate metrics may be.

Tracking Assimilators

There are also numerous tracking assimilators that can help you keep track of multiple parameters at a glance. Google Analytics used with a website or blog is very good at giving you great data on who has visited your sites; Tweetdeck is also great for tracking different commentaries in one place so you don’t miss anything.

Hopefully this will get you started. The important thing is to track and measure the impact of your activity and choose a measure that most closely ties to what you are trying to achieve for your business. Remember, if you track it, you will learn if your marketing activity has an impact on that metric, and therefore on your business. That way, if it does not change your metric the way you want, stop wasting your time and try something else.

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and Other Key Business Topics. I hope you enjoyed this blog and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog (top right corner) , and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, click on this.

For More Information: read the rest of my blog or visit my linkedin account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Social Media Marketing: What would you like to hear more about?

MP Consulting writes a weekly blog on Social Media, Marketing, Business Strategy and Other Key Business Topics. Now its your turn to tell me what you would like to read more about, whether it is how to apply a particular aspect of Social Media, create the appropriate marketing strategy, or figure out a specific business challenge?

First off, I want you to know that you are not alone! Others are struggling with Social

 

"Help!"

Media and how to apply it. Others are struggling with Strategy and Marketing and how to win over those next customers or clients, how to differentiate from the competition, and how to figure out what is it that works to drive more business in their sector??  So let me help you. Let me know what it is you are struggling with and I will lend a hand.

I set out to write a blog that was informative and instructive in both traditional marketing approaches and how to use social media as a marketing tool to further your business. Whether you are in a start up entrepreneurial setting, or a larger more traditional company trying to figure out what social media is all about; the two things you can be sure of is that, one, you should be in it, and two, it will help your business.

In my most recent articles, I have tried to provide you with a few basics of Social Media, Marketing and Strategy, and how to start thinking about applying each of these important business components to your business with a view to strengthening your approach, making you more competitive and current, and utilizing the newer Social Media approaches within your marketing mix. If you haven’t read them yet, they include:

  • Social Media Marketing and the Economic Value to Small Businesses
  • 9 Killer Apps for your Social Media Marketing Strategy
  • 5 Key Elements for Successful Social Media Marketing Infrastructure
  • Social Media Strategy Part 1: Questions to Help You Define Your Social Media Business Strategy
  • Social Media Strategy Part 2: Key Steps to Define and Integrate Your Social Media Marketing into Your Overall Business Strategy
  • A Failsafe Strategic Planning Process for Mid Size Growing Businesses
  • 4 Great Ways to use Social Media to be More Competitive
  • The 5 Step Marketing Plan for Business Success

With over 20 years of varied business experience in running small and large companies, in the private and public sectors, and having worked in Europe, Asia and the USA in senior executive positions, the services I can offer you include:

  • Strategic planning and strategic plan development
  • Business plans for public and private companies
  • Operational assessments and decision making
  • Product development, program management and portfolio review
  • Sales management, support and sales efficiency
  • Marketing: market research, marketing plans, brand management and product positioning, competitive analysis, pricing models, advertising and promotion, distribution, public relations and implementation plans.
  • Social media marketing: SMM strategic planning, infrastructure, listening mechanisms, connectivity, SEO, competitive analysis, social branding, social communication, social advertising and public relations.
  • Business development, assessment and transactions
  • Financing and financial projections, business models
  • Support for Start Up and Entrepreneurial Ventures

So let me know what topics you would like me to write about in my next blog, what questions you may have, what areas you would like to see an article on, or what business topics you want to discuss.

If you need more specific help, or help with something confidential to your business, please contact me directly by phone, email or my blog.  I would be happy to come out to meet with you or spend time on the phone to discuss your issue more fully, and hopefully help you work through the unique challenge you are facing.

I hope you enjoyed this and that you will send me your comments, subscribe (top right of this page) and link to my blog, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, click on this.

For More Information: visit my linkedin account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

The 5 Step Marketing Plan for Business Success

MP Consulting Services explains the 5 Step Marketing Plan that can be as simple as you need or as complex as required, but will absolutely help you grow your business and put you on the road to success.

In this blog, I am excited to provide a 5 step Marketing Plan to suit any size business and a variety of complexities, from a two-page plan for a start up, to a 50 page Fortune 500 masterpiece.  Whatever length and complexity suits your needs, you are guaranteed to have a plan that will help you grow your business, respond to the market and your customers and make you truly successful.

The 5 Step Marketing Plan (in a nutshell)

  1. Situation Analysis
  2. Market Goals
  3. Marketing Strategies
  4. Budget & Action Plan
  5. Metrics & Adjust

(FOR A FREE MARKETING PLAN GUIDE CLICK ON THIS LINK)

The 5 Step Marketing Plan (in detail)

1. Situation Analysis

This can be a simple few sentences or a large-scale analysis. It should contain the following items:

  • Product or Service Definition: Create a clear definition of the product or service you offer, its features and benefits and any significant advantages over competitor products.
  • Market & Customers: the market should be defined in terms of $value, the number of people served, their demographics (age, gender, interests, lifestyle, preferences, etc) and geography (location), buying habits, motivations and needs. Where do they get their information (TV, magazines, newspapers, social media, etc). Make sure you do not make your market too large and diffuse; by choosing a niche, you can be more specific and probably better serve your customers and dominate that niche.
  • Competitors: For each competitor, define their products, market share, growth, strategies, and its’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • Other External Factors: What are the new developments and trends in technology, government regulations, economics and information needs related to this industry and market?
  • Opportunities & Threats: Define new opportunities and threats facing the market, the company and its products.
  • Strengths & Weaknesses: Define the strengths and weaknesses of your company and its products.

2. Market Goals

  • Define an over arching goal for the time period of the marketing plan (possibly revenue, unit sales, or profitability)
  • Define specific goals: should be objectively measurable, with a timeline and who is responsible

3. Marketing Strategies

  • Product Position statement/Marketing Message: Define why someone should buy your product (the benefits/ why it will help them). Define their need and why the problem should be solved. How will you satisfy that need and the benefits that brings.  Include Testimonials
  • Price vs the competition: Clearly define your pricing, fees and payment terms having made sure they are in line with your competition or provide a reason why they are lower or higher.
  • Promotion: Define the most appropriate media to use for your marketing message: TV, magazines, newspapers, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, emails, posters, window displays, networking, word of mouth, website, public speaking, etc
  • Distribution: Does your product or service require distribution to different geographies, or conveying information, meetings, etc.? How will you do this?
  • Key Marketing Strategies and Tactics for Each Goal: Define specific marketing strategies and tactics to achieve each of your goals, campaigns, events, etc

4. Budget & Action Plan

  • Clearly define your marketing budget and the anticipated Return on Investment you expect. This can be as simple as adding up the costs of your marketing activities and people involved, and defining the expected sales you anticipate. The Return on Investment is simply Sales Revenue minus Marketing Costs or Sales Revenue multiplied by 100 and divided by Marketing costs to give a %.
    • Define your action plan in terms of what marketing strategies you will perform when, and by whom (activity, timeline, responsibility)

5. Metrics & Adjust

  • Metrics are the key to success. If you don’t measure the outcome, you will not know what worked and what didn’t. Ultimately, your marketing activities must grow sales, so try to use metrics that allow you to assess how many sales came from a specific activity.
  • Contingencies: review your results of the marketing activities and their metrics at regular intervals. Cut activities that do not yield results, expand those that work, adjust those where better ideas have arisen, and if it is not working, define what else you might try.

(FOR A FREE MARKETING PLAN GUIDE CLICK ON THIS LINK)

I hope you enjoyed this and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog at (top right of this page), and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, click on this.

For More Information: visit my linkedin account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

4 Great Ways to use Social Media to be More Competitive

MP Consulting explores 4 different ways to utilize Social Media in your Market Research to help your business be more successful.

Social Media sites are rapidly becoming populated with Company information, and not just branding initiatives, but also product details and comparisons, pricing and promotional details, critiques by customers and the type of information that historically, one had to pay for from a market research agency. But times have changed, and now the information is out there for all to see. Let’s face it, understanding your competitors products better, and what their customers are saying about their products, can be really helpful in understanding how your product may be perceived and allow you to play up the benefits of your product that customers would like to see.  So, where do you begin? Let’s start with a question?

Who is my competition?

Hopefully you know this already, but if not you have to clearly understand your own company first, your strategy and the product and services you are offering. If you are not sure, go to my blog and read the articles on strategy.  I find it helps to write a short positioning statement that defines your product, its market and customers, their needs and how your product differentiates from the competition. With this in hand, start a Google search using the key words that define your business and products.  This should turn up a good number of products and companies from which you can decide who are most likely to compete for your customers, and with your products, in your geography. Most companies have websites, blogs, and may have social media sites that you can mine for more detailed information.

What are the products or services that compete against my Company and what are their strategies?

Competitor websites, blog sites, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin accounts contain a wealth of information about a company, its products and strategies. Piecing together their strategy, product positioning and marketing activities is not only possible but can be assessed in real time. The type of information now available provides you with an intimate understanding of how a competitor measures up against your own products and strategy. Where are there strengths and weaknesses? Are they positioned well for the next industry opportunities and trends, the current and future threats, and likely new competitors?

What customer feedback are my competitors receiving?

Perhaps even more insightful, is the real time feedback that companies receive through certain social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. This is where you can observe if their strategies are working. Are the products with supposed desperately needed benefits really paying off in the minds of their customers and clients? What problems are they having; what issues do customers and clients raise relating to their products?

How can I best position my products against my competitors?

With all this information in hand, it is now possible to really figure out how to best position your products to exploit their strengths and focus them on the current market opportunities. Furthermore, you also know where a competitors weaknesses lie, and which strategies are not working. This allows you to modify your positioning and marketing activities to take advantage of your competitors weaknesses, or to try a different approach to them.

Who says social media is not a useful marketing tool?? All I can say is they must be blind.

Hopefully this has given you something to think about.  My goal is to make your life easier and to ensure you are as productive as possible. I hope you enjoyed this and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog (top right of this page – add your email address and don’t forget to confirm the link in your email) , and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, click on this link and send me a note.

For More Information: visit my linkedin account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

A Failsafe Strategic Planning Process for Mid Size, Growing Businesses.

MP Consulting Services explains the key to a successful Strategic Plan for a Mid Size Growing Business is to make sure all the stakeholders have an input, do their homework and help formulate the outcome. The trick is to make sure the process is conducted in an unbiased fashion.

In this blog, I am excited to provide a Failsafe Strategic Planning Process for Mid Size Growing Businesses, although it may also work well for a small growing business too. First off, it’s advisable to use a third party, unbiased, moderator that knows what needs to be done. I say this because an outside moderator can provide a degree of objectivity to the proceedings, which will help analyze and consolidate a strategic plan that all stakeholders can buy into without the perceived, or real, bias associated with an internal moderator.

Key Steps in the Failsafe Strategic Planning Process

  1. Gather input on strategic issues from all stakeholders
  2. Define SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats), and any Strategic Questions and Issues.
  3. Review and adjust inputs as part of a stakeholder review and create a strategic matrix
  4. The Strategic Matrix: defines the strategic imperatives required to address each of the SWOT combinations.
  5. With the key strategies in place, then define goals and objectives and prepare operational action plans.
  6. Review and adjust the final strategies, goals and objectives, and implement.

 

Failsafe Strategic Planning Process

(FOR A FREE STRATEGIC PLANNING GUIDE CLICK ON THIS LINK)

Gather Inputs

After identifying all stakeholders ask for input on the following parameters:

External strategic influences and determinants:

  • Customers: customer segments, movitations, needs;
  • Competition: competitive companies, products, market share, strengths and weaknesses, positioning, pricing and advertising;
  • Industry: industry size, growth, structure, entry barriers, distribution, trends, key success factors
  • Environmental: technology, government, economic, cultural, demographics, information needs

Internal strategic influences and determinants:

  • Performance: sales, market share, ROA, product performance, relative cost, new product development, employee assessment
  • Strategic Determinants: past and current strategy, organization capabilities, constraints, financial resources, flexibility.

Define SWOT

  • External: Define key opportunities and threats
  • Internal: Define key strengths and weaknesses
  • Define key strategic questions and issues

Review Inputs and SWOT Analysis

  • Review inputs and SWOT analysis with all stakeholders and adjust inputs.
  • Boil down SWOT to 3 or 4 key statements for each component.

Create SWOT Matrix

With the key stakeholders, develop a SWOT Matrix by determining strategies required to address each SWOT combination: Opportunities v Strength; Opportunities v Weaknesses; Threat v Strength; and Threat v Weakness.

Define Key Strategies

From the SWOT Matrix choose the Strategic Imperatives that will enable you to achieve your business objectives. From this, refine and specify short and long term goals, and prepare operational action plans

Final Review

Arrange a final review with all stakeholders to ensure the strategy makes sense and that nothing critical was missed.

Hopefully this has given you something to think about.  My goal is to make your life easier and to ensure you are as productive as possible.

(FOR A FREE STRATEGIC PLANNING GUIDE CLICK ON THIS LINK)

In my next blog, I will discuss 4 great approaches to make your business more competitive. I hope you enjoyed this and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog (top right corner), and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, click on this.

For More Information: visit my linkedin account

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Social Media Strategy Part 2: 4 Key Steps To Define and Integrate Your Social Media Marketing into your Overall Business Strategy.

Before your Social Media activities begin, it is essential to develop a Social Media Strategy for your business. MP Consulting provides 4 key steps to help you define your social media strategy and to integrate it into your overall business strategy.

In Part 1 I asked 6 questions to help you understand your market, your product and your goals for your business, and to start to think about how Social Media marketing channels can help you execute your strategy and integrate into your overall plan.

Step 1: Define your overarching objective

It is important to first define the overarching objective for your business and the short and long term goals that will ensure you get there.  Look at your past performance and what you have done. Is it working? If yes, perhaps your goals are already good and it’s more of the same. But perhaps you are not achieving what you want? Time to change your marketing plan and mix of activities.

Step 2: Define your marketing plan

What are the key elements of your plan to grow your business. What new and existing business are you going after and how much can you get in 1, 2, or 3 months? What do you need to do to get that business. Check the 4 P’s

  • Product: how would you define your product or service vs your competition? What is your current positioning? What is it that makes you stand out? What does your brand stand for?
  • Price: how are you pricing your product or service and how does this compare to your competitors? Does the price reflect the relative value?
  • Placement: how are you planning to distribute your product or service? How easy is it for your customers to obtain access to the product or service? Can you get it to everyone that may ask? What channels will you use?
  • Promotion: how are you making sure your potential customers know about your product and service? Specifically what will you do to promote your product or service each month, and which methods provide the best return in generating leads and sales?

Step 3 Social Media Marketing as an integral part of your overall marketing plan

  • Market and customer research (including customer feedback). Utilize Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook to research you customers and competitors, as well as the usual Google searches. What is trending in discussions? What are your customers’ needs and desires?
  • Brand awareness and product/service offerings. Using your website and blog, it is important to convey what your brand stands for at every opportunity. And, don’t forget to carry this over into your Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin background information and company pages. Having a strong message and ensuring consistency across the different sites is the key to good branding.
  • Advertising and promotion. You can use all your social media sites to help you with advertising and promotion. Blogs are a great way to talk about your company and products and making sure interested parties know about your new promotions via Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin can drive more potential interested parties to your blog site or website.
  • Public Relations. Talking about your company in your blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin can really help develop an awareness of the company, what it stands for and its products and services. Don’t forget to be prepared for occasional negative feedback or catastrophic events and to have a plan in place as to how you want to deal with it and what you want to say to your customers and readers.
  • Lead Generation: Making sure your website and blog have landing pages that make it easy for your customer or client, to leave their contact information. This may simply ask for their name and email, and perhaps a space for them to tell you about their needs, interests or questions.

Step 4 Define your action plan

Your action plan should be a manageable list of activities to ensure you carry out your marketing plan. First make sure your product or service is clearly defined, that your branding is clear and that how to reach you and purchase your product or service is both simple and straightforward. Create and link your sites. Use clear language with clear goals and defined completion dates and make sure everything is in order before you “go live” with your customers.

Hopefully this has given you something to think about.  My goal is to make your life easier and to ensure you are as productive as possible. In my next blog, I will layout a process for medium size companies to define their strategy and to ensure all the stakeholders are on board. I hope you enjoyed this and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog at http://mpconsulting.worpress.com , and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, click on this.

For More Information: visit my linkedin account at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markpconsulting

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Social Media Strategy Part 1: 6 Questions to Help You Define Your Social Media Business Strategy

Developing a Social Media Strategy for your business is an essential step before your social media activities begin. MP Consulting provides 6 questions to ask of your business to help define your Business Strategy as a prelude to your social media strategy.

In my last blog, I provided an outline of some of the essential elements of infrastructure needed to allow you to implement a social media strategy. But before you run off and start blogging and tweeting randomly, it is best to first formulate a strategy, even if it is just a simple strategy. To define the best strategy for your business, I find it helpful to ask yourself a few pointed questions. The answers will help define your strategy….

  1. What business are you in?
  2. Who and where are your customers and what are their needs and wants?
  3. What are your products and services, and what is your competitive advantage?
  4. What external influences could affect your business?
  5. What are you short and long term goals?
  6. How can your Social Media channels help you achieve your goals?

What business are you in?

How do you define the business you are in?;  by the product?,  by the service?,  by the market or market segment?  How about by the need? This is an important place to start so you can best define your business, your brand and how you will position your products and services for your customers?  If you are not sure how to answer this, take a careful look at your products or services and your competitors; ask your current customers how they would define you.

Who and where are your customers, and what are their needs and wants?

How do you define your customers that want to buy your products or services?  Are they a distinct, definable group, a certain age range, a certain social group, or have a specific salary bracket? Where do your customers or clients hang out in the social media world?  Do they belong to certain groups, do they participate in certain activities, go to certain venues or shop at specific sites? What is it they want or need? Have you asked them? Perhaps you should?

What are your products and services, and what is your competitive advantage?

In defining your product or service, its’ features and benefits, what is it that makes your product stand out from the competition? What is it that you offer that others do not, or that others may have a hard time replicating , or others just haven’t thought about making part of their product? This is critically important as it is a fundamental aspect of what makes you stand out, and perhaps why people buy from you and not your competitors.

What external influences could affect your business?

New government regulation, the economy, new technologies, changes in demographics, new industry trends, are just a few of the influences that can affect your business. Which factors do you need to keep an eye on to ensure you stay ahead, and how could they change your business?

What are your short and long term goals?

Based on your analysis so far, you should now try to define your realistic short and long term goals. It is important to be specific here as this to will have a significant impact on your plan and what you need to do to achieve the goals. Use numbers and times where possible, and avoid ambiguity. It may also help to first define your overall objective and then how and when you are going to get there.

How can your Social Media strategy help you achieve your goals?

It is essential that your Social Media strategy complements your other marketing activities and supports the achievement of both your short and long term goals. It needs to reflect the business you are in, it needs to focus on your competitive advantage and help you achieve your goals, and it needs to focus on your customer market segment and play to their needs and desires. The type of activities you might think about, include:

  • Market and customer research (including customer feedback)
  • Brand awareness and product/service offerings
  • Advertising and promotion
  • Public Relations
  • Lead Generation

In my next blog, I will layout the key aspects of any good strategy and the specifics of social media strategy. Hopefully this has given you something to think about.  My goal is to make your life easier and to ensure you are as productive as possible. I hope you enjoyed this and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog, and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, click on this link.

For More Information: visit my linkedin account at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markpconsulting

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip


5 Key Elements For A Successful Social Media Marketing Infrastructure

Essential Social Media Infrastructure for your business is explained by Mark Philip of MP Consulting.

In my last blog, I discussed the 9 killer applications you “must use” in your social media marketing strategy. This week I thought it would be important to define some of the key infrastructure requirements to enable you to use the 9 killer apps. So I asked myself, just what is it you need to make all this great stuff work? What is it that you have to put together so that you can start to benefit from your social media marketing strategies? What I have come up with are the 5 key elements of social media marketing that are essential to make it all work.

Establish Core Sites: What do I need to allow me to launch a powerful social media marketing strategy? I’m going to assume you have a website, but if not, get one. You are going to need a blog to allow interaction, you are going to need a Twitter account, a Linkedin Account, and a Facebook Account to help you market, advertise and receive information. If you are up for it, a video for your website and YouTube can really help.

Valued Content: The only way to get people to repeatedly return to your website or blog is to make sure they have content that is valuable to them, informative, and from a business perspective, entices them to want to buy your services or products. Take your time on this: make sure you explain carefully what it is you are offering, what it can do for your customers and how they can obtain it. Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter need to reflect the same brand and marketing messages. I will get into this in a later blog.

Interconnectivity: To make your social media structure work seamlessly and to ensure you can capture as many interested parties as possible, your social media sites have to be connected or linked to one another, and focused on acquiring comments, questions and requests to buy your services or products.

External Links: Just as important as the “internal” interconnectivity, are your external links. Establishing two-way links with customers, resources and interested parties is essential to ensuring your message is received and that you obtain the feedback you desire; for example, linking to a customers’ website and them to your website, or linking to specific resource sites.

Analytics that Count: If you don’t measure it, it won’t improve, and if you don’t measure the right “it”, you may not achieve your objective. If you are in business to make money, then at the very least measure how much money you are making from this endeavor. Of course, measure links, hits, subscriptions, clicks, but do not lose sight of the goal.

Hopefully this has given you something to think about. What do you want from your social media marketing? Have you included the key elements? My goal is to make your life easier and to ensure you are as productive as possible. I hope you enjoyed this and that you will send me your comments, subscribe and link to my blog (top right of this page) , and if you need help, or need to ask me a question, click on this link.

For More Information: visit my linkedin account at http://www.linkedin.com/in/markpconsulting

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

9 Killer Apps for your Social Media Marketing Strategy

MP Consulting Services defines 9 essential killer applications to adopt and embrace as part of your social media marketing strategy and tactics that will transform your business and bring you up to date.

Social Media Marketing is not just a new buzzword. The tactics and strategies available to all businesses through social media provide a new and very powerful set of tools to complement your more traditional approaches.  I have identified 9 great applications to use as part of your social media marketing compendium to help grow your business, immediately:

 

Killer Apps for Social Media Marketing

Listen:

Blogs, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter (and a number of other sites) all provide a vehicle to listen to your clients and customers, to receive feedback (sometimes instantly), and to better understand their needs. Listening to customers has not been so easy in the past. We all know the shortcomings of focus groups, or calling a few customers to get their reactions: you don’t always get a true picture of what is needed. The new social media sites can provide you with an enormous amount of information on which to adapt and modify your marketing message, your products and services, and the ability to snag new business.

Inform:

By providing valued information to your clients and customers in a timely fashion helps to build trust and belief in you (and your products or services). This attribute cannot be over emphasized as an approach to help create creditability, to enhance relationships, and ultimately to drive new business and keep existing customers coming back. Whether it is a timely blog, Facebook entry or update on Linkedin or Twitter, this is a powerful mechanism that social media can uniquely provide.

Targeting Customers:

Just who are your customers and clients anyway?  What are their backgrounds, what do they like and not like, what groups do they belong too? Now, more than ever, information is available through social media sites to start to answer some of these questions, and for the first time provides you with a channel by which you can reach your customers in a targeted way.

Brand Awareness:

Social media can absolutely be used to create awareness and clarity of your brand, and the products and services you offer. Your brand image and positioning should be carefully thought through as an important part of your overall social media strategy. It is important to ensure consistency across the different social media sites you use which will enhance the perception of your brand.  I will cover this subject in more detail in a future blog.

Public Relations:

Social media sites can provide a powerful and timely tool to communicate important information and news regarding your company, your accomplishments, activities, products and services. Of course, it can be a double-edged sword and not just good news travels fast in the social media world, but bad news too.  So be prepared with a Public Relations Plan that addresses how you want to communicate bad news or to handle negative comments. It’s important.

Advertising:

Many of the social media sites offer specific company templates from which you can advertise your wears, provide promotions and create a need for your products. The company website is still an essential tool and is seen by many as the most important and trustworthy site to obtain information about products.  Making sure your website is up to date, easy to navigate and easy to initiate a purchase is key.

Interactions:

Social media create a new vehicle for two-way communications with your customers to better understand needs, product acceptance, discuss ideas and solve problems. For the first time, you are able to receive comments, questions, ideas and criticisms directly from your customers and able in most circumstance to respond to them.  This is in itself is an important aspect of social media, and great care should be taken to ensure the quality of the responses and interactions. Remember, this could lead to gaining or losing a valued customer.  I will cover this topic in more detail in a later blog too.

New Business Leads:

So now we are getting down to business. Having set up all these customer friendly sites, explaining who you are, describing carefully your products unique features and benefits and how this meets your customers needs, just how to you find the customer that wants to buy.  The beauty of social media marketing is that the process of setting up the information and making it available to your target demographics and potential customers through various social groups, events and announcements, will attract the very people you are looking for. Those that respond and interact with you, those who provide their contact details or request more information, will be your next business leads. This is an incredibly powerful tool to generate additional business, as you will have already identified an interested group.

Customer Relations:

We all know that it is much harder to find and convince a new customer to buy your product or service, than it is to keep an existing customer happy.  But it is this latter goal, which generates, hopefully, repeat business, and spreads the word to others about you in a positive fashion that can also create new business for you. So how do you keep these people engaged and positive?  Not easy if you don’t know your customers or have very little interaction with them, except at the point of sale.  This is where social media can really help consolidate your relationship.  A happy, satisfied customer will buy again and will promote your company to others.  Social media allows you to maintain and evolve the relationship over time. I will cover this in more detail in a future blog.

So, lots to think about in this blog. Next time, I want to talk more about how one sets up a social media network and what are the important elements not to overlook to ensure you create the image you desire. I hope you will enjoy this and send me your comments, subscribe to my blog, and if you need help, ask me questions?

For More Information: visit my linkedin account.

Copyright © 2011 Mark Philip

Social Media Marketing and the Economic Value to Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, what’s the best strategy to market my product or service? Why would you even bother with social media as a marketing tool? Surely the tried and tested marketing tools are best and more effective?  If I make a product, and create a pamphlet to advertise it, maybe take out an ad in a local paper, surely that’s enough?

Let’s review a few statistics:

 

The Growing World of Social Media

  • Google: estimates they see 3 billion (yes billion) searches per day
  • Facebook: has over 500 million active users
  • Linkedin: has over 75 million members worldwide
  • Twitter: over 600 tweets per second
  • Blogs: over 900,000 new posts per day.

Ok. Enough. There is a lot going on in the social media world, but surely that is mostly junk? How can you conduct business in such an environment?

The answer is …easily.  The truth is there has been a paradigm shift in the last several years leading to a new mode of conducting our lives, which will revolutionize how we do business.  Most of your friends and family, your associates and competitors, and for that matter, if you are reading this, YOU, have already started to make social media an every day part of your life. And, if it is an everyday part of your life and it involves you doing what you enjoy, then marketers will do what they have done since time began; they will try to utilize this activity as a means to create your awareness and need for their products and services.

Most companies have already taken the first steps; a website for sure, but now membership of Linkedin, perhaps a Facebook site, and the occasional tweet.  The wheels of time and ingenuity are turning, business is moving to social media as a new marketing opportunity where they can learn what their customers want, where they can advertise their wares, where they can build their brand image and conduct their public relations, but probably most important to the true marketer, social media provides a vehicle for a two way communication with their customers!

At the very least, social media marketing is a low cost way to promote your product and services, to reach out to your customers and receive feedback, and to build your brand. The economic value of this is enormous.

Over the next few weeks, I want to introduce you to different structural parts of the social media world, its importance and relevance, and how you can use it as a new marketing vehicle to complement your more traditional approaches. I hope you will enjoy this and send me your comments, subscribe to my blog, and if you need help, ask me questions?

Technical Writing

If you need a technical writer, a grant application prepared or a business plan, I can help you achieve the desired effects. If you are trying to raise money and need an effective presentation that will get you results, let me know – I have raised money several times successfully for my own companies and helped others do the same.

If you need help, please ask me questions

Copyright © 2010, 2011 Mark Philip

How Can I Help You?

With over 20 years of varied business experience, I have raised capital, grown and sold businesses, worked in both the private and public sectors in small and large companies, managed small and large groups of people, and seen, solved and overcome a plethora of problems. But the real question is, how can I help you…..?

Drop me a line.

If you need help with a business plan, or forecasting your business; making a decision about an expensive piece of capital equipment or adding more facilities, I am your confidential business advisor.

Drop me a line.

If you have a difficult personnel issue, need help with a review, or just need someone to talk to confidentially about your own issues and stress, you have my ear.

Drop me a line.

I look forward to working with you to help you or your business excel in this new economy.

If you need help, please ask me questions.

Copyright © 2010, 2011 Mark Philip

48D Government Stimulus for Biotechnology

48D USA Government Stimulus for Biotechnology: up to $5 million available for each company!

Do you need help with your filing?

Have you maximized your application to ensure you obtain the full tax credit or grant that your company deserves?

Let me know. It’s not too late, but you need to move fast as the filing deadline is July 21 2010.

July 19 update: I have successfully submitted two 48D filings for client biotech companies, which should yield them hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants!

Copyright © 2010, 2011 Mark Philip

Advertisements

34 Responses to Blog Archive

  1. Zoe says:

    How exactly do you make sure that people even see your website when they do a google search? When I do a search for something like “belts” I only really end up looking at the 1st page and maybe the 2nd page.

    • mpconsulting says:

      Z. Thanks for your question. The simple answer is that you only see those sites that score highly in the search engine criteria. One can optimize one’s website to score highly in these search operations by using certain key words and formats. I will cover this in a later blog. In the meantime, if you would like some assistance, contact me directly and I will be happy to help you further.

  2. BCL says:

    Good advice! How do things change if one is marketing a service, rather than a product?

    • mpconsulting says:

      Thanks for your question M. Interestingly, the same key elements of social media marketing apply equally to services and products. My experience with service based businesses leads me to recommend that you should apply the same 9 marketing tools in your social media strategy for your service based business. I hope this helps. Let me know if I can be of further assistance. MP Consulting.

  3. Pingback: 5 Key Elements For A Successful Social Media Marketing Infrastructure | MP Consulting Services

  4. Pingback: 48 D Government Stimulus for Biotechnology | MP Consulting Services

  5. Pingback: Social Media Strategy Part 1: 6 Questions to Help You Define Your Social Media Business Strategy | MP Consulting Services

  6. Pingback: Social Media Strategy Part 2: 4 Key Steps To Define and Integrate Your Social Media Marketing into your Overall Business Strategy. | MP Consulting Services

  7. Pingback: A Failsafe Strategic Planning Process for Mid Size, Growing Businesses. | MP Consulting Services

  8. Dave Foley says:

    Interested in marketing but how best to focus on offering service /maintenance cointracts to Pharma API plants & Bio Pharma.Technical equipments sales?

    • mpconsulting says:

      Hi Dave. Thanks for your comment. I think I can help you with that. Let me know if you would like to discuss this publicly in this media or prefer we use email? MP

  9. Pingback: 4 Great Ways to use Social Media to be More Competitive | MP Consulting Services

  10. mpconsulting says:

    I have sent it to you by email

  11. ebooks free says:

    I love your posts. Awsome resource.

  12. Pingback: SOCIAL MEDIA FOR BUSINESS: BRANDING | MP Consulting Services

  13. Pingback: KEY BUSINESS INDICATORS: UNCOVER THE SECRET TO SUCCESS | MP Consulting Services

  14. Pingback: 4 ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF A GREAT SOCIAL MEDIA PUBLIC RELATIONS PLAN | MP Consulting Services

  15. Ron says:

    I particularly liked the section KBI’s and the SMART criteria. Good info, thanks.

  16. Your article on Cash Flow was very informative! We also just posted some advice on our own blog about Improving Cash Flow, http://www.pcg-services.com/five-ways-to-prime-the-pump-to-improve-cash-flow/ – Hope you find it useful!

    Chris McCloud
    Pacific Crest Group
    http://www.pcg-services.com/

    • mpconsulting says:

      Thanks for the comment Chris. I took a look at your blog – great ideas, and so often forgotten or not understood. To receive my latest blogs you can subscribe to receive alerts at http://bit.ly/eJetSs

  17. Pingback: 3 STRATEGIES FOR IMPLEMENTING A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS PLAN | MP Consulting Services

  18. Pingback: 4 PEOPLE MANAGEMENT TIPS TO MAKE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANY OR BUSINESS A SUCCESS | MP Consulting Services

  19. Pingback: Deciding Your Business Priorities. A Question of Leadership, Strategy, Time Management and Business Acumen. | MP Consulting Services

  20. Kirsten says:

    I’m looking into MBA’s and I wondering what your take is on whether I should be looking at “name-drop” school or that any school with a decent program is good enough. Everyone keeps telling me that I need to try for the best of the best for an MBA, but then again I was told the same thing for my BA and in hindsight I think it would have paid off to go to state school and save money and work hard. Do you think it is the same case for a MBA. Thanks!

    • mpconsulting says:

      Great question, Kirsten. I will cover this in my next week’s blog. My short answer is yes, you should go to the best school you can afford if you plan a career in the broader business field as the top school graduates tend to receive the best salaries and job opportunities post graduation.

  21. Kirsten says:

    Thanks for the advice. I will definitely apply to a safetys, fits, and reach schools. I will make sure to research the best schools and see which one’s are a good fit. I’m going to have to take out loans to afford these schools, but I think it is a good next step for me. I’ll read your blog next week!

  22. Nikki Oliver says:

    Thanks Mark

    • mpconsulting says:

      Nikki
      Glad you liked it. Let me know if you want any of the free business guides – you can see the list under the “Questions” tab on my blog
      Mark

  23. Howdy blogger, thank you for providing this article.. I found it first-class.

  24. Pingback: Sifisdndsk

  25. Zalim says:

    Hi Mark

    I might have missed the RSS, but if not, you should really consider putting it up on your blog, it would really help us follow your useful posts.

  26. tech tips says:

    Saved as a favorite, I like your blog!

  27. I cling on to listening to the news broadcast talk about receiving boundless online grant applications so I have been looking around for the most excellent site to get one. Could you tell me please, where could i get some?

    • mpconsulting says:

      Their are numorous grants to be had. What business are you in, and what do you need a grant for, and perhaps I can point you in the right direction?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s