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March 2010

Business plan, annual waste of time or essential for your business

The minute you mention "business plan" to anyone 9 times out of 10 the reply is a loud groan or a shake of the head. Many think it is "only" essential when you are trying to secure external funding, whatever type of external funding that comes to mind (from bank loan to venture capital).

Every business template I've come across (and there are many organisations/institutes that can provide you with a free template) has the same structure you are deemed to follow and the explanation of some parts confirms that a business plan is "only" essential when looking for funding:

1. Summary
(Enter your text here)

The summary is the last part of the plan that you write, but should be included at the beginning of the plan. This allows busy readers to quickly see what the plan is about without reading all the details.

(copied from a standard business plan template offered by one of the large banks).

Specially the part of "busy readers" shows it to be more an external focussed plan than for internal use. The biggest problem or even largest pitfall for this is writing to please/seduce that external source instead of being a honest presentation of past, present and planned future. Don't fool yourself, we've all done it. Even if you write such a plan only for your accountant or bank manager we tend to write it in the most optimistic way we think we can Businessplanstackget away with. So who's fooling who?

 No wonder then that so many (annual) business plans end up in the archives once written, stacked on top of the plans from last year, the year before and so on. Where in fact it should be an ongoing (rolling) report/assessment of where your business is now and where you want to take it.

This month's free download at the Director's Centre Business Club is all about "Where do you want to go?".

"If you are able to start to define where you want to be and what you want to be, then you are also starting to define what it is that you do not want to be. This process of defining the direction that you wish to move in makes it easier to decide what the steps on the way will need to be.

The more focus you have, the greater your clarity, then the easier it is for you to define the path. If you do not know where you want to go then any road will do!
While many consultants get very excited about the definitions of purpose, vision, mission, objectives and goals, what really counts is how you can use the process to define and determine the future development of your business."

It contains one of my all time favourite remarks: if you don't know where you want to go, any road will do.

You have to know/find out/discover where you want to take your business. You, not your bank manager, the venture capitalist or anyone else. You are in the driving seat and it all starts with focus. And focus is better "captured" and sustained when you write your goal/aim/plan down - in your own words, comprehensible for you and not just for your external sources - and once it is written down this way it becomes more real and achievable.

You can register for the Director's Centre Business Club still for free, just start here (the first page tells you it is indeed for free and no credit card details will be asked, then on page 2 you are asked to fill in your business details).

Once you've registered find this month special workbook. That's right: a WORKbook, not just something you should only download and read, but work on/with it to grow your business. Does this replace the annual business plan? Perhaps in more ways than one.

Services-roadmap Using the workbook you'll have to come clean for yourself, it makes you think hard and long if you are on the "right track" of what you set out to do when you started your business and how you want to proceed. Once you know/realise this, the road is clear to plot/plan your own and your business' future in sustainable steps. (And the same applies for when you are "only" just thinking of setting out to start your own business.)

And believe me, if you know deep down in your heart that the steps of this plan you write down are honest, of your own making and sustainable, it will become so much easier to convince external sources if in the event you are indeed looking for external funding. Now that's what I would call a plan to do/stay-in business, the only business plan worth your time.

(This article/pondering came about after a discussion on a DIY-forum - of all places!)


Introducing the Age of Conversation 3 Authors | Age of Conversation

(From the desk of "Age of Conversation")

It has taken some time to come together, but the new book, Age of Conversation 3: It’s time to get busy!, is in its final stages. Very soon you will be able to purchase it directly from Amazon or a number of other online book stores. The new cover, as you can see below, was designed by Chris Wilson. And this, our new site, was designed and built by Craig Wilson and the hard working team at Sticky Advertising.

Cover of The Age of Conversation 3

We’re excited to be at this stage of the process. The quality of thinking throughout the book is of the highest calibre – as would be expected from such an illustrious group.

This year, all proceeds go to an international children’s charity

When the "call to contribute" came end of last year I submitted my 400 words too (and sticking the 400 words is very, very hard for me as some of you might know!)

All the contributors for the 3rd edition are:

Adam Joseph

Priyanka Sachar

Mark Earls

Cory Coley-Christakos

Stefan Erschwendner

Paul Hebert

Jeff De Cagna

Thomas Clifford

Phil Gerbyshak

Jon Burg

Toby Bloomberg

Shambhu Neil Vineberg

Joseph Jaffe

Uwe Hook

Steve Roesler

Michael E. Rubin

anibal casso

Steve Woodruff

Steve Sponder

Becky Carroll

Tim Tyler

Chris Wilson

Beth Harte

Tinu Abayomi-Paul

Dan Schawbel

Carol Bodensteiner

Trey Pennington

David Weinfeld

Dan Sitter

Vanessa DiMauro

Ed Brenegar

David Zinger

Brett T. T. Macfarlane

Efrain Mendicuti

Deb Brown

Brian Reich

Gaurav Mishra

Dennis Deery

C.B. Whittemore

Gordon Whitehead

Heather Rast

Cam Beck

Hajj E. Flemings

Joan Endicott

Cathryn Hrudicka

Jeroen Verkroost

Karen D. Swim

Christopher Morris

Joe Pulizzi

Leah Otto

Corentin Monot

Karalee Evans

Leigh Durst

David Berkowitz

Kevin Jessop

Lesley Lambert

Duane Brown

Peter Korchnak

Mark Price

Dustin Jacobsen

Piet Wulleman

Mike Maddaloni

Ernie Mosteller

Scott Townsend

Nick Burcher

Frank Stiefler

Steve Olenski

Rich Nadworny

John Rosen

Tim Jackson

Suzanne Hull

Len Kendall

Amber Naslund

Wayne Buckhanan

Mark McGuinness

Caroline Melberg

Andy Drish

Oleksandr Skorokhod

Claire Grinton

Angela Maiers

Paul Williams

Gary Cohen

Armando Alves

Sam Ismail

Gautam Ramdurai

B.J. Smith

Tamera Kremer

Eaon Pritchard

Brendan Tripp

Adelino de Almeida

Jacob Morgan

Casey Hibbard

Andy Hunter

Julian Cole

Debra Helwig

Anjali Ramachandran

Jye Smith

Drew McLellan

Craig Wilson

Karin Hermans

Emily Reed

David Petherick

Katie Harris

Gavin Heaton

Dennis Price

Mark Levy

George Jenkins

Doug Mitchell

Mark W. Schaefer

Helge Tenno

Douglas Hanna

Marshall Sponder

James Stevens

Ian Lurie

Ryan Hanser

Jenny Meade

Jeff Larche

Sacha Tueni and Katherine Maher

David Svet

Jessica Hagy

Simon Payn

Joanne Austin-Olsen

Mark Avnet

Stanley Johnson

Marilyn Pratt

Mark Hancock

Steve Kellogg

Michelle Beckham-Corbin

Michelle Chmielewski

Amy Mengel

Veronique Rabuteau

Peter Komendowski

Andrea Vascellari

Timothy L Johnson

Phil Osborne

Beth Wampler

Amy Jussel

Rick Liebling

Eric Brody

Arun Rajagopal

Dr Letitia Wright

Hugh de Winton

David Koopmans

Aki Spicer

Jeff Wallace

Don Frederiksen

Charles Sipe

Katie McIntyre

James G Lindberg & Sandra Renshaw

David Reich

Lynae Johnson

Jasmin Tragas

Deborah Chaddock Brown

Mike O'Toole

Jeanne Dininni

Iqbal Mohammed

Morriss M. Partee

Katie Chatfield

Jeff Cutler

Pete Jones

Riku Vassinen

Jeff Garrison

Kevin Dugan

Tiphereth Gloria

Mike Sansone

Lori Magno

Valerie Simon

Nettie Hartsock

Mark Goren


Peter Salvitti


Mastercrafts - no short cuts

In my recent pre-review on Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us I pondered about master craftsmen. Why, when modern progress and all the inventions of the last century should have given us more free time, are craftsmen so far and few between?

Mastering takes time

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For some weeks now we've been watching Monty Don's Mastercrafts and yesterday's program in my opinion really told it all - why mastering takes time and although modern society seems to give us more time to spend the way we like ourselves, at the same time modern society is "guilty" of giving us the one thing that holds us back: short cuts.

In the weeks before we had watched as 3 hopefuls per program had set the first steps in mastering one of the "old crafts": Green Wood Craft, Thatching, Balcksmithing and Stained Glass and from the first program on we became hooked to it. The programs are sincerely made, showing you the history of the craft, the masterpieces preserved for posterity and the reason why it is so important these crafts are being kept alive (our heritage of masterpieces would "crumble" if we do not take care of them in the way we should.)

Yesterday Monty Don introduced three new hopefuls to the craft of weaving: Fashion designer Holly Berry, ex-City business annalist Tref Davies and craft-writer Momtaz Begum-Hossain. All three were left in the hands of mentor Margo Selby, one of UK's few craftsmen making a living from weaving.

Momtaz, a true spirit of modern times, told us she did not like to follow rules and would make up her own to create the products. And that "statement"/attitude would come to haunt her the rest of the 6 weeks of "boot-camp".
In mastering a craft there are no short-cuts - in order to become a master you have to master the technique first, relentlessly getting to grips with the technique. Once you master the technique of your craft, you can start to push against it boundaries and create your own craft - not the other way around.

The two others quickly "saw" the basics, the technique of setting the loom, why the correct winding of the yarn on the wraps and the correct schedule - or rather programming - of then threading the headles in the different shafts (which when used in different combinations during the weaving creates the pattern) forms the absolute essential foundation to the craft of weaving. No short cuts.

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Understanding the whole process of what makes a woven cloth, understanding the technique how, but more important, why it works the way it works is the first and only step to master a craft.
As Monty Don remarked: repetitive actions, extremely repetitive actions matters every time, starting with the correct winding of the yarns, setting up the loom and handling the shuttles - all equally important. No short cuts.

And that's where modern society, modern attitude fails us - we are so used to short-cuts we even believe we are entitled to cutting corners. Being "clever" -i.e. finding the short cuts - has in many ways become the new meaning of being creative, of "mastering" something. Being clever is using this or that trick to cut corners and get ahead of the game, we see it daily in many products and services. Get Rich Quick schemes aplenty.

Yes, you could get lucky and create a "master-piece" without the hard graft, but could you repeat your success when you have not taken the essential time to understand why and how it works? You can throw paints on a canvas and by chance a combination of two colours mixing together creates a most wonderful new colour. Could you reproduce this new wonderful colour again and again? No chance. No short cuts.

Momtaz tried to follow her own rules in creativity and messed up the first sample by not mastering the importance of the technique of the craft. At the end of the program - to give her her due - she persevered and created what the two judges (Michelle Bowen from the Arts Council and Angela Swan from the Worshipful Company of Weavers) considered as a very early stage development, but given time she would be able to master the craft.

Holly and Tref both mastered the technique where Holly produced a commercial worthy double woven cloth. Tref turned out to be a real novelty, even a genius, and already managed to push at the boundaries of the technique, creating a very complicated pattern extremely well executed - even though he had been very unwell the last week. His "master-piece" earned him a 6 months apprenticeship at Margo Selby's studio.

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Monty's last remark, quoting Momtaz, brought the message truly home: there is such a difference between amateurism and professionalism, it has such a high standard.

No short cuts.

(The program is filled with precious moments, if you have 60 minutes to spare do yourself a favour and watch the broadcast here)


I blame Amazon

Once you start ordering books and other stuff from Amazon.co.uk they know to find you with recommendations. Fairly targeted recommendations too - well, most of the time - based on your previous purchases and searches (plus I think the items you place in your wish-list).

More of the same, but different.

Roughly three weeks ago one of those recommendation emails landed in my inbox and because I didn't have anything new to read at that time I had a proper look at the recommendations. Two writers I recognised, owning books from their "pen" already, one sounded vaguely familiar and had an interesting title for his book.

So, click, click, click and 2 days later three books arrived. I decided to start with the one from the unknown writer Daniel H Pink. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (see my pre-review from earlier).

When I finished this excellent book I turned to Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? How to Drive Your Career and Create a Remarkable Future by Seth Godin. To discover almost immediately it covers the same subject as Drive.

But then in a quite different way. Obviously: because both writers are different writers with different styles, different experiences, different histories, different.... you name it and probably I'll agree with you.

  • Motivation, rewards, joy, engagement, cog or artist, Type I or Type X - it's in both books.
  • Both have the starting point of the turn of the century and how the economy has changed the way we need/want/should work or at least be engaged in work/how we view what work is.
  • Both put their finger on the pain, both detail why and how come, both suggest the best ways for us to "adjust" - in the best meaning of the word.
  • And both list plenty of examples of companies, businesses and individuals who've "turned" the tide, sometimes (most times?) against the tide. They only use different words (see, another difference).

I wrote about Drive before I finished it, I'm now writing about Linchpin before I've finished it. I truly enjoyed Drive, I'm truly enjoying Linchpin. Both tell me my "gut-feeling" has been right all along: it is definitely all right to put your head above the parapet, it is definitely all right to claim I love my work without having to make the excuse that "times are hard so we need to make long hours and long days", it's definitely proper business sense to change the rules, to not only be in the "supply & install" business but also in the education business and fill our website with free information (to just name one example of our business concept that seems alien to most).

The difference?

The main difference between Drive and Linchpin IMHO is the method (the word "style" does not really fit here) both writers use:

Dan H. Pink gives you science and tests to make his point, in a logical order
Seth Godin gives you his gut feelings in a kind of hopscotch way of writing (which I found is his "preferrred" way in most of his recent books).

Which one is better? Really believe that's not of any importance, if you like a more scientific approach, go for Drive, if you like a more pondering style, go for Linchpin - or read both ;-)

One way or the other you discover the essence of it is more the way you might start behaving, might change your ways (in business and person) then discussing which book portraits this idea better.

Have fun, no matter which book you opt for and remember: reading should be both fun and stimulating - both writers manage to do this.

(And the third book I bought at the same time? Coincidentally it is also more about psychology than business concept or marketing - although you always pick up a few ideas for those areas along the way. Turns out the 3rd book is a revised edition of an excellent book I've already devoured: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Oh well, could always give it away as well intended gift - anyone?)

BTW, amazon does not always get it right - it keeps recommending E-Mail Marketing Dynamite to me, although I already indicated I own the book. Of course I own the book, we're one of the case-studies in it!

 

Has Ashford delivered the “boom”? Or is it still to come? If so, when?

Your opinions, thoughts and experience are appreciated.

Ashfordboroughbadge 10 years ago (07.05.2000) we “landed” in Kent to live and work in the Ashford Borough. Main reason to settle in this area: the future was bright here according to Ashford Borough council:

  • Ashford had the International Station with the Euro-star providing fast connections to mainland Europe, which would attract more businesses and therefore more affluent people.
  • Ashford centre would be revamped to make it more attractive as “shopping centre”, again attracting more businesses and therefore more affluent people
  • The high-speed rail link to London – ETA 2007, officially launched end 2009 – would attract more affluent commuters from London.
  • All the above factors would contribute to Ashford Borough becoming THE place to be, the place to live and if so required to work – combining the “rural” feeling and community spirit with fast and convenient travel links to both the capital and mainland Europe.
Has this “boom” materialised? Have you, as colleague business owner, noticed the effect – if any - of this boom in your own business growth/results?

After 10 years we would like to hear your views/thoughts/opinions and experiences and kindly ask you to contribute to our research by taking part in the following short survey here.

(Even if your business is not located in the Ashford Borough your thoughts would be appreciated, especially from those in Kent/Sussex/Surrey.)

Many thanks in advance!

Ashfordareamap