If you’re an Elvis Presley fan (or old enough of have heard of him), you would know that he adopted “Taking Care of Business in a Flash” as his motto. The logo TCB with the lightning flash can be seen on a lot of Elvis Presley memorabilia. On some merchandise, it also has FAITH. SPIRIT, DISCIPLINE next to it. I’ve never met the guy and I certainly do not know him personally. However, it would appear that he was definitely into “taking care of business” as he had it engraved a lot of his possessions.
What then does it mean for you as a business owner if you adopted this same motto for your business? Irrespective of whether you’re an Elvis fan or not, if you want your business to succeed, you must take care of your business.
What do I mean when I say, “take care of business”? To me, it means that you must do whatever needs to be done to resolve a problem or challenge that may arise in your business. Sadly, many business owners do not do that. They make an attempt at resolving it and when it doesn’t work (for whatever reason), they give up and listen to the naysayers. Some will ignore the problem and put their head in the sand hoping the problem will go away. I know from experience this will only make it worse. And some will start casting blame and expect others to solve their problem.
I’m also not a believer in reactionary or crisis management – which is what will happen if you do any of the above! Business has a way of throwing curve balls at you so the more you’ve pre-empted the likely problems, the better a position you will be in to handle it. The one thing I’ve learnt after all these years in business is that every business goes through the same business cycle. Therefore, to a large extent, much of the issues you are likely to face are well known.
How then can we prepare so we are placed in a great position to be able to take care of business?
1. TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS BY PLANNING
Preparing and maintaining a business plan is important for any business irrespective of the size of your business. BUT it will not ensure your success especially if you just leave it to gather dust in a drawer. BUT what it will do though is provide a useful roadmap for your business. This is the preparation that most people skip because its “too boring, too hard, too whatever” and many live to regret later. I should know. I’ve seen that happen too many times for my liking. Not to mention that without a roadmap you will be more easily tempted by the distractions that happen along the way! To say that you will definitely be planning to fail if you fail to plan is not just a cliché. It is true!
The reality of business is that business plans are obsolete only moments after you write them. Extensive market research doesn’t really help you come up with a great product that customers will love. Detailed financial plans will be wrong as soon as you change the price point, or the marketing channel, or the features. What your product is, what your value proposition is, and how you’re going to market and sell it, is likely going to change significantly after you start doing business and getting real customer feedback. The boxer Mike Tyson once said “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
There are plenty of organisations that offer you the option to “just answer a few questions and they will write your business plan for you”. A plan “made for you” is no plan at all. For a business plan to be of any use to you, you MUST do it yourself. Your business plan is not a one-off document that you write to give to the bank or whoever, and then put in your drawer to collect dust. It must be used as an ongoing assessment that you will frequently review and change to conform to actual operating experiences. That is what taking care of business means. It means continuously review and adapt your business to conform to today’s environment. As Jeff Bezos said, “No business plan will survive its first encounter with reality!” – That is a 100% failure rate!!
Why prepare a business plan
There is no question that the most valuable element of a business plan is the process involved in systematically putting it together. It is not the plan itself. Therefore, asking your accountant to prepare your Business Plan for you is a total waste of your money. You have to OWN your business plan, or it will not work because the chances are you will never look at and never use it.
However, for a business to succeed it does not actually have to have a business plan – what it must have is a singleness of purpose. Napoleon Hill refers to this as a Definite Chief Aim. For example, the first time Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, heard the term business plan mentioned was when his company had revenues of $84 million. Unfortunately, few of us have the creative foresight and intellectual capacity of Gates. And few of us happen to be exactly the right person at the right place at the right time as was the case with Bill Gates.
The lesson we should learn from people like Gates is that although he didn’t see the need to write a business plan when he started Microsoft, he had a very, very clear picture in his mind what role his company was going to play in the emerging personal computer industry. In fact, so clear was his vision that it is arguable he fashioned the industry to fit it and amassed a $6.5 billion fortune as his reward.
For us ordinary folk, however, we will substantially reduce the risk of failure by taking a disciplined approach to planning our business. The critical issues in creating a successful business are its central purpose, what it needs to do to accomplish that purpose, how it will do those things and how it will evaluate its performance. It should be possible to reduce these issues to a single page summary supplemented by an ‘action’ plan, to allow business development.
2. TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS BY DOING BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
Business development is what you do to bring your plan to fruition. It involves looking carefully at your competencies and the environment in which you are operating. It involves continually challenging your own performance and asking yourself why do we do it that way and can we do it better than that? You must continually assess and re-position if necessary. Think about it like the annoying voice on the GPS whenever you miss a turning … “re-calculating .. take the next turn right” …
Basically, your business plan positions the business to take it to the next level. In the start-up phase of the business, strong management is required. In the mature phase, strong leadership is critical. In the mature phase of a business, the principal strategic purpose is to create an organisation culture and structure that will prevent the firm from stagnation and decline. Business development is therefore the primary function of management and it is an ongoing process. It is not a one-day wonder where you hold a “Business Development Day” and then do nothing after that. Elvis obviously saw “taking care of business” as something that had to be done every day or he would not have had TCP etched into his life.
3. TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS BY GROWING YOUR BUSINESS
In my previous blog on How to Grow Your Business, I touched on the need to take care of 4 key areas of your business – sales and marketing, operations, administration and leadership. I also touched on the skills you should learn to make your entrepreneurs journey easier. Do you realise that there are 2 things you can do today that does not require you to prove that you are qualified to do the job – firstly, taking on the parent “job” and secondly, deciding to become a business owner.
Can you imagine replying to this Job Advertisement written by a parenting blogger Sarah Turner. This is one job that you get to do irrespective of your age or experience. In the old days, we would turn to our parents, grandparents and elders to learn from their wisdom. Today, many people turn to “influencers” to take on that mentoring role. It’s not the same. When you think about it, influencers do not necessarily have the experience or the wisdom in parenting. What they do have are the skills that made them who they are – an influencer in the parenting field.
It’s the same with deciding that you want to start your own business in your chosen profession. You would likely have done a huge amount of training to do the job you’re qualified in and undoubtedly, you would be a good technician. What training have you done in the other areas of sales and marketing, management and leadership? Most probably, not a lot. My question is why do so many then presume to think that no training is necessary? That is one of the reasons why so many businesses fail. That is also why you can exponentially increase your chances of success if you have a mentor and coach.
4. TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS BY PROTECTING YOUR BUSINESS
This is one business area that will affect your business sooner or later. In the old days, you only had to worry about people you meet physically. Today, it is very easy to create a false impression of yourself. Social media is free and it only takes 2 minutes to set up a profile … an hour if you want to create some sort of credibility where none exist.
So, when you get a request from someone wanting to be your “friend” on facebook, or to “connect” with you on Linkedin, think twice before you blindly accept. Not everything is what it seems. Connecting with everyone on Linkedin or Facebook is not necessarily the best strategy in today’s age of data and identity theft.
The thieves (and that’s the only word for) are not there to bless you or to grow your business. They are there to harvest whatever information you may have on your profile as a means to getting to someone else or to your business or even to steal your hard earned cash. The good news is you can often spot these false profiles and we now have just as many tools available to us to check on the authenticity of the would be fraudster.
I have a few golden rules which I stick with when it comes to social media connections:
- Grand titles: Beware of HRH (His Royal Highnesses), Colonels, Generals etc in uniform or even the Managing Director of the large corporations like Coca Cola etc (unless of course, you happen to be working in those areas). Those are the ones that I delete without a second thought. Be realistic. No HRH will want to connect with you on social media unless you yourself happen to have that title! And why would these oh-so-important colonels want to connect with you?
- Disgustingly good looking men or women: Ever had a request to connect with some younger attractive man (for women users) or woman (for male users). You have no connection in common and out of the blue they want to connect with YOU! Get real! Unfortunately, many lonely men and women have been caught by this one and they have lost thousands of dollars.
- Same photo, different name: The wonders of technology means you can now cross check if the person goes by a different name. Go to Tin Eye tineye.com or Google Reverse Image Search https://www.google.co.uk/imghp and do a reverse image search. Or even do a search for an image of the real person using the company and job title and see what you get. You might find that the person who is wanting to connect with you looks totally different! Or you might even find their photo in one of the stock photo websites
- Who are their connections: Is there anyone you know on their list of connections? It might pay to check with your connection. Bear in mind, some people will connnect with ANYBODY on social media. Some think that having lots of connections means they’re “popular”. They connect with anybody and everybody who contacts them. Do you know that you can actually BUY connections for as little as $5 for 1,000 connections! On Facebook, there’s very little activity – the only photos you see will generally be of themselves or locations.
- Linkedin Endorsements: Often the pretender has very few endorsements, despite having 1000’s of connections. And it’s the same person endorsing them for everything! Personally, I have also found that people will endorse others for anything. Linkedin pops up these suggestions and people will just click on it in the hope that you will then endorse them back. Depending on their stated occupations, are the endorsements reasonable? For example, if the person is a Manager of a company in USA, what are the chances that someone from say, Africa knows enough about him or her to endorse for the nominated skill?
- Age of social media profile: Unfortunately you cannot determine the age of most social media profiles. That’s a pity. It would have been a good way to determine if the profile was newly set up to scam people.
- Ask Mr Google: Always always always check with Google. One very good example is JT Foxx who advertises that he is the World’s #1 Wealth Coach, Real Estate Investor and Serial Entrepreneur. He runs a very credible campaign with a more than reasonable social media presence. Mr Google, however, tells a different story. Check out scamgroup.com/161/jt-foxx and http://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/jt-foxx-seminar-c479152.html just to name a few. So if in doubt, google scam groups. There’s usually one in every country.
So, at the end of the day, remember that scams target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels and in every country. Don’t think that no one will be interested in a small business such as yours. The reality is that the scammers will go for the easy targets. The big boys have the money to put the latest security in place and they are harder to hit. There’s no one group of people who are more likely to become a victim of a scam. It’s not only the naïve and gullible who fall victim; all of us may be vulnerable to a scam at some time. Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you’re not expecting it. They also exploit your desire to be polite and respectful, as well as your generosity, compassion and good nature.
Have you done this quiz by the Department of Consumer Affairs in Victoria, Australia? Scammers are getting smarter, constantly changing their scams to try to catch you out – so stay alert and on the lookout! That is the only way to take care of business in this area.
5. TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS BY PROTECTING YOUR TECHNOLOGY
This is one area where I would follow Best Practice slavishly. Never assume that your business is too small to be of interest. If you’re “small”, then you’re an easy target. So, do keep your software updated. The software developers are not deliberately upgrading their software to annoy you – they upgrade it to counter a known vulnerability. Keeping up with the scammers is a big job!
If you’re not computer literate, then pay someone to look after it for you. This is the one time when I would recommend someone local. That way you have their name, face and address and you can report them to the police if they scam you. If you’re not confident that the company you’re using know what they’re doing, then get a second opinion or get a recommendation to another.
6. TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS BY KEEPING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LAW
Whether we like it or not, if we are doing business, we must also make sure that we take care of our business by ensuring that we comply with known government legislation. We ignore this part of it at our peril.
- Legislation: GDPR – Remember when GDPR was introduced in May 2018 ? If you have no clue what I’m talking about, I highly recommend that you read the article where I summarised the main information you needed to know. This legislation has teeth! Have a look at the current list of major fines to date. Note, in there is little Isle of Man, not a member of the EEA! At this stage, it appears that most of the action has been in member countries. Will this ever be applied outside of the EEA? I do not believe they will … UNTIL something happens. I know it will be easier to comply than it will be to fight the EEA if they decide to pick my business to set an example to the world.
- Legislation: Income Taxes – When Uncle Sam or the IRS comes knocking on your door because you have not done the right thing, it’s no good complaining that it’s not fair. This is one problem that you never ever need to experience. And if you do, it is all your own fault! You can so easily take care of this part of your business by making sure you have a good accountant to look after your tax affairs and a good bookkeeper to keep your records straight.
- Legislation: Local, State and Federal – Most countries have at least 3 levels of government – Local, State and Federal. They muscle each other and jockey for position for the right to tax you. As a business, you are going to have to deal with each level whether you like it or not. Some are worse than others. So when you want to start you business, start with the Local Government and find out what THEY need. Then check on State, then Federal. Every local authority, state or federal authority is different and it’s impossible for me to cover them all in an article such as this.
- Legislation: Worldwide – The rules about taxation worldwide are constantly changing. If you sell online in any way, shape or form, then you will be affected. A widespread trend happening across countries is that governments want to charge tax based on the location of the purchaser of the product. You might be kicking back in Singapore enjoying your low tax regime, thinking you’re okay just paying taxes locally, but in fact you do need to consider the rules of other jurisdictions. The good news is, Quaderno now makes a good living out of handling this for us. I very much doubt that you can do this yourself. I have a lot of international connections and even I am not going to do that.
Taking care of business is not just about being a good technician. That is an important part – but not the only part. It is about taking care of all aspects of your business including the sales and marketing and operations. It’s also about having an entrepreneurial mindset and about overcoming the fears that stop us achieving our dreams. Most business owners say they will do ANYTHING to achieve their dream. Let me ask you … Have you ever made suggestions to a colleague who asked for your help only to be met by “That won’t work because … “? You see, they will do ANYTHING but they won’t do EVERYTHING. So, are you ready to do everything to really take care of your business?
About the Author:
Patsy Lim’s business and financial background (having qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1980), together with her entrepreneurial spirit enables her to apply a potent blend of strong financial and accounting expertise, deep practical business experience, and entrepreneurial flair and creativity to complex business problems. As an entrepreneur, she understands the issues that an entrepreneur faces. So, unlike some accountants who only know the theory of business, Patsy has had hands-on experience of what it means to be IN business, to start a business, to grow a business, and most of all, to manage a business when times inevitably get tough!