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How to reach your business goals

There are business owners who continue to grow their business and always seem to go from strength to strength. Then there is everyone else who is well intentioned but struggle with the time to manage their business, let alone set goals and then work on achieving them.

It is a proven fact that most small to medium sized organisations do not have a written business plan. No documented business plan means that objectives and strategies are not captured, resulting in a business that lacks direction. In addition, an organisation without a business plan will often lack the confidence to solve their business issues. When business issues remain unresolved they can adversely affect cash flow, revenue and profitability.

The truth is that this lack of formal business planning is one of the major causes of business failure.

A business plan sets out what a business proposes to do and how it proposes to do it. Here are few practical steps to help create a powerful business plan to drive the success of your organisation.

Step 1 – Look at the strength and weaknesses of your competitors. By researching your competitors you are better equipped to understand why clients are attracted to your competitors (i.e. their strengths) and what gaps or niches exist in the market place (i.e. their weaknesses).

Step 2 – Outline the strengths and areas for improvement in your business.

Step 3 – Define the vision for your organisation.

Step 4 – Define your goals. These are areas you want to improve. Typically objectives tend to be financial, operational, business development, staff and IT related. Objectives should be quantifiable by an absolute amount, a percentage and have a specific timeframe for achievement.

Step 5 – Create the strategies which will deliver performance improvements, i.e. how your business will get there.

Step 6 – Identify a timeframe and owner for the achievement of each strategy.

The process of creating a business plan is more important than the document itself.

The process of business planning is beneficial because it gives you:

  • A chance to stop, reflect and learn from past mistakes or wins in your business.
  • An opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas with members of the team.
  • A forum to think critically about goals, e.g. revenue and profit, and this results in targets being set which motivates the team to improve.

High-achievers in the small-to-medium size business sector admit that the turning point in their business was when they prepared their business plan.

Once you have created a sound plan, it is then essential to implement the plan with the support of the right process and people resources. In addition, it is essential to identify intervals for the review of performance against all objectives e.g. monthly, quarterly, annually. This will give feedback as to whether your strategies are working and give you an opportunity to change strategies if need be.

A well thought out business plan is the key to the long-term success of any business. Whether you are just starting a business, buying one already established or perhaps in need of extra finance for expansion you will need a business plan.

If you would like to create a business plan which will deliver the results you want or you'd like some perspective about what's really taking place in your organisation, pick up the phone and contact us now to take advantage of our FREE initial consultation.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

Business planning is one of our most popular services as it is such an important part of driving business success. The following case study demonstrates the benefits of developing and executing a business plan.

What gets measured – gets managed and done!

One of our clients had been in practice for over 10 years and he had developed a successful business, but worked long hours and felt his overall return in profit and salary was not commensurate with his effort and time invested. He was also concerned that the hours he worked impeded spending quality time with his family. When he first contacted us his revenue was not increasing and his profitability was in decline.

When Best Practice Consulting began working with him, his plan was in his head and he informed us that he wanted: 'to deliver excellent service to his customers, have a well run and efficient practice, to make more profit and spend more time with his family'.

This information was used to develop a concise two page business plan which had measurable objectives and specific strategies.

With the assistance of some of his key staff, we implemented the strategies in the business plan and we have seen a dramatic change in his business revenue which increased 49% (or $845,508) and a substantial growth in operating profit - up 48% (or $229,305) over last year.

This is a great example of using a business plan to bring focus to the practice and deliver the saying 'what gets measured - gets managed and done!'

The Secret to Employee Engagement

Are your staff giving 100% to the organisation? Do they feel valued and appreciated? Do they show-up each day with passion and purpose?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions – your organisation has an employee engagement problem. But don't worry - you are not alone. The Hewitt Best Employer Survey results suggest that engaging staff is a big challenge for most Australian organisations. According to their most recent survey – the national average for employee engagement is only 54%.

So why is employee engagement a problem? In Australia unemployment is running at historical lows, we are experiencing an unprecedented skills shortage in various sectors and many organisations have failed to create workplace environments which truly engage staff. These factors have resulted in a highly mobile workforce, which is costly to the organisation in terms of productivity and profit.

The secret to employee engagement is capturing the hearts and minds of your employees. The difficult part is discovering what truly inspires staff to perform above and beyond. Once you discover how to engage your staff the benefits include: a happy and healthy work environment, a more productive team and a more profitable business.

Here are ten tips on creating and sustaining employee engagement.

1. Let go of the negative thoughts you have about your employees. Each person in the team has unique knowledge, skills and something valuable to contribute. Rather than focussing on the weaknesses of a staff member it is important to focus on their strengths and place staff in positions where their strengths are best utilised.

2. Be nice to your staff. Noticing and acknowledging the contribution of your employees and treating them well will have a profound impact. However, staff usually forget compliments quickly, so it essential to give these out regularly and in an authentic way. Also be aware that people like to be noticed in different ways. Some prefer a quiet praise. Others prefer open acknowledgment in front of their peers.

3. Get to know your staff. Show an interest in your people and genuinely get to know them. Understanding the stress factors and motivational drivers for each staff member can be extremely useful in managing them. This will make you more approachable making you the first person they come to when there is a problem. In addition, introducing some light hearted activities into the workplace can change the tone and mood of the organisation.

4. Use clear and regular communication. Staff like to know 'what is going on and why', especially when changes are planned. Regular feedback to staff helps reduce damaging corridor gossip that can be an undercurrent of misinformation. In addition, it is essential to clearly communicate your expectations of staff so that they can be productive and meet targets.

5. Hold performance reviews. Staff are always keen to receive formal feedback on their progress. Using a twice yearly – 360 degree review process (i.e. feedback from superiors, peers, support staff and some clients) is ideal. The process is also a great way of formally acknowledging the contribution of staff. When staff do not receive feedback and do not see any future with the organisation, they quickly start to look for greener fields.

6. Equipping your staff with the right tools. Following a performance review, training needs should be identified and appropriate courses need to be selected for staff to undertake. Ongoing training programs show staff that the organisation is interested in and responsive to their needs for improvement. You also equip staff with the skills and tools to perform at their best.

7. Offer career progression. An important driver in keeping staff engaged is to offer a career development program for each staff member. Opportunities need to be identified for appropriate staff and they need to be groomed for positions via training and mentoring.

8. Provide inspiring leadership and give individual autonomy. When new employees join an organisation, leaders need to impart the values and aspirations of the business. Staff look to management for leadership and direction, but this does not mean they need to be monitored every step of the way. No one enjoys being micro-managed! Instead inspire excellence in your staff and allow them the freedom and autonomy to deliver on tasks.

9. Remuneration and incentives. So that salaries are fair they should be monitored on an ongoing basis to keep track of changes in the market for different job roles and experience levels. Employers should also adjust salaries yearly for those staff not changing their roles and responsibilities, to ensure staff don't fall behind. Many workplaces have also introduced incentive payments that are linked both to the person's individual performance and the overall performance of the organisation. The process for calculating incentive payments needs to be transparent and clearly communicated to staff. Incentives are an important recognition tool and a way of sharing the organisations success with staff due to their efforts.

10. Flexible working arrangements. Lifestyle and work-life balance are becoming important for today's workforce and employers need to adapt and offer greater flexibility. Some workplaces offer flexible working arrangements or have wellbeing and lifestyle programs in place, such as gym membership and cinema admission for their staff. These programs demonstrate the caring nature of the organisation.

Our experience with clients is that those organisations that have processes in place to manage the above tips are more successful because their staff are engaged and committed. Not surprisingly, their staff work harder, perform that extra 10%, accomplish more, are more loyal and speak positively about the organisation.

If you are worried your organisation suffers from an employee engagement problem or you'd like some perspective about what's really taking place in your organisation, contact us. The quicker you take action – the quicker one of our business coaches and consultants can help you develop practical solutions to improve your staff engagement and commitment.

Eliminating a culture of blame

"Is your organisation emotionally charged because it suffers from a culture of blame? Do you feel like you have lost control of your staff? Discover today one of the best tools for effective staff management!"

"A great workplace culture is integral to the success of your organisation". Yes that's right – that touchy feely area that many of us don't really understand might be the mystery ingredient you are missing to build a truly great organisation.

In this article we will look at the number one problem in most organisations today – that is a "culture of blame" and what you can do to change this culture so that your organisation can focus on the important areas that contribute to success.

So why does a culture of blame run rampant through some organisations?

Sometimes it results from bullying leaders who create a culture of fear. Sometimes it results from a "good news" culture which is created when the leader is only interested in hearing good news. In such organisations staff tend to shy away from passing on bad news because it is common practice to "shoot the messenger".

How does a culture of blame impact an organisation?

1. Blame has an emotional context. Cultures of blames usually operate with emotions of fear, anger and resentment which create dysfunctional relationships and poor staff morale.

2. Blame shifts energy and focus. As a result of fear-based emotions linked to blame, staff shift their energies from the interest of the group towards self-preservation.

3. Blame creates biases. As mental energies shift to defending one's own position, biases are introduced that alter the accurate perception and assessment of situations.

4. Blame inhibits creativity. When blame is prevalent, fear exists and individuals tend not to take risks or to think creatively, favouring instead the avoidance of blame.

5. Blame is expensive. Blame has very real costs to an organisation via poor quality, service failures and lost customers. In addition, poor staff morale and high staff turnover add increasing costs to the business via recruitment and training. Finally, the lost opportunity costs of low innovation, inability to create better products, quality and service will lead to a substantial negative impact on the revenue streams of the organisation.

Playing above or below the line – a model for managing cultures of blame

What is playing below the line? In an organisation whenever you find people deflecting attention from the real issue either by pointing the finger and/or looking to blame others – then we have someone playing below the line. Blame, excuses and denial become the norm and this in turn negatively affects workplace culture.

Below the line behaviours: blame, excuses and denial.

What is playing above the line? This involves staff in an organisation accepting responsibility for their actions and behaviours. Once all people in your organisation (especially leaders) start living and breathing the principles of ownership, accountability and responsibility a positive culture is created.

Above the line behaviours: ownership, accountability and responsibility.

Playing above the line is not easy, but it is very rewarding and empowering. This is because we grow-up (start displaying adult behaviour) and we get to experience the power of our choices and our actions, and we are no longer "think and feel" we are helpless victims.

Here is an example to illustrate the difference between playing above or below the line. An employee arrives at work and says "I am late because I got caught in a traffic jam". Now the traffic jam could have been due to an accident that no one could have predicted. Below the line language would be: "I am sorry I have kept you waiting. I got caught in this terrible traffic jam...." and go on and on with the story justifying your lateness. Above the line language would be: "I am late and I apologise for keeping you waiting". Here the individual demonstrates ownership and takes responsibility for being late and its impact. The reasons for lateness are not important.

Ways of eliminating a culture of blame

The elimination of blame from the culture of an organisation can be a complex and slow process, but here are a few practical tips that might help.

  1. Share your mission with the team and clearly define the role each person plays in achieving the big picture.
  2. Have a values, behaviours and process focus instead of blaming people.
  3. Use effective communication techniques which consider other perspectives and check assumptions before reacting.
  4. Use the playing above or below the line model and make sure everyone in the organisation (especially leaders) are accountable.

When leaders focus on values, behaviours, processes, sharing purpose and communicating effectively - blame based behaviours gradually lessen over time. Most importantly, trust among team members is enhanced and staff can begin focusing on improving organisational processes and achieving outcomes.

To get the best results for your organisation, you have to get the best out of your people and your human resource management processes will greatly assist in maximising the benefits to your organisation.

If you are worried your organisation suffers from a culture of blame or you would like some perspective about the culture that is really taking place in your organisation, call us. The quicker you take action – the quicker one of our business coaches or consultants can help develop practical solutions to improve your staff management and workplace culture.

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