The Cannonball Business Plan

The Cannonball Business Plan

Remember that old Burt Reynold’s movie Cannonball Run? It was probably just my age but at the time I thought it was pretty cool--an illegal race across the country in some very nice cars. It turns out the Cannonball Run is not just fictional. Wired Magazine recently ran a story about a guy named Alex Roy whose passion has been to break the 32 hour and 7 minute record for a coast to coast drive.

This is of course completely illegal and let me clearly state that I am not encouraging participation in this kind of activity—though it sounds kinda fun. Having said that, I think we can learn something from their experience.

Their challenge was not unlike that of every small business owner—they needed to accomplish something complex with limited resources (Their limited resource was time. Most of us are limited by funds which of course limit our time). The "Driveplan" they created impressed me. On it they listed every key milestone, targeted time of arrival, potential hazards, weather forecasts etc. Because they had this plan and knew where they were supposed to be every moment, they could immediately tell if they were in trouble and if they needed to make adjustments—including backing out.

Now compare that to your business plan. When was the last time you took it out and checked where you are against it? If you are anything like me, your business plan was something you forced yourself to put together to raise funds. Once that task was done the document went in the drawer to gather dust. Maybe that is due to the way we write the things—all that useless wordiness (kind of like this post). What if we created business plans that looked more like Alex Roy’s driveplan? Imagine clear milestones, expected results, time required, potential hazards each step of the way. Seems like if we created something like that we'd be much more likely to use it and reach our destination.

The average American consumer discusses brands 56 times a week. Are they discussing yours? Learn more

The Speed of Trust

The Speed of Trust

I heard a little segment on NPR a few days ago about Steven M. R. Covey and his book "The Speed of Trust". The book has garnered praise from various prominent people and has evidently sold well, I, however, haven't read it yet. The little I heard from Mr. Covey sounded intriguing and rang of truth to me.

Is it possible to do anything of value without trust?

Trusting in the things we have learned allows us to do things. Organize, build, design, communicate, calculate. Trust in someone else allows us to combine skills and efforts toward a common goal. We put our trust in things like computer programs, a marketing message, a process. The more trust that exists the more confidently and quickly we get to our goal.

Take away trust and everything is hindered. Lack of trust breeds fear, uncertainty, and doubt. It produces delays as you investigate what you can't trust someone else for. It causes relationships to be strained and torn apart, teams to break up. Lack of trust keeps customers away from a business.

The lack of trust is poison to a business and trust makes everything good happen.

What do you do to build trust among your employees? Your partners? Your customers?

Mr. Covey has outlined 13 behaviors to help leaders create trust in their organizations, focusing on character and competency. Want your business to grow faster? Do things to increase trust throughout it.

More happy customers. More repeat sales. More referrals. Learn more

Get Your Helmet Mounted Cueing System Now!

Get Your Helmet Mounted Cueing System Now!

The F35 is an amazing jet. It can reach mach 1.6 and then stop in midair and hover while landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier in rough seas. You can see it in action here . For more than 50 years the Air Force has provided its pilots with "head up" displays so that the pilots can monitor key indicators they need without taking their view off the horizon. I guess when you are going mach 1.6 and dealing with an enemy it is pretty important not to take your eyes off the horizon. The Air Force is now testing new technology to replace the head up display specifically for pilots of the F35. According to a recent post on CNET, the new system uses infrared to actually let the pilot look right through the floor of the aircraft. It also displays the feedback that pilots need no matter which direction they are looking. The company that is developing the new technology calls it a "Helmet Mounted Cueing System."

So your business is moving along pretty fast, wouldn't it be nice to have a Helmet Mounted Cueing System to help you make better decisions? What information would you want on your cueing system? I don't think you'd want to clutter it up with important but not critical information. For example, I don't think I'd want to wander around with a copy of my latest balance sheet always in front of my eyes. The current cash balance in the bank, on the other hand, might be very useful. I don't know about you, but sometimes every second counts in getting a deposit to clear before payroll starts hitting! How about some indicator of how your customers are feeling? After all, everything we do as business owners is (or should be) about making customers happy so that they will buy from us again and again and tell their friends. Seems like knowing what they are thinking about our business and what they really want from our business should influence every decision we make. What else would you add to your HMBICS (Helmet Mounted Business Information Cueing System--got to have an acronym if we want to get any government funding!)

If you're not quite ready to pull on the Star Wars helmet (your customers might turn and run), you might check out our sponsor product, Promoterz. Right now--without government funding--you can keep a pulse on how your customers feel about your business. There is no head up display, but your customers' comments will go directly to your email so you will always be in touch and better able to take your business to mach 1.6!

Unhappy customers tell on average 22 other people. If you ticket price is $50 that is $1100 in revenue. How would you like to know before they tell 22 others? Learn more

Upside Down Revisited

Upside Down Revisited

Some time ago I did a post about innovation including a few tricks to get your brain to see things differently. To date, that post Have you tried turning it upside down has been the most popular here on Seeds. It is not important that you know that, but I thought as long as I was writing about it, I might as well gloat a little...

Anyway, I saw a video recently that illustrates very powerfully the impact of turning things upside down. Watch the video and see what you think. Then go back and read the post and start looking for things you can turn upside down in your business.

The Customer/Employee is always right

The Customer/Employee is always right

A recent BusinessWeek article describes India's HCL Technologies unique management ratings program. In essence, each manager is ranked in several areas by those that report to them. Lot's of companies do these "360" types of reviews, but what is different about HCL is that they publish the results on their intranet for the employees to see.

CEO Vineet Nayar was rated 3.6 out of 5 for how well he keeps projects running on schedule by 81 managers that rated him, and everybody at HCL knows it.

According to Nayar "In our day and age, it's the employee who sucks up to the boss. We are trying, as much as possible, to get the manager to suck up to the employee."

In addition they have an online complaint system where anyone can voice concern over a particular issue ranging from the air conditioning to bonuses. Each of these concerns becomes a "ticket". What is unique is that these tickets can be "cleared" only by the employees, not management.

Imagine applying that to your small business. Your company is the "manager" and your customers are the "employees". What if companies posted online for all customers to see how they are ranked. What if noted problems remained listed until the company deals with them and the customer removes them.

Employee retention rates have increased at HCL. How would you like to have your customer retention rates increased? Have you asked your customers to rate you and your business? They are the only ones that know how they feel about your business.

Reicheld discovered the customer question that seems to track with the future growth of a business "Would you recommend us to your friends and colleagues?" Our service, Promoterz, helps you ask them that question with the addition of "Please provide specific comments to help us understand the rating you have assigned". You will know how your customers feel and have actionable data you can use to improve.

Perhaps small businesses should include Nayar's words in their business plan "We will try, as much as possible, to get the company to suck up to the customer!"

The average American consumer discusses brands 56 times a week. Are they discussing yours? Learn more

Seeds from the blogworld
We search the business blog world looking for posts that illustrate principles, or "Seeds", that if followed, or "planted", will help small businesses grow. We list them here for your convenience. Enjoy.
I live in the arid southwestern region of the United States, Arizona, to be exact. I'm going on my third summer in my current home. The past two summers I have really struggled to keep my front lawn g ...more.
Interesting post on WorkPlayExperience about managing customer expectations to improve their experience. More specifically, lowering expectations so that customers end up being blown away. Whether you ...more.
I listened to a story on NPR this afternoon about the negative impact of bad word-of-mouth, you can listen to it here. Very scary. This is part one of a two part story by Wendy Kaufman, hopefully th ...more.
Great article in BusinessWeek about Chipotle's success without traditional advertising. If you've never been to one, Chipotle's is a burrito ...more.
Got this from one of our Promoterz customers (thanks Mark). I apologize for the low quality on the picture, but what you would see if you could see it, is a guy in Subway attire handing a Subway sand ...more.
I was talking with a friend recently that works the customer service phones for the company she is with. She mentioned that her company expects her to solve any customer's problem in three minutes or ...more.
About six months ago I wrote about a small, bricks and mortar business that had successfully implemented and was enjoying the fruits of an online system that increased word-of-mouth marketing for thei ...more.
I received a newsletter today from the folks at Nova Mind. Nova Mind makes a great mindmapping application that I use quite a bit. They also have a project management package for the Mac that looks ...more.
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has some great statistics and presentations available on their site. The title for this post comes from the finding that 76% of consumers think that businesses ...more.
In the 1930's some studies were held at the Western Electric production facility outside Chicago in a place called Hawthorne. The intent of the study was simple enough: invite a handful of employees ...more.

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