ATB Business • LEARN             Grow Your Business:             Steps for Success from ATB             Taking it to the N...
ATB Business • LEARN             Taking it to the Next Level:             An Introduction             Congratulations! You...
ATB Business • LEARN             1. Your Vision Revisited             In order for your company to be successful, it must ...
ATB Business • LEARN             Example of a corporate vision:             Within the next five years, we want to become ...
ATB Business • LEARN             2. Analyze the Present             Before creating big plans for the future, you need to ...
ATB Business • LEARN             Your unique selling proposition             What makes you different? Your unique selling...
ATB Business • LEARN             3. Sales and Marketing:             The Drivers of Success             You know your goal...
ATB Business • LEARN             Identify new markets.             Companies frequently discover new markets for establish...
ATB Business • LEARN             Marketing channels             What are the most effective ways to communicate your messa...
ATB Business • LEARN             Develop your marketing budget.             It’s true. You have to spend money to make mon...
ATB Business • LEARN             4. Know Your Numbers             Accounting is the bane of many entrepreneurs’ lives, but...
ATB Business • LEARN             Analyze your annual financial statements.             At the end of your financial year, ...
ATB Business • LEARN             Cash flow             Cash flow is one of the major causes of small business failure. The...
ATB Business • LEARN             You have financing options.             If your financial forecast shows times when you w...
ATB Business • LEARN             5. Support Your Success with Systems             Systems make it easier to run your busin...
ATB Business • LEARN             People Management             People management systems are created to make the working e...
ATB Business • LEARN             Great technology tools to consider:             •	 WordPress is a free platform that was ...
ATB Business • LEARN             6. Your People Make it Happen             Finally, make sure that you have the people pow...
ATB Business • LEARN             7. Strategize the Future with a Plan             It’s time to have a fresh look at your B...
ATB Business • LEARN             It’s Time for Action             Planning is exciting, but reaching your goals is even mo...
ATB Business • LEARN             Helpful Resources             10 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read             1.	    ...
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ATB Business: Growth Guide, for existing business owners

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So you've got your business off the ground. Now what? Growth is important, but growing smarter should be your strategy. One of the biggest reasons companies fail is because they grow too fast or don't plan their growth. This guide will help you ensure that doesn't happen.

Chapters include:
Taking it to the Next Level: An Introduction
Your Vision Revisited
Analyze the Present
Sales and Marketing: The Drivers of Success
Know Your Numbers
Support Your Success with Systems
Your People Make it Happen
Strategize the Future with a Plan
It's Time for Action
Helpful Resources

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ATB Business: Growth Guide, for existing business owners

  1. 1. ATB Business • LEARN Grow Your Business: Steps for Success from ATB Taking it to the Next Level: An Introduction 2 Your Vision Revisited 3 Analyze the Present 6 Sales and Marketing: The Drivers of Success 8 Know Your Numbers 15 Support Your Success with Systems 21 Your People Make it Happen 26 Strategize the Future with a Plan 28 It’s Time for Action 30 Helpful Resources 312013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  2. 2. ATB Business • LEARN Taking it to the Next Level: An Introduction Congratulations! Your business is up and running. You have sales and employees, and you’re well on your way to moving toward the next step. Growing a business is a lot of work. It takes time to establish yourself in the market. After operating for a few years, many businesses experience slow or stagnant growth. To ensure your business is thriving well into the future, you need to start planning now. This guide is about breaking beyond the slow and steady game. It’s about building the strategies, tactics and resources you need to take your business to the next level.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  3. 3. ATB Business • LEARN 1. Your Vision Revisited In order for your company to be successful, it must evolve—but, certain elements must evolve, while others stay the same. As the person guiding your business, you need to understand what needs to be changed to gain more success, but also what may threaten success if changed. Each section of this guide encourages ideas of how to grow your business. It’s up to you to decide what to act on. The best place to start is with your vision. Your personal vision Since you first began your business, your life may have changed. You may have children now, and want more time at home. Maybe semi-retirement is appealing, or you want more out of the business financially so you can purchase additional things—like a cottage to relax in. Before you plan your corporate vision, be clear on your personal vision for the coming years. Answer these and other questions: • How much time do you want to spend at work? • Do you want to travel more than you have been? • How much money do you want to take home? • Are you frustrated by not getting to the gym often enough? • Is childcare a concern for your family? • Do you want to sell your business in the next few years? By answering questions like these, you can develop a vision for your personal life over the next few years. As an entrepreneur, you are in a position to develop your business to serve your personal vision. Your business vision With a clear personal vision in mind, now it’s time to think about your business vision. This information will be shared with others so, while your personal vision will impact it, it shouldn’t be defined by it. Begin by describing the future in terms of your company’s: • Core values • Main products • Primary markets • Financial goals • Position in the industry • Culture • Future (What will your business look like in one, three and five years?) With this information, write a few sentences describing the vision for your company.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  4. 4. ATB Business • LEARN Example of a corporate vision: Within the next five years, we want to become the provincial leader in quality widgets, while valuing honest, supportive relationships with our employees and clients. We are committed to continual innovation, team work, and taking a leadership role in our industry to ensure that we earn customer respect and loyalty. S.M.A.R.T. goals You need goals to grow your business. Establish goals that serve both your personal and corporate visions. Define sales targets, the number of hours you want to work in a week, or the timing for a new product launch. Whatever goals you set, make sure that they are S.M.A.R.T. • Specific – Identify who will help, how it will be done, where and when. • Measurable – Establish benchmarks to measure your success. • Agreed upon – Get buy-in from all those involved. • Realistic – Set goals that can be achieved. • Timely – Establish deadlines. Examples of SMART goals: • To grow my sales by 5% within the next three months • To reduce my expenses by 10% over the next year With the goals set, it’s time to work on the strategies to get you there.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  5. 5. ATB Business • LEARN 2. Analyze the Present Before creating big plans for the future, you need to analyze the present to discover what’s working and what isn’t. You need to know where your greatest opportunities for more success lie. Do a S.W.O.T analysis Most likely, you address S.W.O.T (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) issues every day. It’s just the nature of business. However, it’s worth taking the time to sit down and do one comprehensive analysis. By going through the process of identifying your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, you will expand your understanding of your position in the marketplace and organize the information in a way that is useful. This ‘gut check’ also shows financial backers you’ve done your research, plus helps identify your competitive advantage. Strengths • What advantages do you have over your competitors? • What expertise do you have? • What makes your products or services unique? • What resources do you possess? • What do customers identify as your strengths? Weaknesses • What resources do you lack? • Do you need more financing? • Do you need marketing or management expertise? • Is your location a problem? • Do your employees lack training? Opportunities • Where are the opportunities for growth in your industry? • Is expansion possible via franchising or exporting? • Is there a niche you can dominate? • What positive trends could influence your business? • Is there an opportunity to take a leadership role in your industry association? Threats • What trends are taking place that could affect your business negatively? • What is happening with the economy that could affect your business? • Are there legal issues pending? • What are competitors doing that could affect you?2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  6. 6. ATB Business • LEARN Your unique selling proposition What makes you different? Your unique selling proposition (USP) is what sets you apart from the competition. It’s the answer to “why should I do business with you?”, and is a key component of your marketing strategy, business model, and business plan. This ties into your S.W.O.T. analysis by addressing weaknesses and threats, while also capitalizing strengths and opportunities. Your USP can be one or many things including: • Internal experts who offer added value to customers • A lower price due to your lower cost production methods • Better access to raw materials, making you a more reliable supplier • Faster delivery • An automated order and tracking system2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  7. 7. ATB Business • LEARN 3. Sales and Marketing: The Drivers of Success You know your goals. You know what sales targets you want to reach. Now it’s time to build the sales and marketing plan to get you there. Get the fundamentals right. There are only four basic ways to increase sales: 1. Attract new customers. 2. Keep your existing customers. 3. Help customers buy more. 4. Help customers buy more often. You can see that three of these methods rely on current customers, but interestingly, finding new customers is listed as number one. Current customers are critical to sales because it’s easier to sell more to a loyal customer than it is to find a new one. As the 80/20 rule states: 80% of your sales will come from approximately 20% of your customers, so keep them happy. New customers are critical as well because, whether it’s within your control or not, there will always be customer attrition. Customers must be replaced, and to grow your sales significantly, new customers must be found. Let’s start by looking at who you want as customers. Define your ideal customer. Now that you have a few years’ experience, you have the data to analyze which customers are most profitable. These are the kind the customers you want. Generally speaking, you want to work with customers that frequently buy your products with the greatest profit margin. You also want the customers that have a relatively low cost of sale and don’t drain your company’s resources by demanding a lot of after-sales attention. Dig into your database to find them. Once you’ve identified your top customers, find out their commonalities. Are they all in one geographic area? If they are businesses, are they of a certain size, industry or title? Do all the people buying have similar needs in terms of when they buy, how they buy and why they buy? Look for the details to clearly define who will be your best prospects so that you can focus your sales efforts in the right direction.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  8. 8. ATB Business • LEARN Identify new markets. Companies frequently discover new markets for established products. Talk to your customers individually and survey them collectively to see how they use your products, whether they see new applications for them, and if they would like modifications. A regular survey shows that you care about their concerns, and you might uncover significant new sales and development opportunities. There are free online resources like Survey Monkey that can help you conduct and organize your research online. When you’ve finished your research, look at what the numbers mean. Ask yourself, “so what” in order to find the implications the research will have on your business. A marketing plan for growth Now that you’ve identified the value you bring to customers and who your ideal customers are, it’s time to review and update your marketing plan. Every company will have different issues to address. Here are the main areas you should look at closely: Branding Is your brand an appropriate reflection of your corporate vision, products and target market? Look at your brand in terms of: • Messaging - What are the key messages that employees and customers should receive about your brand? Is the message that you’re a young, hip company that delivers X, or that you’re an established family business with deep roots that delivers Y? Know and communicate your message clearly. • Employees - Is the work environment, company policies and communications style consistent with your brand? They should be. • Customers - Do they feel your brand through every interaction? Your brand should be clear in many small details, including the way your phone is answered, how your products are delivered—even the clothes your employees wear. • Logo and colours – Do they reflect the image you’re trying to create? If it’s been more than a few years since you’ve had them done, consider updating them to ensure they look up-to-date and professional. To effectively communicate your brand, you must keep all of these elements consistent.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  9. 9. ATB Business • LEARN Marketing channels What are the most effective ways to communicate your message to customers and prospects? Consider: • Your website - Often, it’s the first point of contact for customers, so it must be effective. Your site should be: • Fast loading - It should load in less than 5 seconds. • Visually appealing - Websites need to be updated every few years to look current. • Easy to navigate - Visitors must find what they need quickly or they’ll leave. • SEO optimized - It should be found on page one of Google’s search results for the keywords that customers will likely use to find you online. • Customer friendly - Include a 1-800 number in the upper left corner, and accept a variety of payment systems if you’re selling online. • Networking - This has a low financial cost, but takes time. The outcome can be strong, valuable relationships. • Know your elevator pitch - Be able to describe your business in just one sentence. • Attend networking events - Industry association meetings and entrepreneur networks are great for this. • Ask questions - Don’t shake hands and tell someone your elevator pitch when you first meet them. Take your time. Ask questions about their business first. • Attend regularly - People trust those who they get to know. • Social media - There is no financial cost to participate in social media, but it does take time. • Develop a social media strategy. • Decide which platforms are right for your market. Depending on the type of business you operate, some may be more beneficial to you than others. • Dedicate time every day to social media. • Leverage bloggers and other content creators. These individuals have the loyalty and trust of consumers and businesses. Develop relationships with the right online personalities to lend credibility to your business and expand your reach. • Be patient - Don’t expect social media to turn sales for you right away. • Public relations - Again, this is a free strategy that takes time. • Develop a PR list - Create a database for consumer publications and trade journals. • Send press releases - Only send out media releases on subjects that are truly newsworthy. • Stay on top of current events in your industry - Offer the media your expertise when they need it. • Develop relationships - Be helpful, not self-serving, and the relationships you make with journalists will benefit you. • Advertising & Direct Mail - These are more expensive channels. • Repetition is important - Do not waste money on the occasional ad here or there. It takes at least three viewings of an ad for a consumer to recognize a brand. • Add measurement to your ad - A response mechanism, such as a discount code can help you determine if your investment is paying off.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  10. 10. ATB Business • LEARN Develop your marketing budget. It’s true. You have to spend money to make money. But given that time and financial resources are always limited, a budget focused on delivering the highest ROI (return on investment) possible is necessary. When developing your marketing budget, consider: • Labour and direct costs. Don’t select the marketing channel with the lowest financial cost, only to be blindsided by a lack of available staff or the cost of an additional employee. • Focus on generating leads that can be converted to sales first. • Then think in terms of brand recognition marketing. • Identify what is essential given your market. Maybe your market only responds to direct mail. Put that on the budget first. • Add to your budget other tactics you want to use. • Scale back where it makes sense in order to work within the budget you have. • Always test and measure your marketing efforts to see what works for your business. The constraints of a budget should ensure that you get the best bang for your marketing buck and that you generate quality leads for sales. Hit your sales targets Marketing gets your brand and message in front of prospective customers, but it is your salespeople or online tools that close the deal. This department is responsible for achieving your goals. Everyone else in the company is there to support them. From production to finance and marketing, every aspect of your company has an impact on your customer retention rate and new sales figures. Pay close attention to what your salespeople request. Sometimes, it may be beyond your budget, but when they say they need something, try to find a way to help. When developing your sales plan, pay particular attention to your: • Database of customers and prospects - This is an important tool and should be maintained with meticulous care. • Sales funnel - Analyze the steps most customers take before buying. This is as appropriate for online sales as it is for face-to-face sales. Once you know how your customers buy, you’ll have the opportunity to improve their experience each step along the way and catch anyone who may drop off. Additionally, you can anticipate how many people will finally buy, and when they do, which is important for your cash flow forecast. • Sales channels - The cost of sale in a face-to-face transaction is much higher than the cost of sale in an online transaction. Know what sales channels work for your business. Try to move customers to channels that cost you less relative to the revenue gained. • Resources - Know what resources you need to meet your sales targets. If you have one salesperson but your targets require three, you will need to increase your staff. • Customer retention - Develop a strategy to retain customers. This can be a customer outreach plan or enhancing your customer service department. Plan to keep your current customers happy and buying. • Sales budget - Compensation of your sales staff will be your greatest expense. Develop a compensation strategy that works for your company, and a budget that includes the cost of your sales people, the support resources they need and your customer retention plan.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  11. 11. ATB Business • LEARN 4. Know Your Numbers Accounting is the bane of many entrepreneurs’ lives, but once embraced as an insight into how the business is doing, it can be hard to stop looking at the numbers. You need to understand and watch the numbers, while focusing on managing and growing your business. Visit http://www.atb.com/business/tools-and-resources/Pages/business- guides.aspx#worksheets to download free financial templates from ATB. Budgeting Set budgets to keep your business on track to realizing your goals. Budgets help you: • Know if you have enough money to operate your business. • Determine if you have enough money to expand. • Manage and monitor your expenses. Your accountant can help you develop your budget. You’ll need to review and update it regularly. This tool lets you know how your business performs compared to other small businesses in your industry: (http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/pp-pp.nsf/eng/h_pm00000.html) Cash flow forecast Start off your financial year by developing a cash flow forecast which will also need to e updated regularly. To develop a realistic cash flow you’ll need: • A sales forecast • A projected cash inflow - An estimate of when your receivables will be paid • An operating expense forecast - An estimate of when your payables must be paid You may need your accountant to assist you with this. He/she can use previous years’ numbers to ensure that your forecast is reasonably accurate. Your forecast should be conservative because underestimating your need for cash can seriously hurt a business. Know your break-even point. With your plans for growth, you are likely taking on additional overhead in terms of staff, equipment and other expenses. With these changes, your break-even point will change as well. Additional sales beyond this contribute to your profit. Monitoring your break-even point as you plan for growth is an important tool to determine the viability of your plan.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  12. 12. ATB Business • LEARN Analyze your annual financial statements. At the end of your financial year, sit down with your accountant and go through your statements to determine how you’re doing. Gross profit = your sales revenue less the cost of making your product. Gross Profit % (GP%) is the percentage difference between your selling price and your cost. • How does your GP% compare to your budget? • How does your GP% compare to last year? • How does it compare to the industry average? If your GP% is too low you need to increase prices or reduce your cost of sales. Net Profit = All revenue less the cost of making the product less the cost of all overhead. Net Profit % (NP%) is the percentage difference between revenue and all expenses. • How does your NP% compare to your budget? • How does your NP% compare to last year? • How does it compare to the industry average? If your NP% is too low you need to increase your GP% or reduce your operating expenses. Expense Ratios - Compare total expenses to total net sales for a specific period. • How do your expense ratios compare to your budget? • How do your expense ratios compare to last year? • How do your expense ratios compare to the industry average? If your expense ratios are too high, you need to control your expenses by setting strict budgets. Key Success Factors Know and understand the key success factors for your industry. For example, if you operate in the retail industry, pay close attention to inventory turnover ratios and sales per square foot. An example for the service industry would be to measure how much revenue is generated per hour/per day etc. Knowing the key metrics for your industry will help you see how well you’re doing compared to your competitors. Balance sheet This shows your company’s assets and liabilities at a specific point in time. With the help of your accountant you need to ensure that you have a solid balance sheet, especially if you plan to raise finances. There are important ratios that your accountant will be able to analyze to ensure they meets the requirements of the bank or other financiers.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  13. 13. ATB Business • LEARN Cash flow Cash flow is one of the major causes of small business failure. These tactics will help ensure that you have enough cash flowing through your business: • Sell more for cash. • Reduce your accounts receivables by collecting payments faster. • Increase your accounts payable terms (pay more slowly but not so slowly as to endanger a supplier relationship). • Reduce or control your operating expenses. • Set tighter budgets for every department. • Make cash flow your priority. • Ensure that when making decisions for larger purchases that you understand how to mitigate the impact on your cash flow Decisions drive growth. There are a number of decisions that will impact your financing needs. Some of the most common decisions that you may come across is whether you need to rent or buy office space and whether you need to invest in more efficient equipment. Since the choices you make will ultimately affect the future of your business, contact your ATB Business representative for guidance on the following areas. Investing in space You’ve heard it before: Location, location, location! Not only is the location of your business important, but a number of tough decisions need to be made when choosing office space. Carefully consider the decision to buy or lease space. Pros: Cons: Buying can build equity for the business. Large up-front capital outlay can reduce your cash-flow. Excess space can be leased to gain additional revenues. Maintenance and repairs can be costly. Fixed mortgage payments offer stability. Selling takes time. Investing in equipment In order to grow your business (and make it run more efficiently), investing in new equipment is usually required. Talk with your ATB Business representative about the financing options that are available to you.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  14. 14. ATB Business • LEARN You have financing options. If your financial forecast shows times when you will have negative cash flow, starting planning for that now. Contact your ATB Business advisor or Relationship Manager and see what options are available. There are a variety of options including: • Yourself - Make a personal loan to your company to demonstrate your confidence. • Your bank - Develop a relationship with your ATB representative so that when you do need money, they know you and how you run your business. • Family and friends - This category of financial resources is often great for short-term bridge financing at a very low cost. • Government backed loans – Speak to your ATB advisor about these. • Angel investors - Angel investors often make higher risk investments to get a greater return. Network to find these people. There are also directories of angel investors available online.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  15. 15. ATB Business • LEARN 5. Support Your Success with Systems Systems make it easier to run your business. They are standard procedures that are followed to complete certain tasks such as making a widget, or tracking the payment of an invoice. Systems are carried out by people, technology, or both. Effective systems produce consistent results regardless of who is performing the task. Think of the Big Mac at McDonald’s or coffee at Tim Hortons. Consistent systems ensure that every customer receives the same quality of product and that it is delivered in the most efficient way possible. The secret to building a successful business is to build successful systems. Once proven reliable, systems can be duplicated and you can grow and expand your business. Systems will help your business run while you sleep, play, or work on other areas of your business. Marketing Marketing systems help create a consistent company image. Develop: • A standardized marketing plan for your company, and decide how often it will be reviewed. • A standardized image for your company, including logo, corporate colours, business cards, letterhead, website, email etc • Systems for customer retention and acquisition • Consistent procedures for customer service so that every customer receives the same quality service Sales Sales systems are created to help close sales more efficiently. Develop: • A checklist for the process each salesperson needs to go through to close a sale • Standardized templates for proposals and contracts • A list of questions salespeople should ask customers • A standard telephone calling script • A lead tracking system Administration The goal of administrative systems is to create efficient and organized processes to deal with the details of the business. Develop: • Standard filing procedures • A system to keep customer records • A standard way to invoice clients • A checklist for operating office equipment and a record of passwords2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  16. 16. ATB Business • LEARN People Management People management systems are created to make the working environment as friendly and efficient as possible. Develop: • A simple job description for each employee • A procedure for recruiting employees • Standard employee interview questions • Standardised contracts for employees and contract workers • A standard employee review process Financial With proper financial systems you’ll be able to account for every dollar in your business and ensure that your accountant and the Canada Revenue Agency are kept happy. Focus on: • Accounting procedures • Guidelines for managing accounts payable and receivable • Banking policies and procedures • Standardized financial statements and ratios to be measured Technology Successful business owners use technology to save money and so should you. You want to standardize your hardware, software and cloud-based technology to manage your business. You need guidelines for your website and email as well as a social media policy. You should also use the latest technology trends to improve the efficiencies of your business. Here are a few trends to watch. • Cloud computing is like timeshare for computing power and software. Want to back up your data? Do it in the cloud and never have to upgrade your backup hardware again. Want accounting software? Buy a cloud version and the upgrades will occur automatically. You pay on a monthly basis, thereby avoiding a large cash outlay, and you get IT support as you go. In addition, it’s scalable. You can expand the capability of your cloud product as your business grows. • Free trials and free versions of software (which you may need to upgrade to paid versions as you grow) are common with cloud computing options, although they are not completely free. To test the system, you must first invest your time. Once you’re along the learning curve you will not be so inclined to change tools, so research your choice carefully. • Mobile computing continues to grow with many software products having mobile versions. Tools and applications are being developed specifically for mobile devices. • Collaboration tools are platforms that allow people in various locations to share information and develop documents and products collaboratively. • Social media continues to grow quickly and will be covered in the marketing section.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  17. 17. ATB Business • LEARN Great technology tools to consider: • WordPress is a free platform that was originally designed for blogs but is now frequently used for full websites. With free templates, WordPress can be a DIY solution for the entrepreneur who wants to roll up their sleeves, learn the technology and create their own website. • Google Analytics is a free tool that helps you understand what’s happening with your website. It can tell you how people arrive on your site, what pages they visit, how long they stay and more. With this information, you can optimize your site for greater success. • FreshBooks and QuickBooks are accounting software tools offered as cloud computing. FreshBooks is free for up to three clients. • Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 are both collaboration tools that allow you to share documents and information. Some Google apps, like Google Docs, are free, while the integrated Microsoft Office 365 solution is priced very low and offers a free trial. • VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is a low cost telephone solution that uses your high speed internet connection instead of traditional phone lines. Long distance and 1-800 numbers are available at a fraction of the cost of regular phone services. • Smartphone technology is driving the mobile app revolution and allowing entrepreneurs the freedom to do business just about everywhere. Many cloud computing solutions offer mobile options. • Dropbox offers an easy way to share files, even very large files, which is a challenge via email. The entry level version, which is quite robust, is free. • Skype and Google Hangout are free audio/video conferencing tools that are great for client and small team meetings. Google Hangout is part of the Google+ platform. • Salesforce is a cloud-based sales management tool that’s good for basic contact management for one person or for teams. Operations Manual All your systems, policies and procedures should be documented in your Company Operations Manual. Your operations manual is to be used to train new employees and ensure existing employees stick to the system. Your systems should be reviewed regularly to ensure they’re current. When you decide to sell your business, your Operations Manual will be an asset, as it will enable the new owner to manage the business just as well as you by following the system.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  18. 18. ATB Business • LEARN 6. Your People Make it Happen Finally, make sure that you have the people power to achieve your goals. This has been touched on at various points in this guide, but the quality of the people you have working for you is so important, so it requires a section unto itself. Determine your HR requirements. As you have done with all other aspects of your business, evaluate whether you have the staff you need to meet your goals. Look for the gaps to determine the type of person you need to hire and train, and when you need them to be proficient at their job. Consider HR alternatives. Just because you need additional people to support your growth, does not mean that you have to hire staff. Consider: • Freelancers • Part-time employees • Contract workers • Outsourcing companies • Partnerships with other companies • Your network (Did you know that LinkedIn is the #1 vehicle for recruiting?) Hiring best practices Regardless of how you plan to expand your human resource capacity, follow these practices to ensure you have the best of the best: • Develop a corporate culture that attracts people. Make your company a place where people want to work. • Place a “Hiring” section on your website to attract employees who already know and are interested in your company. • Use your network and that of your employees to recruit people. It will be less expensive to compensate an employee for a successful hire than to pay an agency. • Clearly define the job and the skills, aptitude and attitude needed to be successful at it. • In the interview, ask the candidate for specific examples of how they have used the skills you want for the job rather than asking if they have them. • Get a second opinion. Ask other employees or trusted advisors to sit in on the interviews with you. Invest in your people with training. In order for people to perform well, they need job training as well as company training. In other words, they need to be trained on the way you want them to perform their job and how you want them to work within the company. Your operations manual will help.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  19. 19. ATB Business • LEARN 7. Strategize the Future with a Plan It’s time to have a fresh look at your Business Plan. The work done in the previous sections will inform your writing of the plan. Update your business plan. A business plan will guide you to where you want your business to be at the end of the year, or in three years or five http://www.atb.com/SiteCollectionDocuments/Business/resources/ATB_business_plan.pdf to take you through the process. If you’ve already used the ATB Business Plan Builder, focus on updating these sections in this order: 1. Update your vision. 2. Drop your S.W.O.T. analysis into that section of the plan. 3. Use the results of your S.W.O.T analysis and your USP to update your Products and Services section. If you’re planning a new product launch, the information on that product goes here. 4. Refine your target market with an analysis of your ideal customer. 5. Update your marketing and sales plans with new strategies on branding, website and promotional tools, sales methods, etc. 6. Continue through the business plan updating the information with the new strategies, tactics, resources and financial forecasts that show how you will get to your goals. Pay close attention to your cash flow forecast to ensure that you have the financing required to achieve your goals. 7. Go back to the beginning of the plan and update the Executive Summary. Your Business Plan in Action A plan doesn’t work unless it’s acted on. You need to create a timeline and assign responsibility for the completion of each task. A simple way to do this is to: • Get colour-coded sticky notes and a very large wall. • Assign sales, marketing, finance, production, etc. Each department gets a different colour sticky note. • Write the tasks to be completed in each category on individual sticky notes in the appropriate colour. • Establish a monthly timeline along the top of the wall. • Place the tasks at the appropriate point in the timeline, with each colour/category on its own horizontal plane. • Notice the conflicts. With this large visual, you will be able to see when financing needs to come in, why the website has to be rebuilt earlier than you thought and similar types of issues. • Once you have all the sticky notes in the right order on the timeline, assign responsibilities for the tasks. Again, having this large visual will ensure that you don’t over-assign one person and under-assign another. • Identify the gaps in your human, technical and financial resources. You need to plan for these. • Using a project management tool or simply a spreadsheet, capture the information so that everyone has a record of the big picture and their individual roles and responsibilities within it.2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  20. 20. ATB Business • LEARN It’s Time for Action Planning is exciting, but reaching your goals is even more so. As you evaluate all you need to implement your plan, don’t forget to consider yourself in the mix. You can’t work 24/7, and in order to grow your business, you need to grow as a business person too. Invest in yourself: • Plan time to read business books, network and recharge. • Expand your advisory network. The advisors you had at startup may not be who you need for growth. • Review your time management practices and issues. Everyone has some flaws in how they manage their time. These may not have been noticeable when your company was small, but they will be as it grows. Plan to improve how you manage your time. Being an entrepreneur is a creative, financially rewarding career—if it is done correctly. Expand your knowledge on the points in this guide that are particularly pertinent to your business, build your plan and put it into action. Enjoy your success!2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)
  21. 21. ATB Business • LEARN Helpful Resources 10 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read 1. Screw Business as Usual by Richard Branson 2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg 3. Rework by Jason Fried 4. The E Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber 5. Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson 6. Good to Great by Jim Collins 7. Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples 8. Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch 9. Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath 10. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh Government websites http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/page/3425/ http://www.canadabusiness.ab.ca/index.php/operations/51-growing-your-business Magazines and their Websites for small business Inc.com - http://www.inc.com/ Profit Magazine - http://www.profitguide.com/ Fast Company - http://www.fastcompany.com/ Websites Referenced in Guide Industry Canada SME Benchmarking Tool http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/pp-pp.nsf/eng/h_pm00000.html2013 ATB Financial. All rights reserved. TM Trademarks of Alberta Treasury Branches. This guide is for illustrative purposes. (02/13)

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