Components of an Effective Business Plan

August 24, 2010

I just received an email from a friend asking me about the components of a business plan.  There’s a long story behind this email, but I’ll simplify the story by saying I was a bit irritated with the question since I outlined the steps for him the other day at lunch (by the way, he paid… My business time is not free).

Being irritated actually helped me simplify my response to him.

All I wrote back was this.


Three components

  1.  Goals
  2.  Actions you have to take to achieve your goals
  3.  How you are going to be held accountable


Of course I paused before I sent this and thought, you know…. It really is that simple.  That’s what I’ve taught my clients for years and I’ve gotten HUGE results from following including those 3 things in every plan.

As business owners, we tend to make things really complex when it just doesn’t have to be.  There’s a ton of value in keeping it simple and focusing on what’s important.  Those 3 components are most important in a plan.  Is there more depth to each component?  You bet…  You will want goals in multiple categories of your life and business and the list of actions may be huge.  But make the PROCESS easy on yourself and you will get it done.


3 Outlook Features that Keep Me Organized

August 24, 2010

Quick question for you…  Are you using Microsoft Outlook to it’s fullest potential in your business?  The answer is probably not!  Well here are a couple of simple things you can implement right away to get more organized using a program that’s right on your desktop already.  That is unless you are a complete rebel and went with a Mac.

Top 3 Features in Microsoft Outlook that I USE!

1.       Folders

I love the folders in Outlook for organizing by topics.  I have one for my coaches, one for clients, personal stuff, travel, etc.  Here’s why I like this, in the old days you needed a folder for everything and that got pretty cumbersome.  Today the level of organization inside a folder just flat out rocks.  For example, in my clients folder I can click on that folder and organize the view I am looking at by client name (From), by subject, date received, etc.  My trick is that I collapse all the sub categories so I can scroll through them quickly to find the person I’m looking for.  It’s like having folders inside folders without all the mess.

2.       Tasks

This is by FAR the hidden GEM inside Outlook.  If you don’t use anything else, USE THIS!  I even have it setup in my view when I open outlook so I can see what tasks need to get done today and what I have coming up tomorrow.  I use this for everything that isn’t an appointment.  That includes projects, follow ups, blog posts, etc.  You can set it up to remind you or just appear in your view.  One thing that I also love about this feature is the ability to add a category to each task.  Categories are those 4 little colored squared in your task pane that most people have no clue about.  Simply click on the 4 little colored squared to customize your categories.  One of the ways I use this feature is to mark my blog tasks.  That way at a glance, I can see how much writing I have scheduled.  You see, I don’t write every time I get an idea.  I create a Task, give it a headline about the idea, jot down my thoughts and SCHEDULE IT!

One more cool thing about tasks is that you can click on the main view of this section and filter it by topics… So my most used topics are, Completed tasks, overdue tasks, and active tasks.  It’s a great way to remind yourself of all the things you have accomplished.

3.       Quick Parts

Quick Parts are super cool for several reasons and occasions.  For me, I like to use this feature to keep an easy record of my canned email responses or email campaign content.  This one is easier to understand once you see it. 

So click on “New Email”

In the new email message, click on the “Insert” tab at the top of the email.

Toward the right of the window you will see a “Quick Parts” drop down menu.  Click it.

That will show you what you have in the Quick Parts section already.

To use this feature…..

Type up an email that you want to save.

Highlight the text that you want to save and then click on the Quick Parts drop down menu.

Click on “Save selection to Quick Part Gallery”.

That’s it.  You are done.

Next time you want to use that quick part, just open an email and click “Insert”, and Find the quick part you want to use.

I hope these quick tips help you get more organized in your business…

One last note…  If you don’t know how to setup your Outlook, find a 12 year old and ask for help.  A 6 pack of red bull, mountain dew, or copy of halo is all it will cost you…

Delivering More Value in 30 Minutes or Less

August 21, 2010

This is something I’ve been personally working on quite a bit lately.  First off, you have to set a goal to be able to do this.  So I set a goal to get to make my coaching more powerful, focused, and condensed.

To do this, I had to focus on a couple of things…

1.        Positioning

I know you hear this one all the time, but have you done it?  This is the key in DIAG’s, calls, etc.  Example, “What I’d like to do today is really keep focused on the top 1 or 2 things you have going on.  Let’s address those and then get you back to business.  Sound OK to you?”

 2.        Asking better questions by listening more

This is just a key to coaching in general.  I find a lot of people get off on all kinds of tangents and try to address every possible need a client has that week.  Wrong move!  I’ll address this more in my “Fastest Ways to Kill a Client” post in a few days.

If you really want to help your clients and ask better questions, you just have to listen to them.  Listen to what they say in the WIFLE or your version of the WIFLE and then ASK QUESTIONS about that.  I also ask this important question EVERY CALL, “So, what would you like to get out of today’s call?”  Ask that question no matter what they put on their weekly focus sheet.

From there, ask questions like:

How is that impacting your business?

What do you think needs to happen this week to fix that?

What do you think the result would be if you fix this?

What benefits would fixing this have for you personally?

How important is it to you that this gets taken care of immediately?

What obstacles do you see to getting this done?

Most importantly…. Ok, so when will you have this done by?

If they are struggling with doing things….  How would you like me to hold you accountable?

3.        Less Prep and more listening

I can hear you…  “less prep!”  What are you crazy?  Crazy like a fox maybe… Often, coaches spend a lot of time prepping for what they think a client needs or what they feel they should deliver that week.  WRONG MOVE!  Yes, you need to be prepared for your call with the client, but most of that should come from their focus sheet.  If you focus on learning the 5 ways, and a few other key flipcharts (post on key flipcharts coming soon…) you will be prepared and can focus on listening.

I know listening is a spillover from my last topic, but its here for a reason.  Most coaches DO NOT LISTEN ENOUGH!  We have a big mouth and a lot to say AND some of you are always trying to find your fee…  Want to find your fee?  Listen to your client and respond appropriately.  When they are talking, clear your mind of the next question to ask and JUST LISTEN.  Respond with natural questions.  Sometimes you have to just ask, “Can you tell me more about that?”  That’s a GREAT question to ask so you can get to the heart of the matter.

Here’s another tip… See how long you can keep your mouth shut after a client answers your questions.  You will be amazed at how much more they share with you when you aren’t talking.

4.        Keeping the call focused

I’ve noticed over the years a lot of clients and even coaches that want to talk about everything they can possibly imagine on our call.  A lot of times they want to make sure we get a full hour in.  Clients will often bring up additional topics when they feel uncomfortable about something and want to distract themselves from dealing with it.  You see, one of the primary functions of the brain is to keep you happy at all times and at all costs.  So anytime someone becomes uncomfortable, the brain overrides their logic of dealing with the issue and just brings up another one.  This is where we come in as coaches and go back to the issue at hand and help them deal with it.  This is where you will deliver most of your value as a coach.  You may need to say, “That’s a great topic, but not for today.  Let’s focus on the first thing you brought up and deal with it.  How’s that sound to you?”

5.        Wrapping up when done

Simply put, know when you are done.  You can’t put more than a couple of tasks on your client each week.  I like to focus on 1 or 2 things.  3 is a stretch and 4 tasks will burn them out.  I like to ask this question, “do you have enough to do this week?”  They most often say YES.  My answer to that is, GREAT then I ask one last question….  “So tell me, what are the top 2 or 3 things you got out of our call today?”  They know we are done at that point.  I may also ask, so how do you think this is going to change your business this week and over time?

Follow these simple steps and you too can deliver more value in under 30 minutes.

8 Ways to Book More Targeted Consultations and Appointments

August 13, 2010

I get asked all the time how to speed up the process of booking free consultations and appointments with TARGETED prospects. Well here are my top ways to book them fast. The thing to note here is that this is MY style. So it may not work for you, but I guarantee it works. This is how I’ve built a 6 figure coaching practice on a small budget.  And if you are a small business owner reading this… KNOW THIS….  These are great strategies for you as well….

Before you use any of these strategies you have to ask yourself a few questions.

1. Who is my target market? (industry, revenue size, number of employees, etc…)
2. How much do I know about these people? (Have you got any scouting info on them??? Know your prospects, but use your judgment on this. I typically only scout info on big fish. I rarely do on the little ones.)
3. What is the best way to reach them? (you have to customize the approach for the individual)

And now for the strategies….

1. Networking – Networking has always been a core of what I do, but I use it for different reasons that most people. I have found that I can pick up a client or two at networking events, but I have more success when I build alliances or referral partners at these events. So my main focus when networking is looking for great alliance partners like CPA’s, HR consultants, payroll companies, staffing companies, and similar industries. I will also make a point to scout around for appointments. You just have to be ruthless with your time and meet the right people. I’m very quick to act at these events and ALWAYS have my calendar on my phone to set the appointment right there. It’s an absolute WASTE of time to think you can book the appointment when you get back to your office.

2. Referrals Part 1 – The first type of referrals is FROM CLIENTS. Tip number 1… You don’t have to wait 6 months to ASK for a referral. Ask at the end of consultations, who they know that would benefit from the topics you discussed today in the consultation. For example, who do you know that always complains about hiring good people? Ask a targeted question and get some specific names. And yes, you do need a plan to ask about once a quarter from all of your clients. I like to reward them with a prepaid gift card or something else they will love after I get a new client and at least a thank you card for the referrals. Show them you value their help whether it results in a sale or not! They will love that….

3. Referrals Part 2 – This is a great strategy that most coaches never use. Next time you go on a consultation and DON’T CLOSE, ask them who they know that is a good prospect for you. There’s a good chance they will come up with a name or two.

4. Targeted Direct Mail – Regular direct mail does work, it just has to be done on a MASSIVE scale. Which is a pain in the backside if you ask me. So I like to do targeted campaigns. Use a case study like the one on Carpet Cleaners and mail out something to just carpet cleaners in your territory (by the way, your territory is larger than you think…. It’s your whole state and not just your backyard.). The great thing about a campaign like this is that you can invest more in each candidate. For example, the normal direct mail campaign to 1,000 prospects of all shapes and sizes will usually run you about $500 just on postage. So each prospect gets about 50 cents worth of investment when you count the envelope, letter, and stamp. Impressive!

Now let’s look at a targeted list of Carpet Cleaners. I pulled up a list for all of them in my metro area here of 3 million people and found there were only 13 that met my criteria for revenues, employee size, etc. I expanded the search until I got to 25 around the area. Now that’s targeted. If I invest the same $500, I can now invest up to $20 per prospect. So I can actually mail them a small package or something really creative. The odds are, all 25 will GET the piece, and all 25 will OPEN my piece. Beats a 1% call rate from shotgun blasting direct mail any day.

5. Sporting Events – I live in big sports town. We have the Rams, Cardinals, and Blues. All of which have done well over the past 10+ years and been to the playoffs or won championships. So it’s a big part of the town and much of the surrounding area. Again, looking at my budget, I can invest $500 to $1,000 in marketing and maybe get in front of a few folks or I can take that $500 to $1,000 and buy 5 to 10 seats at a game. Imagine getting a letter or call from me asking if I can take you to a game. No strings attached. Come to the game. I have you for 3 hours… This is best when you ask clients or strategic alliance partners to invite a business owner they know. It makes a great CNE for them, and opens the door to a new client.

6. Dinner Out – The theme here is if you have a couple hundred dollars to spend on marketing, do it right… This is yet another strategy where I can get a targeted lead in front of me for about 2 or 3 hours in a casual setting and really get to know them. Again, go back to your clients and strategic alliances and ask them to bring a guest to dinner.

7. Strategic Alliances – We’ve all heard about this one and quite frankly it’s about as mythical as a unicorn for most coaches. Here’s the secret… If you want to develop great strategic alliances you have to do two things. 1. Show them the money! – They have to see a FINANCIAL MODEL on how this relationship is going to make them more money. YOU CAN’T SKIP THIS. 2. You have to stay in constant contact with them. At a minimum, setup a 15 minute call each week.

8. Speaking – Want to make more money…. Go speak! Coaches that speak earn on average more than 40% more than those that don’t. I love this strategy and always sign a client or two. I speak at office training events, quarterly planning or team events, rotary clubs, chambers, industry conferences, and networking groups/events/lunches. Put time on your schedule to focus on booking yourself to speak.