The Superiority of Trend Foraging in the Conceptual Age

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Many talk about the the existence of rapid change and how it’s disrupting the status quo. It seems as soon as we become accustomed to one way of managing our everyday lives, something changes. We find the need to learn a new technique or a new process. We are pushed into learning something new even if we don’t intend to. There are new functions on our cell phones, computers , TV’s, the addition of new electronic devices and more. There is no indication that change will slow down. So, survivors will learn to deal with it.

If you are building a business, staying ahead of and managing constant change is a paramount survival skill. Trend foraging will help you control and direct the types of change required if you want to build and maintain a strong business. The availability of vast amounts of information will help you know what you need to know to become and remain an industry leader.

Industry trend foraging is using as many methods as you can afford, to find out where your industry is now and where it is going in the future. Websites, magazines, blogs and industry conferences are the most logical resources to use. Use as many free sources as possible and if you value frugality, free resources will be more than adequate.

Norma D. Anderson in “The Importance of Watching Trends” suggests, “Network with other entrepreneurs, both in and out of your industry (I promise, you’ll gain some of your most valuable trend insights by talking to people in completely different industries.) Take advantage of social networking tools like LinkedIn and Facebook. Start or join groups on the networks and see what people are buzzing about. Pose questions about trends you are seeing.”

Interact with your customers as much as possible. This is probably one of your best sources of trending needs in your industry. You may need to simplify or enhance your product/service quality or delivery process to align with the changes your customers are experiencing. Try to determine the level of stress they may experience around your product/service and use this as a possible indication for innovation.

“You win by engaging with your most visionary customers to co-design new products and new processes.” Patricia Seybold

Proactive innovation, not reactive innovation, is a basic requirement for industry dominance in the Conceptual Age although both may be useful.

If you are using a proactive strategy you stay abreast of the current and changing trends in your industry. You identify opportunities for you to create or innovate ahead of the changes. You will allocate time and resources for proactive activities.

If you use a reactive strategy, you create or innovate in response to additional needs or requirements in your business or industry. Your creative or innovative actions take place only after you identify a need. Theses contributions may be helpful or even necessary to your industry but seldom put you ahead of others in your discipline.

“Nothing is done. Everything in the world remains to be done or done over. The greatest picture is not yet painted, the greatest play isn’t written, the greatest poem is unsung. There isn’t in all the world a perfect railroad, nor a good government, nor a sound law.” Lincoln Steffens

Trend foraging will help you plan your creative and innovative projects. You can determine the value of these projects to your business building efforts by testing them against your Purpose, Values, strategy and working Systems.

Test the feasibility of your creative and innovative endeavors.

You can test for system incongruities, demographic changes, customer perceptions and new knowledge. This will help you measure the efficiency and effectiveness of your creation or innovation. In addition, you’ll learn how much your customers will accept or adapt to your creation or innovation.

According to Branden Kelley in “Innovation is All About Value” “Innovation transforms the useful seeds of invention into solutions valued above every existing alternative..and [is] widely adopted.” If your innovation seems to have high value and improves upon the existing design and customers want it, you’re on the right track.

Does this seem like a daunting task? There is no doubt it is. It will take plenty of conscientious work. Building a business is a daunting task at its core. However, your love and dedication to your Purpose will pull you through the required tasks. Trend foraging can become a part of your regular schedule and you can make it a requirement for anyone joining your enterprise. This will allow you to stay ahead of the curve in all of your critical business Systems. Become a futurist and help create the future with regular trend foraging.

For System design and control see: “20 Directives for Small Business Success: Do or Die”

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5 Reasons Strong Marketing Before You Build a Business Foundation Can Be Lethal

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Great marketing plans are essential. No one will know about your service or product unless you put it out there so your potential customers can see it. Many small businesses fail or never grow because they don’t put enough time into marketing. However, it seems that many startups have gotten the message. Marketing is essential. As a result, they put tremendous time and resources into marketing efforts with very little effort put into other critical business functions.

Hundreds of marketing services can be found, particularly online, so entrepreneurs sometimes overestimate their importance. A great marketing service may drive customers to your business, but how will you keep them pleased and willing to come back again?

How will you handle the inevitable changes that come with business expansion? What will you do when the money is going out too fast? What will you do when customers require more than what you can offer? How will you handle too many customers? How will you make sure all customers are served in the same manner? When will you know when its time to hire someone to help in your business?

How will you embed and ensure excellence in all operations? How will you know when it’s time to scale or open another business? How will you manage employee performance? How will you keep up with changing customer needs and trends in your industry? How will you measure business results?

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Well, these are just a few of the questions you must answer for your business.

These and other questions are often left to chance and that’s why the businesses don’t last. New owners think they’ll magically find answers when various business situations come up. Unfortunately, answers don’t “come out of thin air.” For some reason its very hard for entrepreneurs to consider the big picture and understand the need to prepare for growth and success.

Most know they have the technical skills and more than likely, have had success with satisfied customers in the past. However, running a business and maintaining great product or service delivery must be designed consciously if you want to grow a larger business. You’ll also need to know how to perform the management skills needed to complete the actions indicated by the questions above.

Michael Gerber in “The E Myth” states: “Life is what a business is about, ….Coming to grips with oneself, in the face of an incredibly complex world that can teach us if we’re willing to learn. In this way, the Business Development Process can be thought of as a metaphor for personal transformation, for coming to grips with real life. For developing real skills within a structure of your own design.” A fantastic privilege!

Building a business in our fast changing environment is complicated and requires a change of mindset for success and growth. A mindset that includes a framework for business development, not just product or service delivery with marketing.

5 Reasons a strong emphasis on marketing only can lead to business defeat.

1. No strong and clearly defined Vision is adopted and used as a guide. There could be a tendency to perform tasks outside of the original Vision and splinter the business in too many directions.

2. Important Values are not embed in all business activities leaving customers confused about the promises of your brand, product or service.

3. No consideration of what will happen if the business begins getting more customers than you can handle efficiently or effectively. No plan for growth has been designed. Customers may become frustrated and leave with a bad reputation of your business. They will sometimes pass on the bad reputation to others and undermine your business growth.

4. No knowledge of what processes are working and what processes aren’t. Or even worst, no standard processes at all. This leads to a lack of reliable measurements leading to a “shot in the dark” approach for decision making. It’s frustrating to do it this way and the results are often frustrating as well.

5. Lack of standardized Systems for important business functions leads to irregular and unstable results. This fills you with feelings of uncertainty and anxiety about the future of the business. You eventually get overwhelmed and quit trying.

“No business in the world has ever made money with poorer management.” Bill Terry

If you want to escape some of the problems lack of proper business management causes, make time to get acquainted with basic management skills. Plan for success in the complicated business building process with emphasis on all required business functions, not just marketing. Actually, you should ask yourself the question Michael Gerber suggests: “How can I systematize my business in such a way that it could be replicated 5,000 times, so the 5000th unit would run as smoothly as the first?

Of course, marketing must be one of your strong Systems but you’ll also design and put adequate effort into budgeting , production, delivery, customer service and other Systemsrequired of your industry.

If you’re building a business, build it the right way according to current “best practices”. Avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. You can then enjoy making a real contribution, financial freedom and experiencing your preferred life style. What are your feelings on this subject?

An easy guide to critical management skills: “20 Directives for Small Business Success: Do or Die”

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How a Deeply Embodied Business Purpose Can Build a Legacy

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“With purpose, a company can create positive value that is far greater than the sum of its parts.” Sherri Hakimi

A business Purpose or Mission is the GPS of your business. It’s your guiding star.

Sherry Hakimi describes the importance of Purpose this way:

“As a company, it’s important to think about why you are in the business you’re in. What drives you? If your business succeeds, what would your ideal world look like? When a company demonstrates an authentic purpose, consumers feel a connection to the products and company. They will choose the authentically purposeful company’s products, even if it’s not the cheapest offering.”

How do we find a business Purpose?

Your Purpose comes from a desire to contribute something to the economy. Your Purpose can be mainly economic progress for yourself and partners or it can be geared toward economic progress as well as contribution toward a improved society. You have designed either of these from your personal beliefs, values and desires.  Therefore, your Purpose is a deeply held expression of what you believe you can do with your business.

Are you excited about your business venture? Are you fulfilling a life-long dream? Are you excited to get up everyday to work on your venture? If you answered yes to these questions, you may have a deeply embodied business Purpose. A deeply embodied business Purpose (Mission) is a purpose that motivates you dramatically, gives you a sense of well being and brings you joy. If this is the state you’re in, congratulations. Your business has a much higher chance of success than many of the businesses of your entrepreneurial colleagues.

Craig and Snook in “ From Impact to Purpose” explains: “Business experts make the case that purpose is a key to exceptional performance, while psychologists describe it as the pathway to greater well-being. Doctors have even found that people with purpose in their lives are less prone to disease. Purpose is increasingly being touted as the key to navigating the complex, volatile, ambiguous world we face today, where strategy is ever changing and few decisions are obviously right or wrong.”

A strong business Purpose/Mission can create a legacy in these ways:

It will provide a strong foundation for your Values, Vision and Strategy. Everything you do in your business will spring from your Purpose. You will have definite parameters for decision making and System building.

You will facilitate an “adaptive business culture” with your Purpose as the anchor. Our fast changing environment will require the ability to make rapid changes and innovations. An adaptable culture supports the continuous flexibility your business will need. As a result, you will need something to direct and ground you activities. A strong Purpose performs this function.

You will create and sustain a great reputation. A strong Purpose will draw employees and customers to your organization and if that Purpose is promoted over time, your reputation for consistently delivering according to your Purpose will spread.

Following are some great examples of how deeply embodied purpose works in reality.

Birkenstock 243 years

The core of their Mission/Purpose is: “Birkenstock is deeply rooted in the fine art of crafting premium quality shoes that are good for you.”

Delta Airlines 90 years

“Delta Air Lines Mission Statement: “We—Delta’s employees, customers, and community partners together form a force for positive local and global change, dedicated to bettering standards of living and the environment where we and our customers live and work.”

Southwest Airlines 38 years

“Our Purpose is: To connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.”

Amazon 23 years

“Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

All of the Purposes described are very broad. They allow for any technological advance or other changes that relate to their industry. They address social needs or challenges and are designed as economically feasible business models.

“Most of us go to our graves with the music still inside us, unplayed. Oliver Wendell Holmes

Don’t be like “most”. Design your entrepreneurship because you can do anything you want to do! The information available to everybody today can hep you build a genuine legacy. Designing a Purpose that energizes you should be your first step. This can also move you closer to building your legacy.

Easy to apply business building guides: “20 Directives for Small Business Success: Do or Die”

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An Astounding Stimulant for Your Management Strategy

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Let’s face it. Planning is a primary responsibility if you want to grow a successful business. Just thinking about planning is stressful to people who prefer to use their time being creative. There are some major reasons planning is stressful to creative people. Charlie Gilkey suggests several:

Planning requires dedicated attention. It’s often time-consuming when we don’t have that much time spare. It requires focus on something we’re generally not interested in doing.

Planning is something we will never completely finish. It’s an on-going process that must be maintained in the midst of other responsibilities.

Planning gives us a sense of uncertainty and the looming possibility of failure. No one likes this feeling.

Planning requires us to depend on guesswork. It’s hard to see whether what we are predicting is logical or relevant. We have the feeling that we really don’t know what we’re doing, but we do it any way. This leaves us with a prevailing uneasiness.

One of the biggest deterrents to creating a management strategy is the belief that we can go with our gut feelings when making important decisions. We think we will just know what to do when the time comes. This seldom works unless we have years of business experience to draw from. Many businesses have failed using this”fly by the seat of my pants” approach.

Imagining is something we all can do if we make time for it. It’s enjoyable too because there are no limits! Remember, everything started in somebody’s imagination. I believe if we take time to thoroughly define our Vision for our business venture, we can create an exciting guide for our Management strategy. The process would go like this.

Define your Mission, Values, and Vision. See highlighted links for basic direction.

“Only Vision allows us to transform dreams of greatness into the reality of achievement through human action. Tony Dungy

Here we will focus on the Vision that comes from your Mission and Values.

Some examples of great Visions are…

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.” – Southwest Air

“Our vision is to create a better every-day life for many people.” – IKEA

“To be the best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.” – McDonald’s

After you create your general Vision, take it a step further.

My suggestion is to clarify your Vision explicitly.

Example:

  • In 5 years, we will have 10 locations.
  • Our facilities will be bright, innovative and inviting.
  • We will offer customer comforts above others in the industry.
  • We will have 1,000 talented and creative employees.
  • We will provide the highest salaries in the industry.
  • We will own state of the art equipment in every area.
  • Our systems will be standardized and all employees will maintain and constantly   work to improve them.
  • We will be a leader in our industry in the areas of innovation and creativity.
  • We will engage in planning for additional locations.
  • We will have a 98% approval rating from employees and customers.
  • We will become a global competitor in the next 8 years.

Think radically, dream a enormous Vision. Let your mind take you far into the possibilities of the future. Be as specific as you possibly can when describing your future state.

If you thoroughly, and carefully carry out this Vision defining function for your business, you will have an astounding stimulant for your Management strategy. You will know exactly how your business will look in the future. Your Management strategy is how you will get there.

I’m sure you can already see how a definitive Vision will influence your daily business activities. Your Management strategy will flow directly from your Vision targets. You will be able to break each target into its doable components and see your Vision come to life. This will relieve a great amount of uncertainty because you have predefined anchors to measure your results by. Specific parts of your Vision may change because of business results, technological changes or environmental changes but you will have a logical base to start from. Go ahead. Build a legacy.

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

Easy business building steps in “20 Directives for Small Business Success: Do or Die”

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7 Mindsets That Differentiate the Professional From The Business Builder

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All new business owners begin with the intent to grow a great business. The results are painfully different. The SBA reports that only about one third of new businesses survive 10 years or more. Why does this happen? What contributes to the success of the surviving businesses?

Martin Zwilling reported, “Over 25 years ago, Michael E. Gerber wrote a best-selling business book called The E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. The E-Myth (“Entrepreneurial Myth”) is the mistaken belief that most businesses are started by people with tangible business skills, when in fact most are started by “technicians” who know nothing about running a business. Hence most fail.”

The importance of business management skills isn’t widely appreciated even with the Google Library and You Tube University where all the information you would ever need is available to everybody. Most new business owners don’t realize the need for “tangible business skills”.

Therefore, most businesses are started by professional technicians with great skills and no knowledge of the management skills needed to help the business grow and survive.

With the help of Martin Zwilling, contrasting the mindsets of the professional and the business builder will highlight the change in perspective required for building a strong and enduring business.

The Professional Perspective

  1. How much work should I do to get the income I need to stay in business? The owner is concentrating on the volume of work that he/she must personally complete to keep the business running.
  2. What should we offer the customer? Concentration is on the size and scope of the service or product and what is required to please the customers.
  3. How much should your product/service cost to produce and what should be the cost to the customer? Understanding the financial requirements and results in the business is foremost.
  4. How will we get the basic materials we need to supply the product? Supply chain requirements are considered and chosen.
  5. How can I get additional funding? Venture capital or loans are considered for operating costs.
  6. How can we market this business to get more customers? Marketing options are considered and chosen according to available funding.
  7. How will I hire people when I need them and how will I pay them? Hiring workers or getting volunteers are contemplated but often avoided.

The focus is on the present and attempting to keep things as they are now. Seeing what has worked in the past and what seems to be working now is the total consideration of the owner. This perspective often fails.

Of course, these tasks must be completed in any business, but with a different perspective, a good amount of stress is removed because you have business skills to design a Vision and plan for handling the required tasks with projected timelines.

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. Sun Tzu

The Business Builders’ Perspective

  1. How should my business work in today’s environment? This perspective takes into account the changing environment of the business and research is completed to help design how the business will work today and in the future.
  2. What are my competitors doing that I should know about? A careful analysis of existing successful, related businesses is completed to determine the state of the art in the chosen discipline. Internet searches make this task easily accomplished.
  3. What meaning can we bring to the marketplace? The contribution to society the business willmake is taken into consideration and held as guiding principles in the business.
  4. What should my business look like in the future? A Vision of the future is carefully described and used as a business target.
  5. What strategy should I adopt to get to that Vision? An analysis of where you are in the business building process, what targets you wish to reach and how you are going to reach these targets is thought through and designed. This is your strategy.
  6. What systems should be in place to ensure consistent results that satisfy customers and create the best results? These will be routine ways of running the business that can be easily repeated in all important operations. Examples would be a marketing system, a financial system or a customer service system that works the same every time unless changes are indicated.
  7. How can we be better than the rest? Attention to innovation, improvement, excellence and industry leadership are important considerations for this owner.

There are other elements, of course, for each perspective. The listed ones are just a few major differences in the thinking processes of the professional and the business builder. The truth is, the business owner must carry out both roles. Your artistic application of management skills helps you organize and control all aspects for the sustainability and growth of your business.

The business builder takes the perspective of the CEO who sees the big picture then plans for business fortification, endurance and expansion. He/she doesn’t see themselves as always keeping their heads down grinding out the work and hoping they will eventually get help or maybe even afraid to get help. They see themselves as the founder of a great business that will be a benefit to society, financial freedom and personal independence.

Clear management skills recipes: “20 Directives for Small Business Success: Do or Die”

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4 Skills Needed to Sustain and Fortify Your Business Before You Grow.

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Building a great business can’t be left to chance only. More than 90% of new ventures fail because of mismanagement by unsuspecting owners. The excitement of building a business is not enough to help it survive in this ever-changing environment. You can’t just “fly by the seat of your pants.” Even if you are able to acquire substantial amounts of money, if you haven’t worked on foundation building, your venture will not hold up. CB Insights has a collection, “146 Startup Failure Post-Mortems”. It is a definitive collection of business start ups and the circumstances that reveal explicit reasons for their failures. Most of the reasons related to the lack of Management Skills in the owners. The truth is, fundamental principles and procedures must be designed and tested before any thoughts of scaling are considered. Entrepreneurs would be far more prepared to build a successful venture, if they were aware of the Management skills required of a successful business. Following are 4 Best Practice Management skills that you need.

You will be able to clarify and design your Mission.
With this skill you will define what contribution you want to make to society.
This is like the “President” of your organization that dictates the direction of the what, when and why of your venture. It declares to affiliates, employees, customers and the world the reason your venture is organized. Your Mission will remain the same as long as your venture exists.stirling-1224784_1280-2

You will be able to clarify and design your Values.
This skill is critical. Your Values will set you far above the competition if they are designed within state-of-the-art management guidelines. Your Values are the “glue” that holds your organization together. They are the elements that make up your culture and the characteristics of your activities. In other words, it is the essence of how you do business. Values are the main elements that help your organization run smoothly. They are extremely important.

You will be able to clarify and design your Vision.
You will dream a big dream at this point. You will see your business as a big business from the beginning. “Our Vision is what we become in life”, Tony Dungy. Don’t settle with a small business perspective. Think big from the beginning. With your vision, you will set 3 to 5 year goals. Best Practice Management skills will help you achieve your grand Vision.

You will be able to clarify and design your Management Strategy.
With Best Practice Management skills you will match your strategy to your Vision by designing and documenting repeatable Systems that all affiliates can follow and help improve as you go along. Of course, you will incorporate standards and measures to keep you on track. This guide will give you the confidence you need to sustain and fortify your business.

Best Management Practices will help you perform many other management practices in ways that can make you become an industry leader in the world . I have listed just a few of the skills you’ll need. Our Information Age allows us to learn anything we desire just by Googling it or using “You Tube University”. As you can see, it won’t be easy; but no important achievement is gained without consistent, hard work and continuous learning. Save time and eliminate many mistakes by knowing how to manage your new venture.

See also: “20 Directive for Small Business Success: Do or Die”

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