Business Transformation Begins With a Great Business Plan

The idea that all great businesses start with a great strategy and business plan is certainly nothing new, yet it’s amazing how many business owners still don’t take the time to create one. This is a huge mistake – it is the business equivalent of starting an expedition without planning your destination, your objectives or the equipment you will need on your journey.

If you are to be successful in business, it’s essential that you have a clear strategy.

There are many ways to describe a business strategy, including ‘big picture’; ‘overall plan’; ‘market positioning’; ‘niche’; and they all have an impact on the way that an organisation can change and adapt to a changing market and economy. Consider this example of how this sort of business transformation works in the real world…

If you were running a business before the invention of the car, making quality horsewhips out of leather, then you would almost certainly go out of business if you continued to define your business as ‘horsewhips’ once everyone began abandoning their carriages. However, if you defined your business as ‘leather travel accessories’, the introduction of the car could easily become an opportunity to expand the business, perhaps by adding leather steering wheel covers or driving gloves to your range of products.

This is the key to the kind of business transformation that keeps businesses afloat through changes in the economy. In fact, it is also the key difference between successful companies and the rest. For example, consider the transformation of Apple Inc. when it positioned itself not as a maker of computers, but moved towards music, telephones and subsequently portable devices. This all came from a change of business strategy. It added to their business, but took nothing away from the original business of making computers; indeed, it created more revenue to invest even more heavily in this area as well.

Defining your business in a way that is ‘future proof’ is the first step towards achieving business transformation. You need to really get to the heart of what you’re doing, so there’s no confusion in the minds of you, your people or your customers. Perhaps you could broaden your business base by subtly adjusting the way you define it, as in our earlier example?

The next important step is to put things into action. A lot of businesses get confused between a strategy and a business plan. In our experience you should distinguish between them as follows. A business strategy is about the overall direction of your business in the medium to long term; a business plan is all about how you get there, in simple stages, in the short to medium term.

5 Business Development Don’ts

5 Business Development Don’ts

In my over 25 years experience in business development for Financial institutions, IT enterprises, Law Firms and Medical Practices there is an unfortunate, common repetitive pattern/tendency that costs unnecessary money and reduces efficiencies considerably.

This tendency can simply be defined as “unproductive” business development practices. While it can be stated simply it is NOT a straightforward problem in the least. Not appropriately, consistently and diligently creating and implementing a business development plan can and does cause significant financial and productive leakages to a business entity. For a small or growing company, business or practice, such a business development oversight can and often is very detrimental in many ways.

I have identified 5 of the most common unproductive business development practices. I hope that, if you can identify any or all of these within your business entity, you recognize the red flag and take heed.

The 5 Major Business Development Don’ts are the Following:

1) Don’t Randomly Advertise. Sounds weird, but it is NOT. One of the most common mistakes and seemingly harmless ones is to advertise a company, product or service without a clear target.

Unless you are a large entity, advertising expenditures should be seriously confined for specific targeted campaigns. Brand recognition advertising for smaller and or new practices is NOT an optimum use of resources.

2) Don’t Just “Get” Business- Instead Get the Right Business.

A common mistake in small to medium size companies is to “accept” any client even if the fit is not perfect, i.e. a client project that is not cost effective or a “difficult problematic client” or a client whose request is out of the range of expertise.

This can be a seemingly difficult situation, especially, if there are cash flow issues within a company. However, ultimately, saying no to these clients is the most cost effective solution.

3) Don’t Leave Your Business Growth to “Chance”

Many small businesses and medical practices get “caught up” in servicing clients when ample clientele is at hand, thus, ignoring future business needs. For small to medium size businesses this is one of the major causes of cash- flow problems. There should always be a consistent everyday effort to bring in new clients. This ensures a constant source of new clients as they progress through the customer life cycle.

4) Don’t Ignore Your Previous Clients

One of the biggest sources of potential revenue for any business, medical practice or law firm is satisfied past clients. There are three ways that these clients can generate new revenue for a business: firstly, by cross-selling other products or services that are complementary to what they bought last time; secondly, by up-selling services or products that enhance their growth or customer satisfaction; thirdly, referrals. Satisfied customers are one of the greatest sources of new business. However, in order for this to be successful you must cultivate a “relationship” with your clients via warm calling, holiday cards, emails, gift certificates etc and you must ASK! Previous Clients are the quickest most effective way to gain new clients… do not ignore this financial resource at your fingertip!

5) Don’t Confuse Business Development/Sales/Marketing

Sales and Marketing are quite distinct from Business Development. Simply put Sales represents the completion of a client prospecting stage, Marketing is the means to communicate value and awareness of a product or service, while Business Development represents the holistic/big picture for business growth. More specifically, business development concerns the tasks, processes and preparation for business/opportunity growth. Business Development is in essence the means to obtain the plan and targeting for growth. Having this plan/bigger picture helps to refine the client/service/product penetration and thus expedites and streamlines the sales and marketing efforts.

Ironically, most sophisticated and large companies have well funded business development departments, however, it is the start-ups, small and medium size enterprises that actually need a business development team or process the most.

It is my sincere expectation and desire that should you identify any of these “red flags” in your business it will start a thinking process and adjustment of your entity’s activities and strategies.

Benefits of Leasing Equipment For Small Business Owners

Many small businesses or those which are starting up prefer leasing equipment rather than buying the equipment outright. Banks have also recognized this trend and they are now giving loans to small businesses. Today, leasing equipment is a common trend for business owners. We have been proving leasing services for many years to small business owners and those businesses which are starting up to ensure that they are able to use business equipment which they cannot afford to buy. There are many benefits which a business owner gets by leasing equipment at any stage of development as illustrated below:

There is minimal cash outlay for equipment leasing!

When your business requires many computers, buying them requires you to have large capital outlay and reduces your cash flow. In addition, the cost of maintenance & repairing them will be high. By leasing our equipment you will be able to conserve cash from your business and improve your cash flow capital. Equipment leasing services does not include servicing the leased equipment in case they fail therefore you will save both maintenance and purchasing equipment at the end of equipment lease.

Overcoming budgetary limitations!

If you have a small budget that is not enough for buying new business equipment especially if you are starting up a business, leasing can be the best option for your business start-up. Operating budgets tend to be more flexible than a capital budget and we can ensure that our leasing terms are flexible as required by law and also negotiable depending on your business needs. Moreover, our leasing terms are better than standard bank loans thus making payment even more better and flexible.

Avoidance of obsolescence!

Obsolescence is among the major problem which many businesses face because the technology changes from year to year. However leasing equipment allows your businesses to develop since our lease terms can be structured in a way that can handle these changes. Therefore, your business will have a solution to the equipment which depreciates quickly. Plus our leasing terms makes it easier to add or upgrade technology in order to meet the ever changing needs of your business.


Sometime buying some equipment may involve a lot of documentation thus making the whole process to take long period of time before it is completed. However, this is not the case with equipment leasing. Leasing allows you to respond quickly to new opportunities with little documentation & red tape. Equipment leasing companies can approve applications within a few hours.

Flexible in terms of options!

When you lease equipment for your business, you will have three options at the end of the term: you can opt to return the equipment, extend the lease for an additional period of time or can purchase the equipment from the leasing company at the end of lease term. These options are not available when you buy your own business equipment.

Tax benefits!

Equipment lease rental payments might be fully tax deductible and can come out of your business funds before they’re taxed. If you buy new machines from your working capital, it means that you are using money that you have already paid taxes on. Therefore, this means that by leasing equipment, the total cost of ownership can be lowered for your business.

Considering the above benefits of leasing equipment, it is not surprising that more and more businesses which are starting up businesses and are getting equipment leasing services. The benefits of leasing are not only for businesses which are starting up but also for those businesses large and small that can benefit from equipment leasing.

How to Get the Most From a Business Counselor

The one trait all successful business owners have in common is that they ask for help when they need it. And the good news is help is readily available. You can find a business counselor or coach in just about any location not far from you and sessions are often at no charge, especially if you’re planning to start a business.

Whether you see a business counselor through a free service or choose a fee-based business coach, here are some tips counselors and coaches want you to know to get the most from their sessions.

1. Come with something, rather than nothing. I recently had an ideal business client, at least that’s how I viewed him following our counseling session. He wanted to start a lawn care and landscaping business and was employed fulltime doing just that for a local municipality. He had already asked his supervisors if it would be OK to start a business on the side, one that he could do in the evenings and weekends. They gave him the OK, had him sign the necessary secondary employment documents and were pleased that he was making plans for his professional future (after all, jobs with government entities are not as secure as they once were).

He already had his own equipment, a business license, name and business cards. He came to me to find out how to reach business owners in his local community. We talked about his target market, his services, how to gather the information needed to set prices, his competition, how to ask for business-a myriad of topics that ended in steps he would take to launch his business.

He felt energized afterward, and I felt refreshed, thinking, “Why was that session so productive and how can I have more clients like that?” Here’s the answer. He came with something. He had experience in the industry, a current job and savings to fund start-up expenses, equipment, and an idea of his target customer. I contrast him with another client who came in recently wanting to start a business “to help women with things like housing, childcare, life skills, because I know so many women who really need help.” You get the point.

2. Trust the counselor. Confidentiality is important and business counselors will honor it. If it makes you feel better for them to sign a confidentiality statement before reading your business plan or swear they won’t steal or share your business idea, fine. But trust me. Business counselors have been exposed to all types of business ideas and very little is unique to them. Even so, they’ve chosen a career as a business counselor and are not looking for a unique idea to pirate.

3. Be open and honest about your financial situation. A business counselor can be a great resource to find funding and they can help you put together a funding proposal, but you must be open and honest about your financial situation and the earlier the better. A business counselor, especially in the first session, may not want to come right out and ask “How much money do you have to start this business?” or “How much do you have to put toward a loan?” but it’s important for them to know early to help you find appropriate funding resources. Vague statements such as “I should be OK in getting a loan,” or “I should have enough collateral to apply for a commercial loan” really doesn’t help. Provide details to the counselor and the earlier you do this the further along you’ll be.

If you’re an existing business owner and the counselor asks to see financial records, avoid responding with, “My accountant takes care of all that, so we’re good there.” Financial records can reveal quite a bit about management of the business. Use the counselor’s expertise and tools for financial analysis. The counselor can save you money by examining your records.

In additional to your financial situation, Warren Williams, head of Turning Point Business Coaching in North Carolina adds, “Be open to what the coach can teach you. A good coach truly has your best interest at heart, for they genuinely want to help you (as well as your business) be successful. Remain open to the opportunity to make your business better by making yourself better”

4. Do your assignments. Business clients tend to disappear or play “hide and seek” once the counselor gives them an assignment. An assignment might be to do some market research. If you’re not familiar with what or how to do it, simply say so. Don’t nod as if you understand. Avoiding follow-up calls from the counselor or not responding to emails because you didn’t complete your “homework” just delays the process of reaching your business goals. Let the counselor know you’re having difficulty with the assignment and could use more guidance. No need to feel embarrassed.

5. Understand the counselor’s role. As with any type of counseling, the idea is to help you discover solutions as opposed to telling you what to do. “Counselors provide a sounding board for you. They’ll challenge you and help you see situations in new ways. They’ll help you find solutions, not impose them,” says long-time North Carolina business counselor Maggi Braun. Don’t feel frustrated because you didn’t get the “answers” you were looking for.

3 Reasons Why the Outdoor Billboard Business Rocks

No, I can’t either! And I know there will be many people who would very much like a world without billboards. Love them or hate them, they are here to stay in many parts of the country and of the world.

Billboards have been around for around 150 years or more and they’re an enormously popular, affordable and effective advertising medium. Advertisers love them because of their cost effectiveness and because the advertising message can’t be ‘switched off’. Consumers may not know whether they love them or not, but they notice them – billboards are effective for branding and some of the best known brands, like McDonald’s, are the biggest billboard advertisers.

Billboard advertising has not been adversely affected by the rise of the internet – in fact the outdoor billboard business is one of the fastest growing areas of the media according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. People are out and about as much as they ever were – in fact more than they ever were and there are more of them and billboards are in full view.

Billboard technology is being reinvented – with the introduction of digital billboards and the continued growth of mobile billboards.

So this is no ‘fad’ or passing whim as far as businesses to be involved in goes.

How Many Businesses Can You Start for A Low Entry Cost?

And how many businesses can you start that are pretty much ‘hands off’ once you’ve set them up?

Sure, if you plan to own an enormous billboard on a major highway through a major US city, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny! Growth plans aside, it is possible to enter the outdoor billboard business for ‘several thousand dollars’ – check out some that are for sale to see this for yourself. If the entry cost is still too high for an individual, two partners (or more) could easily cover the entry cost with some focus and planning. Risks can be reduced (as compared with other types of businesses) and possible losses can be lessened (providing a professional approach is taken – and adequate appropriate insurance is taken out, for example).

Once a billboard is researched, purchased, leased and owned, little day to day input is required to keep the revenue flowing in over the term of the lease. This allows the business owner/investor to continue in their mainstream job or business as they grow their outdoor billboard business. It’s unlikely there are many traditional bricks and mortar businesses out there could afford the owner the same luxury.

The Beauty is in the Simplicity of the Business

The outdoor billboard business is one of the rare businesses where it is possible to do you due diligence (or research) pretty much everything you need to, to a highly detailed level, by yourself.

Traditional bricks and mortar businesses can be very complex creatures and often you won’t be able to know everything there is to know about operating the business or the financial details of the business and critical details of other areas until you have actually taken over and started operating it. It’s not unheard of for the financial situation to have been ‘doctored’ for the purposes of the sale, or for previously happy clients/customers to be lost due to a change in ownership. If this happens to a business, the results can be catastrophic for the new owner.

One real beauty of the outdoor billboard business is the fact that the purchaser is in the privileged position of being able to research the land on which the billboard sits (and any rules, regulations, covenants that apply to it), the structure itself (for compliance with building regulations etc), the possible marketplace for advertising clients (of which there would typically be multiple if the location is chosen carefully) and also the ‘environment’ at any given time. Billboards are not permitted in all states and there is significant opposition to them (or upgrades to them) in some locations. Careful due diligence into the environment being operated in is likely to reduce the risk of being affected by law changes – although all risk can never be eliminated completely.