|Strategic Planning Information|
Invalid Excuses for Poor Business Results - Rising costs
Note to Northwest Airlines ? It's not about fuel costs
For the first quarter of 2005, Northwest Airlines posted a loss of $458 million. The main reason cited was high fuel costs.
Northwest complained that fuel prices surged to $630 million from $450 million for the same time period last year. Let's start by looking at some numbers. During the first quarter of 2004, Northwest lost $230 million. This means the increase in red ink was $118 million while fuel expenses increased $180 million. Obviously, with fuel expenses higher than the change in red ink, one could make an argument that higher crude is responsible. This argument does not hold up to scrutiny when you consider the entire cost of fuel was only $172 greater than the loss. Also Northwest has stated a penny fuel increase equates to $1.6 million in operating costs. A $458 million loss attributable to increased jet fuel cost would need to cost $2.86/gallon using Northwest calculations. At the end of the first quarter, jet fuel averaged $1.27 cents.
Okay, too many numbers, let's look at it a different way. Based on Northwest's total fuel bill, if fuel was the reason for the loss, the only way they could have turned a profit would have been to run their planes with only 25% of the fuel actually used. Although this would be a quick fix and return the airlines on paper, if their argument is correct, it would have had a dire effect on reaching each flight's intended destinations.
If this isn't convincing enough that Northwest's blame of fuel costs is invalid, consider Southwest Airlines. The first quarter of 2005 was the airlines 56th consecutive quarter of earnings ? earning $76 million dollars. Southwest, which has been able to compile a winning streak of 32 straight years of profits did not need to make excuses for their earning, despite fueling their planes sufficiently to reach their destinations. However, Southwest did comment on rising fuel prices when they released their earnings statement. Their comment, "While we are not immune to the challenging industry revenue environment and glut of capacity, we are well positioned for growth and will continue to explore long-term profitable market opportunities."
Blaming operational costs, including price increases from suppliers, is common among businesses. Entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies fall pray to this invalid excuse. Successful business professionals see increased costs in advance, and prepare for them. For example, Southwest Airlines has hedged their fuel expenses through 2009 in anticipation of higher prices. They said, "Excluding fuel, our unit costs declined 3.8 percent. This superb performance reflected a tremendous effort by our Employees, and they continue to work hard to improve productivity throughout our Company."
To create consistent earning, Southwest Airlines offsets the volatile fuel prices by buying crude oil derivative contracts to limit their risk to sharp changes in jet fuel costs. This practice makes it easier to budget for fuel. Although there is not a jet-fuel derivatives market, airlines can hedge indirectly by dealing in closely related oil futures, then use the proceeds to offset the higher fuel costs.
Rather than making excuses for higher costs, look at ways to offset those higher expenses through a team attack on budget waste. If possible, prepay or set aside money to counteract those costs when they do go up. Predictable increases should be written into proposals as early as possible.
Proper planning puts you on the path of max impact, where your business will flourish despite erratic business expenses.
Rick Weaver is President of Max Impact, a national leadership and organization development company based in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Rick is an accomplished business executive with experience in retail, market analysis, supply chain and project management, team building, and process improvement. He has worked with hundreds of companies to improve sales, processes, and bottom-line results. MaxImpact offers leadership and organizational development services along with employee assessments and background checks. Contact Rick at 248-802-6138 or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org. MaxImpact is on the web at http://www.getmaximpact.com
Microsoft Great Plains Implementation: Healthcare/Hospital example ? overview for consultant
Microsoft Great Plains fits multiple services market niche and healthcare is not exemption. In the case of Healthcare/Hospital there is usually healthcare patient history tracking system in place and backoffice or accounting application should be integrated on the ongoing basis with the above mentioned system plus often Hospital or association is non-profit organization and non-for-profit accounting specifics should be taken into consideration.
A Rough Cut on Feasibility
A piano tuner recently moved to Buffalo, NY, and would like to assess the business possibilities for him in his new home. He plans to estimate how many piano tuners the greater Buffalo area can support, and compare that to the number listed in the phone book. How do we advise him as to how to estimate the "right" number of tuners for the area?
Microsoft Great Plains in Advertising & Publishing ? implementation highlights
Microsoft Great Plains, former Great Plains Dynamics is excellent fit for service oriented business and in this small article we'll give you magazine publisher and advertiser implementation and reporting scenarios. The system we describe is not real, we are putting together industry specifics, based on our consulting practice. In the case if you do not see some unique features of your publishing business ? this just means that publishing industry is diversified and say, regional newspaper publishing is quite different from magazine with narrow specialization.
Breaking the Growth Barriers in the Information Technology and Software Sector
There's nothing automatic about corporate growth, particularly in the information technology industry; build it and they will come is a myth. In the real world there is either a structured, process-driven growth cycle, or stagnation-and stagnation is automatic. Inherent to growth cycles are barriers, real-world business challenges that put some software companies out of business and spur others on to break through those barriers to higher levels of success. Overcoming those barriers is the very definition of growth; when you break through a barrier, you've achieved growth.
For Business Owners Only - You Can?t Be Fired But Neither Can You Quit
The decision to sell, or not to sell your business is a difficult one. There are many questions that need to be answered before an informed decision can be made. Is selling your best alternative? Will one of the kids want to take over the business? Timing is everything. Is now the right time? You do not have to sell or decide right now. You are quite busy so maybe you will look into it after. . .
Call in the SWOT Team: Produce More Opportunities to Expand Your Business
Have you ever done a SWOT analysis? No, it's not some dangerous military maneuver. It's actually a fun and incredibly helpful business development exercise that will give your company focused direction and great marketing ideas -- whether your business is brand new or has been around for years. This SWOT exercise will show you where your business is flourishing and where it needs to grow to gain clients and produce more sales. I recommend getting someone else (such as a friend, family member, or trusted business advisor) to brainstorm with you. You'll be determining your strengths and weaknesses, which are *internal* influences on your company. These factors are under your control. Opportunities and threats are *external* influences, things you cannot control, but you can respond to. After you read a short description of each of the four categories, take time to list as many of yours as possible.
Communication Strategy During A Time Of Strategic Planning
"Rubbish!" shouted the large, aggressive man in the red-striped shirt (we had to pay attention to him because he owned the company).
Do You Really Need a Business Plan?
"I don't need a business plan."
How to Develop a Successful Board of Advisors (...and Why You Should!)
In today's rapidly changing and highly competitive markets, many privately held companies are creating outside advisory boards to give owners and CEOs fresh, knowledgeable advice. Even for small businesses, setting up an advisory board can give you a significant advantage over competitors that are relying solely on internal talent. An experienced and well-connected board of advisors can help your business grow and prosper in ways you've never imagined. What is a Board of Advisors? An advisory board is an outside group that is informally organized to provide business owners and corporate leaders with support, advice and assistance. While formal boards of directors have legally defined responsibilities and fiduciary duties, advisory boards have no formal power or binding legal authority. They serve at the pleasure of the business owner or CEO. Benefits of an Advisory Board There are several advantages that companies with advisory boards have over their competition. A board offers your business: An unbiased outside perspective. Increased corporate accountability and discipline. Enhanced CEO and management effectiveness. Greater credibility with investors, vendors and customers. Help in avoiding costly mistakes. Rounding out skills and expertise lacking in current management team. A sounding board for evaluating new business ideas and opportunities. Enhanced community and public relations. Improved marketing results and effectiveness. Strategic planning assistance and input. Centers of influence for networking introductions. Crisis and transition leadership in the event of the death or resignation of the CEO. Help anticipating market changes and trends. Steps to Creating an Effective Board of Advisors: Analyze the strength and weaknesses of your current management team. Look for critical areas of expertise and knowledge that your company could use help with such as marketing, legal, finance, eCommerce, and research and development or information technology. If your company is planning on going public within the next few years, seek out advisors who have successfully taken companies down that path. Set clear, written goals and objectives for your board of advisors. Getting maximum value from a board of advisors begins with clear objectives and goals. Board members must know why they have been asked to serve and what is expected of them. Before establishing the board, the CEO and senior managers should sit down and ask some of the following questions: 1. What are the main areas we need advice and guidance in? 2. What specifically do we need the board members to do for us? 3. Who are a few potential candidates for board membership? 4. How do we avoid giving away too much control to outsiders? 5. What will be the powers and limitations of the board? 6. What will setting up the board cost initially? Annually? Will it be worth the cost? Determine the size and structure of your board. Advisory boards range in size from two members to over thirty. The right size depends on many factors, such as your company's size, complexity, stage of development and individual skills needed. My experience and research has found that for most small to mid-sized, growing companies or start-ups, a 5 to 7 member advisory board is an ideal size. Smaller firms can start with just one or two members and add new members as they grow. Recruiting Candidates Determining whom you invite to join your board is one of the most critical decisions in setting up a board of advisors. Often a business owner's first instinct is to ask friends, family members or professional advisors to sit on their board. This is usually a mistake. Unless your friend or family member is a recognized authority in an area of expertise lacking by your management team or a highly successful entrepreneur, they are probably not the wisest choice. Another reason to avoid asking family or friends to join your board is lack of objectivity. Often advice from a friend, family member or management insider is sugar coated to protect relationships. An outside advisor can give you a much more objective and honest assessment of the situation. Using professional advisors such as your lawyer, banker or accountant as board members has it's own pitfalls. These advisors are already working for you and may not be as objective as you need, due to having an interest in generating future business from your company. Some critical action steps for recruiting a dynamite board of advisors are: Develop a candidate profile. After you have determined the areas of expertise your company is in need of, create a profile of candidates that successfully fit these needs. Take care to address knowledge and skills that your company will need to meet projected growth and future challenges. Seek out experts. Search online and offline for experts and proven leaders that meet your candidate profiles. Contact them and begin discussions about possible board membership. Ask for recommendations. Solicit recommendations from the experts you speak with that cannot serve on your board, of collogues of theirs that they feel would be a good fit for your needs. Begin networking with your attorney, accountant and other professional advisors. Once you have successfully recruited an advisor, he or she can often lead you to another good candidate. Find your candidates motivation. Most of your candidates are not going to be motivated by money alone. In fact, if money is their primary reason for joining your board, they may not be what you are looking for. The most effective board members are motivated by the challenge and intellectual stimulation of building successful companies. They serve because they are already high achievers and enjoy the challenge. Have variety in your board. Try to include experts and successful entrepreneurs from several different disciplines. Often board members who are successful marketers, CEOs and business owners from different industries can bring a fresh perspective to your business. These individuals can often help you incorporate best practices from other industries, into your own industry, creating revolutionary changes and opportunities. Look for a proven track record. Find the leaders in their field. The best board candidates are successful CEOs, business owners, professionals, university professors and consultants who have achieved success in their own businesses and careers. Clearly communicate your goals and objectives. Invest time in talking to and meeting with potential members. Communicate to them what your goals and objectives are. Let them know that you are not looking for "yes men" and that you want advisors who will challenge you and hold you accountable for your businesses growth. Board Compensation Board members expect and deserve to be compensated for their time, efforts and advice. Typical advisory board compensation includes a stipend from $5,000 to $25,000 per member, per year. Some companies pay their board members per meeting, with payment ranging from $500 to $3,000 per meeting, with a monthly retainer of $500 to $2,500. Companies should also cover transportation, meals and lodging for members when attending meetings. Most successful boards also give or require members to buy stock or some form of equity in the company. This gives the board members equity participation and a vested interest in the growth of the company. Pitfalls to Avoid Some potential problem areas to avoid when setting up or working with your advisory board are: Members missing meetings. Because board members are usually running successful businesses of their own, they may not always be available for every meeting. However, board members should be made aware that attendance of board meetings is important and expected. If a member is chronically absent, the value of their membership on the board should be reviewed. Insecurity of senior managers. Some company insiders may feel intimidated or threatened by the involvement of outsiders. The CEO or owner must make every effort to communicate to his staff the benefits and importance of having a board of advisors. Incompatible personalities. This is a challenging situation, because most members of your board will be strong willed, achiever types, who have gotten where they are by taking charge. Many will have strong convictions about their opinions and may find it hard to defer the leadership of the meetings to the CEO. You must determine when a member's personality is "too strong" and becoming disruptive. Excessive number of board members. Because of their strong personalities, if you have too many members on your board, the more assertive members often dominate the debates, depriving you of the contributions the quieter members may have made. Lack of CEO communication. Withholding company information or not regularly communicating with the members of your board of advisors destroys trust and effectiveness. Regular communication between meetings is essential to maintaining an effective board. Inadequate compensation. As I mentioned, you do not want compensation to be the determining factor in a candidates membership on your advisory board, however successful individuals of the caliber you seek expect to be fairly compensated for their time and knowledge. Keys to Board Effectiveness If you build it, use it. Owners and CEOs who invest the time and money in creating a board should be committed to soliciting and using its advice on important issues and decisions. Value their input, even when they disagree with what you want to do. Sometimes a board is at it's most valuable when it recommends against a course of action the CEO wants to take. If you recruit a good board, often they have already been down the path you are on, and their experience (and past failures) can help you to avoid costly mistakes. Communicate with your advisors. Keep the members of your board informed about what is happening in your company and industry. Counsel with individual members on the phone at least monthly and send them information well in advance of your meetings, to help them prepare and keep the meetings productive. Hold regular meetings. Most boards meet once per quarter. However, boards should meet more often during times of rapid growth or if company needs merit additional oversight and guidance. Have an objective for each meeting. Your board members are busy people and their time is valuable. Make the most out of your meetings with them, by having a clear agenda and objectives for each meeting. Make sure to cover the most important items of business first, in case the discussions take longer than planned or some members have to leave early. Annual assessment of board performance. Periodically assessing the board's effectiveness is a critical factor in ensuring a good return on investment. Each year the board should set performance goals and define their criteria for success. At the end of the year the CEO and the board should assess it's performance, compared to its goals and criteria for success. Over 80 percent of all private companies are operating without a board of advisors or board of directors. Odds are your competitors do not have one. Because of this, developing a board of advisors can give your company a distinct advantage over your competition. This is particularly true for start-ups and family run businesses. There is tremendous value in receiving objective, knowledgeable advice from a board of advisors who share in the financial and equity growth of your business. I encourage you to begin recruiting your advisory board today!
Under Construction During the Storm ? A Hurricane Guide for Businesses that are Under Construction
As a business owner, you've likely created a hurricane plan for your business and your family, but did you overlook your construction project? Don't worry, you're not alone. Most people don't even think about preparing their construction site because it's not written into their "construction timeline." But when a hurricane threatens, general contractors usually get panicked phone calls asking about potential damage, delays and cost.
Idaho Market for Automotive Businesses; Doing it Right
Anyone who has been watching the Idaho Market Carefully for auto services, knows that the market is ripe, ready and growing. I visited Southern Idaho after establishing franchises in Northern Idaho three years ago for our auto aftermarket franchise company. We have surveyed the competition as well and found that much of the original competition in these Southern Idaho markets is unsophisticated and not setting any speed records. Of course to their benefit it appears that they are not trying. But the area is growing and it is time for them to wake up and smell the coffee and get the show on the road. In the mobile auto detailing and car wash business there is much opportunity indeed.
Nine Succession Planning Mistakes Small Businesses Should Avoid
1. Attempt Succession Planning Without Other Strategic Plans. Succession plans define a company's business heirs, but what will they inherit? They will inherit a company with no vision, no strategy to deal with the competition, and no plans for changing the way it does business, if the current owners spend too little time planning for the future. Every firm should have strategic plans to increase its market value.
8 Ways to Earn More Without Working Harder
Conventional wisdom has it that there are only three ways to grow your business: find new customers, increase the amount of each sale to existing customers or get customers to buy more frequently. But I've seen business owners go blank when presented with those three options. So here is a more useful list of ways to increase your total revenues without in most cases having to put in more hours at the office.
Sony?s PSI Project
In 1989, Sony founded its Institute of Wisdom at the request of its founder Masaharu Ibuka and former chairman Akio Morita.
How To Prepare A Business Plan That Guarantees Big Profits
It is always said "If you Fail to Plan, you Plan to Fail"
Dotcom Business Plans Archive Project
One of the most important initiatives in the domain of business documentation is that of professor David Kirsch from the University of Maryland, who thought of a dotcom Business Plan Archive - , a project that consists of collecting business plans for posterity. The project was started in 2002, through the Web portal businessplanarchive.org. The site was built by Webmergers.com and the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, in collaboration with the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.The project received financial support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
Planning for Success
Business planning is widely acknowledged as one of the keys to business success. Yet there is still a great reluctance by small business owners in this area. This is despite the fact that it can be shown that fewer business fail if they have prepared a business plan.
Why Do a Business Plan?
To Grow (Catapult) Your Business That's Why.
Secrets Of Effective Brainstorming
Have you been in a "brainstorming" session where each person just defended their own ideas? Worse is when people don't suggest ideas at all, for fear they'll be attacked. That's no way to brainstorm. Brainstorming is using the power of many minds, and ideas should flow freely and trigger other ideas. How do you make that happen?
Business Ideas: 3 Smart Ways To Generate Profitable Business Ideas Anytime
Creativity is one of the greatest tools for success in business.
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