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  • April 12, 2012 9:50 PM | Strategy Plan One (Administrator)

    Strategy Plan One                                                                                                                   

    April 12, 2012 

    tax returnsTax Refunds

    With the tax filing deadline around the corner for both the US (April 17) and for Canada (April 30), many taxpayers will be expecting tax refunds.


    According to a National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, two-thirds of US taxpayers are expecting a tax refund this year.  The tendency when receiving a win-fall check from government is to go out and spend it.  However, in these tough economic times, you may need to take more controlled actions around this and may need to make some wise decisions when receiving tax refunds.


    You will have several options and choices to make on how to best utilize that money.  Most   families and individuals have significant short and long-term debt, and priorities that must be accommodated.  Strong financial planning is required when making decisions, and you will need to prioritize items, in either the payoff or investment categories.  Where needed, always seek the advice of a professional to assist in your own personal financial situation.


    Tax Refunds – Use to Tackle Debt Payments

    Debt payments should be a first consideration and priority with the money from the tax refunds.  The NRF survey counted 39.4% of taxpayers who expected a refund, stated they would pay down debt.  Following some of these trends from the survey, you may need to focus on the following sources of debt:

    1. High interest credit card debt, high interest Line of Credit balances
    2. Short term debt – personal loans, car loans, debt owed to other taxes,  & “bills“ 
    3. Longer term debt – mortgage payments

    Tax Refunds – Utilize for Savings and Investments

    Once debt obligations have been taken care of, partially or fully, savings and investments can be considered with the remainder of the tax refunds.  In the NRF survey, 43.8% of those US taxpayers surveyed, stated that they will take the refund and move some of it to savings.  If you have no debt then obviously you may find brilliant investments to generate additional revenue for you.  Be smart with your money and make informed decisions to invest.  You may take riskier approaches to investments, while others take a lower return, risk-adverse investment strategy with money from tax returns.  Once again, a financial advisor is your best source to guide you through financial management of your resources.  Here are some examples of investments you may be considering:

    • Saving accounts, term deposits
    • Retirement savings accounts (term deposits)
    • Retirement savings (mutual fund linked, stock-market linked)
    • Educational savings plans
    • Real estate investments
    • Business Investments

    Tax Refunds – Other Uses

    There will be a select group of individuals who do not have debt obligations and may have existing lucrative investment portfolios.  In those situations, social investments in community causes and donations could be considered.  In tough economic times, someone may need your help.

    Spend and invest wisely!



    Strategy Plan One

    http://strategyplanone.com

    Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur



  • April 12, 2012 10:23 AM | Strategy Plan One (Administrator)

    Strategy Plan One                                                                                           

    April 12, 2012 

     

    revenue forecastRevenue Forecast – Overview

    In one of your key business planning activities you will need to accurately project revenue streams. As part of revenue management, the information on your revenue forecast would be your strongest indicator in your business plan.




     


    Your revenue forecast will illustrate how successful your financial situation is projected to be.  Investors, partners and bankers will be reviewing how you arrived at your numbers, at how you justified revenue and sales levels.  Your forecasting will need to be more than just an educated guess, however, an educated, experienced background is essential to forecasting.

     

    Everything in your financial and business planning will be centered on revenue numbers, from estimating variable and fixed expenditures, to determining the amount of debt that can be serviced with the projected revenue levels.  So many factors, differing in various industries, need to be included in revenue projections.  Integral to forecasting revenue, your marketing plan will include some factors and will need to incorporate market potential information.



     

    Revenue Forecast – Tools

    Spreadsheets and calculators can assist in a formula based approach, but some are generic and do not take into account industry specific factors and differing revenue projection models.  In essence, you will need to incorporate specific factors into your calculations and run differing simulations to capture all potential circumstances.

     

    The following describes some of the various factors and models to determine your revenue forecast:

     

    revenue forecastRevenue Forecast – Based on Historical Financial Data

    If you are forecasting revenue for an existing business, revenue projection may not be as difficult as you may think.  There is a historical track record of data for existing businesses to build on.  In reviewing revenue and sales trends in the historical financial data, you can estimate the ongoing continuous trend forward.

     

    When reviewing and analyzing financial trends, pay attention to the rate of growth or rate of change in revenue and expense categories.  The rate of change must be taken into consideration, and don’t rely on a calculation of straight-line revenue projections.  If negative growth or declining trends are showing, differing strategies may need to be developed to get trends back on the right track.

     

    Using Intelligence for Your Revenue Forecast

    As an experienced entrepreneur you may carry some intelligence from past employment, from operational and management experience.  If your experience was industry specific and applicable to your start-up or existing business, you may have the intelligence to develop some close to accurate projections.

     

    You may also be able to surround yourself with professionals that also have this intelligence.  We are not suggesting that you steal information from a competitor, but acquire professionals that are well-versed in a certain applicable industry, that have an innate ability to complete an accurate revenue forecast.  Accountants also specialize in this area but will need access to information and intelligence on the industry and markets.

     

    Revenue Forecast – Industry Standards Data

    Revenue models can be generated from using the industry standards data.  Loads of generic industry data has been compiled for decades.  The US Census Bureau is also a good source for industry data to base your projections on.  In Canada, you may want to search through Statistics Canada for general industry data.  Note that utilizing this data is more along the lines of a theoretical, averaging approach and may not take into consideration the factors of your specific business circumstances, area and markets.

     

    Marketing Information for Your Revenue Forecast

    Good potential sales data can be obtained from surveying your potential customers and potential markets.  You can base your revenue forecast on the total market and on your estimated market share.  If you have excellent relationships with your potential customers and there is a mutual agreement to supply products or services you may be able to sign into a preliminary agreement, or Letter of Intent (LOI) for future sales.  You can definitely extrapolate more solid information from this for your projected revenue and sales.

     

    In addition to your own surveying efforts, you can obtain the services of a marketing company to do the work for you or to provide you will more specific market information for you to base your projections on.  Depending on the firm used and type of information obtained, this would be an additional reliable source of information, and more valuable to your revenue forecasting.

     

    Tips to Assist in a More Accurate Revenue Forecast

    • Be realistic, and plan modestly
    • Generate projection scenarios, from conservative to optimistic
    • Back all projections with information to make it more objective
    • Use multiple information sources in developing projections
    • List your assumptions and justification for your numbers
    • Seek advice and feedback on your information
    • Develop strong relationships to build in LOI, MOUs with potential customers to assist in revenue projections
    • Adjust wherever needed and frequently; the more effort you put in the better the forecasting will get.
    • Remember this is not a perfect science but are tools for estimating

     

    Using a fusion of models and factors indicated above may result in more comprehensive, more accurate revenue forecast.  Ensure you complete the due diligence required on detailed business planning, including using revenue projection models to minimize risk, and you will experience actual results closer to your financial projections and goals in the future years.



     

    Strategy Plan One

    http://strategyplanone.com

    Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

    © 2012 Strategy Plan One



  • April 11, 2012 7:52 PM | Strategy Plan One (Administrator)

    Strategy Plan One                                                                                                                  

    April 11, 2012 

    Credit Card Statistics

    Credit card debt in the US is a significant portion of consumer debt, amounting to almost $2.00 Trillion in debt.   That figure is staggering considering that the Federal Financial Budget in the US is approximately $2.5 Trillion annually.

    Courtesy of CreditDonkey.com this infographic illustrates consumer credit card statistics, consequences of varying levels of payments on credit cards, and credit score impacts.

    Highlighting some of the credit card statistics:

    • 156 Million credit card holders
    • 54 Million households with credit card debt
    • 1.25 Trillion credit cards issued
    • $1.994 Trillion total credit card debt


    The infographic below includes the impacts of varying levels of monthly payments on the credit cards, raising the facts that higher principle payments result in a shorter duration to payoff credit card debt and less interest charges.

    Credit card statistics

    Source – Credit Card Statistics Infographic – Creditdonkey.com


    Strategy Plan One

    http://strategyplanone.com

    Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

    © 2012 Strategy Plan One



  • April 10, 2012 1:20 PM | Strategy Plan One (Administrator)

    Strategy Plan One                                                                                                                      

    April 10, 2012 

    Stanley Cup Winners

    We (the small market NHL fans) are about to tune in to the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, cheering for our favorite of the top 16 teams.  The playoffs are big big business for NHL franchise owners and for the surrounding businesses in each of the playoff cities. And it’s massive profit for the Stanley Cup winners.

    Here is a brilliant infographic from Hockey-community.com illustrating the history of NHLStanley Cup Winners from 1893 to date.  To note:

    • Stanley Cup winners Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Detroit Red Wings have won the most cups (23, 13, and 11 respectively)
    • Since 1918, Canadian teams have won 49 times, while US Teams have won 43Cups
    • US Teams coming on strong – have won 22 out of the last 30 Stanley Cups and the last 17 Cups


    Who will raise the Stanley Cup this year?

    • Stanley Cup Winners


    Strategy Plan One

    http://strategyplanone.com

    Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

    © 2012 Strategy Plan One



  • April 09, 2012 8:56 PM | Strategy Plan One (Administrator)

    Strategy Plan One                                                                                                                                                                                                      

    April 9, 2012 

    App Sales

    It is interesting to observe the app sales war play itself out across the top platforms, with the notable BlackberryiPhone and Android companies and developers jockeying for customer revenue.  Even though Blackberry (BB) reports have not been favorable of late, take note of the impressive sales data around BB app sales.  Where BB lacks in volume of apps for its platform, it makes massive ground in the sales per app & return on investment per app.

    This infographic from BlogBerry.de highlights data from the three most popular platforms:

    • BB: 70,000+ Apps; Over 6 Million downloads per day
    • iPhone: 500,000 Apps; 66.2% are paid apps; 4 times the Android app sales
    • Android: Over 400,000 Apps available; 79.3% of Apps have been downloaded less than 100 times


    App sales - RIM, Apple, Android How they Compare


    Strategy Plan One

    http://strategyplanone.com

    Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

    © 2012 Strategy Plan One



  • April 09, 2012 12:02 PM | Strategy Plan One (Administrator)

    Strategy Plan One                                                                                                                     

    April 9, 2012 

    improve performanceImprove Performance


    One should never be fully satisfied that they have reached their performance peak, that no further improvements to any aspect would be necessary.  With rapidly changing environments, entrepreneurs and successful professionals must constantly seek methods to improve, on a personal and business level.

     




    To stay on top on the cutting edge, innovative level, you will need to engage in a systematic process of continuous improvement.

    Determine your Performance Goals

    There should always be a purpose behind a strategy, plan, or movement to improve performance.  You need to determine why you need or want to improve performance.  This purpose will set the stage to improve performance.  Performance goals can help guide you to an end point, assisting you to keep focused on the objective to improve performance.  Every professional and entrepreneur has differing performance goals, and differing levels to reach.


    Ensure that you identify a strong performance goal, that is measurable and linked to a time frame (i.e. :  Personal goal of achieving 5% more income by the end of 8 months, or Business goal of achieving 12% return on marketing investment through the first quarter marketing campaign).

    improve performanceIdentification of Performance Issues

    To get to the root of all performance issues, one must start with an objective analysis of either your personal or business situation.  Shake that notion that you haven’t been doing anything wrong or could not have been doing anything wrong.

     

    You will need to take a serious look at any deficiencies around your professional life and in your organization.  Step two is digging deep and really identifying the issues that create barriers to achieve the next step or improved performance.

    Example of personal and business challenges and barriers may include:

    • Financial limitations
    • Time constraints
    • Organization issues
    • Educational or professional limitations
    • Health and wellness, and work-life balance
    • Balancing family responsibilities
    • Location and connectedness
    • Access to resources

    Whatever the issue or challenge is, ensure that you objectively list them out as you will be seeking genuine resolution to improve performance.

    Pathways to Improve Performance

    Once issues have been identified to improve performance, you will need to develop some options to resolve performance issues.  Breakdown larger issues and barriers into micro issues and establish a plan with milestone goals along the way.  Similar to business planning, your personal improvement plan will be your blueprint to improve performance.

    If it seems like you have many issues and barriers, don’t be overwhelmed by the overall picture.  Feel assured you can improve performance by breaking the plan down into smaller performance goals and solutions.  The example of personal performance of increasing income by 10% may involve many complex issues.  Break it down into what can be achieved on a micro-step, daily basis.  As part of a detailed plan, you may need to take small steps daily, seeking alternative employment options on a daily basis, or seeking promotional opportunities at work.

    Stay on track and be dedicated in meeting your end performance goals.  Stay positive and work hard at this to improve performance.  Performance will not improve if you do not put in the effort.  Your dedication and hard-work ethic will pay off and you will soon observe yourself hitting milestone performance goals.

    Achieving Performance Goals

    Through your dedication, performance goals will be achieved at milestone stages and at the end goal.  Throughout the whole process, ensure that you continuously review your initial purpose, your initial goals.  As mentioned, your plan to improve performance should be measurable and tied to a time duration.   Measure your actual improvements against your planned performance goals.  If necessary revise and be motivated to achieve the goal or next step.

    Motivation, perseverance, dedication, hard-work … grab and use these from your personal toolbox and you will achieve improved performance.


     

    Strategy Plan One

    http://strategyplanone.com

    Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

    © 2012 Strategy Plan One



  • April 08, 2012 11:58 AM | Strategy Plan One (Administrator)

    Strategy Plan One                                                                                                            

    April 8, 2012 

    Franchise Statistics

    Franchised opportunities are brilliant options for entrepreneurs who want to invest in a turn-key operation, join and enjoy the fruits of a recognized brand, and experience a whole support team behind the venture.  Franchises are big business and account for close to 800,000 business establishments in the US alone.  Everywhere you turn in your community, in your town or city, you will encounter a franchised opportunity, offering you products and services.

    McDonald’s, Subway, Pizza Hut, Pearle Vision, Hampton Inn & Suites, 7-11, and H&R Block franchises hammer the consumer with multiple locations and big advertising campaigns to ensure our brains are wired into recognized brands, wherever we go.  Some of these factors make it very challenging for entrepreneurs to enter the markets with their own individual start-up brands.


    Franchise Statistics – Infographic

    MGD Marketing has developed and distributed this infographic on franchise statistics and outlook in the US.  Here are some key points from most recent year of statistics (2011):

    • $1.3 Trillion in Sales across all franchises (2007 US Census Bureau) 
    • Over 784,000 establishments
    • 7.8 Million employees; growth in number of employees 3 years straight
    • Output:  $740 Billion
    • Number of Lodging franchises experiencing the highest growth 2010-2011
    • Both Franchisors and Franchisees experience similar challenges with access to credit, same-store sales, and competition

    Franchise statistics


    Strategy Plan One

    http://strategyplanone.com

    Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

    © 2012 Strategy Plan One


  • April 07, 2012 1:15 PM | Strategy Plan One (Administrator)

    Strategy Plan One                                                                                   

    April 7, 2012 

    Kiva Systems Kiva Systems Robots

    It has been fascinating to see the recent buzz around Kiva Systems robots controlling and working the floor spaces of warehouses.

     

    According to some current reports, the Kiva Systems alone is now being used in up to two dozen larger corporation warehouses, including Amazon and Staples.



    So impressed, Amazon acquired the 9 year old Kiva Systems company for $775 Million.  It is sure to have a positive, efficiency impact on Amazon, a company that spends $4.6 Billion on warehouse operations.  


    Considered to be expensive capital costs to start, but in the long-term, will save companies money with efficiencies created.  Check out this informative YouTube video of Kiva Systems at work.

    kiva systemsAutomation Impacts

    If this initiates the reoccurring trend and debate around automation, what does this mean in a country that is dying for an absolute job turnaround?  The criticism of automation using machines, robots, and electronics is that those methods directly impact labor jobs, resulting in job loss, people loss.

    However, in start-up operations with automation implemented right away there will be no pain of job loss or reduction.  In some cases, businesses may establish a new arm or warehouse in an expansion project to run a pilot project of automation.

    Kiva Systems Automation Success

    Recently acquired by Amazon, the Kiva Systems Company is doing well, with reports of triple figure growth and profitable figures.  More corporations are jumping on board seeing the value and reliability of modern automation.  Initial kinks have been straightened out and it has been reported that Kiva systems are operating in a flawless manner.

    It is interesting to watch videos, demonstrating the efficiency and power of these little orange Kiva robots moving about the warehouse, sliding under a customized skid, lifting and following a programmed route on the floor full of sensors.  You could imagine the programming behind such as a system is complicated, but obviously achievable from an operational perspective.  Within the programming there must be many logic functions to almost allow these robots to alter or find best routes from A to B when traffic gets congested, as seen in some of these videos.

    Human Labour

    Human power is still evident in these automated warehouses, at stations loading and unloading these skid towers and scanning products before the Kiva robot takes off again.  Obviously there are probably backup plans of a labour force filling in for Kiva robots when the system is “down”.  How often have we all experienced system or computer failures?  There will always be a requirement for a well-trained labor force behind maintaining these robots, building them and developing coding and programming.

    Cost Benefit Analysis

    On the simple cost-benefit analysis side of things, if the capital and operating costs of automated, innovative processes and assets are less than the cost of non-automated, labour process over a defined period of time, then your organization could experience greater profitability and decreased issues around human resources.

    Millions of dollars must be spent acquiring a system such as the Kiva system.  These corporations would undertake their own due diligence, such as a cost-benefit analysis on an automated system vs. conventional warehouse system full of employees driving skid steerer and forklift machines.  Based on many assumptions, savings could be realized even with a Kiva Systems basic scenario implemented. 

    Kiva Systems Possible Limitations

    Evident in the demonstration videos is the fact that warehouse space (height) is not being used to full capacity with Kiva Systems in place.  In the conventional warehouse system, pallets of products are stacked 30-40 feet high in warehouse shelving frames.  There appears to be limitations in volume with the Kiva robots lifting and moving the customized pallets that are 6-8 feet in height, and in terms of dimensions of the pallet, a 3 by 3 footprint.  With a system like this, warehouse space and volume can be planned effectively with respect to capabilities of this system.

    As previously mentioned, automated, computerized systems sometimes experience glitches.  Power outages, coding and programming flaws, electronic interference, physical obstructions, logic flaws and an underestimation of operational issues come to mind when brainstorming the potential issues that could arise.   However, the corporation is probably well prepared with fixes and contingencies for everything.  Build into the program, the system does appear to monitor power levels and automatically schedules charging.

    Kiva Systems Opportunities

    If the Kiva Systems automated world continues to build, opportunities in other areas could emerge, such as a team of robots to:

    • Carry out office work
    • Automate the front counter at a fast food restaurant
    • Sort and file books at libraries
    • Fully automate beauty salon duties, with programmed robots completing hair and body packages

    If these examples above come to fruition, this would now look like a scene of the Disney movie WALL-E.  For sure WALL-E would feel comfortable and at home within a Kiva Systems environment.  It has been interesting to read and see the new buzz around this system.  What will be more interesting in the future to observe will be the impacts and the adjustments made to the human labor force, in the development of more value-added jobs around systems like the Kiva Systems model.


    Strategy Plan One

    http://strategyplanone.com

    Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

    © 2012 Strategy Plan One


  • April 06, 2012 4:19 PM | Strategy Plan One (Administrator)

    Strategy Plan One                                                                                                                 

    April 6, 2012

    Baseball Season 

    Basketball, hockey, and now back into a long and fascinating baseball season.  Scarborough Research has just completed a Sports Marketing study on Major League baseball.  The business of baseball, their infographic highlights the key points of baseball’s sport marketing data:

    • 49% of US adults are baseball fans (massive American market)
    • 36% of fan base originates from the Baby Boomer Class (ages 45-64)
    • Generation Y (ages 18-29) account for 18% of the fan base
    • Milwaukee (76%) and Philadelphia (70%) are top markets of Generation Y fans
    • 56% of Generation Y fans have shopped at a sporting goods store in the past 3 months


    Check out more marketing and business on baseball’s fan base below

    baseball season


    Strategy Plan One

    http://strategyplanone.com

    Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

    © 2012 Strategy Plan One

  • April 06, 2012 2:28 PM | Strategy Plan One (Administrator)

    Strategy Plan One                                                                                

    April 6, 2012 



    reading body languageReading Body Language

    As an entrepreneur, business owner or professional, body language and attitude become critically important in face-to-face meetings.  It can be the difference between success and failure.  In reading body language, physical cues and tones in speech can signal a leader, partner or customer a certain way and trigger a response accordingly.


    It is best to create and to exude a positive image and body language, which will in most case, trigger more positive responses than negative ones.  On the flip side, you can imagine what type of response you will get from a partner or customer reading body language that is unfriendly, appears uninterested, full of inappropriate gestures, and is all around negative.


    Body language will tell people, for example, if you are interested, alert, attentive, happy, relaxed, angry, aggressive or bored.  Body language is one of the non-verbal signals that you will give off to create or not create a great impression.  Body language from some reports accounts for ~ 90% of all communications between parties, and hence the importance when reading body language of individuals.

    reading body languageReading Body Language – Body Language Signs

    First impressions are everything.  A leader, investor or partner will observe your initial behaviours, immediately reading body language you exude.

    It may not matter who you are, but how you behave in a professional manner in an initial meeting.  A leader or investor may be looking to meet with you to determine what type of person you are, how professional you are, and how you fit in to meet common objectives and goals.

    Carefully observe and be cognizant of how you are in a meeting.  Closed body stances such as cross arms or postures pointing away from clients are problematic and show behavior hinging on avoidance, non-acceptance and non-openness.  Appropriate upright body stances towards the participant help in saying you are interested in the person, topic, goal, and that you are genuine and there to assist or join in.  If you are slouched over, leaning to one side or using the advantages of ergonomic chairs to lean way back, chances are you are giving the wrong signal in that you are not interested, you are not serious, or that you are not listening and engaged in conversation.


    Reading Body Language – Eye Contact and Hand Gestures

    Eye contact with the in-house audience is critically important in making a connection with the people there.  Good eye contact will inform the audience, leaders, and partners that you are genuinely interested.  Great eye contact strengthens the communication and connection between two people, and creates a richer communication experience.  If you don’t maintain frequent eye contact, parties may be receiving a signal that you are not interested.  It is also distracting when speakers or listeners’ eyes and body wander all over the place.

    Watch and ensure appropriate hand gestures are made by you.  Hand waving and arm flaying motions may set a negative cues, whereas slight hand movements emphasizing points may be appropriate.  Another blog could be written on appropriate hand and body gestures applicable to in business environments where the culture is different that North America.  Be sure you seek advice about conduct in face-to-face meetings in other countries.   Selfgrowth.com has some additional great tips on body language.

    Reading Body Language – Attitude

    Go in with a positive attitude, even though is some circumstances you may not agree or want to be there.   As mentioned staying positive will rub off on others and you will most likely receive a positive response.  In some cases, you may even experience a constructive, negative response which may be as good as a positive response.  Coming in with a negative attitude will spell immediate failure in negotiations, handling difficult challenges, or in building relationships.

    In some cases, you need to be a good actor, for the good of the company and your fellow colleagues.  You may need to exude the positive, as your actions may impact many others in the organization…remember that.

    Reading Body Language – Tips for Body Language, Attitude and Presence 

    • Be prepared and be professional for first impressions
    • Look and act interested
    • Engage in conversation
    • Be polite, be courteous
    • Showcase your best and what you have to offer as a person and professional
    • Dress appropriately for the occasion
    • Facial expressions – anything neutral to slight smiles signals the positive
    • Keep an upright stature, whether sitting or standing
    • Do not slouch, lean, rock, swing in chairs
    • Provide slight body and hand gestures; aggressive motions – negative
    • Use slight gestures to emphasis points
    • Watch you tone in speech and watch language
    • Ensure you use the right body signals, language for the right cultural environment

    In the global, highly competitive world, you as an aggressive entrepreneur need to make positive immediate impacts with customers, partners and other successful business owners.   Similar to business planning processes, plan in your head how you will act and behave in face-to-face meeting to successfully negotiate and win over people.

    Strategy Plan One

    http://strategyplanone.com

    Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

    © 2012 Strategy Plan One

 
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