Strategy Choices and Long Term Plans

Ask ten business people what strategy is, and most will give the same answer: Strategy is a long-term plan. My undergraduate students give a similar reply on the first day of my strategic management class. Besides, many folks use the word to inflate the importance of their activities. One business executive bragged, “I am excited because after one year we finished working on our five-year strategic plan.” Though difficult, we did it. His strategic plan was an end-a goal. He presented it to his board of directors and then moved to another major project. That’s not understanding strategy and strategic management.

Strategy is About Choices

I learned strategy as a teenager in college when I learned to play chess. Soon I discovered chess is a strategy game. Each person starts with a goal to capture the other person’s king. Each must understand the value and role of individual chess pieces, particularly how each moves. The pawn advances one space, the knight in an inverted L-shape, the bishop diagonally to as many consecutively open spaces as available, while the queengoes in every direction to any sequentially available space.

You cannot play chess haphazardly; stay focused on your goal. Before each move, ponder how the other player might respond, and consider a likely counter. When the opponent moves unexpectedly, revisit your overall approach.

What’s the strategy in chess? It’s your choices to achieve your goal to beat your competition. That’s strategy in a nutshell–choices to get to your goals. And strategy is not static, but dynamic. Once you decide your overall approach (strategy) to capture your opponent’s king, if she plays an unanticipated move, review your strategy and adjust as needed. Never choose a game-plan to checkmate the king and follow it blindly, change as needed. Learn the opponent’s patterns (past) and use it (present) to develop your overall approach (future). Likewise, never do a “strategic plan” and file it. Update it to show current available choices to meet the mission of the business.

Strategy and Negative Choices

I learned three valuable lessons about strategy during my 32-years business career. First, strategy allows you to commit resources optimally. Second, whenever you commit resources to one area, you deny other areas those resources. This is crucial to keep in mind. Although obvious, sometimes we do not spend enough time looking at this negative choice.

The third noteworthy lesson is some choices will not turn out as expected and will be impossible to reverse in the short to medium term. When this happens, if you made a mistake, admit it, look at available choices early, and understand this is part of the strategic journey. You will not get every decision right. Strategy is not static, but dynamic.

8 Invoicing Mistakes Small Businesses Must Avoid

8 Invoicing Mistakes Small Businesses Must Avoid

Invoicing is often dismissed as a mundane task that need not be done with full attention. That is true, but it is an important part of the business that is essential to maintain a positive cash flow. As a business owner, you must realize that your duty does not end with just sending an invoice.

Automation of various tasks with the usage of online accounting software will take a load of your back and help you manage invoices in the most productive way.

To make sure you get your money on time, here are a few things that must be avoided.

1. Procrastination

As a business owner, it can get awfully difficult to manage so many various tasks on time. It is not uncommon for a small task such as invoicing to slip your mind, or you may think that a regular client or customer will make the payment anyway and push the task ahead.

But you need to remember, that invoicing is your responsibility. One must make it a priority and send an invoice as soon as the job is complete. According to a survey, when you invoice on the same day of the work completion, you are 1.5 times more likely to get paid on time.

2. Pending Invoices

Now that you have made a priority to send invoices, it is also very much possible that the client misses their due date, misplaces the invoice, or simply forgets about it. You and your team have to take responsibility to get paid on time, so be proactive in sending reminders and contact the client immediately if they miss their payment date.

In a rare case where you are dealing with a terribly unresponsive client, extreme measures can be taken. A case can be filed in small claims court, or if matters get worse, you can hire a collection agency to get your payment.

3. Undefined Terms

Business dealings must always have clearly specified conditions which come in use, in case of any discrepancies. Never use vague language in an invoice, specify your terms and resulting consequences if those terms aren’t met. But do not define lengthy and unrealistic terms that can hamper business relations.

To create an ideal situation, sign a simple contract with your clients that will protect the interests of both parties. Bring this into practice and you will ease up a lot of your workload. Ask your lawyers to record your agreement and make it official.

4. Details that Matter

Precise attention must be given to details so that small mistakes are avoided. Check with your client on whom to send the invoice and draft the mail accordingly. Billing a different individual or department can create a lot of miscommunication and waste your precious time.

An invoice must always contain these details:

  • Legal company name, office address and contact number
  • Client name and address
  • Invoice number and date
  • Payment due date
  • Tax number or license numbers, as per government demands
  • Terms of payment
  • List of products or services
  • Total amount to be paid?

5. Data Backups

In this age of technology, it seems unwise not to take advantage of it. Create regular backups of your receipts on the cloud, so that you have a soft copy to refer to, even if you lose the hard copy. Use applications like Quickbooks cloud to keep track of your data and enable remote access to your finance reports.

6. Branding and Format

Research has shown that invoices are 3 times more likely to get paid if there are a proper company logo and name mentioned. These small things show that you are professionals and it creates your executive image over the others.

Also, the same goes with poor editing and format of the invoice. Spelling mistakes, incorrect amount, incomprehensible fonts, all these mistakes must not be made. Double check your invoices before sending them.

7. Flexibility and Payments

You have set up your payment terms, well done. But being a businessman does not mean that you need to be harsh over rules. Sticking to them is important, but every now and then, you can offer a bit of wiggle room, on client’s request.

In terms of payments, you must offer options for safe payment methods for the convenience of your client, and efficient workflow for both you and them.

8. Manners

Being polite is the most important thing to run a successful business. Adding a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to your tone, emails, and even invoices can increase your chances of getting paid by 5 percent. This will also boost your brand image.

With the rapid technological advances and its integration in the accounting industry, usage of sophisticated application like cloud-based QuickBooks helps profusely. It streamlines the workflow and helps keep track of incoming and outgoing cash. Keep these points in mind to get your payment on time from clients.

Tina Smith is an accountant with SageNext Infotech. She is having expertise in project management, accounting operations. With SageNext, she consults the client accountants about the benefits of QuickBooks Hosting. SageNext is a leading tax and accounting application hosting provider like cloud based QuickBooks

5 Life Planning Steps for Career Professionals

5 Life Planning Steps for Career Professionals

Many people are unfulfilled and trying to get unstuck in their life or career. Often they can’t pinpoint why they feel the way they do. They just know they aren’t happy, and they may have no idea how to make themselves happy. Our work together is focused on helping them figure out their passion, and their purpose in life (not just in their career) which leads them to more clarity in direction, to take specific action steps and to have a greater sense of control over their life and their career.

If you are currently feeling stuck or lacking direction in your career or in your life, here are 5 life planning steps you can take:

  1. Clarify your values – Values are what’s most important to you right now. And while values do not change in the short term, they do change throughout your life as you enter and exit various life stages. It’s good practice to regularly review your values to ensure you are aligned to what’s most important to you. I remember a time early in my corporate career, when career progression was important to me and I worked long hours, took night classes and did what I believed was necessary to get promoted. As I moved into motherhood, I found kids and family were more important to me and while my career was still important, I did forgo career moves that would have meant relocating my family. Later, I left my corporate role in favor of running my own business to create more freedom and flexibility. If you are finding yourself at odds in your career or in your life, it may be that your values have shifted and you haven’t yet aligned your life to support what’s most important to you right now, in this stage of your life.
  2. Identify your passion and purpose – What do you most enjoy doing? Are you doing “it”? Many people believe their passion should be their career. But there are many ways to fulfill your passion even if it’s not your main career. I know an artist who is accumulating some amazing pieces of art he sculpts hoping to exhibit them one day. Art is his passion, and yet he earns his living as a teacher. He finds many ways to integrate his passion into his work. For example, he volunteers for set design for school productions, he teaches art during the summer months at a local art studio, and he sculpts in his spare time. If you are one of the lucky ones where you are passionate about the work you do in your career, congratulations. And if you are not, there are still many ways to feed and nurture your passion.
  3. Define your goals – Do you have a clear set of goals for this year? And for the next 3-5 years and beyond? Life is a marathon, not a sprint and your life plan should reflect that. A methodical, disciplined approach to realizing your dreams and goals. What do you aspire to be, to have? Even if the goal seems too big or too unattainable, think about and plan for how you can move forward in the direction of what you most desire? Taking regular, baby steps will get you the results you desire eventually. Also, make sure you look at all areas of your life not just your career. Consider: money and finance, relationships, personal and professional development, health and wellness, spirituality, family, fun and recreation, and physical environment.
  4. Organize your finances – Do you have a financial plan? Many years as a banker taught me that some goals need to be planned for financially to be achieved. Generally, people don’t adequately plan for their future and then live a life of many regrets. You may have a goal to retire at 65 or start a business at some point, but unless you have planned for it financially, it may not be attainable. I worked with a client who desired to leave his corporate job and start a business. Through our coaching work, he determined the amount of money he needed to cover his expenses until his business broke even. He continued with his corporate job long enough to amass the money he would need. While it was not easy to save, be disciplined and continue with his job, it set him up for success and took a lot of pressure off his finances in the early stages of his business. Make sure you have adequately planned for emergencies, set aside monies to realize your goals and plan for your future including your retirement. A good financial plan is an important component of your overall life plan.
  5. Create your career plan – No matter where you are on your career path currently… at the start of your career or perhaps nearing the end and thinking about retirement – you need a career plan! A good career plan will include a review of your values, interests, passions, strengths, skills and experience as well as your career goals, options, and opportunities. A good plan will identify and address education/experience gaps, personal and professional development needs as well as available support and mentorship. Having a well thought out plan provides you with focus, direction and the confidence to take action. The better prepared you are for the future, the easier it will be for you to slide into your next career move.

If you wish to live a life of fulfillment and abundance and no regrets, it will take some personal reflection and planning. If you don’t have the motivation or know how to do it on your own, seek the assistance of a professional, whether it’s a financial advisor to assist you with a financial plan or a professional coach to assist you with your life and career plan, take the first step and get on track to realize your dreams and goals.

Butchery Equipment: The Art of Using a Band Saw

When you look at a band saw it can be quite an intimidating piece of butchery equipment, especially to the general public. It is a large piece of equipment that stands tall, takes up quite a bit of space and has this long saw that runs vertically and unimaginably fast. It takes skill to handle and use a band saw.

It is not wise to use a band saw if you don’t know how it works. A skilled butcher needs to train an apprentice first before they can use it confidently. There is a lot that needs to be considered when using this butcher equipment. The apprentice must understand the band saw structurally and learn how it works. Most large butcheries will have a floor standing band saw such as the Butcherquip Floor Standing Band Saw. Such a unit would be quite large weighing at 220 kilograms and very tall at 1.8 metres. The blade is 2845 millimetres long and 16 millimetres wide, plus the blade moves up and down with immense speed. It has cast iron saw wheels and heavy duty scrapers on both wheels. The metal guides support the blades and the tension scraper assemblies keep the blade free from debris. Seeing such a piece of butchery equipment for the first time can create a sense of apprehension in a young apprentice.

The young apprentice must be taught the exact dimensions of the band saw and have a good sense of spatial awareness. The butcher must show the apprentice how the blade moves and the speed it moves it at. He must be shown and understand how the metal guides and cast iron saw wheels work. The movement of the machine must be studied and respected. At first, the apprentice must approach the band saw with great care when placing a piece of meat on the unit. With steady hands and slow movement he should move the meat closer to the blade, whilst keeping his hands and fingers clear of the moving blade. Steadily, he should slide the meat through the blade.

Professional butchers have years of experience when it comes to using band saws so they are able to slice the meat quickly and effortlessly. They are well aware of the capability of this butchery equipment and they understand how dangerous it can be if they lose their sense of awareness while using it. When a butcher uses this machine, they must be one hundred percent focussed and not be distracted by anything whatsoever. Safety must be practiced each time one of these machines is used.

CaterWeb stocks a full range of commercial kitchen products and we even offer free demonstrations as well as hands on training if necessary. Visit our website to access our online store or alternatively we welcome you to visit our new showroom.

7 Must-Learn Principles About Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point

7 Must-Learn Principles About Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point

Metaphor of comparing apples to oranges on a balance beam isolated on white and the oranges are not as heavy or light.

The food service industry faces a range of challenges that can impact their organizations’ overall operations. To retain their competitive edge, managers are always on the lookout for better strategies to run a hotel, bakery, cafe or restaurant.

From conceptualizing the right menu, addressing staffing concerns, improving customer engagement and marketing, and increasing cash flows to sustain the business operations, business owners will find themselves adjusting from time to time to stay afloat.

One important aspect both owners and managers must have a complete understanding of is the international standard on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), which is focused on risk reduction of food safety hazards. 
Identification and control of potential hazards are important steps under an HAACP system and may include the following hazards: physical, biological or chemical.

Companies engaged in the food production sector and whose operations involve manufacturing, processing or handling can turn to HAACP to eliminate possibilities of food product contamination.

The heart of HAACP lies on its seven basic principles.

1. Implementation of a Hazard Analysis

Companies must start evaluating their activities and pinpoint hazard-prone areas. As stated, hazards may exist in physical conditions (such as metal contamination), biological conditions (such as viral or bacterial exposure products), or chemical (such as possible product exposure to toxins at various development stages).

Hiring a third-party expert who can help food production organizations arrive at an objective hazard evaluation will be a big help. It would be ideal if there is an internal team who can handle this, otherwise, tapping external service provider will save the company precious time in identifying the hazards and evaluating the hazards. After which, identifying critical control points come in.

2. Identification of Critical Control Points(CCP)

This stage refers to steps that need to be taken to control the hazards or an assessment whether such hazard pose immediate risk to end user. Also, this step will involve the deployment of minimum or maximum cap for processing characters (i.e. pH, chlorine levels salt, temperature) level, time, etc.) to contain the hazard. Such CCP limit will determine the subsequent steps to be implemented, with the end goal of controlling impact on the product.

3. Establishment of Critical Limits

Setting benchmark for every CCP should be the next stage. Parameters need to be identified and established, including minimum temperature and other factors. The team must be aware also of limits set by regulatory authorities covering the control point.

4. Establishment of Control Plans

Processes need to be measured at the CCP and must be duly recorded to establish the fact that critical controls have been established. Decision makers need to ask themselves if round-the-clock monitoring of the CCP is required or what measurements must be put in place to reach a confidence level that everything is being supervised. Such monitoring will determine the success of the HAACP system and can either be done through physical quantification or observations, which will guide in the decision-making process when things go awry.

5. Establishment of Corrective Steps

Steps must be established way ahead in anticipation of non-compliance to critical limit. The goal is to ensure the probability of releasing an unsafe product is eliminated. A process evaluation will establish the main source of the problem and its subsequent elimination. The approach is two-pronged: control of products that failed oversight, and elimination of the nonconformity and prevention of a repeating occurrence.

6. Establishment of Verification Plans

Validating the HAACP plan is the focus of this step. This will also involve checking the system if it is being implement according to the agreed plan, such as calibrating instruments as well conducting CCP audit, product testing, and prior shipment review. Also, these activities will exclude monitoring.

7. Establishment of Reporting and Certification Plans

Recording information to establish that there is indeed production of safe product is an instrumental element of the HAACP system. Details of the recording include the HAACP plan itself, the personnel behind the plan, hazard assessments, flow charts, monitoring plan, critical limits, actions taken, procedures, and verification steps.

Why a Restaurant or Person Should Invest in Outdoor Catering?