45 episodes

Up and to the Right is the no nonsense podcast where we blend your passion with proven business principles and practical tips. We cover things that matter to small business owners, startups and people interested in becoming entrepreneurs. No buzzwords and no hyped up trends.

Up and to the Right Stephen Krausse

    • Management

Up and to the Right is the no nonsense podcast where we blend your passion with proven business principles and practical tips. We cover things that matter to small business owners, startups and people interested in becoming entrepreneurs. No buzzwords and no hyped up trends.

    Adding Value as a Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 045

    Adding Value as a Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 045

    Introduction

    The competitive landscape is becoming increasingly complicated. Small businesses often find themselves competing with so-called 'big box stores' and online retailers who can run more advertising, negotiate more aggressive pricing when they purchase their raw materials or products; and have stores of cash to weather difficult economic periods.



    It's more important than ever to really understand not only what value we currently add to our customers but find new ways to add or change that value to stay competitive.



    Let's get valuable!

    Reminder: What is a Business Principle?

    When I talked about what made a business principle I ended up here:



    A business principle is a concept that is both foundational and relevant to all businesses.



    This set a pretty high bar when it came to identifying what were business principles and what were strategies, missions and tactics.



    Communication made the cut and that’s what I want to cover today.

    What is Value?

    According to Merriam-Webster the definition of “value-added” is:

    “a product whose value has been increased especially by special manufacturing, marketing, or processing”



    I want to change the word “marketing” to “experience”. Marketing is a tool to communicate but it’s the experience that changes the value of a product.

    Why is adding value a business principle?

    Value qualifies as a principle because of the fundamental requirement to offer something that your customer values more than the money they wish to exchange for it and it is universally applicable to all businesses.

    Examples of Value-Added

    Intrinsic Value - Commodities

    A commodity is an item that can be easily compared on price and is generally just as easily replaceable by another, similar product.



    Examples might be automobile gasoline or general food items.

    Luxury Products

    On the opposite end of the spectrum we have luxury items which are difficult to compare on a cost base and are less replaceable than a commodity.

    Differentiating Commodities and Luxuries

    Of course, the scale between a commodity and a luxury item is wide. One of the key goals of marketing is to differentiate brands from competitors but also from the nearest commodity. This increases the overall perceived value of a product with the intent of increasing sales volume, margins or both.



    A practical way to look at value-added is simply how we separate what we have to offer from the nearest commodity.

    Consistent Quality

    Sometimes you just want to be sure that you know what you’ll be getting every time you use a product.



    Many ‘mass produced’ products rely on this characteristic. Fast food restaurants and automobile gasoline for example.

    Functions & Features

    Specific product functions, features and capabilities are a common way to differentiate your products and services from both competitors and commodities.



    The Swiss Army Knife differentiates itself by adding the value of a combination of useful tools to the standard pocket knife.

    Durability

    Does your product last longer than other, similar products? Can your product be used in harsher conditions?



    Durability makes it easy for customers to rationalize a higher cost when the product will last longer or work in more difficult circumstances.

    Customer Identification

    How a product makes us feel about ourselves can play a big part in our purchase decisions. We’d all like to imagine that we’re more rational than we really are when it comes to how we spend our money.



    Helping customers identify positively with our products and services in ways that also give them a positive outlook on their own values can add value that is powerful but difficult to quantify.

    • 33 min
    Practical Communication for Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 044

    Practical Communication for Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 044

    Introduction

    Communication is so foundational that it might seem trite to talk about it specifically. On the other hand, we use so many different communication channels that I think it’s easy to lose track of how easy it is to miscommunicate.



    In this short article I want to share some reminders about communication in general and bring the idea to the top of your mind for a few minutes.



    I think you’ll find the time well spent.

    Reminder: What is a Business Principle?

    When I talked about what made a business principle I ended up here:



    A business principle is a concept that is both foundational and relevant to all businesses.



    This set a pretty high bar when it came to identifying what were business principles and what were strategies, missions and tactics.



    Communication made the cut and that’s what I want to cover today.

    What is Communication?

    At its core, the concept of communication is straightforward. Communication is the transfer of information from one person to another. Of course, while the concept of communication is simple, effectively communicating is another thing entirely.

    Why is communication a business principle?

    The ability to communicate effectively across your organization and to the wider world of vendors and customers is certainly fundamental to the success of your business. Since the transfer of information is a key part of any business it’s clear that communication is one of the clearest principles of business.



    -Communication happens whether you meant it to or not...

    - Every time you communicate the entirety of the experience is part of the communcaition [ ]

    - the tone you use [ ]

    - the clothes you're wearing [ ]

    - the environment around you or your recipeint or both [ ]

    - the words you choose [ ]

    - the channel you use [ ]

    What are the components of communication?

    While we’re not going to do a complete study of communication here I think it’s worth noting the basic components here.

    Source

    Message

    Channel

    Receiver

    Feedback

    Environment

    Context

    Interference



    Note: These were not invented by me and when I tried to source them I had absolutely no luck finding the actual smart person that came up with them. Please comment if you know the source and I’ll add it!



    While each of these is important there are three I think bear specific discussion in the context of business.

    Channel

    There is a tendency to reduce the concept of communication to written and verbal channels. It’s worth noting that each of our five senses is integral in how we perceive the information we are receiving about our environment and; therefore, it’s important to consider each of them as we work on our communications for our business.



    Does your message change depending on what channel you’re using? Should it?

    Message

    The idea of message is layered. One layer is the information we want to share. The layer that I think is often missed is the message we sent ‘surrounding’ the message we intend.



    An easy way to look at this is with video conferencing. When you’re joining a video conference everything that is visible to your audience subtly (or not so subtly) becomes part of your message. If your desk is tidy… that’s part of the message. If your desk is cluttered then that becomes part of your message as well. In order to ensure that our video is communicating the message we meant to transfer it’s important to look at everything that’s visible in the frame and see how it supports or detracts from that message.



    Another great example of this is body language. Most personal communication is actually achieved through our body language and not the words we say.

    • 37 min
    Planning for Small Business Success | Up and to the Right | Episode 043

    Planning for Small Business Success | Up and to the Right | Episode 043

    Introduction

    Planning is one of the key principles in successful small business operations. It can also be a trap I call ‘Plancrastination’.



    How much planning is needed?

    What are the best planning tools?

    Is there a planning process that works?



    We’ll answer these and other questions about small business planning.



    Join me live on June 11th, 2020 for this informative and practical approach to planning for small business.

    Does Planning Matter to Small Business?



    The first thing we need to establish is whether or not planning matters to small businesses. At first, you might be thinking to yourself ‘Well of course planning matters!” but let’s be real here… as small business owners we have a tendency to fly by the seat of our pants more than we might like to admit.



    A lack of planning and over-planning can both have a negative impact on small business performance.



    So for us, planning has to be done in such a way that we create enough structure to achieve the desired results but we don’t unnecessarily spend time and resources.

    I’m a planner. I can’t get enough of looking at a project, digging into the details, identifying possible roadblocks or methods of achieving goals. This is the trap I call ‘Plancrastination’ and combined with not planning at all we find the need for a practical solution to planning for small business.

    What is a Plan?

    My definition of a plan for small business owners.



    “A plan is a series of listed milestones & actions that, when complete, will achieve a specific outcome.”



    This definition is important because there are three key elements here that will make your planning easier and more effective while minimizing the effort required.



    Stated Outcome - this helps prevent us from taking action without knowing exactly what we’re trying to achieve.

    Listed Milestones - help identify significant points of interest or achievement.

    Listed Action Steps - this is where the rubber meets the road and the work actually gets done.

    Planning Horizon

    For small businesses with limited resources (I think that’s all of us), one key element is the concept of only planning detail to the extent of our ability to act.



    If you have a project that will take six months but have three people in your company it probably won’t make sense to plan specific action items that you expect to happen in week 20 of the project.



    This means we only plan specific action within the timeframe we can reliably expect to complete it.

    Small Business Planning Process

    Identify the Outcome - Where do you want to go?

    Determine Your Starting Point - Where are you now?

    What’s the Difference? - Using the business vernacular “Gap Analysis”.

    List Milestones - What are the major guideposts along the way?

    List Actions - Who’s going to do what and when?



    Identify the Outcome

    This first thing I like to do is take some time to think about what outcome I expect. This may seem like a ‘no brainer’ but I’ve seen a lot of work go down a road to a destination no one looked at in the first place.



    This can be a single sentence.



    “We want to coordinate and structure customer interaction.”



    Now you can begin a search for a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.



    “We want to eliminate the production bottleneck of building the front panel of our instrument.”



    Now you can start looking for a CNC machine.



    It’s much easier to have a successful plan if you understand your endgame.

    Determine Your Starting Point

    In order to get to a destination you need to know where you’re starting from. Again, we need to keep this simple.



    “We currently have three people who deal with cus...

    • 34 min
    Practical Vision in Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 042

    Practical Vision in Small Business | Up and to the Right | Episode 042

    Does Vision Matter to Small Business?

    Do we really need to write down our “Vision” as small business owners? Isn’t that just a Wall Street thing?



    Being clear about your vision is about more than wall hangings or motivational posters. It’s about more than a twitter post or an infographic. It’s about more than customer relationships or product development.



    Do a search on the web or your favorite book vendor for business vision and you’ll have mountains of material.



    I’ve read my share and while they’ve all had value none of them framed the value of an articulated vision in a practical, useful way that I felt small business owners could well… own.



    So, to that end, here’s the short, practical and actionable vision… of Vision.

    Defining Vision

    Before we can get started using our vision to change our business (and then the world) we need to agree on what ‘vision’ means in the context of business.



    In episode 41 of Up and to the Right I defined Vision as follows:





    “Understanding your place in the social & economical environment today and into the future even beyond what you can reliably see.”



    I’m going to take a bit of artistic license and amend it to this.



    “Understanding your impact in the social & economical environment today and into the future even beyond what you can reliably see.”



    Entrepreneurs don’t do all this work to have a ‘place’ we do it to make an impact.



    What is different about the world with your business in it?



    For Beyond 50 Percent it’s this. “Successful small business ownership is the rule… not the exception.”



    This short statement shares the change we want to make in the world and our target market.



    If you read a few books or do some research you’re going to find two things I think you may want to avoid.



    The idea that your vision is what you want your company to look like in the future.

    The idea that your vision is a ‘goal’.



    Why?

    I like the idea that your vision is about more than a company… it’s about the impact you are working toward.

    To me a goal is something you strive for, achieve, and move on from where a vision is the benefit of an impact on others. A vision is evergreen as they say.

    Articulating & Creating Your Vision

    First things first here. It may take a while to hone your vision. That’s fine. It’s important not to let perfect be the enemy of good here.



    To the first order vision as I see it has three considerations but only two components.



    Considerations



    Impact

    Beneficiary

    Timelessness



    Components



    Impact - what is different in the world as a result of your organization’s existence?

    Beneficiary - who is your direct beneficiary (customer)?



    I think there’s a temptation (read… expectation) to come up with something profound or clever and that expectation becomes a barrier between owners and the creation and use of a vision statement.



    While your vision will describe the impact you want to have for the customers you serve… the vision statement itself is primarily for your use. Yes there is a marketing angle to this if you want to use it for that but the point is to clarify your thinking and drive your own decision making process.

    Getting Value Out of Your Vision

    And now what?



    If you’re like me you aren’t excited about something that doesn’t actively help your business.



    I hear you!



    What I can tell you is that by understanding the impact you want to have and the customer group that will benefit from that impact you’ll be able to quickly decide if a course of action is right for your company or better left to someone else.

    • 41 min
    Principles of Small Business Success | Up and to the Right | Episode 041

    Principles of Small Business Success | Up and to the Right | Episode 041

    When I started Beyond 50 Percent my aspiration was to connect business owners with ‘proven principles and practical action’. It made then, and still makes, perfect sense in my head but I’ve found that when someone asks for an example of a proven business principle I was suddenly less clear on what it meant in practical terms and left with something banal like ‘buy low sell high’.



    Since ‘practical’ and ‘actionable’ are features that I feel strongly about I felt compelled to arrive at some clarity.



    So, I went in search of business principles and here is what I discovered through both reflection and research.



    Here’s what happened when I sought the Principles of Small Business Success!

    Complete Show Notes

    Searching for The Answer

    The first thing I did… as I think we all do these days when we have a question… was to ‘Google it’.



    As soon as I saw the results on the page I realized that I am not the only one that has a difficult time articulating what a ‘business principle’ is.



    There were over 318,000,000 results to the simple search for ‘business principles’ and the highest ranking ones were full of good tips and advice but were they ‘principles’?



    Does it even matter if we make the distinction between a good business idea or tactic and a business principle?



    That’s when I realized the first flaw in my search. I had to get clear on what a principle really was.



    Back to Google…



    According to https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/principle a principle is a “a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption”.



    Principles matter because they are the fundamental structures upon which a business is built.



    If advice is good then why should you care if it’s a ‘principle’ or a tactic?



    Once I thought a bit about the meaning of the term principle I realized that in order to be a principle of business, a concept would have to be comprehensive and fundamental.



    A business principle then is a concept that works for all businesses (comprehensive) and is part of a foundation upon which a successful business is built… and that’s why the distinction matters. In order to effectively use good tactics, it’s important to understand that we’re using them to build and strengthen the very foundation of our business.



    Here are six principles for small business owners that I think are universal for all business models.



    Vision - Have a Vision That Exceeds Your Planning Horizon

    Planning - Plan to the Visible Horizon and Stop

    Communicate - Communicate Effectively Internally & Externally

    Value - Create Value for Others

    Cash - Understand Transactional Economics

    Profit - Draw Value to Grow, Benefit and Give

    The Principles of Small Business Success

    Why these six? That’s a great question and, to be honest, it took some doing. There are quite a number of great business tactics that are passed off as principles and when I measured each one against the yardstick of being applicable to all businesses and foundational these were the six still standing.



    I want to be clear. Tactics are important but they also become more situational and have specific relevance where these ideas are timeless and fundamental to the nature of business.



    Let’s briefly review each of these six principles.



    Vision



    I realize that vision or mission can fall into that trendy place of c-level retreats that result in lofty lobby signs. That’s not what I’m talking about. This is about understanding your place in the social & economical environment today and into the future even beyond what you can reliably see.



    Planning



    In order to organize and perform work at the appropriate time for your business situation you ...

    • 41 min
    Plan it Like it’s Software | Up and to the Right | Episode 040

    Plan it Like it’s Software | Up and to the Right | Episode 040

    If you’re running a business or thinking about it you would be forgiven for feeling completely overwhelmed.



    It’s true, there is a lot to do and never enough time to do it. What is a business owner to do?



    Read, learn, get a consultant or coach? Yes… those are all good things but at the end of the day when you’ve read “Eat that Frog” and you’re ready to hunker down how do you know which frog is the biggest, ugliest and least appealing? Which frog do you eat?



    How do we decide what’s important when? I think there’s a way of structuring our business plan that steals a bit from the world of software development.



    Instead of ‘building’ our business… let’s develop it.

    Complete Show Notes



    The Concept



    I’m going to make an assumption if you’re reading this you’ve been exposed to the system software companies use to identify one revision of software from the next. “Software 1.0” versus “Software 1.3” versus “Software 4.0” and so on.



    Major releases are usually identified with a change in the first number (before the decimal point) where minor updates are identified by incremental changes behind the decimal point.



    I apologize to anyone who works in the software industry if I have oversimplified this but for our purposes this is all we need.





    Generally Accepted Business Phases





    Concept

    Startup

    Growth

    Expansion

    Maturity



    If there are already standard phases of a company… why not just use those?



    It’s a good question and if you have a relatively simple business model that might work fine. My experience has been that we spend quite a bit of time in every phase and so there are iterations of our business within each phase resulting in what we might call updates (or patches if something is broken) versus a full revision.



    By using this model we can identify where a specific part of our business process needs to be implemented or updated.



    More importantly, when we identify where something is applicable we have also identified where and when it is not applicable leaving us to focus our energy on what needs to be done at this moment rather than what might need to be done someday in the future or ‘what might be cool if…’.



    You can find the following phases of business with some variations published around the web. If you prefer models with additional or fewer phases the concepts here will still apply.



    Phases of Business as Revisions



    Version 0.0 to .9 | Concept

    Version 1.0 to 1.9 | Startup

    Version 2.0 to 2.9 | Growth

    Version 3.0 to 3.9 | Expansion

    Version 4.0 to 4.9 | Maturity



    As we enter YourBusiness 0.0 we focus on activities and ideas that are focused around the Concept phase of the business. Let’s say that during that time we come up with a concept for our long term production or someone mentions we should have a customer relationship management system (CRM). Since neither of those functions belong in the concept stage we drop the production idea in the growth stage and the CRM idea into the Startup stage on our plan and focus our efforts in areas that add value to the stage that we’re in.

    It is better for me to keep things as simple as possible and there’s no need to complicate this more than you need it to be for your situation.



    In keeping with simplicity you just add things to the category where they belong and move them as necessary when your information changes.



    You might use Version 1.1 to define a specific implementation step to be completed in the early phases of startup like your early stage marketing efforts. By the time you arrive at this point you want your basic web page launched and initial social media handles acquired.



    Version 1.

    • 43 min

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