Archive for the ‘business plan’ Category

Don’t Rest on your Laurels – Have a Strategic Plan for Blue and White Collar Work

December 20, 2011

Many of my acquaintances have earned an education, landed a job, settle in, and rest. Some startup a company, get clients, and rest. Many of us have learned the hard way that this is the worst thing you can do. We have to keep our pipeline full of prospects and closed deals. I remind myself of this and work on it every day.

Even if you don’t want to own a business, prepare a startup business plan as a contingency plan to fall back on. Suze Orman advocates that we should all have 8 month emergency fund. It once took up 6 months to find a job. Now it could take up to 3 years. What is the likelihood that any of us could build a 36 month emergency fund. I have several friends that are getting crushed by not having a contingency plan.

We all know of folks that have lost jobs, lost profits, cannot carry payroll, lost homes, lost cars, and lost spouses over financial woes. Be strategic. Use strategic planning. Do a self SWOT. List your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Reflect on your knowledge, skills and abilities – both white and blue collar.

Recently, a professional acquaintance called me to ask for a job. I told him that I did not have a vacancy. He is a civil site engineer and there is very little work related to real estate site development. When we first started our firm, 70% of our work came from this arena. We did public outreach, permits, meeting facilitation, and zoning applications. The phone rang off the hook. We had to shift gears and draw on other skill sets.

This guy complained. He said he could not provide for his family and they were in a lot of trouble. I told him that he could indeed provide for his family. He simply needed to list all of the things he could do to earn money. I suggested raking leaves, trimming shrubs, cleaning cars, and teaching. He said that there was no way he could survive doing these types of jobs. I thought to myself, “how insane”. There are families surviving day in and day out off of blue collar work. He may not be able to keep his fancy car, fancy clothes, and fancy furnishings – but he could pay his rent and feed his teens.

This guy continued stating that his teens would starve. I said there is no way I would let my kids starve. I told him to go stand in a food line. He then claimed he did not know what that was. On that note, I told him I had another phone line to answer. At this point, I was dismissive. We all need clarity on how seriously poor the world economy is and what we will do to survive if all of our income goes away. If you have access to a phone and 411, you can find a food line. If you have access to a computer, you can google “food line”. No excuses.

Although my parents did not call themselves entrepreneurs, they were quite enterprising. I remember having bare cupboards once or twice – but most of the time we had plenty. We kept a garden in our back yard. Close to fall, we went to a farm and picked vegetables for the winter and stocked our freezer. We planned ahead. My dad had 6-8 people to feed with an annual income of about 30k from the post office. There were 6 of us and sometimes we had family that stayed with us. To make due, we sold used items at flea markets; we sold chicken and fish plates; we sewed; we babysat; and my dad did carpentry work. We had fun. We worked hard all the time. We hustled! When we needed to, we got in food lines and got our powdered milk and block of government cheese.

We bought from thrift stores and waited on our family and friends to give us hand-me-downs. I did not go to a mall until I was in college. We were more fortunate than a lot of our friends.

Never get too proud. Always have a handle on all of your blue and white collar skills – and local resources. Sell skills. Sell products. We sold without inhibition. Taking jobs make some of us lazy and risk adverse. Some folks simply do not want to work hard.

Someone recently questioned why I have so many profit centers. She asked why we offer so many services. Well, I believe that your niche should be a common denominator. Ours is strategic planning. But, under that umbrella, there are many things we can do to help our clients. So, we serve them up. We can offer business strategies – and if necessary, we can sew, cook, clean, paint, decorate, and garden in an emergency.

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with nearly 30 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including organizational assessments, government contracting strategic marketing plans, intellectual property, social media marketing strategic plans, and other services. Contact Clovia at:
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9 Business Lessons from the Green Lantern

June 19, 2011

This weekend, I watched the Green Lantern movie. It was awesome! Here are nine (9) business lessons I learned from the movie:

1. Green Lantern operates on green energy and the color green represents a species’ will. Our will allows us to create what we imagine. Anything the Green Lantern could see in his mind, he could create. He just needed to focus. We are only as strong as our will. The business lesson here is that every business leader needs to utilize laser focused creativity and imagination to develop a vision for what the business needs to look like and for strategies the business can use to overcome barriers. This is where a sound business plan and strategic planning comes into play. To stay creative, business leaders also have to overcome getting into ruts and feeling burned out.

Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur’s Council recently wrote a Huffington Post article on how entrepreneurs can get back to being creative and productive. The answers included: 1) taking on a hobby other than the startup; 2) delegate and outsource certain functions; 3) take time to recharge and get away; 4) focus on activity that gives you energy; 5) find a business partner; 6) read about art, literature, history; 7) mentor others;  8) work out; 9) pick a company that is getting it right to emulate and track; 10) conquer a fear with sky diving, mountain climbing or some other adventure; 11) invest in something creative or different for your business; 12) turn to your mentors; 13) network with folks in other fields; 14) take up creative writing; and 15) change your routine.

2. Your will is what makes you take action.
3. The Green Lantern Corps is only as strong as its weakest link.
4. In the movie, the villain Parallax had the color yellow and fed on the fear of others. This is actually the color I associate with cowardice. Fear stops you and makes you weak. Ignore your fear. Last year, Karen Klein wrote a BusinessWeek article about Nell Merlino and what holds women business owners back. Nell Merlino advocates that women business owners need to hire. However, Nell acknowledged that many feared doing so because they were afraid they would not be able to make payroll or would cede and lose control and management of their brand. In Nell Merlino’s self help memoir entitled “Stepping out of Line”, she advocates that whatever you can imagine for yourself, you can achieve – and imagination and dedication are the keys.
5. The Green Lantern ring chose the character Hal to be the Green Lantern. In the movie, it was stated that the “ring” chose Hal; and the ring never makes a mistake. I think the ring is symbolic of a higher spirit or God. Just as Hal was chosen to serve as the Green Lantern, I think God chooses individuals to be business leaders.
6. In the movie, the villain was an evil power of darkness that fed on fear. In business, our enemies are naysayers or competitors that block the market entry of newcomers. It was stated in the movie that the will is the sole weapon against the enemy of fear.
7. One of the Green Lantern Corps members wanted to fight fear with fear. The Green Lantern disagreed. The business leadership lesson here is that we do not have to become like our enemies in order to succeed. I have observed this time and time again. When I first opened my business in 2005, several competitors wanted to meet and talk. Some wanted to find out my weaknesses and fears. Some were really ugly about blocking me from entering their arena or space. I thought this was awful – they were fighting fear with fear – trying to make me be afraid about moving forward with my plans. I also encountered loved ones (friends and family members) that really did not want me to be “that” successful. So, they tried to play on my fears by telling me how hard it would be; how costly; how foolish.
8. Parallax is generally defined as the displacement of an observed object due to the change in the position of the observer. In the movie, the villain Parallax could see your memories and read minds. This is how it could feed on the fears of others. In business, you have to be careful sharing certain memories, thoughts, and fears to prevent enemies from preying on your fears. Guarding the business position is important.
9. The Green Lantern had to recharge his ring; i.e. recharge his will. I think this is analogous to prayer and having faith. I think we need to take time to pray, meditate to recharge and gain strength to overcome barriers.

By Clovia Hamilton, President, Lemongrass Consulting, Inc.
Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans, intellectual property, and social media marketing strategic plans.

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How to put your Business Plan into Actual Use

August 15, 2010

I wrote my own for my firm Lemongrass Consulting. I read books and figured out the sales forecast; and financial expenses and revenue projections. When my firm became Small Business Administration (SBA) 8a certified, I wrote our SBA Form 1010c Business Plan.

I am a strategic planner and AICP certified city planner. In the 1990s, I actually worked as a city planner managing transportation improvement programs, capital improvement programs, and comprehensive development plans. These are mega project oriented plans. I coordinated the City of Atlanta’s 1997 Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) and its accompanying Capital Improvement Program (CIP) representing 400 projects valued at $3.6 Billion. I also managed the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Transportation [Environmental] Enhancement Activities (TEA) program was 90 proposed projects valued at $62 Million.

What I learned as a city planner is that plans can be extremely pie in the sky. They can be pretty elaborate wish lists to appease political constituents. These types of plans rarely get implemented because there will never be enough money to fund the proposed projects.

As a business owner, I learned that plans need to be much more realistic and broken down into doable action items that result in real return on investment (ROI) and generate real revenue so that real paychecks can be drawn.

Here are some tips:

(1) Your sales forecast is just that – a forecast. It is not carved in stone and will likely not match actual sales. Start with reasonable assumptions and adjust as reality sets in. Your actual sales may be less. This is usually the case. However, you may have great fortune and your actual sales may surpass your forecasted sales.
(2) If after regular, periodic, scheduled reviews, your actual sales are significantly lower than your forecasted, desired sales, then you may want to reengineer your business model, get sales coaching help, or take some other course of action to increase sales.
(3) Start ups should start with short term business plans which depicts your sales goals and anticipated expenses in short quarterly increments of 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months.
(4) For the purpose of having a long term vision, create a 3 or 5 year vision with annual sales goals and anticipated expenses.
(5) The business plan goals should be used to influence your operational decisions as you conduct business from day to day.

Here is how No. 5 would work. You would simply put a summary of your business plan sales forecast and anticipated budgeted expenses on your desk as a daily constant reminder of where to drive your ship. Take this summary financial operating plan and gage your actual performance against it. For example, if you need to decide whether or not to spend money to hire a staff person or consultant; or to order certain equipment or supplies, then look over at your business plan first. Ask yourself whether the proposed expense is in alignment with your plan. Ask yourself whether taking on this particular new consulting project or product sales order will catapult you any closer to your sales and profit goals.

Some may argue that business plans should not be the focus of your operations. I beg to differ. I think the plan needs to be right in front of you. In my opinion, it is akin to a simple daily “things to do” list. For example, on any given day you may list out that you need to go to the post office, to the office supply store, to a few meetings, send some emails, do some data entries, etc. This is your road map. If you were able to get it all done, you would have a sense of accomplishment.

A business plan is no different. You look over at your business plan and you let it guide and drive your business decisions so that you can achieve real results.

Another thing I learned as a city planner is that it is important to get buy-in. In order to decide whether or not to include a project in a CDP and its accompanying CIP, city planning professionals hold public meetings to get feedback. Business owners should also get input from individuals they may need buy-in from. Internally, they should make sure the business leadership team has an opportunity to comment on budget and sales projections. This may be a great way to get a dose of reality from differing perspectives. Externally, business owners can turn to nonprofit organizations or other consultants that help small businesses and have dealt with bankers that loan to small businesses.

Cash is Queen! If you are starting a business, you may want to save first. I heard and read two different schools of thoughts when I first started years ago. Some advocate that you do not need money to get started and to make money. That may prove true for some. But, I can tell you there are very real expenses if you want to go about being in business the right, professional way: phone, fax, website hosting, graphics design, office supplies, domain name registration, taxes. The taxes can crush you.

This leads us to the second school of thought which is save first. I have heard that it is best to save 3 months, 6 months or 1 year of your business operating expenses before you launch. The idea is to not be dependent on sales at all. But rather, have savings to invest in your business venture.

If I could do it over, I would have saved extensively while building my network of relationships and client base. Of course, hindsight is 20:20.

I was in the City of Atlanta’s Watershed Department Small Business Development Program. The accounting trainer advised us to bank our customer payments and cut ourselves pay checks. But, she advised that we should put our pay checks away in a drawer and forget about them. This will build up cash in your business bank account and help you to earn creditability so that you can later get lines of credit and loans. Well, what if you were a single mom? What if you actually need to cash that pay check? I am a single mom and this tactic would have never worked for me.

If you make it without planning ahead and implementing your plans, you are probably making it on pure luck. We have all heard people state that business success is 90% luck. Well, it really does not have to be. We can choose to draft and work a plan, or we choose to leave our futures in the hand of Lady Luck.

Clovia founded Lemongrass Consulting in 2005 with 25 years of government work experience and serves as a procurement counselor in the Georgia Tech Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC). Lemongrass Consulting provides strategic planning solutions including government contracting strategic marketing plans. Visit us at: – Follow Clovia on Twitter @lemongrassplans and LIKE Lemongrass on Facebook at