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Managing a Small Business
Can be a Big Job!

Strategies for Change Management

Managing a small business is more work than most people inside or outside of a small business realize. It is ever-changing. Use an effective business plan layout to build strategies for managing change and for growing your operation. There are a number of online resources available for small business owners; this site resource is focused on providing information that is harder to access and/or that provides more detailed strategies for implementation.

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This site provides more for small business owners than the traditional 'planning and doing' advice; you will also find hard-to-access information on real-life challenges and opportunities, including how to grow your business effectively and profitably.

From small business, to home based operations, and to complex manufacturing and/or technology organizations (and everything in between), starting a small business, and then running it, needs your time and resources.

Start With a Business Plan Layout

Focus your business management skills by using effective management techniques and by using an effective business plan layout.

Like most effective leaders, when you are starting a small business, you focus on your idea, your niche, your specialty; whether that is a product or a service and whether that is in a business-to-business (B2B) environment or a business to consumer (B2C) environment.

You may have chosen from a list of home based businesses, or from a franchise operation, or you may have developed your own business concept.

You organized for the idea. You used a comprehensive strategic outline to put together a small business plan; you had to (to get financing). You talked to people you trusted.

You got excellent small business advice and decision making tips. You focused on how you would run your business and built an operations plan. And it (the business) began.

It very likely took a lot more blood, sweat, tears, time and money than the brief summary above but I want to get to the main point: now comes the hard part.

Business Management Skills and Strategies

Opening a small business can be exciting, challenging and rewarding. Running an organization can be hard work; but very satisfying when your business succeeds.

You need to plan for your small business growth.

All businesses go through change on a continual process - whether they plan to, or not. Change often happens 'to' us, rather than happening through a planned approach. Employ effective strategies for managing change and effective managing techniques to build a sustainable business.

Build the culture you can believe in and support for many years. All businesses need an ethical reasoning approach to work from; make sure you understand the definition of ethics and that your business code of ethics is clear and well communicated internally and externally.

Consider whether you want to grow organically or inorganically. Organic growth is typically slower and it is internal growth. Inorganic growth can occur more quickly by acquiring a related operation, or by horizontal or vertical merger. The economic environment can have an impact on your decision to merge or acquire another organization. During a recession cycle, there are good financial opportunities for buying or merging with other companies. But you always need to make sure that those decisions are a fit for your strategic direction.

There are some key financial metrics you need to develop for your operation and follow - ideally in any economic environment but particularly when you are trying to decide and plan how to survive a recession. Additionally there are key strategic actions that you need to take during an economic recession; these actions will help you survive, and even thrive.

There are a number of choices and options for growth; consider your strategy in business when making your growth decisions.

This probably seems self evident. But after the excitement and stress of startup, the operations-side of business is necessary and rather unexciting.

Operating Your Business Effectively

If you are running a franchise or chose your operation from a recognized list of home based businesses, it is likely that there are support organizations and associations available to you; use that support to find the most knowledgeable resources in your industry.

Running your operation includes understanding your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to do to capitalize on your strengths and to minimize/eliminate your weaknesses (which might mean capitalizing on the advantages of outsourcing and contracting someone to do what you can't or don't want to do; e.g. many entrepreneurs are not in love with the bookkeeping function and find that easy to outsource). Managing time wisely can help you be more productive and more effective.

Decision Making

making decisions

You need to learn and/or use effective decision making skills and problem solving techniques.

You need to learn and use effective conflict resolution tips and strategies.

And to manage your operation you need to define your small business scope or reach (this can also be your market but scope takes it beyond market and encompasses the business itself).

Evolve + Adapt

solving problems

It means that you need to be able to focus on using best-fit strategies for managing change and to continuously improve, evolve and adapt your organization as needed.

And doing the market research and survey development (using free online survey tools) that are necessary to find out what your customers, suppliers, employees and other stakeholders have to say about your service and your business.

Best Strategies

managing your business

Operating your small business includes executing your plan.

If you don't have one, or need to update it, or your business has changed significantly, then check out the strategy section of this website for advice on how to develop a strategic plan or review a strategic plan checklist or a simple business plan).

Planning and implementation are necessary for success.

You need to be organized in your business and in your life to be successful in your operation, and in decision making.

And, as you execute your plan, you need to ensure that you measure business performance (which is also known as key performance indicators or KPIs); preferably real-time measures that tell you how you're doing at that moment in time (rather than finding out at the end of the month that you're below plan by 20%).

For example, most e-commerce operations can tell you by the minute how your business is doing in terms of traffic and sales. And most information systems can provide that information once selected to best-fit your needs and then effectively optimized to measure, track and analyze business performance.

Measure Your Performance

Have you built your business plan but you're not sure if it's effective? Or are you just about to start up a new business and aren't sure your business plan or your business case is 'right'?

For a limited period of time, you can receive a free:

Business Plan Evaluation or Business Case Evaluation.

Please note that this offer is for a review of your plan; not a writing or re-writing of your business or strategic plan.

Make sure you measure and manage not only the business' functional areas, such as sales, finance and operations.

These are the obvious functions to measure and setting up the measurements of those functions are important and standard (e.g. sales revenue, return on invest, profit before taxes, cost of goods sold, percent of capacity utilized).

For example, in marketing, there are some very specific marketing metrics that will provide you with detailed information on the success or failure of specific campaigns.

But also measure and assess the impact and role of human resources (e.g. employee turn-over, demographics, length of service, days absent/late); product or service development (e.g. how many new products or services, time to market, time to sales goal; success/fail rates); quality control (e.g. spoilage or non conformance as a percent of sales), customer satisfaction (survey ranking for response, knowledge, frequency of purchases, growth by account) and whatever else is key to your success.

You need to ensure that you manage your customers' experience and have a strong front office management program. Additionally, you need to build strong communications within your organization. Understand the importance of active listening and effective communications; and coach and manage your employees to develop strong skills.

You also need to recognize that no business is static; that the need for evolution and change is critical in the business world. You need to be able to become excellent at developing, and using, strategies for change management which will enable you to become increasingly more successful in your business. You also need to remember to update your business plan layout at least every two years to adapt it for the changing business environment (and the plan itself needs to be updated annually).

Steps to Take After Starting a Small Business:

  • You build the business plan.
  • You execute the plan.
  • You measure business performance.
  • You adjust either the plan or the performance to get the result you want.

It sounds simple. However, operating your small business takes time and effort and resources.

Starting a small business and operating it is all about planning, executing, measuring, adjusting and then continuously improving your management of the business.

Keep your focus on managing your small business for success. That's the real challenge.

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Feedback from Site Visitors:

Hello. I am a professor teaching Human Resources Management. You have an excellent page on writing business value statements entitled your "Value Statement: Develop a Definition of Values in Your Business". I would like to use this page (giving full credit) to teach my students how to write good business value statements for the HR Strategic Plan they are required to prepare. Thank you. Richard C. Brocato, Ph.D. Professor of Management, Maryland, USA

(Note from Kris: I was happy to give permission to use as the source was fully credited.)

Hi Kris, I really appreciate your collection of business resources on your site; it provides a fantastic outline for writing a business plan as well as the detailed information needed to prepare the content for a great plan. Thanks, Pierce, USA

Hello. I would like your permission to quote your website within my paper for a marketing class I am taking to earn my Bachelors in Business Management. I am currently in a marketing class and I find the simplicity of your definitions and the ease with which you convey the ideas and terms of marketing to be very helpful. Thanks! Amanda, USA

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Business Survival

One in three small businesses will fail within the first five years of operations.

How can your business beat those odds?

First, make sure that you have the right stuff to be a business owner: you need staying power, the ability to tolerate uncertainty and risk (or understand that no business is a 'sure thing'), and you need the ability to handle stress (such as how will you make payroll next week, how will you build your sales, etc.).

Most successful business owners also have some sort of support system behind them: their friends, families, partners, even their bankers or lenders.

Second, you need to do the right research. I've worked with clients before in putting together business plans for financing and the plan numbers are simply ridiculously overstated! No banker will believe widely inflated sales projections.

Make sure you do thorough market research and planning: invest the time and resources in doing this part of your business building right. It will pay off in the long run.

Develop your marketing program: what's your unique value proposition; what's your strategic competitive advantage; how are you positioning your business and your products and services; what new innovation or creativity can you bring to solve your potential clients problems?

Third, if you don't understand finance and accounting (especially cash flow management, working capital management, and cost management processes) make sure you outsource that effort to a competent accountant or bookkeeper.

And then have that accountant or bookkeeper keep you fully informed on a regular basis; you don't want to hear you've run out of money when it's actually all gone!

Critical Success Factors:

The Products or Services; The Market; The Competition; Your Planning and Preparation!