Making your own opportunities

Whether your fiscal year ends December 31st or on some other date and, whether you are a “For-profit” company or a “Non-profit” organization, this is the time to plan on how you, as an individual business leader, are going to make and capitalize on opportunities in the next 12 months.  Yes, it’s up to you to make it happen so here are a few thought starters.   Some may seem like they are off-the-wall but don’t discard them out of hand without giving each one some thought and imagining what might be if they could work out for you.  In most cases you will need help from experts to bring the idea to reality but that is a very small price to pay for the benefits you will realize.  In fact, that small price is typically a one-time deal while the benefits are an on-going annuity.  So, here are my off-the-cuff, off-the-wall ideas.  Hope they get you thinking.  AND, I really hope they make you a ton of money this year and the next and the next and the next.

a)  Hire a financial professional as your CFO, if you don’t already have one, to help you get your business’s finances, internal accounting, and financial controls in order.  You probably don’t need one full time so find a strong, experienced well qualified person who would be willing to do this for you on a part time basis.  And, keep the person on your team as a business partner of sorts on an on-going basis so that he/she can gain the corporate knowledge that will be critical to your success going forward.   This person will help you improve your profit margins, increase cash flow, maximize the value of your business, and implement financial controls to minimize the risk of fraud or customer default.  He / she will also make your business financial picture perfect to outside bankers, lenders, investors, donors, etc. and that will give you an edge in being able to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves to you throughout the year.    In other words he/ she will give you financial agility you may not have today.

b)  If you aren’t already doing so, implement a monthly financial review process with your key financial advisor (see recommendation above).    Hold those meetings every month religiously.  They are critical to success.  In the meetings, look at backwards facing financial statements to see where your business has come from and compare your company’s actual performance with your budget.  Also look at forecasts of revenues, expenses and cash flow to see where you are headed.  From these items you will know what areas need your attention now and where there are opportunities.

c)  If you carry inventory of any kind and are not tracking it with a modern inventory and warehouse control system, your inventory may be costing you a lot more than you think.  Get advice and get your inventory in control.  An investment today could well pay dividends in year 1.

d)  Look at potential opportunities to grow your business.  Here are some ideas that many business leaders overlook because they think it would be too much to bite off and/or because they may not know how get started.

  1. Add a new product line if you have something in mind and can clearly identify a market.  Sometimes a new product line is simply a re-packaging of what you already have.  Do you remember that iconic scene from the 1970’s movie “Five Easy Pieces” where Jack Nicholson was trying to order a chicken salad sandwich but he was talking to a cranky waitress who couldn’t see the opportunity that was staring her in the face to earn a nice tip if she just repackaged her restaurant’s menu item?  Well the same may be true for you.
  2. Expand into a new market area or territory.   We often don’t realize that the demand we have found for our products and services locally probably also exists elsewhere.
  3. Related to the above, consider looking for markets outside the U.S.  There may be huge opportunities for you.
  4. Consider looking for government contracts.  Yes, governments will almost certainly be getting smaller but many of the services they provide will still need to be done and, if not by government employees, then by outside contractors.  I can guarantee you that there are opportunities in that arena.

e)  Change your role in the company from the company’s primary doer to the Chairman of the Board.  Build a turn-key operation that can survive and prosper without you.  That is truly the road to success – absolutely, positively, without a doubt.

There are many more ideas like this.  The point is to imagine what might be then plan on how you are going to make those breaks for yourself in the coming year.

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