All the best "Seeds of Growth"

All the best "Seeds of Growth", principles that grow business, gathered from our own articles and from around the web. Just add water, plant properly, and grow your business.

The Cannonball Business Plan

The Cannonball Business Plan

Remember that old Burt Reynold’s movie Cannonball Run? It was probably just my age but at the time I thought it was pretty cool--an illegal race across the country in some very nice cars. It turns out the Cannonball Run is not just fictional. Wired Magazine recently ran a story about a guy named Alex Roy whose passion has been to break the 32 hour and 7 minute record for a coast to coast drive.

This is of course completely illegal and let me clearly state that I am not encouraging participation in this kind of activity—though it sounds kinda fun. Having said that, I think we can learn something from their experience.

Their challenge was not unlike that of every small business owner—they needed to accomplish something complex with limited resources (Their limited resource was time. Most of us are limited by funds which of course limit our time). The "Driveplan" they created impressed me. On it they listed every key milestone, targeted time of arrival, potential hazards, weather forecasts etc. Because they had this plan and knew where they were supposed to be every moment, they could immediately tell if they were in trouble and if they needed to make adjustments—including backing out.

Now compare that to your business plan. When was the last time you took it out and checked where you are against it? If you are anything like me, your business plan was something you forced yourself to put together to raise funds. Once that task was done the document went in the drawer to gather dust. Maybe that is due to the way we write the things—all that useless wordiness (kind of like this post). What if we created business plans that looked more like Alex Roy’s driveplan? Imagine clear milestones, expected results, time required, potential hazards each step of the way. Seems like if we created something like that we'd be much more likely to use it and reach our destination.

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The Speed of Trust

The Speed of Trust

I heard a little segment on NPR a few days ago about Steven M. R. Covey and his book "The Speed of Trust". The book has garnered praise from various prominent people and has evidently sold well, I, however, haven't read it yet. The little I heard from Mr. Covey sounded intriguing and rang of truth to me.

Is it possible to do anything of value without trust?

Trusting in the things we have learned allows us to do things. Organize, build, design, communicate, calculate. Trust in someone else allows us to combine skills and efforts toward a common goal. We put our trust in things like computer programs, a marketing message, a process. The more trust that exists the more confidently and quickly we get to our goal.

Take away trust and everything is hindered. Lack of trust breeds fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It produces delays as you investigate what you can't trust someone else for. It causes relationships to be strained and torn apart, teams to break up. Lack of trust keeps customers away from a business.

The lack of trust is poison to a business and trust makes everything good happen.

What do you do to build trust among your employees? Your partners? Your customers?

Mr. Covey has outlined 13 behaviors to help leaders create trust in their organizations, focusing on character and competency. Want your business to grow faster? Do things to increase trust throughout it.

You work hard to make sure your customers are happy. Don't waste happy customers. How easy is it for your customers to share with their friends? Learn more

Get Your Helmet Mounted Cueing System Now!

Get Your Helmet Mounted Cueing System Now!

The F35 is an amazing jet. It can reach mach 1.6 and then stop in midair and hover while landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier in rough seas. You can see it in action here . For more than 50 years the Air Force has provided its pilots with "head up" displays so that the pilots can monitor key indicators they need without taking their view off the horizon. I guess when you are going mach 1.6 and dealing with an enemy it is pretty important not to take your eyes off the horizon. The Air Force is now testing new technology to replace the head up display specifically for pilots of the F35. According to a recent post on CNET, the new system uses infrared to actually let the pilot look right through the floor of the aircraft. It also displays the feedback that pilots need no matter which direction they are looking. The company that is developing the new technology calls it a "Helmet Mounted Cueing System."

So your business is moving along pretty fast, wouldn't it be nice to have a Helmet Mounted Cueing System to help you make better decisions? What information would you want on your cueing system? I don't think you'd want to clutter it up with important but not critical information. For example, I don't think I'd want to wander around with a copy of my latest balance sheet always in front of my eyes. The current cash balance in the bank, on the other hand, might be very useful. I don't know about you, but sometimes every second counts in getting a deposit to clear before payroll starts hitting! How about some indicator of how your customers are feeling? After all, everything we do as business owners is (or should be) about making customers happy so that they will buy from us again and again and tell their friends. Seems like knowing what they are thinking about our business and what they really want from our business should influence every decision we make. What else would you add to your HMBICS (Helmet Mounted Business Information Cueing System--got to have an acronym if we want to get any government funding!)

If you're not quite ready to pull on the Star Wars helmet (your customers might turn and run), you might check out our sponsor product, Promoterz. Right now--without government funding--you can keep a pulse on how your customers feel about your business. There is no head up display, but your customers' comments will go directly to your email so you will always be in touch and better able to take your business to mach 1.6!

When you pass out a Promoterz bounce back card you automatically build an accurate customer list, increase repeat sales, increase referrals and prevent lost business. Pretty powerful little card. Learn more

The Customer/Employee is always right

The Customer/Employee is always right

A recent BusinessWeek article describes India's HCL Technologies unique management ratings program. In essence, each manager is ranked in several areas by those that report to them. Lot's of companies do these "360" types of reviews, but what is different about HCL is that they publish the results on their intranet for the employees to see.

CEO Vineet Nayar was rated 3.6 out of 5 for how well he keeps projects running on schedule by 81 managers that rated him, and everybody at HCL knows it.

According to Nayar "In our day and age, it's the employee who sucks up to the boss. We are trying, as much as possible, to get the manager to suck up to the employee."

In addition they have an online complaint system where anyone can voice concern over a particular issue ranging from the air conditioning to bonuses. Each of these concerns becomes a "ticket". What is unique is that these tickets can be "cleared" only by the employees, not management.

Imagine applying that to your small business. Your company is the "manager" and your customers are the "employees". What if companies posted online for all customers to see how they are ranked. What if noted problems remained listed until the company deals with them and the customer removes them.

Employee retention rates have increased at HCL. How would you like to have your customer retention rates increased? Have you asked your customers to rate you and your business? They are the only ones that know how they feel about your business.

Reicheld discovered the customer question that seems to track with the future growth of a business "Would you recommend us to your friends and colleagues?" Our service, Promoterz, helps you ask them that question with the addition of "Please provide specific comments to help us understand the rating you have assigned". You will know how your customers feel and have actionable data you can use to improve.

Perhaps small businesses should include Nayar's words in their business plan "We will try, as much as possible, to get the company to suck up to the customer!"

You work hard to make sure your customers are happy. Don't waste happy customers. How easy is it for your customers to share with their friends? Learn more

The Power of Realtime Feedback for Your Business

The Power of Realtime Feedback for Your Business

When I get in a car my goal is typically to get from where I am to where I want to be as fast as safely possible. To do that, I primarily use one gauge on the dashboard: the speedometer. Sure every few days I have to pay attention to the gas gauge and, if the car doesn’t seem to be behaving as it should I glance at the other gauges but the majority of the time it is all about the speedometer. WIth my goal being to get to my destination as fast as possible I try to keep that speedometer at (or slightly above) the speed limit.

I rented a car the other day with a new feedback mechanism that completely changed the way I drive. The car was the Nissan Altima Hybrid. I don’t own the car ( the car I own is more of a truck—it has a V10 and can easily pull up the mountain into Flagstaff at 85 mph—but that’s a post for another day and perhaps a different blog). I ended up driving the Altima because the rental car company gave me a free upgrade. I drove it for 4 days in the bay area. The hybrid Altima is rated at 42 mpg. It’s got all kinds of high tech stuff under the hood that switches back and forth between and electric power and the combustion engine and delivers great efficiency. All that stuff is very cool and seemed to work very well, but the thing that saved the most gas for me was a new gauge they added to the dashboard. The gauge was a real time mpg indicator. It was cool. I could always see exactly what kind of mileage I was getting. If I pushed the pedal down to pass, the mpg indicator would drop down into the the 8 to 9 range. When I coasted down a hill it would shoot up to 80 to 90 mpg. I found if I kept it steady I could get to a nice cruising speed and still be getting over 40 mpg.

That one additional bit of information completely changed the way I, the proud owner of a V10, drove. Yes, I still wanted to get there as quick as I could but I found myself balancing that goal with the goal of maximizing my mileage. Now I know that each time I fill up I could do the little calculation and figure out what kind of mileage I got, but the fact is I don’t. Why? Because by that time, the decisions have already been made. I admit it, I am short sighted, but I have never filled my tank with gas, calculated my mileage and said, “Hmmm, I better drive slower.” On the other hand, the real time mgp gauge on the Altima had me driving slower—not always, but certainly more often,

How does that apply to your small business? What feedback mechanisms do you use to monitor the success of your business? Traditional accounting measures are like calculating your mpg after the fact. Everything is history. Sure it is a good number to know, but by the time you know it, it may be too late to influence the behaviors that need to be changed to improve it. Forward looking indicators like sales forecasts and other budgets are more like the speedometer, but even these indicators don’t give what you really need to run your business. What you really need to run your business (in conjunction with the other measures) is a realtime indicator of how your customers feel about your business. You need realtime customer feedback. You may think you know what your customers feel, want and need, but I can guarantee you that unless you are asking your customers and listening, what you think you know is wrong. I can also guarantee you that, just like the realtime mpg gauge changed my driving behavior, realtime customer feedback will change your behavior and the behavior of your staff for the better. Give it a try, you will never go back.

Anybody know where I can get an aftermarket mgp gauge for a V10?

Find your happy customers and put a megaphone in their hand. Learn more

Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.

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