Business Plan: Too Early To Start A Succession Plan?

Business Planning.jpgAs a business owner, you’re most likely consumed with the day-to-day running of your business and driving growth. It’s your baby and the last thing you want to do is sit down and make a plan for turning it over to someone else. As a TAB advisor, I have met owners who think they’re too young or believe that they’ll run the business for the rest of their lives, so why bother with succession planning? A 2014 PwC survey found that by 2019, more than half of Canadian family businesses are expected to change owners, but that only 20% of those businesses have a clearly documented succession plan in place for when the time comes.

Why does every business owner need a succession plan? We don’t have a window into the future and have no idea if or when events may arise that force succession – premature death, disability, personal or financial reasons or retirement. Without a succession plan, your business’s fate is uncertain and could be left in the hands of the court. It may also cause disputes among family members as to who should take over. The only way to control your company’s future and to protect yourself, your family and your employees is with a succession plan. I’ve outlined below what I feel are the three top options for succession.

  1. Transition the business within the family: If you choose to transition the business within the family, you’ll have to choose a successor. This may not be an easy (or popular decision) if multiple family members work in the business and all want the position at the helm. There may also not be a qualified successor among the family members, which brings with it a unique set of problems.
  2. Sell the business to a partner or employee(s): You’ll have to determine the value of the business. There are many factors that affect the value of your business, so it’s important to seek assistance in helping you calculate an accurate value. And the value of your business will continue to change so it will have to be re-evaluated on an ongoing basis.
  3. Sell the business to an outside buyer: Same as above.

It’s never too early to create a succession plan. It should be done by experts as it involves several disciplines including accounting, financial services, and law. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all succession plan template that you can download and plug information into. Each business owner will have different ideas about what their business succession should look like and the experts can ensure that your wishes are carried out.

I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention that in order for any succession plan to really succeed, you’ll need to have the right people and processes in place that allow for the day-to-day operations of the business to function without you.

No matter how good your succession plan is, it can’t anticipate changes that may affect your business in the future, which is why it will constantly have to evolve and change. I believe in starting early, setting expectations, and making the decisions that are right for you and your business. Succession planning is the only way to control the fate of your business.

Have you started working on your succession plan? Want more advice on succession planning, or general advice from a seasoned business advisor? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

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Managing Change: Reactive versus Proactive Business Strategy

startup-849805_640.jpgIf there is one thing I can guarantee any business owner, it is that your business will experience change. Sometimes workplace change can occur very quickly and in today’s marketplace, it can occur quite often. Although change can be difficult and presents new and interesting challenges, it isn’t necessarily negative. Change may take place in order to respond to a new opportunity. As I tell my clients, the key is having the right strategy in place to manage change, which can often be the difference between success and failure. When managing change, there are two main business strategies – reactive and proactive.

Reactive business strategies respond to an unanticipated event after the fact. A reactive approach to business is all too common. Unfortunately, this approach may lead to lost new and emerging opportunities, or losing out to a more aggressive competitor who bursts onto the scene. Being reactive is inefficient and extremely stressful. It doesn’t allow you to plan because you’re too busy reacting. A typical example of a reactive strategy is to wait for business to decline before investing in marketing and promotion. Reactive companies tend to fail in the long run. Look at what happened to companies like Nokia and Blockbuster.

Proactive business strategies anticipate the events, plan for them and take action. They are ready to capitalize on new and emerging opportunities or respond to new competitors. Research is very important to a proactive business strategy. You have to analyze the market thoroughly, pay attention to the trends and adapt to them before your competitors do. The reality is that no business can be proactive all the time, however if you focus on a proactive strategy, you will be more effective at dealing with challenges and as a result, more successful. A typical example of a proactive strategy is to invest in marketing and promotion to gain a greater market share in anticipation of increased competition, instead of waiting for business to decline first as in a reactive business strategy. Apple and Amazon are perfect examples of proactive companies.

Creating a proactive business culture is hard work but it pays off. It starts with a change in mindset. You need to be ahead of the curve. Instead of racing around putting out fires, anticipate and plan for success! Here are some tips to help create a proactive business culture:

  • Schedule time to plan
  • Clearly define expectations and goals
  • Refine and improve business processes
  • Research your industry
  • Pay attention to trends
  • Stay on top of the business climate
  • Know your competitors
  • Identify risks
  • Search for and find problems before they happen

There is no doubt that adopting a proactive business strategy is the ideal approach to help you shape the results of change. However, sometimes changes come so quickly that we do need to react and therefore a reactive strategy needs to be applied. If you’d like more advice on how to create the right proactive or reactive business strategy, or are looking for other business advice, check out how TAB can help!


Put an End to the Feast and Famine of Owning Your Own Business

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve seen it time and time again, business owners, whether they own an accounting, engineering firm, marketing agency or IT company, are left feeling vulnerable due to the feast and famine of income streams.

When I meet with business owners they share with me their concerns about their struggle for consistent revenues; one month the financials look great, but next month, they are not on target and they begin to stress about making enough income to cover their expenses. Sometimes this cycle is endless and it can take a toll on the many business owners striving for income predictability and growth.

When a business experiences the feast or famine scenario, things like hiring staff for a project today in hopes that there is work for them tomorrow can result in more stress and pressure on the owner to bring in more business.

Owning a business can be one of the most rewarding experiences, but so often business owners are conflicted with decisions about hiring the right staff, committing to paying rent for the appropriate space, investing in office equipment and technology, not to mention marketing. Without consistent and predictable revenue it is hard to make long term plans that will allow owners of professional services businesses to accomplish their goals.

If you are interested in learning about a professional business that will put an end to this feast or famine scenario but still give you the freedom to own a business, check out this website or simply contact me to discuss your situation.


The Best Managers are the Best Communicators

As a business owner, you dedicate much of your time to communicating with your clients. While this is crucial for your business, equally important is communicating with your employees. Internal communication touches every aspect of your business from announcing the onboarding of a new client, to introducing a new product to your business line. No matter the size, industry, or type of company you own, I recommend having an internal communications process embedded in everything you do.

An internal communications process allows for the exchange of information between all members of your organization, which will save you time and money. In fact, companies with effective internal communications processes experience 47% higher total returns than those that are not effective at communicating.

I’ve outlined below 3 key elements to help you establish an effective internal communications process.

  1. Have the Right Mechanisms in Place to Keep Employees Informed

Your internal communication mechanisms must be strategic, in order to be targeted and the most beneficial. Consider your company’s current mechanisms, from the methods of communication it uses, to the way your company engages with and seeks feedback from your staff, to the way it measures if the mechanism is successful and identifies any issues for future change.

Choosing what mechanisms to use depends on your size and budget. If your company has multiple locations, you may decide to invest in passive, large-scale communication options to disseminate information. Creating an intranet (a private network only available to a company’s staff) is one great option. If your business is smaller, consider using more conventional communication channels such as an internal newsletter, e-blast, Director’s blog, or notice board. I have even seen some companies benefit from using social networking sites as their primary means of internal communication. More directed options could include Breakfast Briefs for front-line staff, a monthly Director Communications Day, scheduled Director Q&A drop-ins, or Lunch & Learns.

No matter what mechanism(s) you choose, the bottom line is that employees have access to a platform where they can receive important company information so they stay abreast of the information they need to do their job.

  1. Creating a Two-Way Loop

Having great communication mechanisms in place is vital, but ensuring that they consistently generate engagement between management and employees is a key step. It is imperative that business owners and managers actively respond to feedback received and ensure a loop is created, as opposed to a top-down form of communication. By acting on the honest feedback reported by employees encourages more of the same – staff telling it “like it is”.

  1. Measuring the Mechanisms

To ensure that the communication mechanisms you choose are working effectively, incorporating measurement indicators, such as scheduled weekly face-to-face meetings with actionable items reported for follow-up, anonymous employee surveys offered at quarterly or annual company all-staff meetings, or through specific activity surveys through the intranet, could help identify gaps, what is or isn’t working, and what methods of communication work best for your employees.

Regardless of which avenues you choose, the main goal is to ensure employees have several effective paths available to them where they can communicate with senior management and feel heard.

Communicating with your employees is essential for the productivity of your business. Does your company have an internal communications process in place?


Marketing Your Business: You Can’t Rush The Process

Although I am not a marketer, as a business advisor I am often asked what are the most effective ways to market a company. Business owners tend to ask me what tactics they should use to gain the ‘best’ and ‘fastest’ results. My advice is the same for business management: before you execute on a business initiative, you need a plan. Before you implement a marketing tactic, make sure you invest the time and resources in having a professional strategic marketing plan.

As a business owner, you know what you know, and what you don’t. Marketing, as an aspect of a business, is no different. Hiring a strategic marketing agency to develop your strategic plan is just good business sense.

A big part of any strategy is understanding how your customers value what you do for them. Depending on what data you may already have, a strategic marketing agency will conduct in-depth research on your customers and competitors to understand what brought them to you, and also why they stay.

As a result of the research analysis and the agency’s experience, they will be able to create an area of difference for you – something unique that differentiates your business from others in your industry. This brand identity is rooted in what your customers value.

This strategic marketing plan will now act as your roadmap and provide direction for all aspects of your marketing efforts and determine what tactics will be most effective in targeting specific customers. This is similar to how the strategy in a game of chess is needed to determine the moves made on the board.

Once your strategy is complete and you know what tactics are required, you can make an informed decision as to who will implement them. You’ll need to look at your internal resources and skill sets and compare them to external ones. If you choose to take them on in-house, think about who will manage them from a marketing perspective. You may choose to outsource only a portion of your tactics while taking on the rest internally. When it comes to implementation, you have a few options. Taking the time to plan can save your business thousands of dollars in needless tactics.


5 Steps to Getting Your Business Back on Track

tab-croissance-1080x675One of the biggest challenges I find many small business owners face is dealing with complacency. When a new business first starts out, owners are overcome with excitement with every forward step. But at one point or another, the excitement of the early days starts to slow down, and eventually your company may begin to experience a plateau.

A stagnant business is one that faces little to no new activity for an extended period of time. Complacency tends to come from sticking with the status quo and getting used to your business’s “comfort zone”. Many business owners adhere to the mindset of “if it was working for the first 5 years, why change it now?” The truth is, sometimes change is exactly what you need to revitalize your business and get it growing again.

If you’re facing complacency in your business, below are 5 steps for revitalizing your business to get it back on track for growth.

1) Find out what your customers want

A lack of understanding about what your customers truly want from your business can be detrimental to your small business. This is why engaging in market research is essential to drive your company’s growth. Have you had a conversation with your customers to find out what needs are being met, and what needs aren’t? By hiring a market research company or a marketing agency with a specialization in market research to conduct unbiased market research, you will be able to gain invaluable information about your customers as well as your competitors. Once you’ve done this research, you’ll have a much better idea about how you can fulfill your customers’ needs to the best of your ability.

2) Focus on increases in certain sectors and products

Your industry landscape changes at such a rapid pace, and as a small business owner, it’s important that you keep up-to-date with it. Look at projected growth sectors to get an understanding of which products or services are headed for long-term growth, and which ones are on the decline. Some may be obvious, but others may not be so apparent. This is why it’s crucial to take the time and do proper research. Once you have a better idea about the projected growth rate of certain sectors, consider shifting your business model to become more aligned with these industry changes.

3) Re-examine former revenue sources

While focusing on changes in the industry landscape is important, equally important is looking at what has traditionally brought you revenue. After the first few years of your business, you may have lost focus on areas that were once reliable sources of revenue for your company. Have you steered your attention towards niche areas as a result of increased demand, and lost sight of your more dependable revenue sources? If your business has stalled, one of the first things you should do is gauge whether or not you have neglected some of your core competencies at the expense of chasing something new.

4) Review your company’s operations

I’ve found that many small businesses do not focus enough time and energy on their internal operations. Often, owners struggle to let go of the “startup” mindset they once had. This is a shame, as a company’s internal operations can have a huge influence on the productivity of their business. As your business grows, it’s important you grow with it. In a previous blog, I discussed the importance of delegation. Are you delegating work where necessary? Have you considered outsourcing certain tasks to allow you to focus on growing your business?

5) Create a plan

The only way you will be able to properly execute the above steps is if you have a solid plan in place. It’s essential you know exactly what resources are required and how much time and energy is needed to accomplish what you want done. Understanding these two key areas will allow you to set realistic short-term and long-term goals for your business. Remember, making any large-scale changes to your company takes time, so patience is needed to see through your goals.

It is important to keep the momentum going in order for your business not to stall. Although complacency is a frustrating obstacle to face, it is quite common. By following these 5 steps on how to revitalize your business, you’ll be equipped with the confidence to move forward and make the necessary changes needed to get your business back on the track you want it to be.


The Roles They Are A-Changin’

changes-aheadAs a business owner, you know how important it is to keep things fresh and innovative in your workplace, but when making changes, you’ll need to consider how your plans might impact your employees.

If you are in the process of job redesign where employees are assigned new roles that play into their strengths and contribute to a more successful business, these changes can be stressful to your employees. If someone has been hired for a particular job and then he or she is suddenly expected to perform a different role in the organization, tension and stress can result.

A recent report found that 46% of 1,018 Canadian employees recently surveyed had taken time off work or noticed other employees taking sick leave following workplace changes, a common symptom of a stressed-out workplace.

I’ve outlined below a few tips on how you can shift roles in your organization without contributing to employee stress:

  1. Share your vision.

Why are you doing this? What is this change going to accomplish for your organization? Sharing this vision with employees will allow them to understand exactly why this is happening, and help them find their part in it.

  1. Keep the lines of communication open in regards to role change.

Ask employees how they feel they can contribute to a new role and encourage conversation. By doing this, you can evaluate each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, while giving them an opportunity to work in a new role they would truly enjoy.

Make sure employees stay up to date as things begin to shift. For example, when you have made some final role decisions, send out an email to all staff informing them of the new structure. Keeping everyone in the know will ensure a smooth transition process.

  1. When your employees begin their new role, make sure they feel supported.

Assuming a new role can be challenging, especially if the employee doesn’t have a lot of previous experience in the position. Positive reinforcement can go a long way, as employees are less likely to experience stress when they report a positive and supportive workplace culture.

In today’s workplace, you need to keep things fresh, but maintain a balance against a backdrop of inclusiveness and communication. Learning how to handle change effectively is what will keep your team on the right path to growing your business.

How have you successfully restructured your business?