Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Planning Tips for a Prosperous New Year

If you’re like me, your mind is bursting with new plans and ideas for the upcoming year. New sales opportunities and customers. New projects. New goals. And I don’t know about you but the holidays were a little rough on my waistline so a new health regimen is in order as well. (I’ve never met a plate of fudge I didn’t like!)

So, how do you turn those great ideas into reality?

That’s precisely what I spent Tuesday working on. I find that if I don’t sit down and plan, all my ideas come to nothing. For me, it’s all about project management and setting deadlines. See if any of these tips will help you achieve your goals for the year:

1. Make a list of all the projects you need to complete.
2. Prioritize them by importance. (I give them an A,B,C rating.)
3. Taking the A list, determine the deadline by either when the project is due or when you want to have it completed.
4. Take out your palm pilot, calendar, or day planner.
5. Put each deadline on your calendar.
6. Work backwards from your deadline, assigning time slots for getting each step of the project done.
7. If you have to bump a step off your calendar when another commitment comes up…Reschedule. Don’t treat your own plans and projects like a red headed stepchild, constantly shifting them to the bottom of the priority list.
8. Then, go back and fit in your B list and finally your C list.

Here’s an example of how I use this in my own business. I’m scheduled to teach a class starting in mid-January. The priority level is high since I have already committed to teaching and people have signed up for the class. My deadline is January 17, by the night of the first class I need to have certain parts of the project completed. Working backwards from that date, I fill into my schedule all the parts of the project I need to complete—the syllabus and schedule of topics, prepare handouts for the first three classes, crack open the text book and take a peak inside, etc. If I have to rearrange my schedule to help a client, I reschedule whatever piece of the project I had to bump.

What I find is that if I don’t do it this way, I over-commit my time and January 16th would find me stressed out and working late into the night trying to prep for a class the next day. I don’t know about you but I don’t enjoy working that way!

This is a process that works well for creating a new information product, writing a book, getting your paperwork together for your tax return, getting ready for your “busy” season, starting a new exercise program, rolling out a new marketing effort, or the many “someday” projects that we all seem to have. It helps to give structure to your schedule to ensure you have time to get the important things done and you don’t wander off on tangents.

Good focus, time management, and project management skills go a long way towards turning your ideas into cashflow.

A Very Prosperous New Year to You!

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result

Monday, December 19, 2005

Seasonal Fluctuations Causing Cash Flow Woes?

One of the big problems many business owners experience is seasonal fluctuations in sales. It is a leading cause of cash flow problems for small businesses. A period of feasting is often followed by a period of famine. Moving beyond that feast and famine cycle is possible by developing other products and services to overcome the famine times.

Here are some examples:

Retailers often had a huge increase in sales during December, followed by a very dead January. Now, the ubiquitous gift card has helped to lift January out of the doldrums by bringing people out to the stores after the Christmas season. Although the income from the gift cards is actually received in December, customers always end up spending more than the gift card is worth. The result is a bump in sales for a historically famine-like month.

I once owned a tree pruning and removal service. Our busy season was from March through November. We spent the summer cutting the trees and splitting the wood for firewood and we spent the winter selling the firewood.

Landscape companies spend the summers landscaping and the winters plowing.

In my business during December, the sales of my cash flow information product drop off but the accounting side of my business picks up with businesses needing QuickBooks cleanups and year end accounting tasks.

Your seasonal businesses don’t necessarily have to be related. One of my teachers in high school spent the school year teaching and the summers running an ice cream stand.

Developing products and services that complement your busy times and boost up your slow times goes a long way towards smoothing out your cash flow.

Of course, the other option for slow times is to work on those “someday” projects or even to take time off. The trick is to get your cash flow to the point where the slow times are something you can look forward to for a little rest and relaxation instead of times of panic. Getting there is a matter of planning and executing your plan.

To all who celebrate this blessed season, a very Merry Christmas.

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My Girl Scout Leader Was Right!

One of the points I always stress in my business is
the importance of relationships. In fact, it’s very
difficult to build a business without building relationships
every step of the way. Having a good relationship with
your accountant, lawyer, other business owners,
customers, vendors and employees leads to many
new opportunities.

For example, your accountant not only provides you with
business advice but is also a potential source of referrals.
I often have accounting and consulting clients ask me,
“Do you know anyone who…” The same is true of your
lawyer, your doctor, your employees, and your friends
who also own businesses. We regularly ask people we
know for advice and recommendations for any number
of things.

The underlying factor in all our dealings with each other
is our relationships. When my clients run into a business
problem, they know they can pick up the phone and call
me. They’re not calling my company, The Jordan Result.
They’re calling me, Caroline Jordan, a real live human
being who they know and trust. The relationship is incredibly
valuable to me as a human being and as a business owner.

Business philosopher Jim Rohn talks about “6 things” being
the key to business success. He says that every business
has just six things they need to concentrate on to become
successful…of course, the trick is figuring out what those
6 things are for YOUR business. At the top of my “6 things”
list is relationships. Without my ever growing circle of
friends, colleagues, and contacts, I would not have the
level of success that I do. And boy have I met some really
great people over the years!

One of those great people is Denise O’Berry who consults
with small businesses and has a wide range of products
and services for small business owners. I met Denise
through her RYZE forum MYOB. I have posted articles
and answered posts from small business owners on her
forum. Some of you became subscribers to this newsletter
because you found me through Denise’s forum.

Denise started a Small Business Bootcamp with online
courses to help small business owners. I joined on as a
faculty member and offered a course on (of course!) small
business cash flow. We started contributing to each other’s

Recently Denise was approached by a big publishing house
and asked if she would write a book on small business cash
flow. Of course she said yes! And then she emailed me and
asked if she could interview me for her book. Of course I
said yes! So, because of the relationship Denise and I have
built, Yours Truly will be appearing between the covers of a
book coming to a bookstore near you next fall. How much
do you think that will add to my success and to Denise’s?

When I first started my business, I was very much “all
business”. People were paying me to get results so I put my
nose to the grindstone and got the job done. But the point
where my business started to really succeed was when I
took my nose off the grindstone and took the time to talk to
my clients and get to know them. Now, I won’t take on a
client unless I think we can have fun working together. The
relationship is what makes what I do worth it.

My relationships have helped my business and greatly
enriched my life. Back when I was a Girl Scout, we had this
song we always sang, “Make new friends, but keep the old,
one is silver and the other’s gold.” I didn’t know it then, but
I was learning a valuable life lesson and a valuable business
lesson as well.

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Crushing Cars for Fun & Profit

I have been getting to know a new business over the past few days. I am working with a client whose business involves the crushing and recycling of automobiles. I call it “Crushing Old Cars for Fun and Profit.” The business is a great example of a solid business model. Here’s how it works…

The company’s employees go to junkyards where they crush junk cars and load them onto trailers. The trailers are then picked up by subcontracted truckers who ship the crushed cars to another company that buys the cars and in turn recycles them.

Here’s why this is such a great business model:

1. Good supply—cars turn into junk every day through accidents and old age. Junkyards need to move cars out to make room for more.

2. Difficulty of entry into the business—crushing cars involves expensive machinery and good capitalization so it isn’t a market that attracts a high level of competitors.

3. Transportation is readily available due to good supply of hungry truckers.

4. Hungry end market—the high cost of steel makes recycling attractive.

5. Here’s the best part from the point of view of This Old Accountant—The goods are shipped from the junkyard to the end recycler who cuts a check the same week for all the loads delivered. Only then do the junkyards and truckers get paid. No paying suppliers and then waiting for the customer to pay. Brilliant!

6. This is exactly the kind of business that banks love to loan money to. It provides jobs all along the way—from the junkyards to the employees who crush to the truckers to the recycler to the companies buying the recycled cars to the retail stores who sell the products made from recycled goods. And all along the way it brings economic value to every community involved.

Of course, there are some downsides to this business model:

1. Use of machines that can crush cars is viewed as dangerous to employees so workers comp rates are high. Plus, the potential danger of attack by junkyard dogs.

2. Machinery needs constant tending and repairing.

3. Need for a certain type of employee—mechanical, able to work with no supervision, good work ethic, able to work outside regardless of weather extremes.

4. Debt is a necessity for getting into the business.

If you are looking for ways to improve your own business model, here are some areas for you to investigate:

1. Competition. Who is your competition? How many competitors do you have? Which ones are strong, which are weak? How difficult is it for more competitors to enter your industry?

2. Suppliers. How difficult is it for you to get the goods you need to do what you do? For a maker of physical products this includes the raw materials needed. For a professional, your supplies include your time, education, and all those ideas rattling around in your brain.

3. Finances. How and when do you get paid for what you do? How does that affect your cash flow and your ability to stay in business?

4. Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative. What are the downsides of your business model? What can you do to work within the confines of those downsides and still make money? What can you do to minimize the affect of those downsides or even capitalize on them?

5. Add Value. What value do you bring to the market place? What is the elemental problem your product or service solves? How can you capitalize on that value? How can you express that value to your customers in such a way that your competitors retire from the field?

Investigating the pieces of your business model or dissecting what works in someone else’s business is a great way to begin improving your business. Once you pinpoint what works you can look for ways to capitalize on the strengths already in your business. When you pinpoint the weaknesses you can after them like a junkyard dog after a pant leg.

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result