C. Lynn Northrup, CPA, CPIM

Six-Step Process for Strategic Thinking

October 3rd, 2017

Strategic thinking is a diagnostic and situational analysis of the business. It is used to gather information and summarize it into a format for evaluating business possibilities. While strategic thinking isn’t planning, it represents the initial stages of developing a strategic plan.

The strategic thinking process is a tool to help management formulate their thoughts and ideas into a plan. Just engaging in a process of strategic thinking provides a benefit and adds value.

Here is the six-step process that represents the flow of strategic thinking and creation of a strategic planning framework:

  1. Understand the present
  2. Establish a Vision of the Future
  3. Identify the Critical Issues
  4. Establish Objectives and Goals
  5. Develop Action Plans
  6. Plan for and Allocate Resources

These six steps might be different based on the approach. Everyone has their own spin. However, it is a formal or informal process that every business uses to engage in a strategy.

Strategic thinking focuses on understanding the present and identifying the critical issues. This is a worthwhile effort since it gets management and business owners to think about their business. Business owners tend to get too immersed in day to day issues and fail to think about a vision for the future.

Spending more time thinking strategically about the future produces increased profitability and increases business value.

Problem Solving

September 17th, 2017

When dealing with problem solving my favorite saying is that “perceptions is 9/10ths of the law.” This is where application of analytical thinking is essential. Understand all the variables and complexities of the situation and keep your mind flexible. Expand the possibilities and don’t jump to conclusions.

Here are the three steps to solving problems. First, clearly identify the problem. From this point, clarify the problem, and then find the cause. The process of thinking or solving a problem only happens after you have captured and fully understand the problem. The biggest hurdle in solving problems is thinking you know everything and that nothing needs to be changed.

Since “perception is 9/10ths of the law,” there is a tendency to base decisions and actions on what is perceived to be true. The key to diagnosing problems is separating what is true from what seems to be true. Don’t jump to conclusions.

Learn to think in and out of the box and master the obvious. Look for potential mental blind spots and avoid them. Sort out the facts, avoid ambiguous and vague descriptions and don’t act on assumptions.

Problem solving is a diagnostic progression of determining:

  1. Who?
  2. What?
  3. When?
  4. Where?
  5. Why?
  6. And how?

Problems need to be captured, then developed, examined, and given a shape. Try to understand the magnitude of what you don’t know. The current reality of the situation is easy to miss, avoid, or ignore.

A key step in solving problems is carefully examining the details and writing them down. This helps to make uncertainty become clearer. The written word creates conciseness and accuracy and provides a better understanding of the problem.

This process helps to clarify what you know, what you don’t know, and what you are trying to find out. It aids in separating problems from general situations so you can better understand the nature and scope of the real problem.

This clarification lets you evaluate the size and gravity of a problem and puts you on a fast track toward finding a solution. From this point, you can address increasing productivity, improving quality, doing things faster, and reducing costs.

After you have ideas for improvement, the next step is implementing them. Go listen to the solving problems podcast.

Challenge of Online Business

September 14th, 2017

The online market place is challenging and different. It is a huge space with lots of buyers and sellers. Just look at Amazon and what they are doing to brick and mortar businesses. It takes more than just throwing up a website and watching the money roll in. For me, it’s been a learning process.

Social media is a part of the selling process and offers lots of moving pieces. I have utilized Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn. A follower or like doesn’t immediately translate to a sale.

I have an associate who has worked in B2B internet marketing for some time. He offered a tip on who has been successful in this wild world of internet business. He said check out what they are doing and copy them. That was good advice.

The key to success in selling on the internet is accumulating a mailing list where potential buyers opt-in to providing you with an email address. Your website needs to be set up with landing pages offering content in exchange for an email address. This is called a lead-nurturing campaign whereby high-value content or a free consultation is exchanged for email information.

The successful internet entrepreneurs offer both blogs and podcasts to provide quality content to potential buyers. These two vehicles typically will provide lots of helpful information and insight. Take the time to search out successful internet entrepreneurs. Read their blogs and listen to their podcasts.

The products and services offered by these entrepreneurs will likely be different from yours but the process utilized to market and sell is something that can be successfully duplicated. Take the best of what they are doing and put it to use on your website. Find out what software tools they are using and see if they would be applicable to your website.

Many of these entrepreneurs tell about their journey to success. Their website or blog posts in many cases will tell how they solved problems. Trolling information provided on websites to learn about systems, strategies, processes, and software can provide nuggets of information that will save you money and time.

The moral of this story is to duplicate success and copy best practices. What has worked for others, can work for you. Take advantage of whatever information is available and use it to your advantage.

The Challenge of Change

September 5th, 2017

The challenge of change is the challenge of dealing with uncertainty. What’s going to happen if we make a change? The reality of what’s going to happen is that you don’t know until you make the change. This is part of life and living. Creating success means that you will have to bite the bullet and embrace the challenge of what can happen and then learn to deal with it.

Some thoughts on making changes is to assess the current situation and follow this 5-Step Process:

  1. Understand your strengths
  2. Where is improvement needed?
  3. What’s working?
  4. What isn’t working?
  5. Create a plan to fix what’s not working

Here are some ideas on how to fix what’s not working.

Improve your effectiveness by doing the right things. After you settle on what are the right things, it is essential to focus on them and set priorities. Do what’s most important first that will make you more effective.

Once you understand where improvement is needed, you should become more efficient by doing the right things right. Review and understand the procedures for getting the right things done and the standards for how they should be done and then make the necessary improvements. This enables you to become more efficient and solve problems.

Becoming more efficient enables improvement and means you should be doing things better. Take the time to think carefully about what you’re doing and find ways to make improvements. Listen to suggestions and sort through these ideas and implement the ones having the greatest impact.

Making changes means doing away with things. This is a great opportunity to simplify and stop doing what isn’t important or doesn’t matter. This is a process of endlessly asking “why” and then following through with new ideas and concepts. Keep refocusing to continuously come up with improvements.

The fifth point of “creating a plan to fix what’s not working” is critical to successfully making changes. Spell out what’s not working and what will be eliminated together with any new steps to be implemented. These actions sound simple and easy but they will require determination and persistence to put in place. This is where focus and refocus is essential.

Master Your Destiny

August 25th, 2017

Destiny is defined as the inevitable or necessary succession of events. The words inevitable or necessary don’t need to determine your future because you can control it. Most people believe that destiny is a predetermined fate. I disagree. You can control your destiny if you make a determined effort to forget the past and look to the future.

The key is to empower yourself to think positively toward the future and avoid judging yourself by the past. Embracing change is essential because you’re not going to get new results by doing the same things.

I’m working on a Mastery course so I thought a blog post dealing with the process would be a good step. Mastery ties together nicely with Creating Success. You must create a vision of who you want to be and how to make the “new you” become real. Decide on how you want to live and then don’t settle for less than you can be.

While I can’t magically convert your destiny in this short blog, I can get you started to move in the right direction. Empower yourself to focus on the problem and not the solution. Ask better questions and then keep asking. Take responsibility and then do something about. Questions provide answers. Ask what you can do and then what must I do? Think in terms of new possibilities.

Change is a big part of the answer. If something isn’t working, then make a change and with something that does. It is a process of making constant and never-ending improvement which provides the growth and change that you envision. Keep expanding your references and be willing to trust what you are focused on. Keep your vision and continue moving forward.

Your mind is your greatest asset so use it and trust it. Try to see life as it is and avoid trying to make it worse. You must dream and have the courage to follow your dreams. You need to muster the courage to move forward to fulfilling your vision. See more and judge less so that you are creating solutions and not problems.

The only way you fail is if you quit.

The Small Business Boot Camp

August 11th, 2017

Helping small businesses is my focus. Business owners are short of time and need help in creating success. Why not offer an intense training boot camp that gives business owners the essential tools they need to achieve success? Thus, the Boot Camp.

The Boot Camp establishes a foundation for Small Businesses to grow and increase their value. Business owners receive problem solving techniques for greater profitability and increasing cash flow. Basically, they are provided with a road map for business planning. This is important because business planning and good strategy is a critical component of success.

One of the elements of effective business planning is assessing the business to determine what needs to be done to get small businesses on the road to success. The Boot Camp spells out business development questions together with guidance on conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis. A key component of the Boot Camp include the basics of profit improvement which are spelled out and combined with the elements of creating value.

The 2nd program of the four-part series addresses the development of a business vision and mission. This discussion evolves into the creation of the business plan and evolving the roadmap to success. The challenge of change is provided together with the steps needed to make change become a reality. Accounting, performance measurement, and the basics of business structure are also components of the session 2.

The third session addresses the basic components of business. Effective sales and marketing steps are rolled out and combined with the processes needed to achieve outstanding customer service. Business processes are one of the keys to greater profitability. The Boot Camp outlines how to achieve more efficient processes. The tools for success are exposed together with how to achieve more effective business operations. Effective application of the tools provides business owners with an effective tool kit and a clear road map for achieving success.

The Boot Camp outlines how you can spend more time working on your business rather than in your business. The Boot Camp concludes with the discussion of the commitment needed to launch the Journey to Results.  The Boot Camp will be available by the end of August.

Small Business Road Map to Success

August 2nd, 2017

I wanted to share some exciting news about the Small Business Road Map to Success. This program is an introduction to our Small Business Boot Camp.

The Road Map gets you to think about the state and condition of your business. Small businesses need to think about what needs to be done to put their business on the path to increased profit and cash flow. The program helps business owners understand the signs and signals for potential trouble spots so they can take corrective action.

The Boot Camp expands the Road Map by offering more business diagnostic and development assistance. The Small Business Road Map spells out the following 10 Step Approach for focusing on your business:

  1. Get to the point of pain experienced by the business
  2. Scope out what needs to be done
  3. Orient the business to the reality of economic and market conditions
  4. Manage the scale of the business to fit current and future reality
  5. Structure debt to maximize cash flow
  6. Maximize assets to get the most bang for the buck
  7. Optimize products and services
  8. Improve employee effectiveness
  9. Improve productivity of the business
  10. Change the right processes for the right reasons

The Small Business Road Map is a system that defines profitability in terms of return on investment and takes aim at boosting the return above the cost of that investment. It provides a back to basics approach focusing on long-term results utilizing common sense financial management and business concepts. This approach applies a blend of financial and non-financial measurements to monitor your progress on achieving your business goals and objectives.

The Road Map and Boot Camp addresses the types of corrective that might be required. A business evaluation addresses who you are and what you do. It guides you through the process of where you have been and where you want to be. The process requires a thorough assessment of the current state of the business.

The business development process includes a SWOT assessment (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). This sets the stage for problem identification and solutions. From here, we create a Journey to Results with a road map to achievement.

The Journey to Results includes guidance on making the needed improvements and overcoming resistance to change. Business owners will learn how to work on their business rather working in the business. Training topics include customer service, sales and marketing, operations, business structure, and accounting for results.

The Boot Camp will be available soon. Stay tuned for updates and details.

Defining Success

July 24th, 2017

For motivation Monday, I thought it would be good to talk about SUCCESS. Just what is success?  There are lots of opinions on success. Here are my thoughts.

I think success is how you define yourself and being ok with yourself. Success lies within your self-esteem and knowing that you are capable and worthy. It is accepting your uniqueness as an individual. Success is living within your identity and your character.

It is essential that you see the strength and courage of your identity and are comfortable that you have done your best. You have faced adversity and maintained control over your mind, thoughts, and how you feel. Success is making your own decisions based on how you think and feel about yourself.

Success is forgetting the past and looking to the future. Success is the journey to who you want to be, and creating your own identity. It begins with a dream that becomes your vision and your mission. This is how you create success. How do I get there? Well, as they say, sometimes all it takes is a leap of faith.

Success starts with a dream and committing to fulfilling that dream. Commitment requires that you have a process to get there. Trust in getting out of your own way and having confidence in your ability. Know that you will succeed. The process is doing what needs to be done and when it needs to be done.

Dreams are what you want to be, who you want to be, and where you want to be. The key to dreams is having them. Let your mind do what it can do and follow your dream. Don’t let other people’s thoughts and opinions take you off your track on where you want to go. Ask questions, listen, and then reach your own conclusions.

Commit to trusting the process and the never-ending pursuit of improvement. Turn your dreams into reality and SUCCESS!

Coaching Creates Success

July 17th, 2017

I have developed a mini-program on Creating Success focusing on the 5 steps required to achieve success in business and in life. Creating Success provides a pathway on what you need to do to accomplish your success. The program takes less than an hour and is affordable.

My Business Coaching programs are available to help guide you through the process. They ask the right questions and get you to think about the right things. Having a coach pays big dividends. Forbes Magazine reports that an investment in coaching yields a ROI of 700%. In many cases the returns can be even higher. Imagine 10 to 49 times return from investing in a coach.

Check my videos on Business and Financial coaching. The Coaching Process provides:

  • Training
  • Coaching Support
  • Goal Setting
  • Setting Direction
  • Advice
  • Support and Motivation

My video on Creating Success spells out the process essential for creating a successful business and a successful life. The program is self-paced for your convenience plus I am available to answer questions via email at cln@northrupcpa.com.

Creating Success is an ongoing effort to provide additional training focused on specific areas that will help guarantee success. Topics will include change, mastery, business assessment, performance measurement plus other areas of learning.

Why Business Owners Get in Trouble?

July 7th, 2017

Why business owners get in trouble is a question I’ve had on my mind for some time. Here are the prime reasons based on my experience over the years.

Firefighting takes top priority. Running a business is challenging and involves a lot of detail work. Business owners get too deep in the forest making it tough from them to see the trees.

People do what they like, it’s human nature. Some business owners love the finance part of their job while others gravitate towards the marketing aspects and still others favor sales or manufacturing. At the end of the day, the business owner’s interests will determine what gets the most attention.

They’re making money. Many companies don’t know where they make their true profits but are still profitable. They make money despite themselves. When people are making enough money to supporting their lifestyles and pay their employees, things tend not to change. This is a situation where if they’re making enough money to support a lifestyle, being the most profitable company possible isn’t necessarily a top priority.

Some of the value is hidden. Inventory and materials need to be tracked. Costs need to be correctly allocated to product lines. When a business owner visits their warehouse, they shouldn’t just see goods and materials… they should see cash.

Finally, another reason is the lack of training and knowledge. Business owners might not want to invest in training and coaching, but it could make a huge difference on the bottom line and value of their business.

I can help improve your bottom line and increase the value of your business. Contact me at cln@northrupcpa.com.