Here in the Midwest we’ve had a very cool and wet spring and summer. For once I’m not behind the curve in planting a garden; even the garden supply stores have been late in receiving their shipments. Things are finally starting to warm up, and the trees and flowers are coming alive.
My unofficial poll also reflects new life and new growth in business. There is renewed activity, and business owners and managers are making the first fearful attempts to spend a bit more to attract new customers and clients. The “Coffee Shop Barometer” of economic confidence is showing more filled seats and booths, with more specialty beverages and fewer bottomless small cups.
Don’t get left behind. Come out of winter hibernation and get going to get growing. A few ideas to get you started:
- Set some real goals for sales, with a September 1 target date. You’ll have time to make things happen, but there is no time to waste!
- Set a realistic plan to achieve your sales goals. Ramp up activity that is profitable, slice out activity which is not.
- Build a team. Whether you’re in a corporate setting or a working for yourself, you can’t do it alone. Find colleagues you know, like and trust, and support each other.
- Reach out in new directions. Visit a new chamber of commerce; try a new networking group.
- Re-evaluate your competition. It has probably changed, perhaps dramatically, during the recession. There may be surprising new competitors, but there may also be brand new opportunities. Find them!
- Clean house. Tighten up processes to run smoothly and efficiently. You’ll save time and boost service to your customers.
There is new activity, new growth, and new opportunities. Be open to new ideas, step out and seize the day. We each have only have one shot at each day; let’s make it count!
In spite of movements and messages to live simply, get back to basics, or slow down and smell the roses, the business world roars ahead at a breakneck pace. A six month old ipad is past its prime, and at least for now, a blackberry phone is considered Neanderthal. Cars plummet in value the instant they’re driven off the lot, and, not to date myself, but where are Ipana, Camay, Aqua Velva, and Tang?
The moral of the story is that yesterday’s success is yesterday’s success. Business doesn’t grow in the past, it grows in the future. Quite simply, to maintain and sustain growth, business leaders must think and act ahead of the curve. Just because you plan to sell or transition out of your business in the foreseeable future doesn’t mean you can coast. Indeed, this is the time to think and act strategically and position even more aggressively for tomorrow’s market.
The purchaser of your business is buying the future, not the past. A business which is strong and state of the art is far more attractive than one which has a great track record but an aging and dying market. Three dimensional printers are the future; fax machines are the past.
Take stock of your business. Where are you positioned? What are the trends, and how competitive will you be in tomorrow’s market? Competition is stiff. Stay ahead of the curve.
What are you selling, when you sell a business? A future income stream, a list of customers, inventory, receivables, equipment, processes and procedures, intellectual property? Take inventory. What in your business could possibly have value to potential buyers? Once you have your list, look at it critically. Are your customer lists up to date, with accurate information? How old is your inventory? How old are your receivables? Do you have your processes and procedures accurately and clearly documented? Do you have clear and transferable title to intellectual property? Small things can make a huge difference in the price you can command for your business.
Start early and maximize your assets. Clean up customer lists, taking the time to complete contact information and order history. Get and compare yourself to industry benchmark ratios for inventory turns, receivables and other indicators. Do what you need to meet and exceed benchmarks. Document processes and procedures so that anyone can understand and implement them. Research the transferability of your assets.
It’s your business to know about your business. If necessary, re-familiarize yourself with all aspects of the business and its financial underpinnings. If you don’t know the basic answers about your business, your have eroded your credibility with potential purchasers.
Finally, work to make every aspect of your business picture-book perfect. Homes on the market typically look uninhabited. Everything is clean, artfully arranged and looking like a glossy picture in a high-end magazine. Apply the same concept to your business. A pristine, organized environment sends a very different message that a chaotic, filthy workplace. Aim for the former, not the latter. Likewise work to have all aspects of your business, from your financial reports to procedure manuals, equally pristine.
You have one business to sell, and one opportunity to maximize your return. Take the time and take the steps to realize the true value of your invested time and labor.
For many businesses, maximizing profit is the unending quest. Profits translate into opportunities, security, and discretionary income. Maximizing profit also means boosting your return when you transition out of the business. Here are three quick ideas to help achieve growth to the bottom line:
1. Have a narrowly targeted market, and dominate it. You must be the best choice for your perfect client. What do you offer that is better than any of your competitors? You need to know and promote this.
2. Get your processes to run like clockwork. You can’t afford to waste time or money. As business grows, small inefficiencies can erupt into significant avoidable expenses.
3. Look to the future. What changes do you see in your market, in your industry and in the world at large? What impact will these have on your business? How can you strategically take advantage of change?
Dominate your market, work smart and look ahead. Act now to maximize the profitability of your business today, and the value of your business tomorrow.
Sales are critical to business. Without sales, you don’t have a business, you have an hobby (and sometimes, a very expensive hobby!) In the struggle over day-to-day sales and annual profit plans, it’s easy to lose sight of the biggest sale in the life of your business – the sale of the business itself.
“But I have no intention of selling!” you might be saying. Think again. At some time, you and your business will part company. You might liquidate the business, or bequeath it to your children, or turn it over to others, but regardless of the circumstances or the money involved, a “sale” or a “sale-like-event” will occur.
Like death and taxes, business transition is inevitable, and like death and taxes, business transition can be overwhelming. Whether you foresee a sale in the near future, or are intending to hold and grow your business for a longer term, now is the time to begin planning for the ultimate sale.
Looking toward the ultimate sale can have an impact on every aspect of your business today – from your positioning in the marketplace to your processes and structure and much more. Take steps now to maximize value and establish the operational basis for a smooth transition.
How marketable is your business right now? Would it fetch what it is truly worth? How much of the business is dependent on you, personally? In future postings we’ll explore simple, practical ways to build a business to sell a business.
It’s less than two weeks to the BIG DAY for florists, jewelers, chocolate companies, fancy restaurants and many other retailers. Be sure to remember your personal Valentine, and patronize your preferred selection of consumer-oriented businesses.
But Valentine’s Day can be more. Take the opportunity to be a Business Valentine. Let your customers, staff, vendors and others know you appreciate them. A simple note or a sincere “Thank you” goes a long way toward building genuine relationships. We tend to remember those around us at Christmas, but let people know you appreciate them even after New Years Day has passed.