Small Business Development Center
At Chemeketa Center for Business & Industry
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Category Archives: Project Management

Business Reinvention

By Chemeketa SBDC

It’s January again, and time to take stock and make plans. How’s your business doing as we head into the new year? Has the economy turned your business model upside down? Does something need to change or you’ll go out of business? Are you restless and know you want something else?  Something more, something less? If something isn’t quite right, it’s probably time to reinvent.

But what does reinvention mean? The good news is that it doesn’t mean you have to throw the whole thing out and start over from scratch. Reinvention needs to be big enough that it’s transformational, not just a small series of tweaks here and there. Yes, you will be making major changes, and no, you don’t have to do them all at once. If you know your current business practices aren’t working, or you feel lackluster even if they are, trust your instincts and investigate that.

The first step in the process is to look at every aspect of your business and ask what needs a makeover. What is it that you really want? What parts of your business are not leading you in that direction? This could be your marketing, your products or services, your employment structure or employees, your size, or anything else that is getting in the way. Where are your biggest headaches coming from? What will give you the results you are looking for? Do some brainstorming and list every idea that might help. Get out of your comfort zone, consider all possibilities no matter how farfetched they may seem. Think big.

Then prioritize these areas in terms of what will give you the greatest return for your investment—your time and money. Ask for help from other business owners, your employees, a business coach, or anyone who you think will add value to your conversations and your processes.

Next, create a master plan for how and when the changes will happen. Decide what you will start with and when you will move on to the next item on the list. Make sure to include who will be doing what, how much things will cost, and the results you expect when you make the changes. A realistic timeline is important; a rollout that is too fast will shock the system and may backfire.

Then garner support from family and business associates for the new plan. Major changes can get derailed if you don’t have enough energy behind them, so build a supportive team. Change, even desired change, can be uncomfortable, so go easy on yourself and the others involved.

It is important to chart your progress as you move forward, so create a series of metrics to do this. Focus on the benefits of the new arrangement (you’ll need to continually focus on this to stay on task). And celebrate milestones when you achieve them.

And, if in your investigation you discover that reinvention for you means selling the business, going out of business, or some other track that steers you away from being a business owner, listen to that as well and devise a similar plan for recreating your life.

 


Project Management Can Help Run Business

By Chemeketa SBDC

Do you sometimes wonder if you are running your business or your business is running you? One of the greatest services our advisors offer at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is helping an owner step back and see the pieces of the puzzle that make up the entire organization. To tackle any given part of your organizational needs may best be viewed as a project. Managing a project (or many projects) may give you the perspective you need to solve one issue at a time. (It’s not unlike the joke, “How do you eat an elephant?”)

Project management is simply a process. Break it into several steps. Identify the problem (issue, opportunity, etc.) Design the solution. Implement your plan. And finally, evaluate the results. For now — concentrate on steps 1 and 2 — Identification and Design.

The first step is to analyze the situation. What is the problem, issue or opportunity? Define it as clearly as you can – the more clarity here, the easier the design, implementation and evaluation will be. For example, if you are seeing a decreasing cash balance, you may identify the project as “increasing the number of customers.” If that is the solution then your efforts (project plan) will be focused on getting more people into the business OR it could be about increasing sales to existing customers. But (and a big but), if loss of cash is really about having a miscalculation in your pricing strategy, bringing in more customers will simply break you faster than the current rate. This is the most critical part of project planning. Identify the real issue – not just the symptoms.

Then you can begin to design the solution. This includes the scope of the project, the budget required, the return on investment expected, the activities, the timeline and specifically, who will be responsible for each outcome. This cannot be done in your head. This must be documented, consulted and updated on a regular basis. This is a step that you cannot skip. If you don’t know where you are going – you are not going to know when you get there.

In our example, if your project is to “increase the number of customers,” you need to know by how many? Compared to what? In what given time period? How much will it cost? What does that translate into as a cost per customer? (If it costs you $100 to recruit each new customer and their average sale is $10 – this plan makes no sense.) How will you attract the customers? What tools will you use and when?

This is the beginning of project management. Before you begin, you need a plan. If you jump into the water without knowing how far it is across – you may or not make it, you may or may not expend a lot of energy (and resources) without an achievable goal.

Marcia Bagnall is Director of the Chemeketa Small Business Development Center and instructor of Small Business Management Program. The Small-Business Adviser column is produced by the center and appears each Sunday. Questions can be submitted to SBDC@chemeketa.edu. Visit the SBDC at 626 High Street NE. in downtown Salem or call (503) 399-5088.