Nancy Chorpenning founded C-Suite Advisors in 2006 after discovering that more than 99% of all businesses are small businesses that provide half of all private sector jobs. Yet many small businesses fail, and she wondered why and set out to find solutions. Nancy’s company offers practical business advice and solutions that work—not just management theory. Nancy brings to C-Suite Advisors 30 years executive management experience with Fortune 500 corporations from Time Warner to start-ups like WebMD. Her exceptional skills include the ability to diagnose performance gaps, analyze root causes and develop plans for change. Her core competencies include business planning and development, financial and strategic modeling, advice and mentoring, change management, sales and marketing, cost reduction and profit improvement. Nancy has also been active in the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Atlanta Chapter for the past 7 years.
Create a One-Page Business Plan
Many entrepreneurs have confidence and audacious visions, but when it comes to a polished business plan, some fall short. The one-page business plan is Nancy’s favorite, which she says contains the business’ overall vision and mission with long-term strategies outlined and short-term action plans.
“The one-page business plan outlines incremental steps, target goals and desired outcomes—that makes the metrics meaningful. You want to use it on a weekly basis. The key is to focus on three or four of the right business issues,” she says. “It has to be flexible because as the business grows, these things will change.”
No two business plans are alike, and the plan will differ within the business’ life cycles, or calendar year depending on the industry.
Set Target Goals
Some business owners are fearful they won’t reach goals, so they don’t set them, but that’s a mistake, Nancy stresses. “Every business and project needs goals and a clear destination,” she says.
Goals are ever-changing. Nancy explains that the key development goals as a startup are different than when the business is expanding or has significant growth. Having goals set that you track and measure is vital. How else will you know how you’re doing?
“You wouldn’t start on vacation if you didn’t know where you were going,” Nancy says of setting development goals. “Why would you start a business without the same degree of planning?”
Asked about accountability, Nancy says it’s related to goal setting. “Accountability and alignment is about knowing your vision needs to be consistent with your strategies and objectives. You may work hard but not at the things that’ll achieve the desired outcome.”
“The same is true with employees,” she continues. “If your employees don’t understand the business vision, goals, outcome and destination, they can’t help you. Employees don’t think about the business the way the owner does—they need to know they are contributing to the business’ success. That’s a great motivator.”
Nancy equates this to game playing; you want to know the rules when starting the game. Employees want to know what’s expected before starting work. When a business owner does a great job explaining why and how an employee’s work affects the company’s success, goals are set for accountability, and he or she can then talk candidly with the employee about execution and performance.
Why Your Business Needs an Exit Strategy
An issue that most entrepreneurs avoid like the plague, but is crucial in planning, is an exit strategy.
“It’s one of the hardest things for a business owner to look at, but every single business needs an exit strategy,” Nancy says in the interview. “You need to decide what to do with the assets you create, whether it’s to eventually sell the business or what to do with it at retirement.”
Everything about the business is overshadowed and colored by the exit strategy, Nancy concedes. The business will mature and change over time, so the exit strategy may change. It’s good to review it annually, or more frequently depending on growth.
Nancy recommends John Warrillow’s book Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You. It teaches you how to build a business that’s saleable. “A business needs to be in shape to get the most out of it when it sells,” she says. Thank you for the great advice, Nancy.
You can see where your business stands today by visiting the Sellability Score Survey on the C-Suite Advisors blog. You can use the proprietary tool to learn more about exiting your business while maximizing your return as well. You’ll also find useful information about starting and operating a business in our knowledge center.