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Did Your Business Plan Achieve Its Goals in 2008?

26 Jan, 2009 By: Ed Carroll imageSource

Did Your Business Plan Achieve Its Goals in 2008?

If your business reached the financial goals you set for 2008,
congratulations!  This is no small accomplishments.  I am sure there are very
good reasons for this.  Chances are your started the year with realistic
expectations, you were cost conscious with your expenses, you are a positive
motivator, you continued to develop your team and you invested wisely in new
opportunities.  Reaching your goals in a weakening economy takes hard work and
good planning.  Now is the time to plan and invest in order to position your
business for new opportunities in 2009.   Yes I did say invest and here’s why!

Not a day goes by without some negative financial news making the headlines. 
So naturally we  all become concerned about our overall financial situation.  If
you haven’t looked at your 401k recently, I am sure it is for the better because
if it is like mine, I can’t imagine when it will rebound to the level of pre
2007. All this financial news puts us in a very defensive position.  Businesses
are looking to cut cost, eliminate jobs, and conserve cash in order to survive
the current economic environment.  Hopefully, you have reviewed your business
expenses and eliminated unnecessary costs wherever possible, have conserved your
cash and have delayed hiring non-revenue producing positions.  If so, now is the
time to invest (or reinvest) for the future.

Investing in your business takes a plan, it should be strategic and it should
position you for new opportunities in the market.  As stated earlier, those that
reached their financial goals in 2008 most likely accomplished this through a
number of action items including investing in new areas.  Their hardware margins
were declining and new revenue opportunities were sought to offset the increase
in expenses.   Some investment areas that may have paid dividends were a new
professional services initiative like document capture, or expanding services by
offering managed print services or upgrading the sales team’s skills to a
consultative sales approach.  Whatever it was, it was a difference maker. 

As we move further into 2009, you should look for ways to make your business
different from your competitors.  This takes investing.  I touched upon three
such examples per above. 

1 | Launching a new professional services initiative, like document
  Launching a full fledge professional service area  is costly and
will not produce significant results in the short term, and therefore if you
have not already done so I would discourage you from doing so in these difficult
economic times.  Launching a focused approach in professional services, like
focusing on document capture or electronic forms is a wiser strategy.  Scanning
is a growing area, business are looking for ways to take advantage of the
scanning features on their current equipment, helping them capture and rout
images either through email or on their network is a good starting point.  Many
small and medium size businesses are not ready for a document management system
but are interested in moving or storing images.  Providing tools or systems to
support this area will add value to your customers and differentiate you from
your competitors.

2 | Expanding your service by launching a managed print services
There is no other area in our industry that is getting as much
attention as managed print services and rightfully so.  At a recent industry
conference I attended almost every speakers’ presentation covered this topic.  
It goes without saying that the proliferation of copier, printer, scanning and
facsimile equipment over the years has caused most business to have an abundance
of equipment on hand. Being a service provider who identifies, tags, and manages
output under a single source agreement offers new revenue opportunities and it
is a growing area.  It could be your differentiator. 

3 | Upgrading your sales team to a consultative sales approach.  Of
the three areas I mentioned this is probably the most difficult.  Those who are
accustomed to selling hardware will find it difficult to change, but for future
success it is imperative.  A slowing economy makes it more difficult to sell
upgrades on speeds and feeds and lease payments, and when you do, it usually
results in lower revenue streams for your business.  Having a sales force who
knows how to positions themselves as one who understands the needs of the
customer and approach the opportunity with more than a new piece of hardware
will enable you to secure more profitable business.

I have shared with you three examples and I am sure there are others equally
as good as the ones I used.  The point is if you want to drive your business to
future growth even in a declining business climate you need to position yourself
to capitalize on the opportunities by investing in new areas. To do so you
should consider the following:

1 | Have a plan.  You need to analyze your strengths and weaknesses
and assess what make the most sense for your business and your current
customers’.  There are many good products and services available in the market
but they are not meant for all customers and might not be right for your
organization’s skills. A plan is the most crucial step

2 | Be strategic.  Once you know your strengths and weaknesses,
knowing your competitors strengths and weaknesses is of equal value when
assessing what area you should focus on.  A different approach, a different
offering, a different solution add value to you business and sets you apart from
your competitors.  There is no one shoe fits all approach in this business and
therefore you need not always follow the lead of your competitors if there is
another approach that could accomplish a better result.

3 | Don’t go it alone.  Investing in a new area involves risk and
mistakes.  Sometimes costly mistakes.  In a tight economy the last thing you can
afford is costly mistakes.  Seek assistance.  If you know a fellow business
owner in another part of the country who has experience in the area you are
pursuing, seek their advice.  If your initiative involves new software or
hardware, the manufacturer is another source for support.  And finally there are
many professional firms who can guide you through the launch of a new area. 
Many times their cost is much less than the cost you will incur if you encounter
difficulties.  Seek assistance.

Investing in new areas of your business is a difficult choice in the best of
times.  In a weakening economy the choices you make are even more challenging. 
If you have managed your business to the current economic climate now is the
time to focus on the future.  We all know the economy will rebound; it is just a
matter of time.  Preparing for it takes advance planning.  Review your results,
look for new opportunities, seek assistance and you too could be poised to
achieve your goals in 2009.  Much success.

Ed Carroll, Principal, Strategy Development, a management consulting &
advanced sales training firm. Formerly with IKON Office Solutions & Panasonic.
703.722.2973. Carroll is an ITEX ’09 speaker in March.

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