How to Write a Business Plan (Like a Pro)

The business plan is a document that outlines what your business is about and what it intends to achieve. However, few business owners understand how to really write a good business plan. They only think about writing a business plan when the time has come to acquire funding for their business.

And next, they write the business plans with the sole aim of getting money from banks or potential investors. This is the wrong way to go about things. Even without having funding in mind, it’s best to have a cohesive business plan written down, for your own benefit.

Below, we’ll show you how to write an accurate, detailed, concise, and comprehensive business plan that will give you the best chance of funding and assist you in understanding your own business.

Table of Contents [show]

Why Write a Business Plan?

The most commonly cited reason to write a business plan is to acquire funding. Whether you want to get an SBA(7)(a) or look towards venture capitalists, you’ll need a solid business plan.

The business plan is an outline of what your business is about, what your value proposition is, how you intend to market your business, the target demographic, and how you intend to spend the acquired funds.

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Tutorial starts at 1:20 Whether you’re starting a new business or just trying to get your existing business a bit more organized, writing a business plan is the perfect way to clearly outline how your business operates, declare goals, and set out a strategy to reach those goals. In this video you’ll learn about the six essential pages every business plan should have, what to record on each of those pages, and also how to write your business plan as quickly and easily as possible — even if you’re a complete beginner! 🔹
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In short, the business plan is a detailed representation of what your business is about, containing all the possible details that a potential investor would like to hear.

However, there is another reason why you’ll want to write a business plan. A business plan is essentially a crystallization of your business on paper. It will help you to understand your business. And it’s always useful to clearly define your goals and expectations.

The business plan helps you to do this, in the most efficient possible way. You are really hitting two birds with one stone. The business plan will help you to run your business, and could also help you to acquire funding. It could be said that there are four major reasons why you should write a business plan:

  1. To outline your business goals and aspirations in writing.
  2. To identify strengths and weaknesses objectively.
  3. To communicate the vision of the company.
  4. To convince investors to lend you money.

Stages of the Business Plan

There are many business plan variants that depend on your industry, business, size, preferences, and numerous other factors. However, the Business Plan is often described as going through 3 primary stages. These stages are:

  1. The Mini-Plan – This is really just a business plan outline. It is typically short, less than 10 pages in length. However, it will contain all of the relevant data. Depending on what you are trying to do and who you are trying to convince, the 10-page plan can be more than enough.
  2. The Working Plan – The working plan is often between 15 and 25 pages in length and explains how the business will operate in more detail. This is the plan that business owners will typically ‘work’ from, though it is still a little bit rough around the edges.
  3. The Presentation Plan – This is the business plan as presented to investors and bankers. It is the business plan with the correct terminology and images as appropriate for convincing a particular audience. This is really a term that is synonymous with a “business plan”.

Even before engaging in a full-blown business plan, it’s best to have a mini-plan to refer to. This can be used when hiring employees or working with partners/contractors, to give them an idea where the business is headed.

The 6 Components of a Business Plan Outline

While there is a lot of room for customization (and a lot of opinion on the matter), the business plan can be loosely broken down into 6 components:

  1. Executive Summary – Brief outline of the company.
  2. Opportunity – Value proposition and what you intend to do.
  3. Execution – How you intend to capitalize on the opportunity (sell products to customers).
  4. Management Infrastructure – Company hierarchy, organization, and significant persons.
  5. Financial Status – Cash flow status and projected income.
  6. Appendix – Any additional details and references.

These components are outlined in more detail below. Some steps have multiple subcategories (for example, you can break up step 5 into your current financial situation, projected financial situation in the future, and include a funding request).

Component #1 – Executive Summary

Executive SummaryThe executive summary is covered in more detail below in the 12 step outline. It’s the most important part of the business plan. It will contain:

  • A summary of what you provide and who you are.
  • The current market situation.
  • How much money you have, and how much you need.
  • A justification (brief) about why your business will succeed against competitors.
  • The growth potential of your enterprise.

The Executive Summary is actually the easiest part of the entire process. It’s only 1- 2 pages long and should be a neat outline of what you intend to achieve. But it’s very important to get this part correct. It will set the tone for the rest of the plan. So it has to read well and smoothly.

When writing the Executive Summary, take note that all businesses exist to solve customer problems. What is the problem, how are you solving it, and why are you better than competitors? If you answer these questions succinctly, then you are highly likely to acquire funding. Don’t hype your position – just state it clearly.

A great way to think about an Executive Summary is that it is a written elevator pitch. The Executive Summary is the perfect tool for you to refine your business concept. It allows you to write down a precise and exact concept about what your business stands for. If you have zero intention of acquiring funding from clients, it’s still a great idea to write out an Executive Summary.

Additional benefits of a concise Executive Summary are that it will help you to determine your priorities and will help the rest of the business plan run smoothly. It is often the case that if you start strongly, you will finish strongly.

Component #2 – Opportunity

The Opportunity section details where the customer base is under-served. This is a perfect place to include statistics indicating your target market and how it is expanding. Know your target market inside and out. What their spending habits are, what they are looking for, what methods of payment they prefer, how you can enhance their lifestyles, etc.

The more intimately you understand your target market, the better you can give them what they want. The more sophisticated investors will need to know that you have done extensive research on your target market.

Before you embark on any campaign you must do research to see what is viable and what isn’t. The best way to start is with a question and answer session. Here are some typical questions you could ask before starting out:

  • Is the overall industry stagnating, growing, or declining?
  • Is the demand for my specific products/services stagnating, growing, or declining?
  • What customer segment am I targeting?
  • What do customers pay, on average, for my products and services?
  • Will I offer products service for less, more, or the same price as the market average?
  • Is my price justified, and why?
  • Can I distinguish myself from my competitors in a meaningful way?
  • Have other businesses tried to do the same?

Asking these questions is critical to keep you on point. You can always refine your products and services later on, but you will still need to remain in the ballpark in terms of what the customers are looking for.

A key point here is that you need to distinguish yourself from competitors. Even in tough markets, you can do well if you offer a particular niche that is distinct from others. You will be the same, but different, though that is something of a contradiction in terms.

Investors will want to see that you are justified in asking for money and that you have given the issue a great deal of thought. Don’t get discouraged if you are in a tough and declining market. As long as you have a practical way of attracting a target market and the idea makes sense, then your business plan is solid.

A potential area of contention is that of creating a new market versus attracting an existing market. It’s entirely possible to create a market with new products. For example, nobody calls for new smartphones until they are released with new applications and features. When they find out about these new features, they ‘have’ to have them.

But as a general rule of thumb, you do need to give customers what they are already looking for. Creating a new market demand is for more ambitious types, and investors are typically very skeptical of these endeavors. Even the very best products may not sell if there is no market for them. It’s best to dig, do some research, and be very exact in terms of your target market and how you are resolving their problem.

The opportunity section will also include what your competitors are doing and how you can do it better. Differentiate yourself from your competitors as much as possible.

Component #3 – Execution

Execution is the sales and marketing side of a business plan. You can invent the world’s best application, and nobody will download it if you don’t place it in front of them.

This is where many businesses can fall short. You have to sell your products and services hard and aggressively. ’Build it and they will come’ does not work anymore. ‘Build it, market it aggressively, and they will come’ is much more accurate.

Read More……

Sarah Davis

By: Sarah Davis

Sarah Davis is a business executive specializing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, and international law. She achieved her MBA from Cornell University after completing a legal undergraduate at UC Berkley. Sarah runs her own business consultancy firm in tandem with working alongside the FinImpact team.

Source: How to Write a Business Plan (Like a Pro) 2021..

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Jeff Bezos’ Amazon Could End Up Bankrupt For These Reasons, According To Specialist

Right now, Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world thanks to Amazon , his leading online sales company. However, retail expert Doug Stephens predicts that the giant could fall over the next decade, even going bankrupt.

On his Business of Fashion corporate page, Retail Prophet’s founder and advisor to some of the world’s most respected brands predicts “the end of Amazon.”

“I think that in ten years Amazon is going to decline and these are just some of the reasons,” Stephens wrote.

Amazon follows in Walmart’s footsteps

One of the reasons for the possible bankruptcy of the online trading platform would be that it is following the same patterns as other companies. Stephens gives Walmart an example.

“Between 1962 and the early 2000s, Walmart led the retail business, beating out dozens of competitors large and small. By 2010, Walmart had opened a staggering 4,393 stores, of which more than 3,000 opened after 1990, ” explains the expert.

After suffering a big drop in sales in 2015, Walmart has failed to take off in online retail. “The decline of the once impenetrable giant has shown that even the most titanic companies can fall,” Stephens said.

Amazon offers efficiency, but no shopping experience

The specialist considers it dangerous that Bezos intends to maintain the same long-term operating model. “In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that is going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want a wide selection, “ said the tycoon in statements taken up by Business of Fashion.

However, Stephens believes that people don’t just buy because they want the products as quickly as possible. They also want the full shopping experience : getting out of the house, touching the products, comparing them with each other, trying new things or getting inspired. In that sense, the disadvantage of Amazon is limited to online purchases.

Focus on customer service will be lost

When a company has a powerful leader like Jeff Bezos at the helm, it would hardly function without him. The expert predicts that, as Amazon continues its expansion, the figure of Bezos could dissipate or disappear. Then it would be possible that you lose your initial mission, which is customer satisfaction, to prioritize the optimization of processes based on figures and data.

He also anticipates that the company will innovate less. “The energy, once directed to improving the business, will be depleted in simply working to maintain the organizational infrastructure ,” Stephens noted.

See also: See why Jeff Bezos will increase his fortune thanks to the arrival of Airbnb to Wall Street

Dough Stephens cites other reasons for Amazon’s potential downfall , such as the rumored toxic work environment and the migration of current partners to other,

friendlier delivery platforms.

The combination of these factors could cause Amazon to suffer losses over the next decade and be replaced by another similar company that offers better conditions for partners, workers and customers.

By: Entrepreneur en Español Entrepreneur Staff

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Foundation for Economic Education

Support Out of Frame on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/OutofFrameShow Watch our newest video, “The Social Dilemma Is Dangerously Wrong… Part II”: https://youtu.be/pOYxN_a7zL4 Check out our podcast, Out of Frame: Behind the Scenes: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiS5… Bob thinks we should just confiscate all the wealth from all the billionaires in America to pay for government programs. But even if that were possible… would it even work? ______________________________ CREDITS: Written by Seamus Coughlin & Jennifer Maffessanti Animated by Seamus Coughlin Produced by Sean W. Malone

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Why Heroic Efforts Are Damaging Your Company Growth

One of the things we celebrate, particularly in entrepreneurial organizations, is the last-minute effort a person or a team puts in to beat a tough deadline. Maybe it’s a product team hustling to complete a prototype against the clock, a group of accountants and lawyers working through the night to close an acquisition, or even a CEO swooping in to save a key account at the last minute. Heroic efforts like these should be celebrated, right? Actually, no. These kinds of heroic efforts are actually damaging the long-term growth prospects for your organization.

Let me explain why.

I’ve written before on this blog and in my book, Great CEOs Are Lazy, that every well-run organization has to balance a yin-yang between talent and process. For young companies, who have yet to develop processes and systems, it’s natural to rely on the heroic efforts of your people like I described above to help grow the business.

But if you want to build a truly scalable business, you need more processes and systems. . I know that most entrepreneurs are practically allergic to processes – I get it. But you can’t afford to rely on the heroic efforts and expect people to pull all-nighters every week to grow the business and expect them to stay healthy physically and mentally.

I recall a time when I was the CEO of a business that made industrial controls. We had a big trade show coming up and we were planning to debut a cutting-edge new calibration product to our customers. The engineer in charge of the product, a guy named Craig, ended up working something like three straight days to finish the prototype in time for the show. In fact, we ultimately found him sleeping on the floor next to his finished demo unit the morning before the show.

When we all got together for our next company meeting a few weeks later, Craig was counting on getting some praise for all his heroic effort to save the day. But I wasn’t going to go there. Rather, I told everyone that I was glad the new product was done–but that I hated how we did it. I knew in this case that Craig had been working on this product for almost a year.

Every time I inquired about his progress, or offered him help and resources, he turned me away. Why did he wait until the last few days to finish it? The truth is he created the very conditions where he needed to step up and save the day and be a hero. I wasn’t going to celebrate his efforts because I wanted to change the culture of how we worked and become more methodical and predictable.

I know that some of us work better under pressure–like pulling the all-nighter the night before an exam. But again, it’s not sustainable. By contrast, we also had another engineer on staff named Napoleon, who was incredibly capable and productive. He just went about his business and got his work done without drama: no muss or fuss. I think employees like Napoleon generally don’t get applauded enough because the way they work doesn’t call attention to themselves the way Craig did. (Craig eventually left the company over his perceived slight of not being recognized for his heroic effort.)

There are plenty of different approaches to product development, for example, like Agile, Scrum, and Stage Gate. Any of those can work perfectly well. The point is to have something in place where you have a more planned and methodical process that doesn’t require heroic efforts or sacrifices to get the work done. These systems are also how you give employees like Napoleon the chance to thrive.

When you rely on superhuman efforts to get work done rather than systems, it also puts incredible pressure on the types of people you hire. Not everyone is willing or capable of doing that kind of work–they’re hard to find. It’s why you hear so many leaders say things like, “It’s so hard to find good people.” The truth is that there are plenty of good people out there, but they need good processes and systems to thrive.

But this lesson doesn’t just apply to your people–it also applies to the heroic CEO as well. I write in my book about the tendency of CEOs to go into “Player Mode” where they ride in to save the day, maybe by closing a sale at the last minute or mobilizing the resources to get a job done just in the nick of time. While you might need to become the hero from time to time, there is a cost whenever you do it. You’re missing the opportunity to build organizational muscle and capability–as well as the processes and systems–you need in place to scale the business. Otherwise, you become the constraint that keeps you stuck in place.

When you think about how your organization operates, do you rely on superhuman and heroic efforts to get your work done? If so, be careful, because you’ll face real issues growing your company to the next level.

By Jim SchleckserCEO, Inc. CEO Project

Source: Why Heroic Efforts Are Damaging Your Company Growth

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Identify how you are going to compete in your market. Will it be through customer intimacy, product or service leadership, or lowest total cost? Identify your strengths and capitalize on them. For more resources on building your strategic plan, view the Essentials Guide to Strategic Planning at http://onstrategyhq.com/resources/str… Used by thousands of companies worldwide, http://OnStrategyHQ.com enables any organization, regardless of size and budget, to build their comprehensive plan and monitor implementation. In addition to their award-winning software, the company also offers strategic planning consulting and is a resource for other strategic planning tools, books, articles, workshops, and strategic planning facilitation.​ Download the Essentials Guide to Strategic Planning – https://onstrategyhq.com/product/esse…

The Upward Spiral Of Doing The Right Thing

Have you ever noticed that you eat less junk during the weeks when you hit your target of working out four times? And when you are eating better, you pause before ordering that next drink? And then as you’re working out a bit more, eating better, and drinking less, you get to bed a bit earlier and wake up more readily?

This is the upward spiral of good habits. The same effect can be observed for work habits, financial practices, or any other element of our lives. And it also happens in organizations. Let’s consider the example of Ellevate, a community of professional women committed to helping each other succeed, and a certified B Corp.

First, a word on B Corps: these are for-profit companies that have been certified (and re-certified every three years) by the not-for-profit organization B Lab, which created the B Corp certification. B Lab’s B Impact Assessment (BIA), on which the certification is based, is a rigorous set of standards for how a company operates, with about 200 indicators in five areas (customers, community, workers, environment, and governance).

Companies must earn at least 80 points on these questions, which range from the training and benefits they offer employees to ratio of the lowest and highest salaries, ethics policies and procedures, and whether you’re working with the landlord to improve your facility’s environmental performance.

Ellevate was established as a strongly mission-driven for-profit company in 1997, by women who worked at Goldman Sachs and called the group 85 Broads, in reference to their employer’s corporate address. As other women expressed an interest in the peer support offered by the group, it expanded to include others beyond the GS network. In 2013, Sallie Krawcheck acquired the company and rebranded as Ellevate to capitalize on the business opportunity of helping women advance in leadership, which has been shown to have great economic benefit to employers and the communities around them.

The mission of Ellevate, then, has been the same for over 20 years. It may have become more newsworthy in today’s #MeToo era, but it’s no more or less important now than then. What has changed is the way that Ellevate executes on that mission. The group certified as a B Corp in 2016, earning a score of 88 on the 200-point BIA.

Perhaps Ellevate’s identity as a mission-driven company made this transition to B Corp more likely, but many of the other 3,000 certified B Corps are very standard businesses, selling cleaning products, ice cream, branding advice, or even electricity. Whether or not a company’s ‘what’ is inherently good for the world, in an increasingly transparent world, Ellevate isn’t the only company thinking more about not just what they do, but how they do it.

And this is where B Corp certification comes in, as Samantha Giannangeli, Ellevate’s Operations Lead, said: “It’s worth it for the introspective take on your business – not just what you hope to achieve, but how.“

Regardless of what they sell, all companies have myriad opportunities to create less harm and ultimately generate benefit to the people and planet around them. The BIA offers 200 very specific such opportunities, such as including social and environmental performance in job descriptions and performance reviews; managing customer data privacy; and sharing resources about best environmental practices for virtual employees. CEOs are generally assigned the most direct responsibility – and credit – for how a company operates. Indeed, Giannangeli said that Wallace, “is a driving force behind our work with B Corp. She leads by example every day, and we’re lucky to work with her.”

But the upward spiral that you’ve felt during those healthy eating weeks kicks in quickly once a CEO states or signals that they support operating the business in a way that’s good for the world. After all, CEOs do very little of any company’s day-to-day operations. Decisions about fair hiring practices, good environmental practices, and customer support and protection are made by middle management and executed (or not) by frontline employees.

Giannangeli described how Wallace’s commitment to improving Ellevate’s operating principles engages and reflects employees, saying that Wallace “listens to us, and takes the time to understand the challenges we bring to the workforce – and the challenges we want to solve.”

The vast majority of us want to make a positive contribution to the world through our work, whether by improving a single person’s day or making a system more equitable. So getting permission from leadership and learning best practices for doing business that’s good for the world (from the BIA for example) is enough to activate a team to improve the pieces of a company’s operations that they’re responsible for.

Ellevate’s team “drastically increased our energy efficiency, launched a series of trainings on cultural awareness and anti-discrimination and harassment, and developed an internship program focused on first generation college students.” These initiatives have nothing to do with the company’s core business of supporting women at work – they would fit equally well in a cleaning products or ice cream company.

As a result of these efforts, Ellevate’s BIA score rose from 88 to 115 when they were re-certified in 2019. They became a Best for the World honoree, indicating that their score in the Workers category falls in the top 10% of all B Corps. Giannangeli pointed out that the practices that earned this recognition “were employee-driven, and employee-led.”

What’s more, during recent testimony to the House Committee on Small Business, Ellevate CEO Kristy Wallace said: “I’d also like to note that our business revenues doubled during that time period illustrating that being good for society is also good for business.” This understanding that doing well by doing good is not only possible for businesses to attain, but increasingly a mandate from customers, investor, and employees. And there’s nothing like revenue growth to drive an upward spiral of being good for society.

So regardless of your position, industry, and function, check out the BIA. Find one or two indicators that you or your team participate in or influence. And think about what small step you could take to improve your company’s performance on that one small factor. You could stop buying individually packaged snacks in favor of bulk purchases that go into reusable containers to reduce your waste.

Or institute a team-wide afternoon stretch break to improve employee well-being. Or start a Slack channel for online articles, podcasts, videos, and courses to offer low-cost, self-scheduling professional development that helps colleagues stay on the cutting edge of your industry.

These are all small and very low-cost initiatives, but they’re much more likely to get your colleagues and leadership thinking about other ways your company could be better for the people and planet around you than doing nothing. And these and similar small actions can also be taken in your home, informal communities, or even just your personal habits, like the gym and healthy eating we started with. So what will you do in 2020 to kickstart an upward spiral?

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I am the founder and CEO of Inspiring Capital, a certified B Corp. We help employees connect their work to its impact in the world, increasing engagement, innovation, an…

Source: The Upward Spiral Of Doing The  Right Thing

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** Please Like the Video and Subscribe, Thanks ** We’re just going to talk about what is employee engagement, what is the definition of employee engagement? Let’s start with what it’s not. See, a lot of people think employee engagement is the same as employee satisfaction, but satisfaction doesn’t raise the bar high enough. See, I can be satisfied as I clock into work at nine and satisfied as I take my breaks and lunch and clock out at five o’clock. I’m satisfied and I do what is asked of me. More importantly, I’m satisfied but I’ll take that executive recruiter phone call that says, “Kevin, are you interested in that job opening from the competitor across the street?” “Ah, I’m pretty satisfied here, actually.” “I can get you a ten percent raise.” “Oh, well, okay, I’ll take that job interview.” Satisfaction just doesn’t set the bar high enough. Others will say, oh, what it’s really about is happiness. We’re trying to create happy workers, a happy workplace. I’m not against happiness. I hope everybody is happy, but just because you’re happy doesn’t mean you’re working on behalf of the organization. I’ve got two teenage daughters who I had to take to the mall to go clothes shopping recently, every parent’s worst nightmare. We went into one of these trendy teen clothing stores with the cool-looking young people working everywhere and the music blasting through the speakers. I noticed, we walked in, the workers seemed pretty happy, looking down at their smartphones, but nobody greeted me as we came in the door. They were laughing at one point in the corner, all talking with each other. Not once did they come over and ask me if we were finding everything we needed. When we were checking out, the young woman behind the cash register, she was happily bopping her head to the beats blasting through the speakers, but she didn’t try to up-sell me. She didn’t offer me the company credit card. The workers there, I really noticed it right away. They sure seemed happy at work. They seemed like they were having a fun, good time, but they weren’t necessarily doing the behaviors or performing the way their company leadership probably wanted them to. If engagement isn’t satisfaction and it isn’t happy, what is it? Basically, employee engagement is the emotional commitment that we have to our organization and the organization’s goals. When we’re engaged, when we’re emotionally committed, it means we’re going to give discretionary effort. We’re going to go the extra mile. That’s the secret sauce. That’s why engagement is so important and so powerful. When we are engaged, we give discretionary effort. That means if you have an engaged salesperson, she’s going to sell just as hard on a Friday afternoon as she does on a Monday afternoon. If you have an engaged customer service professional, he’s going to be just as patient with that irate customer at 4:59 at the end of the shift as he would be at 9:30 in the morning. If you have engaged factory workers, they’re productivity is going to be higher, the quality is going to be higher, fewer defects and mistakes, and most importantly, they’re going to get hurt less often. Your safety record is going to improve as people are more mindful and aware. Discretionary effort leads to better business results no matter what your job role or responsibility in an organization. Now this is a shame, because the C-level executives, they would care more about engagement if they understood the differences. What they care about, the C-level executives, they really care about investor returns. They care about their stock price. Employee engagement is the lever that can move that needle. I call it the engagement profit chain. Engaged employees give discretionary effort. They’re going to sell harder. The service is going to be better. Productivity is going to be higher. That means customers are going to be happier. The more satisfied your customers are, the more they’re going to buy and the more they’re going to refer you. As sales go up, as profits go up, inevitably your stock price is going to go up Shareholder returns are going to go up. Employee engagement, so-called soft stuff leads to a hard ROI. Several years ago, the Kenexa Research Institute did a study and they found that companies with engaged employees, their stock price was five times higher than companies with disengaged employees, over a five-year time period. I hope that you will help me to spread the gospel of engagement, and it starts with making sure that everybody is on the same page with what engagement really is. I invite you to just forward this video to friends and colleagues, get us all on the same page. -~-~~-~~~-~~-~- Most Recent Video: “How To Talk ANYONE Into ANYTHING | Negotiation Tips From Former FBI Negotiator Chris Voss ” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jqj3…

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Investing In Your Team: Driving Professional Development

Professional development is one of those things that we all say we want from an employer, but few companies seem to actually deliver. For marketers, in particular, staying ahead of the curve by honing your professional skill set is critical, as the media and cultural landscapes are constantly evolving, and “best practices” are never static.

But even for the best managers, making the time for professional development can feel like a daunting challenge. At best, it feels amorphous and uncertain. And at worst, it can feel like you’re in over your head and forced to make promises you might not be able to keep.

Professional development shouldn’t just be about money and titles. Great professional development is all about understanding an employee’s ambitions and crafting a plan together that helps them work toward that goal. It’s also an essential step in ensuring wider success across the business and establishing a team that will succeed in the long term, as employees with professional development opportunities are 34% more likely to stay at their jobs than those without.

So how can you structure these conversations to be mutually beneficial for both you and your team?

Plan ahead, and get out of the office.

Trying to tackle professional development topics during a regularly scheduled one-to-one meeting seldom works because it’s all too easy to get sucked into day-to-day tasks instead of talking about the real meat of the conversation. That’s why it’s helpful to schedule separate times for professional development apart from your regular meetings. This dedicated time provides an opportunity for you and your employee to develop an open-door relationship around career-path conversations. I recommend doing this about once per quarter, depending on the size of your team.

It’s also useful to get out of the office for these discussions. If it’s a nice day out, take a walk outside or grab a seat in a nearby park. Or even grab a coffee somewhere in the neighborhood. It seems like a small thing, but conversation flows so much more openly when you’re not in a conference room in the office. The change of scenery can inspire candor and openness that’s not always easy to achieve elsewhere in order to continue to build trust in the working relationship.

Ask questions, and then really listen to the answers.

A good professional development conversation should involve managers listening more than speaking. This should really be the employee’s time to share with you what’s on their mind. Not all employees will immediately open up, so here are some questions you can use to get the ball rolling:

• What do you like most about your current role?

• What are some skills that you’d like to improve on?

• What do you see as the next career step for yourself?

• What’s most frustrating about your current role?

• What would make you better at your job?

Aim to deliver actionable feedback.

It’s only natural in these conversations for employees to ask about what it will take to move up to the next level and when they’ll get there. After all, everyone wants to know what the path forward looks like. Instead of driving toward specific dates, which tend to be arbitrary, it’s more effective to focus the conversation around the skills, competencies or behaviors that the employee needs to demonstrate in order to advance their position.

It’s best if you can come to the conversation prepared with some thoughts on this topic, but if you’re not prepared for that, just be honest about the fact that you need to give it more thought. It’s much better to follow up with specifics a week later than to make something up off the top of your head that the employee takes as gospel. Just remember: It’s OK if you don’t have answers on the spot, but you must follow up, or else you’ll risk seriously demotivating the employee.

Don’t miss the opportunity to ask for feedback, too.

While the bulk of the conversation should be focused on helping the employee achieve their goals, these candid conversations are also a great opportunity to ask for direct feedback about how you’re performing as a manager.

A good way to jump-start this conversation is by asking about what you should keep doing, what you should stop doing and what you should start doing. Be open, and listen — don’t be defensive — and you’re likely to uncover some important nuggets that can help you retain and motivate your team.

Practice makes the professional.

Professional development conversations may seem daunting at first, but they do get easier in time. And if you’re ever not sure how to proceed, just think about the conversations you wish your manager would have with you. After all, being recognized and knowing there is a path forward is something we all strive for.

Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

Vice President of Marketing at AppNeta, and writes about leadership, marketing, and creating high-performing teams. Read Amanda Bohne’s full executive profile here

Source: Investing In Your Team: Driving Professional Development

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Get a free coaching session with Stephen Goldberg for leaders and managers https://mailchi.mp/4966f7407de6/freec… Sgn up to receive my bi-monthly newsletter http://eepurl.com/gChMb Download free worksheets, forms and templates from https://www.eloquens.com/channel/step… Get access to forms worksheets and templates from my website http://eepurl.com/ccGNlX Read articles on my blog http://www.optimusperformance.ca/blog/ Support the making of these videos by becoming a Patreon https://www.patreon.com/StephenGoldberg The old expression, “failing to plan is planning to fail” also applies to employee development. In my recent article (http://www.optimusperformance.ca/mana…) about a leaders’ struggle to deal with employees being resistant to change, I wrote that strategic planning for employee development is a practice that a leader must undertake to avoid this dilemma. Developing a human resource or employee development plan is often the responsibility of the human resource department if there is one. From my perspective, it’s the leader’s responsibility because the leader is accountable for the performance of the department and each employee. Here is my list of things for the leader or manager to do to develop a strategic plan for employee development….. Read full article here: A Leadership Job Description :http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt… How to set and achieve any goal using a goal planning worksheet: http://www.optimusperformance.ca/how-… Learn How to Write a Job Description including a downloadable template https://curious.com/stephengoldberg/j… Learn How to Set & Achieve Goals including Goal Setting Form for download https://curious.com/stephengoldberg/g… Take my lessons +20,000 more @Curious on anything from tennis, to test prep, to tango. As my student, get 20% OFF! http://curious.com?coupon=curiousteac
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