Friday, 30 March 2012

What Do I Include In A Business Strategy?

If you are at the point of developing your business strategy and would like a checklist of inclusions then this blog is for you.

You first need to articulate clearly what your business idea is and why it should be successful.

Finances are the next area to consider in full and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you expect your turnover to be in the first, second and third years? 
  • After costs what is your profitability? 
  • What are your funding investor, lender requirements? 
Profitability is key. So many businesses go to the wall despite high sales due to cost management issues.

Key personnel is the next consideration so ask yourself the following questions as well:

  • Who has the requisite qualifications and experience in the market and what is their financial status?
  • If the business is already operating what is the history of the business and its ownership?

However, the following is a full list of checklist of inclusions for developing your business strategy:
  • Customer (and potential customer) numbers, profile and mix and expected growth in use of services, products
  • Customer perceptions, needs, preferences, buying patterns, and trends (by sub-sector if necessary)
  • Products and services, mix, values and trends including unique selling point and ideas for new services and products
  • Demographic issues and trends - especially if dependent on consumer markets
  • Future regulatory and legal effects
  • Prices and values, and customer perceptions in these areas
  • Distribution and routes to market
  • Competitor activities, strengths, weaknesses, products, services, prices and sales methods
  • Intangible assets and protection - for example, copyrights and trademarks
In terms of a physical layout and structure on paper and on-screen your business strategy should have and be organised into the following sections:

  • Title, version number, author, date, company/organization if applicable, details of circulation and confidentiality
  • Contents page - sections with page numbers, plus a list of appendices, allowing the reader to find what they need and navigate the document easily and to refer others to particular items and page numbers when reviewing or querying your strategy
  • Introduction and purpose of the plan with terms of reference
  • Executive summary page - no more than a page long - what the business is, market and potential and financial returns on investment
  • The Business Strategy - split into clear sections
  • Appendices - detailed reference material, examples, statistics, spreadsheets, for reference and not central to the main presentation of your plan.
In summary your business strategy is a document which spells out how you will achieve your vision and mission (see earlier blogs for an explanation of these).

Meanwhile, other documents to develop include the following:

  • Values and ways of working - including business ethics and responsibilities wider than the business itself such as sustainability
  • SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Framed) Business Objectives
  • Operational and Programme Plans.

Let us know how you get on or if you would like to work with a business coach in developing your business strategy please get in touch via our website West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Small- To Medium-Sized Business Growth

Are you the CEO or MD of a small- to medium-sized business with ambitions to grow your business?

I have been working with your peer group to help them to create high-performing organisations with the structure appropriate for the whole team to drive the business forward in a dynamic way.

How am I doing this?

We start by working out a programme which involves the whole senior management team with the aim that all senior stakeholders are actively engaged in creating a high-performing organisation.

The following are the key areas for you to focus on and begin to develop in order to start building your high-performing organisation and position it for growth:
  1. A vision which all your staff can remember and relate to
  2. A set of values which blend what is important to your customers and employees
  3. A business strategy which delivers your vision and values
  4. A clear and objective performance and talent management infrastructure
  5. Ways of working that are simple and yet deliver results, such as, a common language for giving and receiving feedback
Your investment of time and money in focusing on these 5 core areas will deliver business growth.

On previous blogs I have covered vision, values and feedback and on future blogs I will cover how to develop a robust business strategy and a clear and objective performance management infrastructure so watch this space.

If this blog has developed your thinking at all please leave a comment or if there are other topics that you would like a blog on.

To work with us please visit the business coaching section of our website at West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Are You Living To Your Values?

Do you think there is some disparity between how you are living your life and your values?

I met with a senior manager in a firm this week who was so busy at work that he had not ever taken time to consider this question, let alone answer it.

If you are so busy that you haven't even considered this question, the chances are that what you are doing has started to control you rather than the other way around.

Fine if you are happy.

However, if you are unwell or have started to question 'Who am I doing this for?' then it could be time to ask if you are living your life according to your values.

The starting point is: 'What are your values?'

Your values are: 'What is important to you?'

Examples include health, family, freedom, learning and results.

I would encourage you to focus on your top 5 or so for now.

The next step is to assess your current life against these values by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What do I do each day to care for my health so that I am well enough to enjoy my life?
  • What amount of time do I dedicate to being with my family and how does this benefit us?
  • What am I doing to create freedom in my life?
  • What/who/where am I learning from right now?
  • What results am I achieving that I am proud of?

Chances are that there will be areas where there is a lack of congruence between what you are doing and what you value.

These areas are signposts for areas that you may well want to change.

The next step is generating a plan to align your values with your life.

For example, if your top value is health what can you do today, this week, this month and this year to improve your health.

If your next top value is freedom what can you do to create more freedom in your life? You will of course need to define what freedom means to you.

For example, if you want financial freedom from an employed job, you will want to think about what your self-employed job could be and draw up a rigorous business plan to ensure you are able to support yourself and any dependents.

You may need a plan to pay off debts before you embark on a journey into the world of self-employment.

It also might be a good idea to include a plan in your business case to go from full-time to part-time in your employed role whilst you start to build up a business of your own.

If you have found this blog to be thought- and action-provoking please leave a comment.

Alternatively, if you need any help or support in this or any other area of your life right now please get in touch through our website West of England Coaching and

Monday, 19 March 2012

Business Networking Tips - Need To Network But Avoiding It?

Are you in a role where you would benefit from networking but usually find yourself avoiding it?

If so read on as I hope I can provide you with some good tips for successful networking.

A lot of your confidence - and even enjoyment - in relation to networking develops from having a good networking strategy which gets you results.

Start by developing a one-minute pitch and have it ready to tell people about your services in a concise and interesting way.

Always start with a hook, something compelling which people will listen and which describes how your services are of benefit to them. For example, 'I help you to change your behaviours so that you consistently enjoy your work and personal life'.

Start to think about where your target markets can be found - for example, meetings and events for people working in the key areas where your services are required - and add these events to your business plan.

Always take your business cards to events and swap them with people in your target market and make sure you follow every lead up.

If someone expresses an interest in you, ask if you can contact them in the next week to talk a bit more and always deliver on your promises. Make a note in your diary to phone if you have said that you will.

One of the most important protocols when networking is to always establish rapport before you talk business because building a good relationship is a key precursor to good business management.

Another more subtle tactic is to make sure that you thank the people who hosted the meeting or event and  shared their contacts with you because this will help you to be remembered which has got to be a good thing.

There are also some behaviours to consciously avoid when you are networking so instead try the following:

  • Ask questions rather than espousing - dominating the conversation is not popular.
  • Ask questions which establish what the client needs whereas assuming that you already know everything about their business by telling them so is not helpful at all.
  • Waiting for people to approach you is not going to work so be proactive so take a deep breath and chat to as many people as possible.

Please leave a message once you are networking to let me know how you are getting on and if this blog has helped you in any way.

Alternatively, if you'd like further help on this or another issue networking issue please get in touch via our website at West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Coaching for Action

Are you wanting to take some action but putting it off for some reason?

Quite often procrastination is caused by some negative thinking such as 'I won't pull it off'.

If you want to overcome this and get on with what you really wish to do then please read on.

First, accept that worry, apprehension, anxiety - even dread and panic - are just mental states that only exist in your head.

Second, recognise your fear when it happens - the feeling in your body, the thoughts of alarm - and verbally describe to yourself what you are feeling.

Even better - write this down as you will then move from emotional to intellectual control of these kinds of negative-thoughts and so start to experience the fear passing. Notice that the awareness that contains fear is itself never fearful.

One technique to help you to overcome all of the subconscious barriers to action, which we assimilate from childhood through to adult life, is to cultivate an inner protector which is highly resourceful.

Perhaps you will develop an inner protector who is reassuring, encouraging, supportive and strong and will  help you stand up to those negative voices in your mind.

It is a realistic, honest, solid, caring teacher or coach who reminds you of the good things about you and your world.

Having an inner protector will help you to draw on your pre-frontal mental capacities to assess the following about the negative thoughts you have:

  • What is the chance that the feared event or consequence will happen? 
  • How bad would it be? 
  • How long would it last? 
  • What could I do to cope? 
  • Who could help me?

Most fear from expectations is exaggerated as your brain is 'hard-wired' to be negative having developed from a starting point that helped early man to avoid being eaten.

Your feeling fearful on the point of or during attack is acceptable. However, it is not when you are caught up with some carrot or stick where it is unbalancing and unsettling.

So, when a fear arises within you, ask yourself the following questions:
  • What options do I actually have? 
  • How could I use my inner resources to move forward with what I really want?

It might help you to practise essentialism by asking yourself 'What are the facts?' rather than letting your emotional mind high jack your intellect and make things up.

Not surprisingly, studies have shown that appraising a situation more accurately leads to greater positive emotions which encourage us and fewer of the negative ones which hold us back (Gross and John 2003).

Another technique to help you to move more calmly through your life is finding a refuge which provides you with some sanctuary and protection so you can let your guard down and build your strength.

For example, my refuge is the countryside around my home where I walk our dog and where I find myself being literally refuelled by Nature. It clears my head for the next challenge.

You can have more than one refuge - potential refuges include good company, certain activities (reading, bathing, exercise to name a few), places and intangibles like a sense of who you are.

Please leave your comment on this blog and if you'd like to discuss your own needs at an initial meeting please visit our website at West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Leadership Coaching

Are you interested in developing your leadership skills for the future to ensure you are fit for a key leadership role in the next 1, 2, 3 years and beyond?

Scores of employee surveys reveal that staff need and want more from their leaders in order to perform at their best, help their organisation deliver its objectives and keep people in jobs.

With greater pressure than ever in both the private and public sector to achieve more with fewer staff, leadership to maximise the use of resources is of paramount importance.

Gone are the days when staff respond to being told what to do - not in the way they were in the past anyway.

To engage, motivate and enthuse staff and get them performing to their best, good leaders ask them their views and act on some of these.

Good modern leaders involve the idea generators and recognise and reward their success appropriately.

Different leadership styles and approaches are called for and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach.

If you are ambitious and driven, to feel a sense of enjoyment and fulfilment at work - as well as work at the level you want - demands a high level of leadership skill.

More and more senior leaders are turning to one-to-one tailored leadership coaching to build their skills and achieve greater effectiveness and enjoyment in their work.

Do you feel you need to develop any of the following which are key business skills and approaches for successful leadership:
  • Leadership styles and approaches to address current people issues - such as under-performance
  • Personal leadership vision and values
  • Managing change in your team or organisation
  • Pre-thinking difficult conversations with customers, staff and other senior leaders
  • Building and cultivating your customer relationships
  • Work-life balance - in particular achieving better health and well-being
  • Creativity and innovation in product or proposition development
  • Improving key processes to achieve optimum staffing levels for your business
  • Building a high-performing team
  • Emotional intelligence - particularly your self-awareness
Developing a leadership coaching relationship is an enjoyable journey because you can focus on tailoring your coaching programme to the kinds of needs outlined above and your specific leadership requirements.

In particular, you will benefit from working with someone you can trust to help you along your development journey.

For example, most individuals start off with a regular monthly 2-hour coaching session for about 6 months, moving this to every 2 to 3 months after this period.

Leadership coaching should always be moving you forwards, helping you to learn at a faster rate and gain better results than you would be achieving on your own.

If any of the above strikes a chord with you, a good starting point would be to discuss your position with us through our website West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Alternatively, our own coaching relationships commence with an initial Complimentary Coaching Session so you why not get in touch so we can help you decide if leadership coaching is something that you would benefit from.

Friday, 9 March 2012

What Can Small Business Learn From Larger Progressive Businesses?

If you run a small business and are interesting in developing your business please read on.

Five years ago the private health care charity Nuffield expanded its business to providing customer-focused preventative health care, buying Canons gyms and transforming these into client- focused holistic health and well-being venues.

Nuffield decided that the challenge was to move away from the minimum customer contact which many gyms operate on to a paradigm of maximum contact.

As part of this, the organisation introduced a member 'MOT' which included measuring people up against a number of health measures as well as asking them questions about sleep and alcohol intake as a baseline from which to build upon their fitness.

The MOT is repeated every 3 months so customers can see any improvements which ties in with their idea that maintaining a customer's health and fitness is about being proactive and preventative in terms of ill-health.

The Nuffield approach also recognised that health and well-being is an ongoing journey in life rather than having a start and end point.

As a result, Nuffield train their staff to be good 'generalists' who know all of their services while at the same time developing a specialism, such as diabetes and fitness or understanding back pain.

Leadership in Nuffield is also about delegated authority so that senior managers do not have too much of their time taken up by making small- and medium-sized decisions.

All Nuffield staff are involved in one of the organisations's strategic projects which creates a shared approach to driving the business forwards.

Nuffield uses an Appreciative Inquiry(AI) approach to facilitating change by focusing on what works rather than on what does not work - solution rather than problem focused.

Taking the changes Nuffield has made as an example, my advice in terms of learning from them about how to develop your business would be to:

  • Explore ways that you can get closer to your customer thinking
  • If you are not doing so already - ask your customers what you can do to improve the services you provide to them
  • Think about staff training and developing individuals understanding of all of the services you provide so they can tell your customers about them
  • Think about developing staff expertise so each has a specialism since customers want specialists and staff like developing their expertise
  • Think about delegating your various tiers of decision-making to the appropriate levels
  • Think about involving each staff member in strategic projects - people close to the shop floor know how to make things work
  • Consider using an AI approach by seeking out what is good and amplifying it

If you have found this blog to be useful please leave a comment or if you would like us to help you develop your business through business coaching please get in touch via our website at West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Monday, 5 March 2012

What Can Small Businesses Learn From Visionary Larger Businesses?

Are you running a small business and wanting to find new ways to increase sales?

What are savvy larger businesses doing during these tough economic times which smaller business owners like yourself can learn from?

I think it's an interesting period for businesses generally and the whole concept of increasing organisational effectiveness through innovative means is capturing my own and other's attention right now.

More than ever, intellectual philosophising management gurus are speaking about listening to staff and engaging them through getting them to consider, develop and then help to implement their ideas to improve the businesses and organisations they work for.

Yes - leadership is about having a vision and values that inspire your workers but it is also about interacting with them by listening to their ideas and putting some of their suggestions into practice.

If you don't know how to go about engaging with your staff then you might want to ask yourself the following questions which will help guide you through the process and benefit from their ideas:

  • What do you really want from your staff and have you let them know?
  • What communication channels exist for you as a leader in your businesses to truly maximise the capabilities and potential of your staff?
  • How are you motivating staff and getting them involved in improving your business strategy, its delivery processes and operational action plans?
  • When was the last time that you asked your staff what motivates them at work and what can be done to meet their needs for job fulfilment and enjoyment?

A simple way to open up the communications channel necessary to make staff engagement possible would be by introducing a 'Tell the MD' programme encouraging staff to share their ideas for improving the business -  especially focusing on the customer and improving the business to customer relationship.

You could also use this programme to ask staff what motivates them, what would be happening if they were optimally motivated and how they think that might be achieved.

One of our propositions right now is working with small businesses and teams within larger businesses to improve their performance - including building their business through introducing a 'High Performing Team' benchmark to measure themselves against and take steps to address any gaps in performance.

Please let us know how you get on with making positive changes in your business and if you would like to know more about the High Performing Team model we are using please get in touch in the usual way via our website at West of England Coaching and Counselling.

Friday, 2 March 2012

What Does Business Coaching 'Do' For People?

Are you thinking about contacting someone about business coaching and want to know a bit more about what this kind of support will likely do for you?

I was motivated to write this blog by a new client who said that such a blog would have helped him to decide to start working with an executive coach sooner.

The truth is, the kind of support provided by any kind of coaching depends on what you want to achieve from the process.

Every case is different but here are some examples of what business coaching can do for individuals, their businesses and their careers:

Most of my clients who are senior executives - including MDs, directors, business owners, senior clinicians, department heads and senior managers - like to use my business coaching as a confidential sounding board for their ideas.

In fact, they come to rely on me as a confidante who they can debate and discuss things with and be challenged on issues where necessary.

I frequently use my own experience of operating in senior corporate roles to provide 'wise counsel' (a client's words - not my own) and advice when requested.

I also always look to help individuals think through what they specifically want, view their options and assess the plans they have put in place to achieve their goals.

Some clients see me for  career coaching where we work together to help them into the career move they're looking for through a process which involves assessing the skills they enjoy using the most and - in some cases  - directly approaching target organisations.

Many clients also use business coaching to help them to gain in confidence for a particular challenge, reduce their anxiety and alleviate any negative introspection or forecasting which might be holding them back

The feedback I receive from clients can also be used to help answer the original question posed in this post - 'What Does Business Coaching 'Do' For People?' - and here are some examples:
  • 'Coaching really helped me to raise my game through raising my confidence levels'
  • 'Coaching helps me to learn new and better ways of doing business'
  • 'Reflecting with my coach helps me to think about new ways of approaching organisational effectiveness'
  • 'My coach helped me to improve all of my key work relationships'
  • 'Coaching helped me to achieve my goals quicker and easier than on my own'
  • 'As a lone director, my coach provides an essential resource to air and discuss ideas with'
  • 'I'm supporting my CEO - I needed a coach to give me support'
  • 'Coaching helped me to radically change my thinking - I am now realistic, positive and able to put things into perspective'
  • 'Working with a coach is like having a rudder on my boat helping me to navigate the rough waters'
If you're interested in coaching, it's a good idea to talk to people who have or are currently undergoing business coaching and I can put you in touch with these people if you want to take the first step towards taking on a business coach.

So, if you have an appetite for making changes through business coaching, career coaching or executive coaching and have any questions before you embark on this journey then please do get in touch with us via our website at West of England Coaching and Counselling.