Tag Archives: Clients

Make a plan

How do you make a plan for the rest of this year? If the last six months have taught us anything it’s that we can’t predict the next twist in the story. So is planning a pointless waste of time?

This is the (polite) argument that I’ve been engaged in this week while I was supposed to be working hard on other things. Granted, it’s difficult to see what the future will look like, but is planning still worthwhile?

My point is that actually we have never known what the future holds – the unknown is nothing new. What is hitting harder at the moment is the uncertainty; the range of potential outcomes that are theoretically possible and those that haven’t seemed possible up to this point. There’s also a big chunk of consequence; in many businesses there’s less margin for error now.

So in the current scenario I’m pushing to follow General Eisenhower’s dictum: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Without having devoted some quiet time to assess what we’d like the plan to be and, more importantly, what we’d like it to deliver we won’t have the right perspective to spot potential opportunities as they arise.

While it may take time, focus and some out of the box thinking, having a plan which you can adapt later remains the best way to order your thinking and prioritise action. And who knows, that preparation may put you in the position where you can see new opportunities arise out of the uncertainty!

How much do you know about your customers?

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
Sam Walton

Depending on what sort of business you have you may know a lot about your customers or you may not. A high street shop will likely have a large number of customers but not much information about them while a professional services firm (for example) might have a smaller customer list and a lot more information about them. But whoever your customers are they are crucial to the success and profitable growth of your business.

You probably wouldn’t think that an accountant would worry too much about what customers want – on the surface at least it’s usually accounting advice of one form or another.

I’m interested in customers because there is useful business information to be got at.

Most businesses have a list of who their customers are and usually basic details about addresses and contact details. But what did these customers buy most recently? What does recent actually mean?

Are these customers good for your business? Do they pay promptly, are they profitable? Does serving them take more time and attention than other customers? Can you divide your customers into groups? Do they value different things about your product?

I don’t have any advice to share here; because every business is different every business’ customer group will be different, but it’s vital that you build a picture of who your customers are. And it’s vital that that picture is based on information, not your own opinions or guesswork.

If you don’t know who your customers are you won’t know which customers you want more of. And maybe also which customers you don’t want any more of! Then instead of acting on intuition and “the next bright idea” you can develop a structured plan to grow the sales you want.

When you know what’s important to your customers and what’s valuable about them you can set some Key Performance Indicators to track how well you are doing in attracting and retaining the customers that you want – what get’s measured get’s done.

This will focus your efforts around your customers and make sure you’re keeping the boss happy.