Monday, April 28, 2014

Business Plan Tip - Keep the Main Sections Short

Few people enjoy being forced to read through 10 or 20 pages of esoterica.  And yet, many business plans end up being just that:  long-winded attempts at teaching science or demonstrating how smart the author(s) is/are.  If you find yourself in a position where you need to write a lengthy explanation of how a system works, insert a two- to four-page summary in the main body of the plan and put the remainder -- all the details -- in the appendix.  That way, your readers won't get bogged down in (or turned away by) a hard-to-read (possibly boring) explanation.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Think you don't have a brand? Think again.

You have a brand whether you know it or not.  Call it a default brand.  It's the brand that a company (or person) gets if it doesn't do any branding.  Doctors usually have a good default brand.  They are considered to be smart, valuable to society and are generally held in high regard.  On the other hand, used car dealers have a default brand that is not so good.  Doctors need to protect their default brand; used car dealers need to shed theirs and create a new one.

Do you have a default brand?  What does it say about you?  Food for thought -- and action.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Business Plan Tip - Every Section is Important

I just looked at a business plan written by scientists.  The plan is for a business that will manufacture and market a product based on technology that the authors invented.  The plan is 35 pages long.  16 pages of that is a (highly esoteric) discussion of the technology.  That's almost half of the plan spent on a section that very few people will finish and even fewer will come close to understanding.  Most of the remainder of the plan is either single-page sections or lists of fairly generic bullet points.

The technology behind a product is important, but it's not so important that nothing else matters.  In business, technology is important if it can be used to make or improve profits.  Therefore, the sections that discuss the market(s) and the marketing are just as important, and must be just as well thought-out, as the technology discussion.

Sometimes our strengths become our weaknesses.  This is one such case.  Remember, the various sections of a business plan are there because they are all important.

Friday, April 11, 2014

RE: Customer Service

Memo to customer service departments:  Please provide customer service.

I called a certain electricity company recently to ask about my account.  After the now-routine automated answer telling me that their options had recently changed, I was presented with one -- yes, one -- option:  "Select one to receive information about a $100 WalMart gift card."  This option was repeated four times, then the call disconnected.

I called again.  This time I selected one, and was transferred to a call center in Florida.  A female agent answered and asked if I wanted to learn how to get my $100 WalMart gift card.  I told her I wanted to discuss my account with someone.  She said that I needed to try the number again in 30 minutes or so and see if it would go through to the company instead of to the call center.

A new low in customer service.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Are everyone's call volumes up?

Is there any company out there whose automated answering system is not experiencing higher than expected call volumes?  Or for which the options have not recently changed?