by Beth McAuley
Published at 2021-07-14
In a blog post I wrote in 2013, “3 Professionals Every Entrepreneur Needs in Their Corner,” I noted that when an entrepreneur launches a new business, they must have three good professionals in their corner — a good bookkeeper, a good accountant, and a good lawyer. I was fortunate enough to find these three professionals and start a working relationship with them early on in the business. I continue to have strong and positive working relationships with each of them as The Editing Company moves into its eleventh (almost twelfth) year.
What wasn’t mentioned in the first courses I took on launching a business — at least explicitly — was the importance of having a strategic planner in your corner early on in the start-up years. It is possible that the initial business plan lays out the groundwork for a strategy that can be followed in the first difficult and most challenging years.
When I think of my business plan at that point, it asked important questions about audience and market and goals and services. It got me thinking about what I wanted to do with The Editing Company and how I might do it. The plan gave me a rudimentary sense of direction, telling me which way I wanted to go and giving me some ideas on how I might take those first steps.
As the business grew, I continued to generate ideas on how to reach more clients and expand our services. I was strategizing on the go, and with my team tried a variety of marketing initiatives — from brochure mailings, to sending email blasts to academics across the country, to mailings of pens and bookmarks in zip-lock pencil cases, to sending personalized holiday cards.
We launched our first website and began the lifelong challenge of reaching successful heights of search engine optimization. We began writing blogs and posted several a month; and we launched a monthly newsletter.
As we carried out these initiatives, we found ourselves dropping the ball when we had too many projects on the go and couldn’t keep up with our marketing and networking demands. Once we had a bit more time, we had to play catch up to regain our foothold.
It turns out, this is not an uncommon experience for many small businesses: losing focus on the networking and marketing once the projects come in and getting back to it when there is a lull.
The challenge is to keep the focus on these initiatives at all times. This is a key piece of strategic management that has to find its place among the other key strategic management tools: providing service to your clients, keeping your cash flow and finances in good order, building your team, setting up efficient operations.
When we are busy starting a business and working at keeping it afloat, we work with these pieces as individual components that get some attention or no attention at all. In fact, each is a piece of the strategic puzzle and each has a role to play in building the business. And each needs consistent care and attention. I began to learn this when I started working with Judi and Nick Hughes of Your Planning Partners in May 2018.
When I contacted Judi Hughes at Your Planning Partners last spring, I needed some ideas on outreach, on networking, on marketing with meaning. I first met Judi at a networking event some years earlier and later attended a complimentary workshop that YPP offers. I was intrigued but not ready just then to sign on. But when I reached the tenth year of business, I was ready. I needed direction and clarity and focus, and consistent application.
I booked the first session with Judi to talk – to talk about the business and how it is doing, and where I want to take it. It was a surprisingly emotional three hours as we dove into the nitty-gritty that drives The Editing Company. From this session, we built a vision statement and in that statement I could see where I was headed and where I wanted to go.
The next steps of the YPP process would be to build a strategic plan that could get me there. I could tell this would be hard work. The process demands time, concentration, and dedication. Was I ready? Yes. Yes I was. I signed on for a one-year program.
The YPP program teaches you about the 8 components of your business: marketing, sales, team, operations, finances, customer service, product, planning and management. You learn how to look at each part and understand how that part works on its own and as part of the business puzzle. Judi and Nick help you put these pieces into place.
Judi tackles the networking and marketing and sales components; Nick tackles the finances and operations; they both tackle team building and services. They work as a team and share information that enhances what each of them do for you.
The key steps in the process of building clarity and focus are to define your vision, write your mission statement, set goals, and identify effective strategies to reach these goals. The actions feed the strategy that helps to reach the goals. The challenge is to keep these actions in motion.
Here are some examples of actions that I have in motion:
*Daily Outreach: Each day of each week I do three actions. These range from sending emails to touch base with clients, posting on LinkedIn, following up on potential leads.
*Keeping in touch with clients: I’ve created a contact list that I “network” on a weekly basis. Who to say hello to. Who to follow up with. Who to check in with.
*Responding to queries from potential clients: Sending an estimate or giving them a call to find out more of what they need.
*Having a weekly meeting with my marketing team: We identify monthly themes that help us focus our monthly and weekly communications: social media posts, newsletter, website updates.
*Attending monthly networking events: These are events that I want to attend because I have an interest in what is taking place. This could be a book launch, a panel discussion, a mini-conference.
I know this is a very brief overview of my strategic planning journey. And I have much more work ahead of me and much more to learn. But the YPP approach is so effective – it is the hands-on, everyday practice of managing a business that we need to understand as business owners and that many of us learn as we go. YPP can help us perfect what we’ve learned.
How do you know when you are ready? I knew I was ready when I felt like I was spinning my wheels – trying the same thing over and over but not seeing my business grow. I needed a push to get out of the rut.
Are you ready?
If you are ready to learn how your business components need to align as part of your business strategy, contact Judi and Nick Hughes at YPP and get things going. You will not regret it.
For more handy business resources, check out our July 2021 newsletter!