Tag Archives: planning

A NEW DEFINITION OF TIME

One of the most noticeable differences between working for someone else and starting your own company is the personal definition of time.  As I look back on my many years building someone else’s dream, it’s very clear how much time was wasted during the work day.  In this post, I want to share my revelations from my own experience in the hopes that you will find some appreciation or recognition of this transformation in your own definition of time.

Time for an employee.  Working for someone, it always seemed as if my time was dictated for me.  It was hard to really grasp control of it.  There were two major factors that devoured my time each day.  The first, and the greatest thief of my time, was my leadership.  Meeting after meeting, we spent so much time and energy talking about the work that needed to get done.  My managers mostly held meetings to keep themselves updated, not to provide direction. For example, they would gather everyone in a meeting room every week, providing me the opportunity to listen to a lot of people talk about what they are going to do for the week.  Since our tasks didn’t overlap any, this new information didn’t have any value to me.  It was just for the manager to keep up with what was going on in the company.  You would always hear people mumbling “what a waste of time” as we left the conference room.  But this was part of the ritual time wasting activities that occur daily in established businesses.

The second force that targeted my available time for work was myself.  When I became well entrenched in my roles and responsibilities, I didn’t always feel pressured to get everything done as quickly as possible.  I realize time is money but when I was building someone else’s dream, and they were the biggest user of my time, I couldn’t really understand the value of time (at least not by their definition).  They spend my time like it was unlimited.  I would spend hours and hours every month listening to other managers talk about their projects.  Their projects weren’t my responsibility and the requirement to attend a full day of these updates provided no value to me.  With my leadership so eagerly burning time, I began to wonder if they really understood the impact this has on their employee’s definition of time. You see, with such time wasting activities, real value added activities would take longer than necessary.  The average time to perform services offered by the company kept growing.  The danger with this is that employees begin to accept that things will take longer, so there’s no rush to get things done.  Remember, time is money.  We always wasted both.

Time for a startup entrepreneur.  Starting up my company, time is defined by two factors: me and my customers.  When you’re in startup mode, you have considerably more actions to accomplish than time to complete them. The idea that time is money is what I live by.  It’s not anything like it is when working for someone else.  The longer I take to complete the actions to get my business off the ground, the longer it might take for cash to begin flowing in.  The impact of time has a more immediate and noticeable impact on me.  The faster I contact potential customers, the faster I can sell my service.  When they ask questions, I answer them right away.  All of my actions are now driven by my new definition of time, meaning that I must move as quickly as I can to bring in money.  The other definition of time that an entrepreneur must abide by is the customer, who is always right.  My potential customers don’t feel the same sense of urgency as I do and it drives me crazy.  I’m, at times, driven to push a little harder than I should.  Sometimes, my customers are nice enough to tell me to slow down a bit and yet others feel threatened or bullied by the constant barrage of communications and simply shut down.  To my customers, I’m new to the industry and have to learn their ways.  While I may bring something new that they haven’t seen before, I must be respectful and honor their ways of doing business.  When you’re just starting out, time can be the biggest hang up and a huge source of stress. But if you have a solid product/service and you know your customer likes it, it becomes an opportunity to develop patience.  Yeah, I know, nothing easy about that.

In bigger companies, time isn’t such a priority as actions are completed through the collective actions of many employees.  It’s easy to feel that when you’re working with someone else.  You’re in a meeting and the boss says, “let’s get this done in the next week or two.”  With big companies that’s tolerable, but startup mode seems to apply significant time pressure.  Startup entrepreneurs measure time in dollars.  Once the dollars are gone, so is time.  Actually, you can see this intense pressure in bigger companies when they begin to burn their backlog or fail to meet sales goals for a few quarters.  It often forces irrational behavior, such as signing contracts with financially distressed customers, further plunging the decline of performance due to lack of payment from the customer.

My suggestion in dealing with this time pressure is to understand your customer’s definition of time.  You do this in your planning phase; that is, when you put your business plan together.  Your chart showing cash flow should provide a reasonable timeframe that has been validated through interactions with potential customers.  If it takes them 8 months to approve a contract with you, then you must reflect that in your plans.  To think you can do that any sooner is risky.  You’ll have enough stress starting out so there’s no need to intentionally add more.

These are the ramblings of Todd during his walk into entrepreneurship.  Hopefully, you can relate to this.  If you want to share your experiences with us, contact me at todd.rhoad@blitzteamconsulting.com.

The Plan-for-Planning Process – Step 4

Step 4 – How are we going to get there?

Typically called – “Strategies” – this section/chapter lays out the strategies that the company has developed to grow revenues and profits for implementation during this business planning period. You’ll want to answer all of the questions for each strategy to ensure full consideration.

The format for this section is (for every strategy):

  1. What the strategy is (a description of the strategy)?

2.  What the rationale is for the strategy (why we are implementing this strategy)?

3.  Who is responsible for implementation (a specific manager)?

4.  How long is the implementation going to take and what is going to be accomplished quarter-by-quarter (specific activities by quarter)?

5.  How much is going to be spent on each activity each quarter (a quarter-by-quarter listing of expenditures)?

6.  What is the expected return on the successful implementation of each strategy (the ROI for the strategy)?

When completed, this section should present a clear picture of what the management team plans to accomplish to continue to grow the revenues and profits for the company, and how much that will cost.

This section is particularly important because it lays out the quarterly strategic milestones that have to be reviewed on a quarterly basis, so that depending upon the success or failure of the expectations for each strategy for that quarter, decisions can be made as to how to continue to proceed strategy-by-strategy. And how to continue to allocate investments based upon these results.

This way management can better control the investments in the company’s future depending upon the levels of success or failure of each strategy on a quarterly basis.

The Plan-for-Planning Process – Step 1

One of the major reasons businesses fail is either because they do not have a business plan, or have not updated the plan that they once developed.

A business plan is a story about your business: Where are you now? Where do you want to be? And, most importantly – How are you going to get there, and by when?

After helping hundreds of company’s develop business plans and teaching business strategy for many years, I explain my five step Plan-for-Planning Process in my book.

Step One – Where are we now?

Typically called – “The Executive Summary” – this section/chapter explains where a company finds itself  at the beginning of a new planning period in terms of:

  • Their sales and profitability at the end of last year.
  • Their position in their marketplace vis-à-vis their competitors.
  • The results of the most recent SWOT analysis.
  • What their unique value proposition is.
  • Management’s description of their vision for the future of the company.

This section can only be completed after the management team has gone through an evaluation of the current situation the company finds itself in. This encompasses an honest SWOT analysis. SWOT being:

  • Strengths – What is our core technology i.e. what do we do better than our competition?
  • Weaknesses – What don’t we do well i.e. in terms of execution of our strategies?
  • Opportunities – What immediate options do we have that we need to implement as soon as possible?
  • Threats – What can cause us to lose customers, and what can we do about it?

Since a business plan is a story about a business, and as a story it has to be interesting and motivating for stakeholders to want to know more. Think about the introduction to any good book that you have read – hasn’t it encouraged you to want to read on?

Another important value to a well done business plan is that it can be shared with all the company’s stakeholders to give them confidence that they are part of a growing successful and profitable business. The most successful companies broadcast their unique value proposition, as well as the implementation of  well thought through strategies that support their vision for their future.

A well done business plan is akin to reading the annual report of any successful public company wherein the company explains: where they are now, where they plan to be in the next 3 to 5 years, and the strategies they expect to implement to get to where they want to be. The continuing ability of the management team to achieve their goals supports and grows the brand equity of the company. This should be the goal for your business plan, too.