Good planning = Asking the right questions (Bisvision Toolkit)

“A clever man gives the right answers” … “A wise man asks the right questions”

One of the big conundrums facing business leaders is what they don’t know, they don’t know.  Damian D’Cruz  has gone a long way to helping business people ask the right questions with his business planning tool kit called BisVision.

This great kit uses 5 decks of cards to ask probing questions around SWOT’s, Vision, Planning, and Execution.  You can use the kit to take you through a structured planning approach.

I have used the kit for a number of years and have found it great in its simplest use of – “what have I not considered in developing my business plan?”

Damian has produced two versions of the kit one for Businesses and one for the Not-For-Profit sector.

Asking the Right Questions

The opening quote, regarding asking the right questions, is so true. I have now come to the belief that any professional service provider can best be measured by the quality of those questions.  As a consultant myself, I have realised it is not the tools we use, but the way in which we use the tools that produces the best result. 

“I can give you the paint brush, but it will not make you an artist”. It’s on this basis I believe that by passing on as many tools and techniques I can, I will help people, but if they want true art give me a call 🙂 Happy reading.

For those who like DiY planning, this kit will be invaluable. Support this local company and  purchase it on the Bisvision Website

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Better ways to finance your business than investment

So you are short of working capital (cash) for you business:
Is getting an Angel Investor the best option? Most probably not.
Should you get investment ready – definitely!

In most cases, the act of preparing for investment will eliminate the need to raise money.  Companies that get investment typically will receive the capital to accelerate growth, not initiate it. 

Apart from having a realistic valuation expectation, being “investment ready” is simple, get clarity and focus around:

  • Product or service value proposition
  • Business model, strategy, and plans
  • Having something unique and defendable in your product offering
  • Building and maximising the productivity of your team, including governance
  • Have customers that buy stuff

There is no rocket science around all this, but I consistently see companies going to the market to talk to investors that do not have their act sorted. Equally so, they are attempting to do too many things with mediocre results.

Now for the reality – raising capital is slow and arduous process.  Typically it will take you six to 24 months before the money appears in the bank account and will consume at least 200 hours of your time.

Many businesses seeking capital will go bust before they get there and the more fragile their current position, the more likely it is they will not attract the capital.

Without a clear strategy and go-to market model, you are unlikely to find an investor.

So if Angel Investment is not the magic answer what is?

One of the issues of technicians starting businesses, apart from those raised in my e-myth blog post, is their lack of experience in structuring deals of any type, too often playing with price as the only negotiating tool.

Other options for funding growth include:

  • Selling more
  • Charging more for your product – what effect would there be by increasing your sales price by 30, 50 or 100%? In many cases increasing sales price will increase sales.
  • Establishing better sales channel partners – preferably ones that already have your target market as customers
  • Using customers as promoters of your product
  • Sharing promotion costs with distributors
  • Licensing deals
  • Structuring payment options eg. 50% deposit with order
  • Debt finance
  • Invoice factoring
  • Government grants – yes there are still some available

For those who are looking to get smarter around strategy and structuring their business for growth, Debbie Humphrey and I run a four day workshop called Business Dominoes to tackle this very issue.

Personas & Zero-Based Strategic Thinking

Incremental change is dangerous, particularly come planning time for your business. Left unchallenged you can suffer a slow death, or be taken out by a gorilla in your market. Here are two ways to break your normal incremental thinking.

Personas at the Boardroom Table:

What would Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, or John Key be saying in your strategy day if they were on the board of your company? This is the power of personas.

Edward de Bono first popularised this method with his “Six Thinking Hats”. User experience design people adopt a similar approach to ensuring real users can utilise modern software applications. There is a great article on “The Power of Personas” for user design in the MSDN Magazine.

Create some imaginary board members to your company, they come cheap, and give them a seat at your boardroom table. Then listen to what they would be saying if they were in the room.  To balance the big thinking of a Jobs or Branson, you may want someone else at your board table to balance out their big budget thinking.

If you are known to dream big, perhaps you need the conservative ‘black hat’ thinker at your table to question the reality of your plans.  This is a great way to break with conservative limited thinking, beliefs that exist in many boardrooms, whether your problem is not dreaming big enough or you need a hand break. Do not invite too many imaginary friends too frequently or your friends and family may think you are going nuts!


Zero-Based Thinking:

Accountants often refer to zero-based budgeting. This is the method of creating your budget from a clean sheet of paper, rather than simply modifying last year’s budget by X%.

The same goes for business planning: take the stance if you were starting your business over again, but with the resources and capabilities that you have now – what would you do? Invite your new board members (personas) to the table as well to help you with this exercise.