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For the last few months I have been working on a book. The working name is: Running a “Successful” Family Business Without Destroying the Family.

The process has been fun, the compilation of information has been interesting the writing has been enjoyable. Here is a bit of the very rough draft of the introduction. Be looking out for more to come, many more stories and practical hints and the publication in Q1 of 2013. Let me know if you want to pre-order a copy, there are some additional bonuses for pre-orders.

The book focuses on the joys, challenges, opportunities and threats encountered in the family business… those many little realities you wish you’d known about beforehand. Your family, employees and the future of your business depend on your inter-relationships to each other and to the team in a charged, multi-generational environment. The outside worlds, i.e. your customers, win when your family business succeeds.

There is an old saying: Blood is thicker than water. This is usually true even when the families are not close and/or don’t get along. I may not like my brother, but you had better not pick on him, or I will come out fighting. Family ties are far stronger than normal relationships of employer to employee, friend to friend and even spouse to sibling.

Families are at the heart of most all societies. Statistics indicate there are more than 16 million small businesses in the US alone. Small businesses range from home based environments to structured operational businesses environments with employees and multimillions or tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Family business is at the heart of 80 % of small businesses in the US. Working for a family business – when you are not family can have great rewards and great challenges.

This book focuses on the joys, challenges, opportunities and threats encountered in the family business, both to the family, the employees and the future of the business. The inter relationships between the family members to each other, to the team, the generational environments and the outside world i.e., their customers.

The research from the book is based on years of up close and practical experience. Yes, there is research proven in standard research methodology, however most of the stories and research is from years of running businesses and business coaching. It is that real life experience that is mostly at play here. Volumes of research in standard research methods are critical, but don’t account for the up close and personal reality.

My journey in life has taken me through a number of family businesses. This starts with my Dad and being involved in a family business growing up – it was called a farm. Grandpa was the business owner, Dad and his 5 brothers were the employees, Grandma also ran the business from the house. Employees were hired during the busy season and they moved on during the slow season. Work needed to be done, crops needed to be harvested, bills needed to be paid and the future needed to be secured. It was a family business in all ways. Much was learned and from that family business 2 of the brothers continued in the tradition, yet in what is very common, it didn’t make it past the second generation. The brothers chose to sell that family business and either retire in one case and move on to a job in the other. The 3rd generation wanted no part of it.

What is your family business story? Let me know.

Entrepreneurs, business owners, leaders, managers need to step back on a regular basis and get back to basics. The temptation when running your own enterprise is to stop doing the foundational elements that made you successful in your business. What are the basics for you? Could they be?

Marketing: Testing and measuring what is working in your marketing program and what isn’t. Are you guessing as to which marketing programs work and which don’t. One of my clients swore that one of their marketing programs worked and worked well, until we ran the numbers. They were investing about $14,000 per year in this program and got about $6,000 back. Even taking into account lifetime value of the new customers, it was an expense and not an investment. Both revenue and profitability went up when they stopped that marketing program.

Sales: It is documented that sales people must be trained and retrained on a regular basis to refine their skills and ensure the basic blocking and tackling is being done. What old sales techniques need to be revisited and are there new ones? Selling today is very different than 5 years ago, however some of the basics like communicating with your prospect are foundations which often get forgotten due to bad habits.

Closing: Are you asking for the close in the sale? I have a client that lost the potential of a big new account because the prospects perception was that they didn’t want it enough. They asked for the close, but not often enough during the final presentation. Their competition asked for the sale more.

Advertising: Are you running the same old ad that you always do? It works – great, but could it be better. What is your shock and awe with your advertising? Do you get their attention, or are they yawning through the whole process?

Basics are critical. Innovation is critical, yet if the innovation is built on a rocky foundation the whole business may fail before you know it.

Basics are critical. Innovation is paramount, yet if the innovation is built on a rocky foundation the whole business may fail before you know it. The foundation of your business is the same as the foundation of a building. If the wrong materials, wrong design, wrong measurements have been used then the foundation begins to crack under the pressure. Pressure for a building can be weight, weathering, erosion of soil and much more. Crumbling of a business can also come from pressure of the growth of the business. Cracking appears when the systems are not in place to handle the growth or changing in the business. How do you know if the basics are failing within your business?

Key Business and Sales Performance Indicators:

o Are your leads increasing or decreasing? If you don’t know then that is the first sign that the basic foundation has a few cracks.

o Do you measure your closing ratios now to a year ago, last quarter, last month? Do you measure them by sales person?

o Each lead that you receive you should know where it originated? Was it a referral from a customer, generated by networking, an ad in the paper, pay for click, SEO etc.

Innovation in your business is paramount. If you have always done something the exact same way, do you need to stop and consider a new way to address the situations. Even a 1 degree difference can make a tremendous difference in the future and especially the profitability of the business.

What are your KPI’s?  How often do you measure them?

Being thankful for struggles???

There are so many articles, comments, posts on Thanksgiving that the thought of adding to the list almost stopped me from writing this. Then I stopped and realized all the things I am thankful for. The one you probably don’t expect is at the bottom of the page. Here is my short list:

• My relationship with God. He is the source of my strength, the peace which passes all understanding (especially mine) and my guiding light so I am never in darkness.

• My husband who is patient (you have to be when living with me!!) He teaches me patience and how to serve with a continual good attitude

• My son who is turning out to be a wonderful young man. Full of deep thoughts, challenging the thought processes of others (in a good way). He is articulate and more mature than many adults I know.

• My friends. Where would I be without them? The older I get the more I appreciate the value of true friendship and the loneliness that comes when they aren’t around.

• My family. We don’t choose them, but love them for who they are and what they teach us. Some good, some bad, but they are still family and we are entwined with each other

• My clients. They motivate me, encourage me, and challenge me. I love seeing their growth and I am thankful for the trust they put in me to coach them toward the growth they desire.

• My country. There has been much frustration lately through the election. I am saddened by the division I see and there is much I don’t understand. Yet, we can’t lose sight of what we have in this country. We must fight to preserve what we have and understand how to grow in a new world. I am thankful to be able to live in Colorado Springs.

• My struggles. Bet you didn’t expect that one. Without struggles I would not grow. Without struggles I would not appreciate the good days. I would be uprooted by the smallest issue without the daily challenges that life brings. Struggles/challenges what ever word you want to use become the core of what makes us strong. At each moment I may not appreciate the struggle, yet the refection allows me to learn, apply, grow and become who I am meant to be. Failure isn’t an event it is a process. When we were children and learning to walk we fell countless times, but had the perseverance to try again. We also learned how to fall which built up the strength in our legs and arms so walking would come more naturally. Embrace your struggles, be thankful for them – I am.

I have much to be thankful for and I am thankful. Every day is Thanksgiving Day – let’s start that habit right now.

The end of the year is right around the corner. Your ability to make a difference for 2012 is quickly coming to an end. The business advice you need should focus on where is your profitability and what actions should you take to increase that profit. Here are some areas to review:

• Average dollar sale – Is there a way to increase the average amount a customer spends with you? Bundling, increased prices, marketing?

• Awareness – Statistics have proven that over 50% of your customers buy products/services you sell because they don’t know you offer them. How do you talk to your customers? Are they really aware of your full product line? I will be you they don’t – so start changing that today.

• Communication – It seems to be one area that all businesses and teams struggle. Do your customers remember you? Don’t laugh and don’t get defensive. Over 67% of customers go elsewhere because they think you don’t care. As I coach business owners and executives I see a total lack of consistent communication to customers. If you don’t communicate with your customers they will communicate with someone else.

• Team – The joke is sales people need to be retrained daily. Reality is – it isn’t a joke – ask anyone who has been in sales. We must all go back to basics on a regular basis to understand what, how, where and why we sell. What is your training program for yourself and for your team? Who are the sales people in your organization? Yes, there should be someone who is compensated on selling, however every person in your organization is a sales person. Do they know it? How well do they represent you?

This article on business advice from a business coach – started with a plan for profitability for 2012. Now the question is – how well are you planning for 2013? If you haven’t started you should set aside a day for planning. If you want join me for my planning workshop with my clients on December 14th. Check my website for the details www.actioncochadvantage.com

I have already spent probably 2 days reviewing 2012 and planning for 2013. I pay myself, am profitable, take the advice of my own business mentor. I also realize I can do better and that even a 1% increase in profitability helps me achieve my personal goals. How are you doing?