Forming Beneficial Strategic Alliances

Establishing a strategic alliance is not a “shake hands” deal that gets put in place and then becomes the forgotten part of your business. In order to be successful, strategic alliances must be carefully selected, rigorously tested and, like your transformed business, properly systemised in order to work effectively. Many business owners make the mistake of forming strategic alliances with unsuitable partners that end up costing the business considerable amounts – both in lost revenue, costs in unwinding the relationship and in terms of damaged goodwill. When evaluating reasons for these failures, some common trends emerge:

  • Poor planning and budgeting
  • Assuming, trusting and not checking the alliance partner’s credentials, capability, reputation etc
  • Failing to assess the strategic and cultural fit of the proposed alliance partner
  • Not properly documenting the relationship and responsibilities
  • Not agreeing (and documenting) the split of income, contribution to overheads and client ownership
  • Failing to plan and set targets for the alliance
  • Not adequately communicating the nature and purpose of the alliance to staff
  • Not providing adequate coaching or support to enable staff to cross sell or identify opportunities
  • Having poorly defined procedures to manage the flow of work

So how do you go about establishing a strong strategic alliance? We believe there are 9 essential steps after you have decided a strategic alliance is right for your business:

  1. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of a strategic alliance
  2. Conduct a rigorous analysis of your potential partner(s)
  3. Understand what you and your potential partner(s) bring to the arrangement
  4. Negotiate the arrangement
  5. Structure and document your arrangement
  6. Agree on who does what
  7. Plan
  8. Execute
  9. Manage

You will notice that nearly 90% of the process takes place before you and your strategic alliance partner start to do anything with clients. There is a good reason for this – the 90% of the time you invest in preparation will allow you two important things: time to get to know your potential alliance partner even better and time to make sure you have structured an alliance partnership that suits your business.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Best Business Planning Practices

What separates a weak business plan from a good plan? Or a good plan from a great one? As with any reliable roadmap, a powerful business plan clearly lays out a course and provides alternatives to follow should any roadblocks appear.

A business plan is an important tool for internal planning in any business and for garnering support from external sources. Use the business plan best practices here to create a solid plan for your business.

Build the plan around its audience

A business plan can be used for many purposes and should be created with its use and audience in mind. You might create a plan as a tactical rollout guide for a new product or market, as an annual strategic guide, as a tool to lure investors, or as a way to get your organization excited about the coming year. The way you’ll use the plan should shape its focus. A plan aimed at raising money needs to focus on the talent and experience of your team to boost investors’ confidence in your company. It should also be slickly produced, printed and packaged. A strategic guide for internal use, on the other hand, might focus more closely on the steps required to roll out a new product. Multiple versions of your plan may be required if you have more than one audience and purpose.

Focus on finances

A strong business plan demonstrates that there is a financial impact related to all strategies, ideas, and assumptions. In one way or another, every section of your plan needs a financial bent – How will marketing generate income? How will the competitive environment impact your ability to make money? What will production of a product cost and how will that impact profitability?

Be realistic in your enthusiasm

While it is natural for a business plan to reflect a belief that your offering or approach is superior to anything else on the market, remember to temper your zeal. In creating each section of the plan, ask yourself what a sceptic would be concerned about regarding your statements and assumptions. For example, if your plan concerns a new product introduction, ask yourself about the barriers to acceptance. Always return to the “why” – Why would customers switch allegiance to you? Why would companies outsource a service to you, etc? You can put a plan to the test by sharing a rough draft with someone you know who has a sceptical nature.

Segment whenever possible

No small business can be all things to all people. Focusing on specific market segments will improve the accuracy of your planning, since you will be able to build your financial assumptions around the specific needs of those segments. Don’t limit segmentation just to your marketing efforts – the habits and values of your target audience will likely influence everything from product development to pricing.

Produce carefully

Whether you are sharing a business plan with staff only or a discriminating outside resource, features such as charts that clearly illustrate a point, statistics that back up an assertion, or judiciously-placed graphics can increase the likelihood that your audience will be receptive to your message. Once your plan is complete, have it proofread by two different people to ensure that mistakes don’t undermine its effectiveness. Also, consider the appropriate way to package a plan. A plan for bankers, partners or investors should be printed on high quality paper and bound. You can cut some corners with an internal document, but be sure your document reflects the effort you put into it.

Revise, revise, revise

A business plan is a “living” document that requires periodic review and continual improvement. Your plan may be your company’s roadmap, but your business can quickly be thrown off course by market downturns, shifting buying habits, or even better-than-anticipated sales. Review your plan regularly to see if you’re on track and adjust budgets and priorities accordingly.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

SugarCRM’s Growing Momentum

SugarCRM’s Growing Momentum.

SugarCRM hits a sweet spot in the CRM market

Great SugarCRM article……

Written By: Gerry Brown Published: 17 September, 2012 Content Copyright © 2012 Bloor

SugarCRM’s Acceleration show hit London last week. CEO Larry Augustin kicked things off presenting to 200+ followers, fans, and sales prospects. I chatted with him afterwards.

Larry has an interesting profile. He has always worked in the open source community (SugarCRM is an open source CRM application). He founded and IPO’d VA Linux as CEO, and then became a venture capitalist and angel investor before joining SugarCRM. No sign of an IPO for SugarCRM on the horizon just yet though. As a seasoned finance professional I suspect he is watching the markets assiduously to get his timing right.

Larry is making waves again at SugarCRM. Revenues were up 68% in 2011, and 73% in the first half of 2012. SugarCRM is the fastest growing CRM vendor out there (including His VC investors clearly like it. They provided another $33m in funding during Q2 2012. You might be forgiven for saying “But CRM is an old mature technology – where is all this growth coming from?”

Larry argues that CRM market penetration is tiny relative to the market potential – everyone who touches customers (and that’s nearly all of us) should have a CRM system. The trick is to make the software affordable, easy to use, and easy to deploy, he says. And that is exactly what SugarCRM is doing.

Affordable: the SugarCRM open source version is downloadable for free, and the Professional (paid for) version starts at $30 per person, per month.

Easy to use: a modern user interface and clear, uncluttered screens.

Easy to deploy: SugarCRM offers 5 deployment options – a SaaS version, a private Cloud version (powered by IBM), a public Cloud offering, a Partner Cloud offering, and an on-premise version.

Most SMBs go for the simple SaaS version, but Enterprise accounts like Sugar’s multiple deployment options, and the ability to move from one deployment type to another with a minimum of disruption. SugarCRM has sold mostly to small and mid-size companies, but is now forging a presence in large enterprises. This is helped by SugarCRM’s close reseller and technology partnership with IBM, which was the platinum sponsor of the Acceleration event. It’s no surprise therefore that SugarCRM has a IBM-centric Corporate version (including mobile support), an Enterprise version (including IBM DB2 and Oracle database support plus other features), and an Ultimate version that includes a Lotus Domino server connector.

Why IBM has not got its enormous wallet out and acquired Sugar or another CRM vendor as part of its software vendor acquisition strategy is not entirely clear. Perhaps it just suits IBM that way, or maybe IBM doesn’t want to alienate those fiercely independent open source developer types who are integral to Sugar CRM’s business model. Either way, SugarCRM must be eternally grateful.

SugarCRM’s go-to-market model is dependent upon IBM and 350 other technology and/or reseller partners. These include IBM Cognos, GoodData and fellow open source vendor Jaspersoft that help to extend SugarCRM’s business intelligence capabilities. In addition SugarCRM has the open source community of developers who develop all kinds of add-on apps to extend the product offer. The scalability of SugarCRM’s business depends largely on growing its global reach through local reseller partners, rather than by building an expensive direct presence in every territory.

The main competitors for SugarCRM are and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Although is drifting away from CRM into other areas recently (for example HR, Marketing, Databases), it is still a formidable competitor. However, salesforce has its hands full competing with Microsoft’s CRM Dynamics Online. The latter has 20,000 customers and is being aggressively marketed as a alternative. SugarCRM’s positioning as a niche challenger to the two titans is attractive for those customers fearing enterprise vendor lock-in.

The future for SugarCRM is based around the trends of Social, Mobile and Cloud computing. New updated native iPhone and Android mobile versions of SugarCRM will be available shortly to complement their iPad and Blackberry platforms support. SugarCRM will “stick to the knitting” of building deep and rich CRM functionality rather than being distracted into other adjacent market spaces such as marketing automation and call centre management. This makes SugarCRM an attractive partner for vendors of these kinds of customer management applications.

Larry’s vision of “CRM for everyone” is on track and looking good. He and SugarCRM’s team have done a great job of differentiating SugarCRM to date against their well-heeled rivals. As David might have said to Goliath “it’s focus rather than size that matters”. And that sums up the fun and colour of the Tech industry, after all. We wish them well, and will watch Sugar’s progress with interest.

Downturn has unexpected benefits, say 87% of firms

We recently came across an uplifting piece in one of the national papers. I’ve contacted HSBC to get a copy of the full report, but for the interim please enjoy the article as featured….

[Since the article was written Uk Plc has since returned to positive GDP growth. Let’s hope growth is here to stay]

Nearly two-third of businesses expect to grow in the next two years despite the economic slump.

A report by HSBV Commercial Banking highlights what it calls ‘Growth Pioneers’ – individuals who are taking control of the future of business and steering the UK towards economic recovery.

The report looks at the strategies business owners employ to ensure they survive during the downturn.

These include diversifying into new markets with a focus on exports. Firms are also looking at innovative forms of finance, from invoice financing to peer-to-peer lending. There has also been an increase in the number of business owners choosing to work with other firms and organizations, to use their combined strengths for mutual benefit.

According to the report, 87 percent of business owners believed there had been unexpected benefits of the  downturn. Steve Box of HSBC say ‘this report reveals the hidden successes we are seeing on a daily basis – British businesses getting on and growing despite the economic downturn.’

nuOrder have asked for a copy of the report. So far we entirely agree with the ‘extract’ and look forward to hopefully studying the report in detail.

More soon. Roger

How to Grow and Managing a Business for Profits: Seminar

Growing and Managing a Business for Profits – What business owners need to do to boost income and manage a business through tough times

Event Details:

Duration: Tuesday 13th June, 9am to 12.30pm.
Location: Mere Court Hotel Conference Centre, Mere, Knutsford, Cheshire.

Full Fee: £35 including booking fees and VAT
Early Bird Fee: £25 including booking fees and VAT (Sold Out)
Finders Fee: Receive £5 for every person you recommend who then attends the seminar.

Normally £50 + VAT, this personal invite entitles you to attend this joint seminar at a discounted rate.

Seminar Details:

Do you want to recapture your enthusiasm for your business or for the business you work for?  Are you looking for ways to grow your business and instill a sense of pride in your workforce that will result in increased profitability?

Then this is a seminar not to be missed.  Delivered by two experts in their field, Roger Brown and Lisa Gibson, the 3 ½ hour seminar programme will provide you with simple yet highly effective techniques to achieve your business aspirations.

You will come away with top tips on Social Business and the use of CRM and well as understanding the power of having the right person in the right job within any organization.

This seminar programme will benefit anyone who:

  • owns a business and wants help to grow or manage the business more effectively
  • wants tips and advice on managing and inspiring a team
  • want to increase leads and grow a client base

How do I book a place?

  1. Purchase your tickets.
  2. Once your booking has been received and assessed, you will be sent a booking confirmation, which will include the location, directions, and the terms and conditions.

About your speakers:

For information on Roger Brown and his testimonials visit

For information on Lisa Gibson and her testimonuals visit

Attitude = Altitude

Have you ever worked with someone who is skilled, knowledgeable and experienced, yet just never seems to get ahead? Most of us have at some time or another. Alternatively, have you come across someone not quite as talented, but seems to always be moving upwards? The difference between these two types is not their level of skill or knowledge or experience. It comes down to one single thing – attitude.

Whether you are a Client Manager, Team Leader or Support Staff Member, the level of success you will have is dependent up one on thing – your attitude. Your attitude – your approach, point of view or opinion (whichever you prefer) influences the way you look at everything around you – your role, your tasks, your goals, your colleagues, your current situation and your future path. Simply put your attitude is an amalgamation of your behaviours, beliefs and feelings – your experiences, education and personality shape your attitude. Knowing this, it becomes relatively easy to see why some people are successful and others (who you might think should be) are not. It has to do with their attitude.

Think of what defines a “positive” attitude in your business:

  • A general “can do” view of the role, challenges and new tasks
  • Preparedness to go the extra mile to help a client or solve a problem
  • Tenacity in dealing with complex issues
  • Viewing problems as a new and exciting challenge
  • Giving praise where it is due, acknowledging the efforts of colleagues and thanking them publicly
  • Looking for solutions, not problems
  • Ignoring the blame game and just getting down to sorting out the problem
  • Acknowledging and embracing different points of view
  • Recognising that being right at all costs is not the path to co-operation
  • Being even tempered, considered and proactive in the approach to issues

While this is just some of the many characteristics of a positive attitude, you might begin to realise that a colleague who demonstrates these behaviours is an incredibly valuable asset a business. If you have a positive attitude, you are likely to:

  • Be resilient and quickly recover from unpleasant or difficult situations. You will look for lessons in the experience rather than continually looking back on how horrible it was
  • Be optimistic about the future. This optimism will help influence those around you
  • Be confident in your skills and ability. You will recognise areas of development and happily embrace learning
  • Help you manage your emotions and express them in constructive ways
  • Take responsibility for your actions
  • Think outside the square and consider all options, even those that appear unlikely

Basically, your attitude will determine your altitude in business and in life. A positive attitude towards your job and your goals can be the determinant of your success. That is, an optimistic outlook, can do approach and view that anything is possible, will often provide you with the energy and enthusiasm to succeed.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Improve Your Cashflow

In previous newsletters, we have talked about keeping track of jobs in your business, how to improve your cashflow and the importance of managing client expectations. Implementing these suggestions in your business should result in:

  • Clients who understand what you do, when you will deliver it and how much it will cost
  • Jobs that are carefully monitored from start to finish and
  • Prompt and regular invoices being sent to clients

But what do you do if a client still doesn’t pay your invoice? As you transform business you will naturally start to develop systems to monitor your key performance indicators. These monitoring systems will allow you to take snapshots of the performance of your business and help you with your planning and preventative maintenance. One system of monitoring will be checking on financial performance and will include regular review of your outstanding debtors. Unfortunately it is a fact of life that no matter how efficient or competent we are, we will have clients that are slow to pay us, or may not pay us at all. Clients will not pay an invoice for three main reasons:

  • The time effect
  • The cash impact
  • Conscious or subconscious avoidance

The time effect: The Time Effect refers to a delay between the job and your invoice. You can deal with the Time Effect by ensuring invoices are sent out when a job is completed or at the end of each month. Avoid sending out annual invoices because the lapse of time between the job being finished and the invoice arising diminishes the value of the job to the client.

The cash impact: The Cash Impact refers to how the invoice affects the client’s hip pocket. The Cash Impact is felt when the invoice is much higher than the client expected. The Cash Impact can be dealt with by ensuring their expectations are clear at the beginning of the job. On occasion, the client may simply be experiencing a cash squeeze. Time to pay may be appropriate but will depend on your collection policy.

Conscious or subconscious avoidance: Unfortunately, we can sometimes get clients who have no intention of paying. Usually these clients can be identified and rejected at the first meeting. Having a good engagement letter setting out your payment terms will help minimise bad debts but it will only be effective if you remain firm and follow your procedure. That means handing delinquent accounts to a debt collector for further action, including court orders for payment. Occasionally a client will just be forgetful and not remember to pay your invoice. Have a simple debtor management procedure, and regularly remind clients of overdue invoices. If you follow up outstanding invoices regularly, you will avoid the Time Effect and reduce the risk of bad and doubtful debts. It is important to remember that the job isn’t finished when you get the job lodged or back to the client – the job really only finishes when the invoice is paid! Ensure all your team is aware of the importance of following up outstanding invoices promptly.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a business evaluation and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.

Track, Conversion & Measure

To really know the success of your business you should track its health. To do this you need three sets of information. This could be done for a website or for face to face sales. You will need:

  • Your sales figures
  • Your subscriber and customer statistics (from your website or sales forms)
  • Usage details from your website or records

The most important statistics that you should track and measure are your conversion rates. A conversion rate will measure how successfully you are achieving your goals, such as converting potential customers into buyers or converting first-time buyers into repeat customers. There ill more than likely be several conversion rates that you need to focus on however the below formulas will get you started.

1. How many visitors are you converting into customers? Your potential customer to buyer conversion rate is one of the easiest stats to calculate. This is also one of the most powerful for your business. This formula will give you an indication of how effectively you are winning over your potential customers to buy from you.

Calculation : Divide your total number of sales by the number of visitors to your business or website then multiply by 100. For example, if you have 4,000 visitors a month (to your business or website) and 280 of them purchase from you making them a customer, then your conversion rate is 7%.

2. How Many Visitors Are Signing To Be A Subscriber? This may mean that your potential customer/visitor has signed up to be on your database to receive your monthly newsletter or business promotional offers via your website or direct mail. This is the visitor-to-subscriber conversion rate which will tell you how appealing your subscription offer is. You should keep an eye on this figure as you test and trial different promotions or written copy for your sign-up form or sign-up procedure.

Calculation: Divide the total number of subscribers you have by the total number of visitors to your business or site then multiply by 100. For example, if you get 1,500 new visitors to your site in a week and 700 of them subscribe to your free newsletter, then your conversion rate is 46%.

3. How Many Of Your Subscribers Are Becoming Customers? Your subscriber-to-customer conversion rate is a positive test of how effective your newsletter or other piece of sales material is.

Calculation : Divide the total number of people who purchased something from you by the total number of subscribers to your newsletter then multiply by 100. For example, 105 of your 700 subscribers buy something from you, then your subscriber to customer conversion rate is 15%.

4. How Much Revenue Are You Making From Each Visitor? This statistic will show you how much you are earning from your average visitor to your business or website. This is a valuable statistic as the number will help you to determine how much you can spend to obtain a new visitor or potential customer while still earning a profit. This could be calculated over a month, quarter or a year, depending on how soon you want the figures.

Calculation : Divide the total amount of your sales by the total number of visitors to your business or website. For example, if you sold £12,000 worth of inventory this month and you had 35,000 visitors to your business or website, then your sales per visitor is about £0.34.

5. How many people are responding to what you want them to? This statistic is the response percentage of people who read your newsletter or direct mail piece either posted or on the website and go straight to the order form. In web terms this is the click through rate from your email newsletter to your order form. Same principle applies for posting of direct mail.

Calculation: Postage/Direct Mail Divide the total number of people who respond to Newsletter A by the total number of visitors to your business then multiply by 100. For example you have 4,000 potential customers and 420 respond to your mail via the order form, then your Newsletter has a response rate of 10.5%. Internet Divide the total number of clicks on link X by the total number of visitors to the page with link X then multiply by 100. For example, if you have 4,000 visitors to your emailed newsletter and 420 click on the link to your order form, then your newsletter has a click-through rate of 10.5%. All of these calculations are important for you to understand how your potential and existing customers are reacting to your business and sales promotions.

Get in touch and ask us to conduct a FREE Business Evaluation Meeting and find out about our unique way of designing and implementing strategies to generate sustainable business improvement.