Business Planning in Omaha, NE
As we approached the end of the year and now that we’re beginning anew this month, those of us in the business world share a common focus: planning for the year ahead. If you fall into the category of business owner or one of the many other professionals who in their roles, are responsible for all aspects of an organization’s operations, you likely already understand that planning is critical to your continued success. However, with so many different areas to concentrate on, it first begs the question: Where do your priorities lie?
It can seem overwhelming to approach the decisions you’ll be making now that will shape your business in the future. By going through your business plan and seeing what needs the most attention this year, you can narrow down your planning efforts and then turn to the experts to help you put these plans in place. Here are just a few different areas that you may need to consider for 2017.
Developing a Business Plan
For those who are embarking on a new business venture in 2017, putting together a business plan is the first item on the agenda. Having a documented plan in place is crucial, and if you’ve never done this before, enlisting the help of a professional is wise. A business plan, the foundation of everything you’ll do moving forward, is the best way to ensure you will remain on the right trajectory towards meeting your goals. A well thought out, organized business plan with conservative revenue projections is great to have on-hand in the event you’ll be presenting to potential investors and helps the bank understand every detail of the new business.
Putting Together a Team of Advisors
With so many bases to cover, it truly does take a village of professionals to help you see the big picture along with the little details. A team approach will also help in keeping you abreast of everything that’s going on in each industry that plays a part in the success of your business.
Take business finance for example. Key professionals that most business owners utilize to ensure that finances are in order include an accountant, tax preparer, insurance agent, payroll professional, benefits advisor, payment processor, financial planner and so on. As such, each of these individuals will be able to offer a different perspective in assisting you with evaluating your successes and shortcomings from 2016 in order to help you plan accordingly for the year to come. In the interest of efficiency, you might even opt to work with a firm that wears a few of these hats.
In addition to advisors in key areas on your business, a business coach can also be an invaluable part of the planning process overall. These professionals specialize in coming alongside business owners to provide an outsider perspective and guidance, among other things.
“At Achievement Unlimited, Inc., we follow a strategic planning process where we work with our clients to identify areas that will make the most impact to improve their organization,” explains Rose Mary Hefley, President of Achievement Unlimited, Inc. “This examines the critical aspects of the business to aid in the development of prioritized goals. We also work on an action plan that ensures objectives are met. Some of these objectives would be to: grow sales, improve profit margins, reduce operating cost, and produce a better product or service.
Our wide range of product and service offerings are all tailored to our clients’ specific goals. Some examples of areas of expertise are Leadership, Management, and Sales Training; Manufacturing and Distribution Systems Integration, COO Services; Strategic and Business Planning. We make the biggest impact by working with clients to follow through on activities that will create a return on investment. We also bring another set of eyes to a challenge and can be objective when it comes to identifying solutions and finding creative ways to solve problems.
She also offers the following advice: “If you want your business to get better, you must get better. That means you need to invest in yourself and your leadership team to improve your communication, thinking, listening, problem-solving and team building skills. You must have a written plan to meet the objectives of the organization. Everyone needs to have goals and objectives they must meet and be trained on the skills they need to be successful. It is also important to create an environment whereby both the employee and the business are rewarded for their efforts.
From my extensive experience working closely with business owners, I’ve found that many overlook coming trends and fail to prepare for the changing marketplace. Another area of neglect is failing to develop upcoming leadership within the organization. Just because someone can sell or is a good widget maker does not mean they can run a department or a business without effective leadership and management skills. A lot of owners in today’s marketplace would like to retire but don’t have a leadership team in place that can effectively fill the void left by their departure. This creates a real problem, especially in family-owned businesses where there is an 80% failure rate when the second generation takes over and does not have the leadership ability to create revenue or manage people.
I’ve seen all types of businesses struggle because of lack of modern systems and management/supervisory skills. At Achievement Unlimited, Inc., we work with businesses to implement modern systems and to train their management teams on effective leadership techniques.
All successful sports teams have a coach who holds them accountable and picks them up when they fall down. Successful business executives work with executive coaches. We offer executive coaching and system changes to modernize your workplace and create a better work environment.”
Preparing for Transition
As previously mentioned, this is something that will be critical to the continued success of your business down the line. Among the professionals you might want to consider bringing into the mix, and another example of a trusted business advisor, is a business broker. The buying and selling of businesses happens regularly, and as such, many people will be planning to do one of the two, whether it will be happening in a few months or in a few years. This can be a complicated matter, so it’s important to have the guidance in place so that you’re doing exactly what you need to do at the appropriate intervals so that you stay on the path to the ultimate goal.
“With respect to business planning, our expertise lies in helping our clients prepare for a transfer of ownership as well as planning accordingly for any period of transition,” says Jethro Hopkins, owner of No Coast Business Advisors. “Whether it be selling the business or passing the torch on to the next generation, we join forces with our clients’ team of accountants, financial advisors and lawyers to plan for the transition so everything goes as smoothly as possible.
If you are thinking about selling your business in the next couple of years, it’s crucial to focus on the financial records now. This alone will play a major role in the business’s value when it comes time to sell. It’s important to track all transactions, especially purchases, as a part of the profit and loss statements. Having a legitimate paper trail for all of the business’s finances can actually increase the value of the business because you have quantifiable proof to show potential buyers. Moreover, it is wise to begin paying yourself as an employee as opposed to taking your cut of the business’s profit. It’s all about strategizing to get the most for your business, so presenting the most accurate reports of overall revenue (and profit) of the company is critical.
It’s very hard to sell a business if the reported cash flow is under $100K, which is classified as a “microbusiness,” but those above that number seem to do quite well in the current market. If you need to get your business to that point in 12 months or less, you’ll need a somewhat aggressive, quick-start strategy in place. No Coast Business Advisors just began offering the NAABB Marketing Academy program, which I highly recommend as a cost-effective way to have access to local consulting services on a regular basis as well as a plan to follow backed by proven results from participants nationwide.
For those who may not be planning to sell in the near future, market valuations are still the most critical of our offerings to have done. This provides a benchmark of its value which can be referenced for all sorts of things, such as loans, future planning, partners, dividend payout estimates, and much more. We recommend that any business gets one done annually at the very least. The program that I just mentioned also has a second phase that helps businesses get to $1M annual profit, so if growth is in the plans, it can certainly help you get there too.”
In the vast tech space, there’s always something new being introduced that you can plan to use to your advantage. Looking into options for upgrading, whether it’s adding something new or a better, more advanced version of existing technology you’re already using, has become an integral part of a business’s planning process in modern times. Infrastructure, internet speeds, networks, data storage, equipment, and software, the online landscape in general – it can seem as though all of these are in a constant state of change because for the most part, they are and that’s a good thing. There are exciting things coming to the Lincoln area to check out, and it also doesn’t hurt to have an expert come in and evaluate where you’re at currently so that they can make recommendations about key areas of improvement for the coming year. Due to the fact that there’s so much out there to explore, targeting where the most potential for improvement lies is a great starting point. With more breakthrough technology being introduced than most of us who are busy running our businesses can keep up with, but at the same time, shouldn’t be without, along with budget constraints that prevent us from investing in it all (even though we might want to), it’s only wise to do so.
Joel Friesen, President at Five Nines, provides the following tips for what to assess now and plan for in the coming year:
- Backups, both on-site and also off-site replication. “Everything else can be replaced, data cannot. About half of the companies we talk to are not able to verify that their data is backing up correctly, and most are still utilizing tape backups.”
- Budgeting for replacement equipment, and capturing licensing costs that are due (Ex. Microsoft). “Most people believe that they can run some of this hardware (servers, switches, etc.) until it is completely dead. They don’t usually understand the risk to their business continuity, data loss potential, and how long it takes to replace.”
- Spending significant time training your staff about security risks. “Careless or uninformed employees that are not trained in security best practices (weak passwords, visiting unauthorized website, and clicking links in suspicious emails) are a high risk for a business.”
He concludes, “Actually having a plan for IT is the first step, and we find some have not made it that far. We spend a considerable amount each year researching best practices, and we have experience managing hundreds of different environments. That gives us a much broader understanding of what does and does not work. We save businesses a lot of time, energy, and money as we apply that knowledge to help move their company forward.”
Doug Seaman, Project Support Specialist at Echo Systems, also provides insight as to what’s on the horizon for the coming year and on planning for the integration of sophisticated technology.
“According to a recent study by infoComm (the Audio-Visual industry’s trade organization), the top three technologies most likely to impact a business in 2017 are 1) Huddle Spaces, 2) Wireless AV Signal Transmission, and 3) Cloud Services.
Huddle Spaces – A trend where people meet quickly on an ad-hoc basis, and need to collaborate around a small desk with a medium- to large-sized display. There are now connectivity solutions for just this application.
Wireless AV Signal Distribution – There are now more reliable solutions to wirelessly connect a device to a display. (NOTE: Consumer-grade solutions do not provide reliable connectivity or sufficient security settings for a corporate network environment.)
Cloud-Based Conference Solutions – Vendors such as Polycom, Lifesize, and many others are migrating away from a hardware-only model to a hybrid hardware/software model for both audio and video conferencing.
In addition, Internet of Things (IoT) and Augmented or Virtual Reality (AR/VR) will begin to make inroads into the business environment. Each of these items will have impacts on workflow, communication, and operations, and will also influence culture.
Display technologies are also advancing; examples include see-through televisions, bendable curved displays for architectural solutions, very large screen sizes, outdoor video displays, and multi-screen video walls.
Echo Systems’ expertise is in design, systems integration, project management, and overall technology strategy. We can help you with all of these and more in the coming year.”
He also cautions, “We find that infrastructure is the number one thing that businesses overlook when it comes to planning for Audio-Visual solutions. It could be as simple as forgetting about conduit under a meeting room table, or as complex as planning your network to be able to handle Audio and Video signal traffic.
I always think back to what a basketball coach of mine used to say: ‘Ducks on a pond, baby!’ He was referring to the old saying about a duck gliding along the water while its legs are madly churning underneath, and it applies here. The thing most people don’t realize about Audio-Visual is that there is a lot of thought behind the design of a well-executed AV strategy. From simple calculations about display size, sight lines for cameras, etc. to more complex issues like sending a video signal throughout a facility, speaker placement for optimal acoustics – a lot of thought goes into the end result. An AV integrator has the knowledge and skill to anticipate design factors that may affect architecture, lighting, and other aesthetic or functional aspects of your business.
When it comes to technology planning, bring in your technology partner as early as possible in your process. You’ll also want to bring in your facilities and IT staff as soon as possible to allow them to plan for the little details that can have a major downstream effect on your technology. This improves communication, and leads to a better end result for all parties involved.”
In Case of Emergency
In the event of an emergency, do you have plans in place? As far as execution, do your employees know what they are? Do they know at the very least where to find a fire extinguisher? Have your critical emergency systems and equipment been inspected at the recommended intervals?
A local provider of a wide variety of fire protection and life safety equipment, FireGuard also places a major emphasis on educating business owners about the necessary safety features that are not only required by law but a good idea to have present in your place of business.
OSHA 1910-157(g) states: Training and education (1) where the employer has provided portable Fire Extinguishers for employees in the workplace; the employer shall also provide an educational program to familiarize employees with the general principles of Fire Extinguisher use and the hazards involved with the incipient stage of firefighting.
According to Bob Sorensen, owner of FireGuard, “It is very important to conduct training in the workplace, not only because it is an OSHA requirement but also because it has the potential to save lives, protect assets, builds confidence, and promotes awareness.”
He further advises, “An inspection will uncover anything you may need to be up to code or compliant with the law, so that’s a good way to see where you’re at currently and what needs to be resolved now or looked into further down line. Some of the most common areas of concern for businesses include having the proper fire extinguishers and their placement, exit and emergency lighting, and existing safety equipment and systems, such as your fire alarm and fire sprinkler systems. FireGuard eliminates the need to contact multiple companies by offering complete life safety solutions. We design, sell, install, inspect and service all types of fire protection and life safety equipment.”
Specifically regarding planning for the future of an organization as a whole, Sorensen notes, “You can never plan soon enough. I am transitioning FireGuard to my sons at the present time as I deem it a ‘legacy business.’ I want to keep the company moving forward in the manner which I started it from scratch. However, today I see a much different business climate. My two sons will need to surround themselves with key people. We all need to be reminded of the core values in our business and continue to improve and capitalize on the positives.”
Establishing a Presence in the Marketplace
Last, but CERTAINLY not least, you’ll want to plan for how you’ll be marketing your business in 2017. This too will largely depend on your evaluation of the successes and shortcomings from the past year, goals for your business in the future, and your plans in other key areas. In this area, as with many of the others we’ve explored, no two business will have the same planning outcomes. As each business is a unique entity all its own, so is the plan that’s tailored to meet the strategic objectives laid out for branding and promotion across a calendar year. For some businesses, marketing efforts will be planned out a year or more in advance, while for others, decisions are actively made and new projects are embarked upon throughout the year, which still requires forethought and a timeline.
Depending on where you’re at in your business cycle and what your goals are, any business owner should consider their online presence when doing strategic planning for the coming year:
Years ago, before the Internet was a thing, if you wanted the most business, you set up shop in a high visibility location. This included your office or place of business, the yellow pages, billboards, etc. Now that location is online. Companies that don’t want to face that fact and adapt are dead in the water – it’s not a matter of if, but when.
Tyler Horsley, Executive Director of Nuclear Networking, offers guidance on the up-and-coming phenomenon that’s digital marketing:
“While you’ve probably heard the term ‘SEO’ thrown around, you might still be wondering what that actually means. My answer, in short, is that I’ve found it tends to mean something different to everyone. As such, we focus on educating our clients about what it means to us, and how we plan to achieve it for our clients. As certified Google partners, we focus on onsite SEO algorithmic compliance – How does Google see you? Is your site healthy? Is it loading fast? And so on. We’ve made a point to incorporate aspects of every version of what SEO is that we’ve come across thus far, addressing it from all angles online.
In fact, education is a key piece of what we do. It’s important to us that our clients are able to make educated and empowered decisions.
I often refer to the three things every business needs to address as the “three-legged stool”: Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and Local Citation Building and Optimization (Citations are core industry platforms that Google deems necessary for a strong foundation in SEO, local brand awareness, and function like microsites on each major platform). The union of the three is what will support your objectives for digital marketing, allowing you to succeed at capturing the attention of your target audience.
The majority of millennials are using the Internet exclusively to find services, that’s now a well-documented fact. Although in the Midwest, and Nebraska in particular, business remains very relationship and referral driven, you’re still missing a huge segment of the population, and therefore will have a significant missed opportunity cost, by neglecting your online presence. Being able to market effectively to this booming population will be critical to the success and longevity of businesses here in Nebraska.
Nuclear Networking began in the government sector, and then branched out to work with large, high-profile business clients nationwide, but we felt strongly that SMBs were the segment in the most need of our digital marketing services. We’re able to ‘bring a cannon to a stick fight’ when it comes to digital marketing for local businesses, bringing a level of expertise that can really make a difference where it’s needed most. At Nuclear Networking, we consider ourselves to be a business partner, not a third party contracting service. Our approach is to come alongside and educate through the entire process, to be a consultant, and to really help grow the business as a whole.
We pride ourselves on being very clear about what we can do and what we are going to do. A lot of times with other companies you’ll find in this space, the message is delivered as ‘Pay us X amount of dollars and we’ll increase your rank.’ Do you really know what you’re buying, though, or are you just relegated to ‘I hope it works, here’s my money?’ My job is to take my client’s/partner’s investment and multiply it through online and digital platforms. We create a customized competitive analysis that maps everything out – if you’re interested in competing in this space, here’s what your financial investment will be and the return you can expect. Most business decisions are made based on metrics and knowledge as opposed to what you hope to happen, and this is no different. We also customize three different strategies that you could go to market with as our recommended course of action moving forward. This is all provided at no cost, as is a lot of the education we provide, mainly because we want to be clear about what a partnership would entail to find out if it will be a good fit for both parties. Check us out at nuclearnetworking.com to learn more, and feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s very important to at the very least get educated on your options. And to do that now, because although it’s not really affecting this market here as much as others across the U.S. at the moment, you can be sure it will hit here soon in a big wave and you’ll want to be the one who is prepared for that to happen.”
The topic of business planning is an enormous one and can include a number of different aspects, some of which are vitally important to your business and others that are not so critical but still be well worth exploring. The key is to focus on those areas that will have the most impact on your business’s success and growth over the next year and to partner with the professionals who can help you put the processes in place to move forward.