CategoryUncategorized Archives — Page 2 of 10 — C. Lynn Northrup, CPA, CPIM

Lessons from Ben Franklin

October 23rd, 2017

Benjamin Franklin was one of the fathers of our country. He provided wisdom we can use effectively today. His 14 Lessons were provided in our newsletter and I thought it might be good to review them here. They’re listed below:

  1. Less Talk, More Action
  2. Don’t Procrastinate
  3. Be Prepared
  4. Don’t Fight Change
  5. Get Moving
  6. Avoid Busywork
  7. Give Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes
  8. Act Quickly on Opportunities
  9. Continue to Grow
  10. Keep Going
  11. Know Yourself
  12. Don’t Self Sabotage
  13. Don’t Give Up
  14. Wise Up

While all the lessons should be followed there a few that I would like to highlight.

First, “don’t procrastinate” links to less talk and more action. Just think about how much time goes by thinking and talking about what we are going to do. Just do it will save a lot of time and produce more results.

When you’re trying to create success, you are constantly dealing with change. Change is a constant challenge. The cycle of change occurs in stages. The tendency is to do the right thing and do it well but you discover that the right thing is now the wrong thing. Then you do the new right thing, but do it poorly. Eventually you do the right thing well.

Implementing successful change requires creating high-impact and inescapable confrontations. The key to successful implementation is focusing on the core contrasts and engaging all five senses in the experience. Confront issues and don’t avoid them. Find and see the new direction or destination. Then believe in a path to take you to doing the right thing and doing it well.

The other lessons I’d like to highlight is keep going and don’t give up. Make sure the destination or target is clear. Then acquire the skills resources, and tools to reach the destination. If the destination isn’t clear, what’s the chance of getting there. Be clear on each step of the journey so you know where you are going.

Believe in your vision and your destination, keep going, and don’t give up.

Creating a Change Vision

October 22nd, 2017

We don’t like change, but there are times when change is essential. Fear is a great motivator because it can be quickly converted into positive urgency. Urgency helps to sustain change.

How high is the urgency regarding problems you are facing or opportunities that have been presented? Answering these questions should dig into feelings and behavior because logic and words don’t always provide answers. What creates the behavior and your underlying feelings?

Creating a change vision may require looking at the obvious. As you consider the obvious try taking a new look at the problem under a different light. Look for cheap and easy opportunities and solutions. Sometimes the obvious will produce results you didn’t expect. Take a disciplined and focused approach directed toward the right issues.

Ask what changes are needed? What is our vision of where we are going? Also, consider that some things don’t need changing. What strategies might be dangerous? As you consider your vision, think about the best way to make it become a reality.

Here are some thoughts about vision. Strategies show you how to achieve a vision. A plan specifies step by step how to implement a strategy. The vision shows you the end state where all the plans and strategies will take you.

You need bold strategies to match bold visions. Bold can be threatening, and the obvious might be threatening. Making necessary changes requires action. There will always be a tendency to hold back. It’s essential to avoid this corrosive behavior. So, move forward with confidence and determination.

Literally try to see the future. Make your vision so clear that it can be expressed in a page or less. The vision should be moving and bold. Then create a bold strategy to make your vision become a reality. Stay focused, pick the low hanging fruit, and start by getting some short-term wins that are visible and come fast. Most importantly, take things one win at a time. And don’t let up!

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.

Coaching Case Study – Jerry

June 23rd, 2017

Jerry built a printing business that always had lots of sales but no profits. I was introduced to Jerry by his CPA who thought maybe I could get Jerry to listen. I came in, wandered around and asked questions. That’s what I always do. It’s amazing how much you learn when people get comfortable and share concerns, questions and ideas.

People tend to get too close to the action and never take time to step back. We began analyzing the numbers to find out the little details that can lead to big results. These steps started having Jerry’s team building trust in my suggestions. By paying attention to the little details that matter, the company achieved record sales and profits. Jerry started to believe. Having the discipline and patience to focus on the right details can produce big results. That’s what coaching gives to business owners. Once they start seeing the results, coaches become part of the team.

Once I became accepted as a member of the team greater achievement became possible. We identified that a purchasing agent was taking kickbacks. Family members got new job assignments and a succession plan was put in place. The company went from almost going out of business to becoming the most respected printer in the region.

Overcoming the initial resistance can be an obstacle but the proof is in the results and on the bottom line. I went on to implement a team building effort and a management succession plan. I’ll tell you about this effort in another post.

Plan to Do Better?

April 17th, 2017

We’ve just finished up paying our taxes for the year. Maybe you had to pay more than you wanted and had to scramble to come up with enough cash for the payment. You might have looked at the numbers and wondered why we didn’t do better. There could be lots of scenarios to the story.

Reality is that many businesses don’t really know how they are doing and wonder how they can do better. This is an all too familiar theme for most small businesses. It is essential for businesses to take time to consider their options.

Here’s some signals that maybe your business could use some help:

  • Gross margins have decreased.
  • You can’t identify your product margins.
  • Profit margins are too low.
  • Your cost structure is out of line with the competition.
  • You’re borrowing too much.
  • You have declining trends over the past few months.

Maybe you need a tune-up:

  • Has income declined over the last three quarters/
  • Are sales declining?
  • Are you satisfied with your overall results?
  • Do you have a plan to maintain your rate of growth?

Here’s some signs that things need to turn around:

  • Are you starting to lose money?
  • Do you have too much inventory?
  • Can you recruit new help?
  • Do you have too much debt?
  • Do you know where you are making profits?
    • By customer
    • By product or service
  • Have you lost business to competitors?

Crisis questions might include:

  • Can you meet payroll?
  • Will the bank lend you more money?
  • Have good employees quit?
  • Have vendors stopped shipping goods to you?
  • Have you had time to think and strategize?
  • Have any of your customers who don’t pay on time stopped ordering?

Maybe you just think your business should be doing better and you don’t know why. Whatever the reasons, there are things every business should and could be doing to make things better. My blog post on Biggest Business Problems explains and discusses these issues.

The first thing businesses should do is step back to reflect on what you have done and where you want to go. Businesses fail to engage in “Strategic Thinking” and they fail to effectively “measure their performance” on a regular basis.

These are what I call the Management Tools for Success that are critical for growing and increasing profitability. Business owners need to spend the time and effort to learn about accounting and measurement. In addition, they need to then learn how to apply these tools to making their business more successful.

My goal is to provide business owners with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful. Take advantage of my consulting experience which are offered as resources for businesses on a subscription basis and as toolkits and checklists which can be downloaded from my store.

A good way to get started is with The Guide to Strategic Thinking and The Strategic Thinking Toolkit and creating a plan for Profit Enhancement. The key is doing something rather than just thinking about it. So go make it happen.

 

New Tools

March 5th, 2017

New teaching and collaboration tools were added yesterday. I am now up and running with Adobe Connect so that I can work and interface with anyone anywhere. This has been in the planning ever since the conversion to the new Word Press web site began, but it is now a reality. This tool enables me to teach and share my knowledge in live webinars.

Business owners can now receive live consulting support through the meeting room capability offered by Adobe Connect. The ability to share files, of any type, combined with virtual communication in the meeting room is exciting. It represents a huge leap forward in my capability to teach, coach, and share knowledge.

My plan is to immediately begin scheduling webinar conference sessions in accounting, financial management, and basic business skills. I’ll record the initial sessions to make sure everything flows smoothly.  These sessions will be recorded and made available on the web site. Once we get past the initial stage, the webinars will be live as well as recorded.

The initial learning conference sessions will be presented over the next few weeks. There will be a total of 14 webinar learning sessions cover the three conference topics. Each session will be recorded and the recording link will be available to those who sign up to participate in the three learning programs. The three topics are:

The sessions are described in detail by following the link to the web site.

After these initial programs, we will have an ongoing series of presentations covering a wide range of business topics. We will be providing the latest guidance on managing risk based on COSO’s new exposure draft on Enterprise Risk Management. Other topics will include strategic planning, change management, lean six sigma, and cost accounting techniques.

While specific learning topics will be offered, I will offer one on one coaching sessions on request. In addition, special webinar presentations will be offered on current topics.

The new Adobe Connect webinar and meeting capabilities offer an exciting range of possibilities that I was only able to provide through seminars and consulting engagements. Because I am so excited about the new tools, I am offering a free Accounting Basics for Business eBook to the  first 5 people who sign up for the new learning programs.

The initial presentations will be accessible by the end of next week March 10, 2017.