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Why every Coach Needs a Business Plan

So why does every coach need a business plan? I can hear your objections ringing in my ears right now! ‘Who me!’ ‘I don’t need any outside financing, why would I bother with a business plan for my coaching practice’. ‘I haven’t got the time to write a coaching business plan’. ‘It’s all in my head, why would I want to go to the hassle of writing it down?’ ‘I already have a practice, I know where I’m going, I don’t need a coaching business plan’. ‘A waste of time, effort and money, a coaching business plan is not worth the paper it’s written on’.

Sadly, you are wrong. You do need a plan for you coaching business. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the ‘all singing, all dancing’ version but you do need some sort of plan so you (at the very least) know where you are going with your coaching business. Let me tell you why……..
First of all let’s get the horror stories out of the way. I’m sure you know by now that in excess of 50% of all small businesses will fail within their first 3 years. There are no corresponding figures for the coaching profession specifically but anecdotal evidence would suggest that the failure rate is certainly not better than the average, indeed many coaching businesses never get off the ground in the first place.

There has been much research into the causes of such high failure rates and it is true that a proportion of business failures are caused by factors outside the control of the owner. But in the majority of cases, failure is caused by factors that could have been foreseen and managed. Peter Cochrane (ConceptLabs) cheerily writes ‘the question isn’t why they fail so often, more by what miracle any survive!’ He goes on to site the key reasons that businesses fold: failure to identify and quantify an opportunity;failure to identify the customer and market; failure to search out the competition and assess risk; failure to address funding and financials. And finally, failure to draw up a plan. And guess what, all of the aforementioned omissions could have been addressed by the last – if only there had been a business plan!

Enough of the doom and gloom! Now for the good news. Drawing up your coaching business plan need not be arduous, tedious and costly. It can actually be quite easy; you probably do have much of it in your head already, you just need to pull it all together. And you can do it yourself, now you have me to help you either by following the guidance that will be published in this blog or using me as a one-to-one business planning coach. Trust me on the ‘easy’ and the ‘diy’ for now (more in a moment), but if you need further convincing, just take a look at the benefits of having a coaching business plan:

o You get to see the big picture: your business with all its components, aligned with the rest of your life. You get the opportunity to stand back

o You clearly define your vision, your mission, your philosophy and your ethics and align these with your personal values and beliefs

o You focus right in on defining your product, your market, your client

o You set yourself measurable outcomes, for which you are accountable

o You have a step by step strategy along a timeline, for meeting those goals

o You now have a focus for your time and energy, which makes you more efficient

o You begin to address the risks, the ‘what can go wrongs’ and anticipate how you can overcome them, from limiting beliefs and skills gaps to lack of clients and financial issues

o You can see whether it is financially viable from the outset, and at milestones along the way

o You identify a business model that works for you: work life balance, nature of client, sales and marketing modes

Here’s a thought. As coaches what do we get our clients to do fundamentally, at the start of the coaching process? Well – set goals, of course. And what do we encourage them to do as a key component of achieving their goals? Yep, write them down. (Remember the research: only 3% of the population write down their goals and those that do are five times more likely to achieve them). But back to coaching business plans. You’ll see where I’m going on this. That’s all a business plan really is: a set of goals, in writing, with more or less detail on the means of achieving. Are we coaches walking the talk here? How many of us have written down our business goals as a starter?

That’s a very simple definition of a business plan. You can’t get much more painless than that! Now to flesh it out a little, here are the fundamental features of a business plan :

o In writing

o Has a goal

o Has a plan to get you from where you are now to where you want to be

o Has some kind of performance measurement (likely to be the numbers bit)

o Its dynamic. To be useful it will change over time: as circumstances change, you will need to ‘course correct’

o It will be unique to you

If you want the fully monty contents list for your coaching business plan, click here. But actually before you get hit by the overwhelm again, just take these 4 questions below and address them to give you the guts of your coaching business plan:

o Exactly what is your product

o Who are you selling it to

o How can you be sure that they want it

o How much will it cost you to provide. How much will you sell it for.. Will that make you enough money?

Remember this: having a business plan is a significant indicator of a successful business. Only 25% of small businesses will have a business plan. Which group do you want to be in?
If you want to learn more about drawing up your coaching business plan, watch this space or subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Alternatively, email me on [email protected] to find out how I can help you one-to-one.
You can read Peter Cochrane’s full article in silicon. com
Other useful sources of information on business plans can be found at Business Link and is4profit

Why Entrepreneurs Need Small Business Credit Cards

Small business credit cards are a special type of credit cards that are meant for use by small business (as opposed to the normal credit cards or personal credit cards which are meant for the use of an individual). Some people wonder why they should go for a small business credit card when they already have one or more personal credit cards.

This is a very valid question indeed. By logic, if something like small business credit cards exists in market as a separate entity altogether, there must be a special need for it. It must have some features which are useful to small businesses in particular. Though there are a lot of similarities between personal and small business credit cards (of course there would be similarities since both of them are credit cards after all), there are a few differences too. These differences are mainly in terms of the flexible credit limit, lower APR offers and attractive terms and conditions which are better for small business credit cards.

Besides all the benefits which are quoted for credit cards and the additional attractive offers, there is another important reason for going for a small business credit card. The reason is business expense accounting. A lot of small businesses face this is as a major challenge. One needs to keep track of each and every business expense and log the information somewhere for the purpose of business expense accounting. Business expense accounting is needed not only for tax purpose but also for financial strategy evaluation and budget tracking. Generally speaking, two main problems quoted for small business expense accounting are business expense segregation and expense classification.

By using your small business credit card for all your small business outgo, you can very easily separate your business expenses from your personal expenses. This will thus solve your business expense separation problem. What you receive on your small business credit card bill is your business expense directly. Moreover, this report is something which your tax consultant will love too.

The second problem is also solved automatically. Most small business credit cards also group together the business expenses under proper heads. Some credit cards even provide credit card statement as data feeds which can be directly fed into accounting software. Just imagine how much hassle you are saved from with this business accounting feature. Wonderful, isn’t it?

The other great thing about small business credit cards is the help they offer in terms of managing the expense peaks. Though such variations are part of almost every business, they are even more critical for small businesses. So when that need for immediate purchase arises, you wouldn’t need to worry if you had the backing of a small business credit card. Also, generally small business have to pay first and receive later i.e. make payments for purchases before receiving payments for services/goods, so small business credit card also acts as an intermediary who fills in the time gap at little or no additional cost.

The credit card membership benefits are at its best when it comes to small business credit cards. There are discounted ticket offers, car rental offers, gift offers and many other good offers for small business credit card holders. Just check all such benefits that might be available on your small business credit card and ensure that you use them whenever and wherever required.

The small business credit cards are ranked higher by the credit card suppliers too. So everything associated with a small business credit card, including the customer service, is better than the personal credit cards.

Thus, small business credit cards aren’t something that a small business owner can afford to miss especially with what all it offers.

Business Operation Mistakes – Sapping the Bottomline

Over the years I have reviewed a large number of business operations. Following are a few of the major mistakes businesses make in their business operations

Redundancies

Most businesses, large and small, have too many things they do over and over which sap time away from being more productive. For instance, there are still business people who will write the same email or letter from scratch instead of making a template or form letter that can be easily tweaked instead of being rewritten each time. Same goes with most of the operations and procedures the business has set up. Instead of creating procedures to streamline their operations so it can react quickly to a customer’s needs, they keep reinventing the same process when needed. The result is slow service or response to a customer’s need.

Action Plans not thought out for the Negatives

Since most business owners are more sales oriented than operations oriented they sometimes will not look at what might happen if something goes wrong. This type of business person only wants to think of the positives and run from the realities that in every plan there is an 80% chance of something going wrong.

The sales only or driven businesses fear that thinking negatively will cause them to be negative or the negative they are thinking will happen.

The truth is thinking out a plan for all possible happening is positive. I am sure that if NASA had not sat down and thought out all that would go wrong in the attempt to put a man on the moon, I am sure it would have never happened.

A business with a sound operation will think out all that could happen as well as all they want to happen. This is a positive move for a well balanced business.

Projecting an Unsuccessful Image

One of the biggest mistakes I see too many business people make is to think that since they are in business they can act and dress the way they want to act and dress. In most cases, this results in a less than professional look or behavior.

Portraying an image of success is very, very important. Simply put, successful people are the people who have the money to spend. Successful people want to be around successful people, and successful people only want to do business with successful people. So, if you look and act successful chances are you will be able to do business with successful people.

The same goes for where people conduct business and where they go to network business connections. Nothing is worst to a business image than not holding to a high standard of business image. This does not mean you have to be in the high rent area to be successful. I have seen very successful businesses in some of the lowest rent section of town. What made them successful is that their building, office, signage and immediate surrounds were impeccable.

Portraying a successful image holds true online as well. Who you associate with online, how your web-site looks, what groups you join and what you provide online all will effect a business’ image.

Being overly aggressive, obnoxious, arrogant and aloof is portraying a negative image. I see this mistake happen more than it needs to be happening and it is mostly done by two distinct personalities. First there is the person who is not aware of their negative image or does not care and thinks their action is popular or accepted by the people around them; and secondly the person who is desperate to generate business immediately. There are better ways to generating business that appearing obnoxious or desperate. Nothing turns off a prospective client quicker than appearing foolish or needy.

All of this is purely imagery, but is a fact of business life related to the operations of the business. If you look unsuccessful and hang out in places where other unsuccessful people hang out, then you will have a better chance of becoming successful.

More emphasis on Sales/Marketing

The classic mistake a sales and marketing driven business will make is to ignore the need for operations. I see it way too many times. Most of these type of businesses feel a sales driven organization will overcome all operational problems. They also will feel the operations side of the business is something that will take care of itself though high volumes of sales revenue.

There is no argument that a business could buy its operations, but what is arguable is that by the time the sale is final the product is usually suppose to be delivered, which is the operations part of the business. I get asked all of the time to take a look at a person’s business operation only to find that everything they do is driven to make a sale and that there is not any operations procedures set up to service the sale after it is made.

The explanation I usually get is “I hate details”, or “I just love the excitement of the sale more than the boring operations of my business”. There are way too many people who are overly aggressive and live on the adrenaline of the excitement of making a sale who are going into business only to fail miserably. The result of a business that puts too much emphasis on sales and marketing will fail to deliver to their customers. These businesses without any operations muddy’s the water for other businesses in that industry who balance their operations with marketing sales.

Lack of innovation

I usually am brought in to look at a problem a business has with something that deals with a change. Change is one of the biggest problems a sales driven business has to overcome. A business that has a sound operations or good operations manager usually will deal with change better than a company that feels that increased revenue will solve any problem that deals with a change. These companies that I am called in to look at what they are dealing with lack the ability to think outside the box or find innovative solutions. A business today has to be innovative to survive change.

Lack of understanding customers wants and needs

I am very surprised at the number of businesses I talk to or read about who go into business not knowing what their customers want or need. Like the many commercials that are on the internet and television that use the shotgun approach of advertising, they do not know what the customer is wanting or needing, they are just selling what they have and attempting to make the viewer feel they need or want what they are selling. The businesses who understand what the customer wants and needs, markets to those customers and sets up an outstanding operation to service those customers needs and wants will be the businesses that succeed.

The solution to all of these mistakes has to do with having a sound business operation. What shocks me the most is the many businesses who feel they do not need a Standard Operating Procedure. Most small business owners look at SOP’s as being something only large manufacturing companies or businesses with a large employee force need. Many also look at the need to develop an SOP as old fashion or “so 1980′s” and will fight the logic of the need for one so they don’t look to their contemporaries as not being “cool”.

The fact is, every business needs to have a outlined process that clearly tells anyone how the business is run and how the service or product that is offered is delivered. The companies who feel developing a SOP is too formal or have a lack of interest in understanding the importance of a SOP are destine for failure.

I hate to see people spent time and money starting a business that is destine to fail. My advice is for business people to first sit down and map out what they are doing and where they are going before taking a single step forward. It will make the chances of success 100% better.