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Using Google Forms to be More Efficient

 

If you’re super busy and you’re using hand-written forms or checklists, but you have a smartphone, pad, or laptop, I’m going to show you how to create an easy online replacement for those paper forms. As an example, let’s say that you own a golf cart maintenance company that uses paper carbon forms to record all the information for service and maintenance done on each cart you service. I actually just created this type of online form for one of my customers and it took less than 60 minutes to create, test, and send them the links.

I’m going to show you how to create the online form using Google Forms. It’s free if you have a Google account, and you have a Google account if you use Gmail. Even if you don’t use Gmail for your business, it’s totally worth it to get a free Google account just to gain access to all the great free features. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Google sales person, there are lots of other ways to put your paper forms online…just very few that are totally free and this easy.

 

Once you’ve logged into Google, you want to select the square matrix in the upper right corner. This gives you a drop-down list of all the Google apps. Then select “Drive”. This will bring you to your “My Drive” where you’ll store all your files. If you haven’t used Google Drive before this will be blank. If you have used Google Drive, then you can skip ahead.

To create a new “form”, select the “NEW” button in the upper left corner. This will give you a drop-down list of the styles of documents available for creation. To get to “Forms” select “More” and select “Google Forms” at the top of the next drop-down list. This will open a new Google Form for you to work on.

First, let’s select a background color scheme by selecting the color palette in the upper right-hand corner. Let’s change the color scheme to blue. You can also select a photo or picture from Google’s library or download one from your computer. Let’s select the sailboat picture. Your form is looking better already.

The form has two pages: “Questions” and “Responses”. The “Questions” are where you put in all the information that you want on your form. We’ll discuss “Responses” later.

You want to name your form. Select “Untitled form” and type in the name you want. This will rename the file also. You can also type in a form description below the title if you would like. If you leave it blank, it will not show up in the final form.

Next, let’s create the body of the form. Enter the title of first information you want filled in by selecting “Untitled Question”. You can always go back and change any of the pieces of the form later. To the right, select the drop-down list to change the type of answer you want filled out. Let’s use “Short Answer” for this question. Let’s go back and change “Customer Information” to “Customer Name”.

On the bottom right corner of each “question”, you’ll see “Required” with an on/off switch. If you want the person filling out the form to be required to fill in that particular question, turn the switch on (to the right). Next to “Required” is three vertical dots indicating a drop-down list. Selecting the drop-down list gives you the choices of “Hint text” and “Data validation”. Hint text is the text below the Title of the Question that instructs the person how to answer. “Data validation” is used if you require a specific type of answer such as an email, a phone number, or a text answer of a certain length. You can see that the choices for each drop-down list are descriptive by just moving your cursor over each. If you decide you don’t want either, just go back to the three vertical dots drop-down list and un-check what you don’t want.

To the far right of the form, you see a vertical list of symbols. The “plus” button is to add additional questions. The “Tt” button is to add additional an Title and Description. The “photo” button allows you to add pictures and photos from your library or computer. The “play” button allows you to add videos from your library or computer. And the “equals sign” button allows you to add a new section which shows up in the form as a new page.

Now let’s add a new Title and Description called “Section 1 – Quarterly Maintenance Requirements” and a description. Then, let’s add another question and call it “Quarterly Maintenance Checklist”. Let’s make this a checklist and type in all the tasks that are potentially required for the checklist. Pardon my typing. Now let’s add a comment or notes question at the bottom.

Reviewing your form creation, you just realized that you need more customer information at the top. So let’s go back to the top and add questions for Service Date, Reason for Service, Address, and Golf Cart Identification. You can see how you can move back and forth in the form to add questions and sections where you need them.

Again after reviewing your form, you realize that it would be clearer to have the customer information in one section and the checklist in another section. So let’s make the checklist in a different section. You see that all you have to do to delete a question or section is to select that area and then select the “trashcan”.

Now let’s make a couple more sections. These easiest way is to select the three vertical dots drop-down list and select “duplicate section”. Then just change whatever you want to in the new section. By now, I think you’re getting the hang of it. It’s really easy.

Now let’s look at the “Responses” page of the form. Click on “Responses”. On the right side there is a three vertical dot drop-down list. This offers choices of where to save your responses. If you select “Select response destination” you can choose to have a Google Sheet created automatically to keep all the responses for you with the same name you gave the form. This is recommended and the easiest. Or you can save your responses to an existing spreadsheet if you already set one up.

On the right below the drop-down list is a switch called “Accepting responses”. If this is one, the form can be filled out and the responses recorded. If you switch this off, when someone tries to fill out the form they get a notification stating that the form is no longer accepting responses. This is a good feature to have to be able to notify people who may not be using the latest form, or if you are using the form for time sensitive responses.

If you would like to see a preview of what your form looks like as you’re working on it, click the “eye” in the upper right corner of the form. This opens a preview of the form in a new tab in your browser. You can even test it by entering information and working your way through the form. You can see that if the person filling out the form does not enter information in the “required” questions, they will receive an error message and will not be allowed to continue through to the next section.

When you’re done with all the sections, just click “SUBMIT” at the bottom and all your responses will be saved in the spreadsheet your created. In addition, a link will be provided to fill out the form again. This is useful in situations like this example, however, if you want to you can turn this off.

If you switch back to the tab with the form, you will see on the “Responses” tab, a general summary of the answers that you have received. For a more detailed look at the answers, go back to your “My Drive” and select the Google Sheet with the same name as your form. This spreadsheet provides a time-stamp showing when the person filled out the form, and all the responses to all the questions.

To provide a person with the link to be able to fill out the form, just right click on the form file name, and select “Get link” from the drop-down list. A popup will show the link and you can just copy and paste it into an email, text, or other document, or social media, or website.

That’s all there is to it.

If it all seems like too much, let us help. Subscribe to our blog or contact us at wowsuccessteam@gmail.com or visit us at WOWSuccessTeam.com.

Mahalo and much success,
Lynn Herkes
WOWSuccessTeam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Culture in Business: How Important Is It, Really?

The short answer is…really, really important. All businesses have a culture, whether you recognize it or not. And that culture reflects on everything from how your employees treat each other to how they treat your customers to how you treat them. A strong, positive, healthy culture can improve your company’s reputation, productivity, quality, employee and customer retention. While a negative, in-congruent, unhealthy culture can lead to your company’s eventual demise.

Culture in business can be defined in many ways. However, Josh Bersin’s definition seems the most succinct “culture is the set of behaviors, values, artifacts, reward systems, and rituals that make up your organization”. This basically means that everything that goes on in your company and between your company and your customers and vendors defines your company’s culture, and in essence makes up part of your brand. It’s what people “feel” when they interact with your company. Which supports the answer to the question about how very important culture is for your company.

Unfortunately, if you think you may have a culture that is not helping your brand or meshing with your mission or values, you need to work to change it. And changing a company’s culture is no small task. The first step is understanding and defining your company’s culture so you know where you stand, and how much work you have in front of you.

We offer a free cultural assessment to help you do just that here.

Once you have a grasp on what your culture looks like, you can take steps to begin to transform that culture into one that matches your goals, mission, and values. And in today’s highly competitive and fast-paced business environment, even small companies need to understand that “it’s not about who’s bigger, better, brighter, or faster; it’s about who is empowered to leverage the power of culture to optimize an organization’s bottom line” (Denise Pirrotti Hummel, Oracle). In other words, you need to care about your culture, and take care to groom your culture to keep your company competitive, locally or globally.

If it all seems like too much, let us help. Contact us at wowsuccessteam@gmail.com or visit us at WOWSuccessTeam.com.

Mahalo and much success,

Lynn Herkes
WOWSuccessTeam

 

References

Bersin, J. (2015, March 13). Culture: Why It’s the Hottest Topic in Business Today. Retrieved from Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2015/03/13/culture-why-its-the-hottest-topic-in-business-today/

Groth, A. (2013, January 22). Workplace Culture Is More Important Than Anything Else. Retrieved from Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/workplace-culture-is-important-2013-1

Hummel, D. P. (2012, May). Understanding the Importance of Culture in Global Business. Retrieved from Oracle.com: http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/profit/archives/opinion/050312-dhummel-1614961.html

Luanne Kelchner, Demand Media. (2015). Importance of a Healthy Corporate Culture. Retrieved from SmallBusiness.Chron.com: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/importance-healthy-corporate-culture-20899.html

Morgan, J. (2015, January 23). The Importance of Corporate Culture. Retrieved from Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2015/01/23/the-importance-of-corporate-culture/

Vaishnavi, V. (2012, September 26). The Importance Of Maintaining Company Culture As Your Business Scales. Retrieved from Forbes.com: http://www.forbes.com/sites/vickvaishnavi/2013/09/26/maintaining-company-culture-as-the-business-scales/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to all…

…no matter what holidays you celebrate…Lynn, Bob, Niele, Koa, and Seppe wish you all the happiest holidays and most successful New Year ever!

Mele Kalikimaka & Hau’oli Makahikihou!

Lynn, Bob, Niele, Koa, Seppe

Bob & Lynn

Bob & Lynn

Seppe & Koa

Seppe & Koa

Niele

Niele

How to Effectively Increase Your Prices

We’ve all experienced price increases as a customer. The examples are extremely numerous. How about the ever-changing and completely random and unannounced gas prices? And what about the sneaky way food companies have decreased the package sizing on many food items and kept the price the same – like ice cream, pizza, cheese, and cereal. So the first step, as a business owner, is to ask yourself “do I want to treat my customers the way these large corporations treat me as a consumer?” I think your answer will be the same as mine…No.

So how do you effectively increase your prices without treating your customers like nameless, faceless consumers? The first step is to strategize how you’re going to create the most value for your customers along with the price increase. And then you want to plan the most appropriate timing for your price increase. There are quite a few ways to implement a price change each with its own benefits and challenges.

  • One Large Price Increase: sometimes circumstances warrant one large price increase. An example is if you’ve been in business for a while and have many long-time customers, and you have not changed your prices for a very long time. This is works especially well if the industry as a whole has overall higher pricing. In this case, you have built high value for your customers over time, and most likely your costs have increased over time as well.
  • Small Price Increase with the Same Value: in this case, you may have experienced an increase in your costs, and you already have proven high value to your customers. You can introduce a small price increase that is justified by the cost increase and be specific letting your customers know that the high value will continue. This type of increase can be used to bring your prices in line with industry-wide increases instead of one large price increase if you feel this will be more readily accepted by your customers. You can also plan several small price increases over a long period of time to catch up your prices to the industry standards such as over a period of years, but you need to ensure that your value to your customer remains constant or increases as well.
  • Increase Price & Increase Value: if you have increased the value of products and services that you have offered over time without increasing your prices, you can offer this explanation as justification for increased prices. If you’re customers have been with you through this type of growth and value creation, they will most likely wonder why you hadn’t increased your prices sooner.
  • Layered Prices & Increase Value: using this technique you would keep the price and value the same for your original products and services, and create an additional layer of premier or specialized products and services that add increased value to your customers. Theses premier products and services would be priced higher than the original, but will over-deliver in customer value. You can also incorporate a time-limited special offer to your long-time customers with a discount price to allow them the option to move to the new products and services that offer the higher value.
  • Price Structure Change & Increase Value: in this option, you have an original pricing structure and you are moving to a different pricing structure. Using this option can greatly increase your profit margin over time, however, you have to emphasize the increase in value and benefits to the customer so that you provide an irresistible drive for the new pricing structure. A good example of this is to change from an hourly consulting fee to a project fee. The benefits to the customer would be that they are getting all the same services and quality with one set price that is actually lower than the hourly fees. This change is beneficial to you since you can provide the same services, but your costs go down as you improve your internal operational efficiencies.
  • Specialized Products & Services Bundled with Existing Products & Services: to implement this structure, you offer the same products at the existing rates, however you add offers at a higher price that bundle the existing products with additional products that are specialized and geared towards specific customers. For example, you own an air conditioning company, and you have regular customers that pay for semi-annual air conditioning maintenance at a standard price. You most likely also find issues during the maintenance that need service such as replacing UV bulbs. You can offer those customers a special annual price for semi-annual maintenance that would include the maintenance twice a year plus replacing the UV bulbs once a year. This price would be less than the cost of the normal service call and replacement of the bulbs, but still provide a reasonable profit margin for you. And it would save the time and effort of writing proposals for the UV bulb replacement, it would put the bulb replacement on a regular schedule, and would allow for just-in-time inventory ordering of the UV bulbs which would reduce your inventory costs. Plus the customer’s perceived value for the regular additional specialized maintenance would provide a higher level of customer experience and care.

Timing is key to all of the various types of price increases. It’s best to study your monthly sales and revenues and find the time of highest demand. If you introduce your changes shortly before the times of highest demand, customers are more likely to accept the increase. But if you introduce your changes at times of lowest demand, customers may decide they need to get bids from other companies or change companies all together.

So how do you present all this to your customers to keep your relationships in the best condition? First, you want to thank your customers for their continue patronage and support for your business throughout the years. If you can individualize the announcements to each customer, that is always an extra classy touch that will add to your customer’s trust and belief in your company. Additionally, you want to be completely honest in your explanation of the pricing, value, and structure change. If the changes are based on specific cost increases, state exactly what those increases are. If the changes are based on the increased value your company has offered over time, and you are moving towards the industry standard pricing, state that. You always want to announce the changes at least one month or more prior to the planned price change. It’s a good idea to offer a deal or special discounted price to your best long-time customers. You can even announce the changes to these customers in advance of the rest of your customers and the public, and allow a special timeframe for these customers to obtain discounted pricing on the changes.

The most important thing to remember is to approach your customers the way you want to be approached for a price increase. Do you want to buy from a company that incorporates a sneaky product size or quality decrease? Or do you want to be treated with respect and informed of the details and allowed to make a choice? Which do you think will build more loyal customers?

If it all seems like too much, let us help. Contact us at wowsuccessteam@gmail.com or visit us at WOWSuccessTeam.com.

Mahalo and much success,

Lynn Herkes
WOWSuccessTeam

 

References

How to Raise and Lower Your Prices. (2015). Retrieved from Entrepreneur: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/66010

Michalowicz, M. (2014, August 21). 5 Tricks to Raising Your Prices Without Losing Clients. Retrieved from American Express Open Forum: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/5-tricks-to-raising-your-prices-without-losing-clients/

Young Entrepreneur Council. (2013, October 14). 10 Ways to Raise Your Prices Without Losing Customers. Retrieved from Inc.com: http://www.inc.com/young-enterpreneur-council/10-ways-to-raise-your-prices-without-losing-customers.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Switching Off at the End of the Day

If this is your first business, or your fifth, you know that many days it’s difficult to stop working because there’s so much to do. But in the back of your mind, you also know that if you don’t stop working, and get some down-time and good sleep, your brain turns to mush and your energy levels go to rock bottom. And you also know that sometimes, even though you stop working, your brain is still running through all the problems and issues that are keeping you from switching off and possibly from sleeping and enjoying time with your friends and family.

We’ve gathered some tips for you that should help. But “switching off” whether you’re just starting out or a serial entrepreneur with million dollar businesses is a learned habit that needs consistency and practice just like anything else. So use these tips and make a routine that works, and stick to it until it’s a habit.

  • Make a List of Issues and Priorities

This is one of the most helpful tips I’ve ever used. At the end of your day, take 5-15 minutes and either write or type a list of all the issues that need to be taken care of over the next day, week, month, and year (you can choose your timeframe, but at least do a list for the next day). Then prioritize the list. Some people use numbers, some use letters, but prioritize the list. Just writing down all the issues and getting them out of your head will greatly help you be able to shift from work to personal time. And it will help you be more organized the next day.

  • Plan Tomorrow

I’ve always been much more successful when I’ve planned my day the night before. Take the priority list you created and spend 5 minutes planning which 3-5 items absolutely need to be accomplished tomorrow. You can even use the Franklin Covey method, and make a secondary priority list…just in case you end up being super-efficient and needing more tasks to accomplish.

  • Write Down Your Daily Achievements

I didn’t realize how powerful this was for my focus and stress relief until I tried it. If you take a few minutes before you go to bed and write down at least 3 things you achieved that day, you’ll be able to end the day on positive note. And it really helps your thoughts as you fall asleep. Obviously results vary, but I found that my sleep was less restless and my dreams were more positive (instead of stressed out nightmares with crazy images and a tired brain). I would just jot 3 things down in an app in my phone, but you could use paper or your laptop, or just a quick meditation.

  • Start and Stop at Regular Times

If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking “Yeah, right, I own my own business…I’m not one of my employees…there’s no way I can start and stop at regular times”. But it is possible. Take it from someone who’s almost always worked and ran a business at the same time. This doesn’t mean you need to have banker’s hours (no jab to bankers). But if you set specific start and stop times for your business, you’ll find that it not only becomes a habit, but you will become more effective during the hours you allow for business. There’s something about human nature that makes us less efficient if we don’t press ourselves to complete our tasks in a specific timeframe. So make your priority list, and schedule your start and stop times. You’ll see a change for the better in no time.

  • Develop a Regular End of Day Routine

There are many, many relaxation routines you can come up with. Some people watch an hour of TV, some people wash dishes, some spend time with family or friends, others meditate. And even multi-million dollar entrepreneurs have their routines. My routine consists of running the dogs, then feeding them, then feeding me, then working until about 8pm. Then I’ll watch an hour of brainless TV (if I can stay awake that long), then take a really hot shower. Boom! Out like a light. And don’t forget your start of day routine…that’s important too. In fact, routines in general, make you more effective. These routines help our brains learn and understand when it’s time to focus and when it’s time to relax.

  • Schedule Time for Yourself, Family, and Friends

Develop communication with your family and friends that will allow you to plan around fun time and work time. Even if you plan only a few hours on certain days, it’s better to have something that you can work into your schedule, then to let your business take over your entire life. Down-time increases your energy and productivity, and it can improve your creativity, which can give you more ideas how to improve your business and manage your time.

As business owners, we often feel the demands of the business affects our personal lives. Use these tips to help you take back your time, while also pushing yourself to get more done in each day. The articles I’ve referenced provide even more ways to help you manage your time.

If it all seems like too much, let us help. Contact us at wowsuccessteam@gmail.com or visit us at WOWSuccessTeam.com.

Mahalo and much success,
Lynn Herkes
WOWSuccessTeam

 

References

Brown, J. (2015, August 12). You can Achieve Work-Life Balance as an Entrepreneur (Even With a Newborn). Retrieved from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2015/08/12/you-can-achieve-work-life-balance-as-an-entrepreneur-even-with-a-newborn/

Focus: Achieving Your Highest Priorities. (2015). Retrieved from FranklinCovey: http://www.franklincovey.com/tc/mediaengine/public/files/fl_focus_v6.swf

Foster, J. O. (2011, September 23). How to Switch off at the End of the Day. Retrieved from Love Your Small Business: Profit with Purpose: http://loveyoursmallbusiness.com/work-life-balance/switch-day/

Shamini Jain, S. L. (2015, January 10). A Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation Versus Relaxation Training: Effects on Distress, Positive States of Mind, Rumination, and Distraction. Retrieved from ResearchGate: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/6514209_A_Randomized_Controlled_Trial_of_Mindfulness_Meditation_Versus_Relaxation_Training_Effects_on_Distress_Positive_States_of_Mind_Rumination_and_Distraction

Simmons, M. (2015, August 26). How Miilionaire Entrepreneurs Shutoff Work in the Evening. Retrieved from Inc.com: http://www.inc.com/michael-simmons/12-essential-night-time-rituals-of-millionaire-entrepreneurs-part-2.html

Simmons, M. (2015, August 26). How Millionaire Entrepreneurs Hack Their Sleep. Retrieved from Inc.com: http://www.inc.com/michael-simmons/12-essential-night-time-rituals-of-millionaire-entrepreneurs-part-4.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Create Proposals for Your Customers

As a small business owner, I’ve run across instances where I needed a proposal and where an estimate would work. What’s the difference? Simply stated, an estimate provides the product or service and its cost including any labor, taxes, or other fees. You normally provide an estimate for a customer or potential customer that has asked to know how much it would cost for your product or service. On the other hand, a proposal is more of a sales document – an estimate on steroids to convince the potential customer that you have the right solution to meet their needs.

While you can easily come up with an estimate, a proposal requires a bit more effort to succeed. Sometimes potential clients will submit a “Request for Proposal” which is an official document requesting businesses to “bid” on solutions to their problem. But many times, a potential customer may simply request a proposal from you and you might not even know they have asked other businesses for the same thing.

Since a proposal needs to convince the potential customer that your solution is the one to solve their problem, you need to plan your proposal by following the steps outlined below. Even if your proposal is only a couple pages, following the basic plan and doing your research may make the difference between getting the job and losing to the competition.

  • Carefully study the requirements or the customer’s “issue”

It’s critical to clearly understand your customer’s “issue” and what’s important to your customer. In evaluating the issue, also make it a point to understand the underlying causes of the issue or problem and if any other solutions have been tried before. Did these solutions work or fail? Why did the issue arise again? Is there a cause that is being overlooked? Is there an attribute that this customer is looking for that other companies aren’t understanding?

  • Research and understand the customer

To be able to ensure that your solution not only solves the problem at hand, but satisfies the customer’s needs and wants, you will have to find out more about your potential customer. Is cost most important to the customer? Or is quality or a warranty more important? Or is customer service the most important? Researching these customer needs may take some investigation such as asking other companies that may have worked for this customer previously in another industry. You can also ask the customer or their employees’ questions that will help you develop an understanding of the customer.

  • Develop your approach

You know how to solve the problem, but you need to sculpt your solution to meet the expectations that you researched in 1 and 2 above. Use the information you identified to develop the wording, pricing, and scheduling for your definition of the problem and discussion of the solution.

  • Evaluate your solution

Test drive your solution against steps 1, 2, and 3 above and make sure you are the solution the customer is looking for based on your findings. If there is any doubt, re-evaluate your approach and fine tune your solution.

  • Know your competition

Make sure you research your competition. Even if you don’t know if other businesses will be submitting proposals, it’s best to see if any other companies have solutions and how yours compares. If you find that the competition offers a better value to the customer, evaluate if your solution offers more value, or if you can adjust your solution to provide more value.

  • Write it

Your proposal should include an executive summary which includes: a) a summary of the basic issue(s); b) a succinct description of the proposed solution; c) the expected results including the goal, the expected outcome, the solution overview, and a call to action (to choose you). In the body of the proposal you will expand upon these sections and provide facts and proof why your solution works and why it is the best choice for this customer.

  • Edit it

Ruthlessly edit your proposal. Even if you have to ask a friend or employee to assist you. It’s amazing how much power a misspelled word or improper grammar can have on a customer’s decision even if your solution is superior to the competition.

The method of submittal for your proposal is normally described in the “Request for Proposal” (RFP). However, if there was no RFP, use your research regarding the customer to determine the most effective way to submit your proposal. This additional touch will help show that you understand your customer and what they are looking for.

Mahalo and much success,
Lynn Herkes
WOWSuccessTeam

 

References

Clayton, S. (1996, January 31). 7 Steps To A Winning Business Proposal. Retrieved from Entrepreneur: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/21834

How to Write a Proposal. (2015). Retrieved from wikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Proposal

James, G. (2014, February 26). How to Write a Winning Proposal. Retrieved from Inc.: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/how-to-write-a-winning-proposal.html

Turak, A. (2013, February 18). How to Write a Plan or Proposal That Rocks. Retrieved from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/augustturak/2013/02/18/how-to-write-a-plan-or-proposal-that-rocks/

 

 

Creating and Sticking to a Business Plan

If you’re like I was when I started my first business, I started the business and was knee deep into it before someone finally said “do you have a business plan”? And even though I wasn’t looking for funding, I wish I had taken the time to at least write a simple plan. It would have been very beneficial through various crossroads along the way. So if you haven’t taken the time to write even a simple business plan, here’s why it’s important and some creation tips that might help.

One of the biggest benefits to having a business plan is to help you stay on track. This includes the direction of your intended products and services as well as how to successfully change directions when needed. A perfect example of this is when I had grown my dressage training business to the point where I had practically outgrown the facility we were at. But like I said, I never did a business plan, and I definitely didn’t track my growth or my customers, or market, or any real business data. So when I planned to move to a larger facility, I didn’t really have a “feel” for things like how much to spend on what type of marketing or even if my customers would want to move, or what kind of clientele the new facility would attract or if my pricing and training options were appropriate. Needless to say, my move was a very expensive lesson in what not to do.

Another important benefit is that researching and monitoring your sales, cost of sales, marketing ROI, and business processes against a business plan will allow you to make course corrections and future decisions much more effectively than relying on your “gut”. It will also help you with your planning and prioritizing in areas such as growth, management, and financial health. Determining milestones, or due dates, will help you stay on track and understand how long it actually takes to meet your goals.

A business plan will also help you break down your dreams into short-, medium-, and long-term goals. You’ll be able to more clearly determine if you’re meeting your objectives when you need to expand, hire, or cut-back. You’ll learn to be more proactive instead of reactive, which is always better for becoming successful. And your plan doesn’t have to be super fancy or complicated.

So how do you write a business plan? First, do some research. Determine what your goals and objectives are for your business. It’s important to breakdown your goals into short (1 year), medium (3-5 years), and long-term (5-10 years) goals. Next, crunch some numbers to define what your financial needs will be over the same time periods. If you need to do some additional research to get more concrete values for costs, expenses, and potential revenues, make sure you write down where you got your information (for future reference). This type of information will be known as your “assumptions” if you don’t already have existing numbers to use.

Once you’ve done some background research, crunched some numbers, and laid out the basics, you want to write an Executive Summary. This will be an attention grabbing description of what you do and why the reader should read the rest of the plan. Many times the executive summary is the only part of the plan potential partners, investors, or backers will read. Start with an enticing statement about what your company does and why it’s important.

The next section is a detailed description of your business, your industry, information on markets in the industry, and a present and future outlook on those markets. This section also needs to include any new products, services, or developments in the market that may positively or negatively affect your business.

The third section will included market strategies including a detailed, thorough market analysis. The market analysis should include the results of your detailed market research and a definition of your intended target market.

The fourth section is a competitive analysis. A common method of creating a competitive analysis is using a SWOT analysis where you analyze your company’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats based on your market research in the proceeding section.

The next section will describe your products and/or services and your company’s development plan with respect to production, marketing, and budget. It’s best to use charts and graphs that clearly show your short-, medium-, and long-term plans.

The next to last section will be the operations and management section. You will describe how your business functions including operations, logistics, management team and responsibilities as well as your capital and expense requirements. Again, it’s a good idea to use graphs and charts to clearly define these parameters.

Your final section will be your financial plan. This section will define how much external funding your company will need from short- to long-term. You will need to clearly describe where and how the funds will be used and what assets will be required.

Now that you know why you need a business plan and a general overview of how to write one, let’s discuss why it’s important to stick to your plan. Simply stated, it’s not. What’s important about having a business plan is to use it as a tool. As with any plan, it’s meant to be a tool that guides you through a process…the process of developing your business along your defined goals. Therefore, you need to regularly track your progress against the metrics defined in your plan and re-evaluate your plan and make adjustments to meet your goals. That is the most critical part of having a plan.

Another example of using a plan as a tool comes from my experience as a dive instructor. We were always taught to “plan our dive and dive our plan”. And many times that was exactly what happened. But we all know, especially if we dive, things happen, and as dive instructors, we were highly trained in effectively dealing with these types of “things”. So even though we “planned our dive”, and did our best to “dive our plan”, when “things” occurred that weren’t in the plan, it was imperative to reassess the method of achieving the goals of the plan, and adjust accordingly. That’s the key! And, of course, to enjoy the dive along the way!

Mahalo and much success,
Lynn Herkes
WOWSuccessTeam

 

References

Barry, T. (2015). A Simple Business Plan. Retrieved from Entrepreneur: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/78610

Berry, T. (2013, September 6). 10 Business Plans Benefits You Might Be Forgetting. Retrieved from Entrepreneur: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228220

Berry, T. (2014, February 24). When and Why Should You Stick to the Plan? Retrieved from SBA: https://www.sba.gov/blogs/when-and-why-should-you-stick-plan

Bert Markgraf of Demand Media. (2015). Short-term, Medium-term, and Long-term Planning in Business. Retrieved from Chron: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/shortterm-mediumterm-longterm-planning-business-60193.html

Business Plans: A Step-by-Step Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved from Entrepreneur: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247574

Create Your Business Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved from SBA: https://www.sba.gov/writing-business-plan

Lavinsky, D. (2014, January 30). How To Write a Business Plan. Retrieved from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/davelavinsky/2014/01/30/how-to-write-a-business-plan/

Markowitz, E. (2010, September 15). How to Wrtie an Executive Summary. Retrieved from Inc.: http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/09/how-to-write-an-executive-summary.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Create Proposals for Your Customers

As a small business owner, I’ve run across instances where I needed a proposal and where an estimate would work. What’s the difference? Simply stated, an estimate provides the product or service and it’s cost including any labor, taxes, or other fees. You normally provide an estimate for a customer or potential customer that has asked to know how much it would cost for your service. On the other hand, a proposal is more of a sales document – an estimate on steroids to convince the potential customer that you have the right solution to meet their needs.

While you can easily come up with an estimate, a proposal requires a bit more effort to succeed. Sometimes potential clients will submit a “Request for Proposal” which is an official document requesting businesses to “bid” on solutions to their problem. But many times, a potential customer may simply request a proposal from you and you might not even know they have asked other businesses for the same.

Since a proposal needs to convince the potential customer that your solution is the one to solve their problem, you need to plan your proposal and follow the steps outlined below. Even if you proposal is only a couple pages, following the basic plan and doing your research will make the difference between getting the job and losing to the competition.

  1. Carefully study the requirements or the customer’s “issue”

It’s critical to clearly understand your customers “issue” and what’s important to your customer. In evaluating the issue, also make it a point to understand the underlying causes of the issue or problem and if any other solutions have been tried before. Did these solutions work or fail? Why did the issue arise again? Is there a cause that is being overlooked? Is there an attribute that this customer is looking for that others aren’t understanding?  Carefully study the requirements or the customer’s “issue”

2. Research and understand the customer

To be able to ensure that your solution not only solves the problem at hand, but satisfies the customer’s needs and wants, you will have to find out more about the customer. Is cost most important to the customer? Or is quality or a warranty more important? Or is customer service the most important? Researching these customer needs may take some investigation through channels such as other companies that may have worked for this customer previously in another area. You can also ask the customer or their employees’ questions that will help you develop an understanding of the customer.

3. Develop your approach

You know how to solve the problem, but you need to sculpt your solution to meet the expectations that you researched in 1 and 2 above. Use the information you identified to develop the wording, pricing, and scheduling for your definition of the problem and discussion of the solution.

4. Evaluate your solution

Test drive your solution against steps 1, 2, and 3 above and make sure you are the solution the customer is looking for based on your findings. If there is any doubt, re-evaluate your approach and fine tune your solution.

5. Know your competition

Make sure you research your competition. Even if you don’t know if other businesses will be submitting proposals, it’s best to see if any other companies have solutions and how yours compares. If you find that the competition offers a better value to the customer, evaluate if your solution offers more value, or if you can adjust your solution to provide more value.

6. Write it

Your proposal should include an executive summary which includes: a) a summary of the basic issue(s); b) a succinct description of the proposed solution; c) the expected results including the goal, the expected outcome, the solution overview, and a call to action (to choose you). In the body of the proposal you will expound upon these sections and provide facts and proof of why your solution works and why it is the best choice for this customer.

7. Edit it

Ruthlessly edit your proposal. Even if you have to ask a friend or employee to assist you. It’s amazing how much power a misspelled word or improper grammar can have on a customer’s decision even if your solution is superior to the competition.

The method of submittal for your proposal is normally described in the “Request for Proposal” (RFP). However, if there was no RFP, use your research regarding the customer to determine the most effective way to submit your proposal. This additional touch will help show that you understand your customer and what they are looking for.

Mahalo and much success,
Lynn Herkes
WOWSuccessTeam

 

References

Clayton, S. (1996, January 31). 7 Steps To A Winning Business Proposal. Retrieved from Entrepreneur: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/21834

How to Write a Proposal. (2015). Retrieved from wikiHow: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Proposal

James, G. (2014, February 26). How to Write a Winning Proposal. Retrieved from Inc.: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/how-to-write-a-winning-proposal.html

Turak, A. (2013, February 18). How to Write a Plan or Proposal That Rocks. Retrieved from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/augustturak/2013/02/18/how-to-write-a-plan-or-proposal-that-rocks/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Create Profit and Loss (P/L) Statement

Since this is not my area of expertise, I have researched a few great articles for you and summarized them. I have provided the detailed information to each reference below so you can get more detailed information if you need it.

A profit and loss (P/L) statement takes all the company’s income and expenses for a specific period and organizes that information to show the company’s profits or losses. In other words, is the company making a profit, breaking even, or losing money? The two most important reasons to create a P/L statement are: 1) for the IRS for tax purposes it’s required; 2) for you as an owner to keep understand whether or not your business is making money.

As a business owner, we sometimes think we “know” how we’re doing in the profit arena, but until you actually have the P/L statement in your hand (or on your computer), you don’t really know if you have the real numbers. If you or your accounting team uses accounting software (such as QuickBooks or Quicken), those systems usually have a method to create a P/L statement from the data in the software. However, if you’re doing your own bookkeeping and accounting, like many of us do when we start out, you don’t want to wait until your taxes are due to find out that your income and expenses are not properly accounted for and you have to go through each month with a fine tooth comb before being able to hand everything over to your tax accountant to prepare your taxes.

And as a business owner, even if you have accounting software, or a bookkeeper or accountant, I find it extremely eye opening to do the actual calculations by hand on “real” paper. Or at least in a hand-made spreadsheet. It really brings you closer to the inner workings of the business. If you have not prepared a P/L yourself ever, I would start in October or earlier as a test run, just to make sure your books are in good condition, and just in case you have some major work to do to get everything sorted out.

As far as how to actually create the P/L statement, I have included a very brief summary below. The best explanation I found (much better than what I could state was from Edward Lowe Foundation – see reference below for link).

Here’s the basic summary of equations for the P/L statement:

Net Sales − Cost of Goods Sold = Gross Margin

Gross Margin − Selling and Administrative Expense = Net Operating Profit

Net Operating Profit + Other Income − Other Expense = Net Profit before Taxes

Net Profit before Taxes − Income Taxes = Net Profit (or Net Loss)

Below we’ve provided a very basic P/L statement for simple service company (such as housekeeping) as a reference.

 

Sample Profit & Loss Statement:

ABC Company
Profit and Loss Statement
For Quarter ended March 31, 2015

 
NET SALES $200,000
GROSS MARGIN $ 200,000
Selling, Administrative, and General
Expenses:
     Salaries and Wages − $  22,000
     Rent − $    6,000
     Light, heat, and power − $    1,000
     Other Expenses − $    4,000
     State and local taxes and licenses − $    1,000
     Depreciation and Amortization
on leasehold improvements
− $       500
     Repairs − $    1,500
Total selling, administrative, and general
expenses
− $  36,000
Profit From Operations $  164,000
     Other income + $    2,500
     Other expense − $       500
Net Profit Before Taxes $  161,000
     Provision for income tax − $  45,000
NET PROFIT AFTER INCOME TAX $ 116,000

Of course, this seems really simple. Most businesses have several other categories of income and expenses that need to be accounted for, especially if you sell products. Be sure to account for all income and expenses. And if you do come up with a loss instead of profit, or you’re breaking even, it would be good time to review your business plan and make sure you’re still on target.

Mahalo and much success,
Lynn Herkes
WOWSuccessTeam

 

References

Balle, L. (2014). How To Prepare a Profit and Loss Statement for a Business. Retrieved from Smallbusiness.chron.com: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/prepare-profit-loss-statement-business-4008.html

Bond, E. (2015). How To Prepare a Profit and Loss (Income) Statement. Retrieved from Edward Lowe Foundation: http://edwardlowe.org/digital-library/how-to-prepare-a-profit-and-loss-income-statement/

Create a Profit and Loss Statement Any Time You Need One. (2015). Retrieved from QuickBooks.Intuit.com: http://quickbooks.intuit.com/profit-and-loss-statement/

Dunn, J. (2014, October 6). How To Quickly Prepare a Profit and Loss Statement. Retrieved from Fundera Ledger: https://www.fundera.com/blog/2014/10/06/quickly-prepare-profit-loss-statement/

Profit and Loss Statement Excel Template. (2015). Retrieved from Entrepreneur.com: http://www.entrepreneur.com/formnet/form/939

Virtual Advisor. (2011). Create a Profit and Loss Statement. Retrieved from Branch Banking and Trust Company: http://www.bbt.com/business/small-business-resource-center/growing-a-business/create-a-profit-and-loss-statement.page