Common Sense Isn’t Common Anymore

A few weeks ago, I was doing a therapy session with a couple who was having a very loud argument. The language was harsh, and they weren’t making any progress towards resolution of the issue.

I jumped in with a piece of advice. The husband immediately turned to the screen and said “Linda, that is just too much like common sense. I don’t know how to handle common sense because there isn’t any of it in the world anymore”. Fortunately, we all laughed and that broke the tension.

But what he said was also sad. Common sense is NOT common, and it definitely doesn’t make sense to everyone.

People are used to getting advice from outside of themselves and then blaming the source if things don’t go the way that they want it to go. There are so many social media influences that might not offer truth or wisdom. Strangers who are posting might not even be telling the truth about their names, age, location or history. They have nothing to lose by giving bad or inappropriate advice.

The other day I heard a man give a presentation in which he said “If you are a Christian, ask God for advice. If you are a Muslim, ask Allah. If you don’t have faith, ask your mother or grandmother because they usually have the answers.” This made me laugh because there was a lot of truth in this. I received so much good advice from my grandmothers over the years and am thankful that, as a grandmother I can pass it on to my grandchildren.

There are ways to develop common sense. Here are a few that I have learned over the years:

1. Learn to make decisions without running to others for help. Often, I see individuals in the grocery store who cannot choose a box of laundry detergent without texting or calling someone for direction. Read the labels, think about the machine you have and make a choice!

2. Value mistakes. I travelled to California for the graduation of a grandson who had earned his degree in marketing. The keynote speaker was a professional golfer who told about how she encourages her students to not be afraid to fail. She took each letter of the word FAIL to define her concept “First Attempt In Learning”.

3. Be cautious. There is an old expression “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quakes like a duck it is probably a duck!” Don’t jump into something that feels wrong – no matter who is encouraging you.

4. Take responsibility. One of the most difficult things that I face is when I try to help people who are “victims” of everyone and everything. They blame, blame, blame and never see the role that they played in the trouble. Everyone has been hurt by life at some point and we have all had other people betray us. Disappointment appears in different forms throughout the years. Each of us, however, has the ability to make choices and start over- beginning today.

Three Special Business Plan Types

Though it has undergone many changes, the business plan is still around. No longer limited to the traditional 12-15 page type-written document, a business plan can be exciting and engaging as well as useful. Many of us realize that it’s the planning process, and the associated research and soul searching, that is so valuable. The finished plan is just icing on the cake.

Just as there are many types of entrepreneurs and business ideas there are many kinds of business plans. Here are three that deserve some special attention.

The “Accidental Entrepreneur” Plan:

Believe it or not, it happens quite often. An impulse, a hobby, or a passing notion turns into a business without warning. One day you’re handing your extra back-yard tomatoes or homemade cake to the neighbors, and before you know it you’re filling out the forms for a booth at the local farmer’s market. Perhaps you create a unique bit of hand-crafted jewelry and wear it to school or work, and then find your phone flooded with messages like, “Where can I get one?” and “I’ll pay you to make one for me.”

When you’re writing a business plan in a situation like these, you need to address a few issues the intentional entrepreneur has already pondered. The first is do you really want this idea to become a full-blown business? Certainly it’s flattering when you realize there’s a market value for something you were doing anyway, but that doesn’t always mean you should launch a business. A lot of accidental businesses form around fads or seasonal items, and may not be robust enough to function as year-round, money-making, enterprises.

Next you will need to carefully examine what actually goes into your offering. How many hours does it take to create those one-of-a-kind bracelets? How much does it cost to bake a dozen of your special recipe cookies? How much research goes into “whipping up” a website? Making tangible goods requires space. Do you have room to grow enough squash to actually generate profits? Are these numbers you could sustain beyond the occasional personal or family use of your product or service?

The business planning process can be very helpful to “accidental entrepreneurs” as it allows you to decide which ideas are best left as hobbies and which ones could provide some real cash flow.

The “Back of a Napkin” Plan:

It is the source of entrepreneurial legend and lore, the million-dollar idea that was hurriedly scribbled on a bar napkin. Yet, for most potential business owners this option for business planning remains a fantasy. However, like any myth there is a tiny grain of truth inside. A quickie business outline can work as a launch plan under the right circumstances.

If you need to get going quickly to ride the wave of a fad before it fizzles, then fast, bare-bones planning may be all you’ve got time to execute. This works best when you’ve already got the infrastructure in place, perhaps from previous projects or an established business, and you can simply shift energy and resources to the new idea.

When you, and your partners if any, have all the core skills and industry knowledge you need to start right away without seeking experts, napkin notes may be enough to get going. Let’s say you are already an expert in technology and social media. Then you, and your team, probably don’t need a detailed plan to start developing a new app. You will draw on your knowledge and experience, and you understand that you might need to go back and do some more detailed and formal planning later.

Certainly when you reach the point where you are looking for investors or lenders, you will move beyond those first casual notes. Until then, drawing upon your expertise can allow you to quickly jump into the market and perhaps gain a competitive edge by using a minimalist plan.

The “One Pressing Issue” Plan:

Business planning does not stop the day you open for business. Under the best of circumstances you should be revisiting your plan once or twice a year to see how things are going, and where perhaps you’ve veered away from your original goals. Remember, changing the direction of a business isn’t always bad, but it should be intentional.

Then there are the moments when something seems to be going wrong, when one or more areas of the business just don’t seem to be working. Cash flow is anemic or the marketing message is flat. Perhaps customers have shown a marked interest in only one particular product or service, ignoring all your other offerings. This means it’s time to revisit your business plan, more precisely it’s time to revisit the questioning process that helped you craft your plan.

Look at the assumptions you baked into your original plan. Did the city follow through on opening that new park across from your location? Were insurance rates what you expected? How many hours of accounting or web design help did you really need? Are your online inquiries out-stripping your face-to-face sales? Or vice versa?

Sometimes no matter how much you research, plan, or test, things don’t go as expected in a business. This isn’t necessarily a herald of failure or a sign that you’re not cut out for entrepreneurship. Life and the marketplace are both unpredictable, and plans need to be fluid and responsive. The “One Pressing Issue Plan” is simply a reflection of a normal evaluation process.

While I still recommend the business planning process, I caution you to realize that a beautifully crafted document does not always equal business success. I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs who successfully launched without a plan, and some with beautifully written plans that never materialized. You and your business idea are unique. Your planning process will be unique as well. Be wary of one-size-fits-all advice or pronouncements from experts about how you should proceed.

Personal Finances and Debt Management

Income is hard-earned and precious in terms of future needs. Don’t think of it as ‘easy come, easy go’ as many are all too wiling to do. To ensure one can manage one’s needs and not go into debt it is advisable to put some aside each income day. That little next will grow in time and when emergencies arise it will be on hand. If, on the other hand, one has already stuck bad times and has debts as a result then there is a way of managing it.

For this exercise you need a special book. It can be an exercise book in which you rule some columns, or the more specialised ledger bought from the store. On one page you need to write all your debts, include such things as rent, expected cost of shopping, and such. It matters not the quantity or size at this stage. Make a total at the bottom.

On the opposite page write out all your income. You will quickly see how much short you are between the two columns. Now here comes the tricky bit.

Subtract the rent and expected shopping from the expenditure total. Now decide what are the most pressing bills you have to pay and the total of them? Ring each company and offer a smaller payment per week or fortnight over the next couple of months. Don’t over reach yourself and make sure this is doable.

Make a note of this commitment on the debit side and total that to the rent and shopping amounts and make sure you have covered them. Now take a little extra, whatever you can afford, even if it’s as low as $5 or $10 and slip that into an envelope and put it in a safe place. Don’t spend a cent unnecessarily. Forget the cups of coffee and luxury items because they don’t fit the budget.

Slowly work your way out the debt situation and don’t buy anything for which you can’t pay cash. Cut up the credit card and use only cash to purchase your goods. Rent can be paid through the b-pay system is possible, along with the bills from other companies. This will save you time and effort in running around.

This program works and all it takes is discipline and time to work out the budget and stick to it. In time the little bit you set aside each income day will give you security to deal with the unexpected humps as they arise. They might also be enough to provide an outing or a holiday once in a while. Under no circumstances relax about managing debt because you will never regret it.

All the Ws of a Business Plan

A business plan is a written description of the future of your business and more importantly, how you are going to get there. It is a document that explains what you are going to do to make your company profitable and how you are going to achieve this. It defines both your business model and your strategies to make this business model work and more importantly profitable.

Normally when a business idea arises, you know what resources and capabilities you have at the start of your business and where you want to go in a certain period, usually in 3 or 5 years. But what is the way to reach that goal? Where to start? How to arouse investor interest? Even, how to get your business off the ground? Everything seems so easy when you have the great money winning idea and concept. It is how you are going to achieve these dreams and get enough money to keep the business going for many years to come.

Writing a business plan is to build a map that will guide you to where you start making money with your initial business idea. At is very basic structure, your business plan is a mixture of strategies and plans. It involves financials, marketing, staffing and products. Think of it as the foundation to your new business.

WHAT are the reasons that I might need one?
• To look for investors.
• To apply for a loan.
• To establish the viability of your business idea.
• To make improvements to your current business.
• To expand your current business.

All of these types have different emphasises and a different structure.

WHAT is a business plan?
It is a tool or document that describes a business opportunity or idea, the work team, the operational and marketing execution strategies, the business risks and the economic viability of your business. A well written document guides you to turn an idea into a viable business.

It can also be defined in another context in that the business plan becomes a fundamental tool within the analysis of a new business opportunity, a diversification plan, an internationalisation project, the acquisition of a company or an external business unit, or even the launch of a new product or service within the current business.

To summarise, both for the development or launch of a startup and for the analysis of new business investments, the business plan becomes an indispensable tool. So even though you have an established business, you will still need a business plan as you expand and improve that business.

A business plan is never finished and should be reviewed from time to time at least annually but certainly when large changes to an existing company are anticipated. This implies that every plan must adapt effectively and efficiently to the changes, helping the project to continue.

WHAT is the point of a business plan?
Many entrepreneurs think they only need a business plan when they are seeking investment or when the bank asks for one. However the act of business planning, when completed correctly, enables the entrepreneur to carry out an extensive market study that will provide the information required to design the best possible business model that will be both profitable and efficient.

Additionally, the business plan will develop the strategic measures for all functional areas that will enable them achieve the objectives for the new business.
Once written, the business plan will serve as an internal tool to assess the management of the company and its deviations from the planned scenario. Proposing, if necessary, adaptations to the agreed business model in order to obtain updated information for the daily management of the company. This will include preparation of the required changes and processes to bring the business back on track.

So lets dive into the concepts behind business planning a bit more.

The WHY of The Business Plan
• Why do you want your business plan?
• Why are you writing the plan now?

The WHAT of the Business Plan
• What is the purpose of developing a specific plan?
• In what period do you consider it possible to carry out your projects?
• What is your business model?
• What is your Value Proposition?
• What are your products or services to be offered?
• What positioning do you plan to develop to compete?
• What are your measurements of success?
• What markets do you plan to penetrate?
• What market percentage do you estimate to obtain?
• What margins do you consider possible?
• What income do you consider you will receive?
• What are the costs of expansion?
• What are the costs of obtaining new customers?
• What do you want to do with your business?
• What strategies do you want to undertake – financial, marketing and planning

The WHERE of the Business Activity
• Where will your products be sold from? Shop, office, website, social media, road side, party planning,
• Where are you based? Locally, centrally, virtually etc.
• Where are your products produced?
• Where are your distribution channels?
• Where are they going to be sold?
• Where is your market?
• Where will your staff need to be based?

The WHEN of your business planning activities
• When will you need to start your new activities?
• When will they end?
• When will your investor need to invest?
• When will your investor get their money back?
• When will you have enough staff to carry out your new changes?
• When will your products and services be available?
• When will your products need to be updated and/or improved?
• When is the best time to attract new customers?

WHO do you present your plan to?
• Bank for loan purposes and they will take a charge over a property usually.
• Investor to join your company as a shareholder.
• Angle Investor to join as a shareholder but also be involved in the running of your company.
• Management team so they know what is expected of them.
• Suppliers who will be offering credit.
• Director level hires so that they are encouraged to join your company.
• Believe it or not the entrepreneur should also refer back on a regular basis.

As you can see there are a lot of Ws involved with a business plan – the biggest W is why should you write a business plan and the answer is – because it is such a great business tool.

Occupational Health – New Starter Health Screening

When recruiting new employees, carrying out Health Screening is beneficial in terms of establishing facts concerning existing medical conditions, or other potential risks, and offering advice concerning the management of safety issues in relation to any health concerns. This service enables you to accommodate for any potential issues that a new employee may have, but also means that you can avoid employing people for high risk positions that are not medically fit for the role.

There are a range of potential pre-employment assessment approaches, each of which is designed to assess your new employees’ medical fitness for the role.

Some examples of standard methods of assessment include:

• Standard Paper Screen – A paper screen looking at past and current health declarations against the requirements and risks of the role.

• Declaration Paper Screen – Utilises a covering declaration which filters only positive responses to occupational health where a standard screen is then conducted

• Standard Physical Assessment – A paper screen is conducted in conjunction with a basic physical examination of core health measurements.

• Comprehensive Physical Assessment – A paper screen is conducted in conjunction with a physical examination that factors in tests specific to the risks of the business.

No matter the assessment route the formulation of a bespoke questionnaire to match your needs will provide you with the ability to ask questions specific to the role you are employing for, to ensure that you ascertain that the candidate is medically fit for the particular role you are recruiting for.

Following the review of the questionnaire you will be provided with recommendations for what, if any, accommodations need to be made to ensure that the employee would be able to carry out the role you are hiring them for. What these assessments mean is that you can save time and money on recruitment by avoiding employing someone unfit for a role and then having to re-employee someone else to fulfil areas of the job that can’t be carried out by the new employee.

Standard and Declaration paper screening assessments often offer fast track reporting with turnaround timeframes of fewer than 48 hours. The majority of these assessments can be conducted remotely which helps to keep your costs down.

By implementing a Health Screening process you can ensure that there are no surprises when a new employee starts and you can avoid potential safety risks that may arise by employing someone medically unfit for a certain role.