Posts Tagged ‘strategic plan’

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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Village Think: How can small businesses get motivated to think more strategically?

September 28, 2010

I have been reading recent Linkedin Group posts about what it takes to have a successful business. The discussions and debates remind me of the days I served as a university technology manager. In technology management (aka tech transfer) the great debate is whether the best tech managers are the PhDs, MBAs or the attorneys.

The truth is that it takes a Village. I suppose it is self aggrandizing for any one of these groups of people to believe they can do it all by themselves better than the other groups. But, you gain more from having complimentary know-how.

Most participants in the online debate over what it takes to have a successful business list bits and parts of what is required. The following items have been noted:

1. Initial Capital Injection
2. Differentiated Niche Products and/or Services
3. Business Plan
4. Marketing Plan
5. Plan Implementation
6. Marketing Tools
7. Passion
8. Positive Energy
9. Physical Stamina
10. MBA
11. CPA
12. Business Lawyer
13. Great Customer Service
14. Organizational skills
15. Time Management
16. Leadership skills
17. Continuing Education
18. Staff
19. Customers

The truth is that it takes all of the above. It takes a wide variety of people with a wide variety of know how. It takes a Village!

There is free or low cost help out there. In Georgia, I have tried the following:

1. Small Business Administration (SBA)
2. SBA funded Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) – University of Georgia, Georgia State University
3. Georgia Governor’s Mentor Protégé Program
5. Defense Logistics Agency funded Procurement Assistance Center – Georgia Tech
6. Count Me In program for Women’s Economic Independence
7. Clean Water Atlanta Small Business Development Program

These programs provide classes on business planning, business loans, marketing, government contracting, business law, and accounting. Some may advocate that if you do not have a MBA, you do not know enough about business and will fail. The truth is that much of what you need to know, you can learn.

Further, it also takes strategic plans that move off dusty shelves and into actual implementation. Again, we are back to the people factor. You need people that have the know-how, positive energy, and physical stamina to take strategies and implement them. When I worked as a city planner, I coordinated the drafting and approval by City Council of Comprehensive Development Plans (CDP) and Capital Improvement Programs (CIPs). This enormous effort would result in a wish list of projects in two thick plan documents 3-4 inches thick that would get shelved. The plans would collect dust; and we would do it all over again the next year for the annual update. The same is true for most strategic plans, business plans and marketing plans.

Small business counselors will encourage business owners to have plans. Some small business programs will help them draft their plans. However, I have yet to come across a small business program that encourages business owners to dust off their plans and review them. Perhaps no one wants to take the time. Business owners need performance measures. They need to ask themselves if they followed their plans; and if not, why not. This should be done annually, biannually or quarterly. Why have strategic plans that do not get used?

A huge problem for small business owners is that they may not have the money to hire employees to delegate plan implementation to. Where there is a will, there is a way. Ask family members, friends, retirees, neighbors, and students to help. Some students can work for course credit. Finding help takes time. But, this is time well spent.

I had a clothing business in the 80s. I tried a law office. I have had a consulting business that has gone through ups and downs. The key is that you cannot do it all yourself. I am an academic. I have three degrees, licenses and certifications. I love to learn. The learning part of it came easy to me. My credentials cover the full gamut of organizational management, law, and technical know how. I am a certified public manager, certified planner, patent attorney, and engineer. I manage well. I am organized. I plan everything. I know the law and I think analytically. But, I do not care how many degrees you have. If you do not go out and learn what you do not know; and get help in order to expand the ground you cover, your business will fail.

Of course solo practitioners will balk at this. What I am referring to is achieving the vision of building a corporation. Corporations may start with one person. But, to be successful, the organization has to grow in numbers. I serve as a procurement counselor and recently advised a client to look at a $20 meal tab in a restaurant. The $20 could get a business owner nearly three (3) hours of minimum wage help. A lot can be accomplished in 3 hours: database entries, contact relationship management, social media marketing, filing, and direct mailing.

If a business owner approaches business growth with the understanding that it will take Village Think, she may survive the first five (5) years. She will need to balance all 19 of the items noted earlier and manages to keep costs low overall. The key is to be willing to give each item some real thought and effort.

Author Bio: 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. (@lemongrassplans)