Business Goals


Business goals or objectives convert the organization’s mission into tangible actions and results that are to be achieved, often within a specific time frame. Goals or objectives divide into three major categories: production, financial, and marketing. Production goals or objectives apply to the use of manufacturing and service capacity and to product and service quality. Financial goals or objectives focus on return on investment, return on sales, profit, cash flow, and shareholder wealth. Marketing goals or objectives emphasize marketing share, marketing productivity, sales volume, profit, customer satisfaction, and customer value creation. When production, financial, and marketing goals or objectives are combined, they represent a  composite picture of organizational purpose within a specific time frame, accordingly, they must complement one another.

Goal and objective setting should be problem-centered and future-oriented. Because goals or objectives represent statements of what the organizations wishes to achieve in a specific time frame, they implicitly rise from an understanding of the current situation. Therefore, managers need an appraisal of operations or a situation analysis to determine reasons for the gap between what was or is expected and what has happened or will happen. If performance has met expectations, the question arises as to future directions. If performance has not met expectations, managers must diagnose the reasons for this difference and enact a remedial program.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Designing Strategies


Corporate strategy shows how a complex organization achieves its mission, while the business strategy shows how each business within the corporation contributes to the corporate strategy. These strategies typically include decisions about shared values and beliefs; industries to work in; amount of diversification; businesses to start, acquire, close or sell; type of products to make; organizational structure; relations with customers, suppliers, shareholders and other stakeholders; geographical locations, and targets for long-term profitability, productivity, market share, etc.

Consider three factors while designing strategies:

  1. The mission, which gives the overall aims and context for other decisions.
  2. The business environment, which includes all factors that affect an organization but which it cannot control, such as:
    1. Customers—their expectations and attitudes;
    2. Market—size, location, and stability;
    3. Competitors—the number, ease of entry to the market, their strengths;
    4. Technology—currently available and likely developments;
    5. Shareholders—their objectives, returns on investment, profit levels;
    6. Other stakeholders—their objectives and amount of support;
    7. Legal restraints—trade restrictions, liability and employment laws;
    8. Political, economic and social conditions—including stability, rate of growth, inflation, etc.

The business environment is similar for all competing organizations, so to be successful you need a distinctive competence.

  1. The distinctive competence, which includes the factors that set your organization apart from the competitors. If you can design new products very quickly, innovation is a part of your distinctive competence. A distinctive competence comes from your organization’s assets, which include:
    1. Customers—their demands, loyalty;
    2. Employees—skills, expertise, loyalty;
    3. Finances—capital, debt, cash flow;
    4. Products—quality, reputation, innovations;
    5. Facilities—capacity, age, value;
    6. Technology—currently used, planned;
    7. Suppliers—reliability, service;
    8. Marketing—experience, reputation;
    9. Resources—patents, ownership.

The strategic plans show how the organization can achieve the mission.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Designing Strategies


Corporate strategy shows how a complex organization achieves its mission, while the business strategy shows how each business within the corporation contributes to the corporate strategy. These strategies typically include decisions about shared values and beliefs; industries to work in; amount of diversification; businesses to start, acquire, close or sell; type of products to make; organizational structure; relations with customers, suppliers, shareholders and other stakeholders; geographical locations, and targets for long-term profitability, productivity, market share, etc.

Consider three factors while designing strategies:

  1. The mission, which gives the overall aims and context for other decisions.
  2. The business environment, which includes all factors that affect an organization but which it cannot control, such as:
    1. Customers—their expectations and attitudes;
    2. Market—size, location, and stability;
    3. Competitors—the number, ease of entry to the market, their strengths;
    4. Technology—currently available and likely developments;
    5. Shareholders—their objectives, returns on investment, profit levels;
    6. Other stakeholders—their objectives and amount of support;
    7. Legal restraints—trade restrictions, liability and employment laws;
    8. Political, economic and social conditions—including stability, rate of growth, inflation, etc.

The business environment is similar for all competing organizations, so to be successful you need a distinctive competence.

  1. The distinctive competence, which includes the factors that set your organization apart from the competitors. If you can design new products very quickly, innovation is a part of your distinctive competence. A distinctive competence comes from your organization’s assets, which include:
    1. Customers—their demands, loyalty;
    2. Employees—skills, expertise, loyalty;
    3. Finances—capital, debt, cash flow;
    4. Products—quality, reputation, innovations;
    5. Facilities—capacity, age, value;
    6. Technology—currently used, planned;
    7. Suppliers—reliability, service;
    8. Marketing—experience, reputation;
    9. Resources—patents, ownership.

The strategic plans show how the organization can achieve the mission.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Managing Inventory


Inventory is an area where financial managers can fine-tune the firm’s cash-flow. Inventory sitting on the shelf represents capital that is tied up without earning interest. Furthermore, the firm incurs expenses for shortage and handling, insurance, and taxes. And there is always a risk that the inventory will become obsolete before it can be converted into finished goods and sold.

The firm’s goal is to maintain enough inventory to fill orders in a timely fashion at the lowest cost. To achieve this goal, the financial manager tries to determine the economic order quantity or quantity of raw materials that, when ordered regularly, results in the lowest ordering and storage costs. The problem is complicated by the fact that minimizing ordering costs tends  to increase storage costs and vice versa. The best way to cut ordering costs is to place one big order for parts and materials once a year, while the best way to cut storage costs is to order small amounts of inventory frequently. The challenge facing the financial manager is to find a compromise that minimizes total costs.

That is why many businesses today are turning to just-in-time inventory control. Businesses—and even divisions within companies—link up through computers with their customers and suppliers, thereby automatically ordering only as much as is necessary for a given period of time.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Product Development Process


The product development process involves analysis of the marketplace, the buyer, the company’s capabilities, and the economic potential of new product ideas. This process may be both expensive and time consuming. To accelerate the process, many companies create multidisciplinary teams so that manufacturing and marketing plans can be developed in tandem while the product is being designed.

  1. Generation and Screening of Ideas: The first step is to come up with ideas that will satisfy unmet needs. A producer may get new product ideas from its own employees or from external consultants, it may simply adapt a competitor’s idea, or it may buy the rights to someone else’s invention. Customers are often the best source of new product ideas.
  2. Business Analysis: A product idea that survives the screening stage is subjected to a business analysis. At this point the question is: Can the company make enough money on the product to justify the investment? To answer this question, companies forecast the probable sales of the product, assuming various pricing strategies. In addition, they estimate the costs associated with various levels of production. Given these projections, the company calculates the potential cash flow and return on investment that will be achieved if the product is introduced.
  3. Prototype Development: The next step is generally to create and test a few samples, or prototypes, of the product, including its packaging. During this stage, the various elements of the marketing mix are put together. In addition, the company evaluates the feasibility of large-scale production and specifies the resources required to bring the product to market.
  4. Product Testing: During the product testing stage, a small group of consumers actually use the product, often in comparison tests with existing products. If the results are good, the next step is test marketing, introducing the product in selected areas of the country and monitoring consumer reactions. Test marketing makes the most sense in cases where the cost of marketing a product far exceeds the cost of developing it.
  5. Commercialization: The final stage of development is commercialization, the large-scale production and distribution of those products that have survived the testing process. This phase requires the coordination of many activities—manufacturing, packaging, distribution, pricing and promotion. A classic mistake is letting marketing get out of phase with production so that the consumer is primed to buy the product before the company can supply it in adequate quantity. A mistake of this sort can be costly, because competitors may be able to jump in quickly. Many companies roll out their new products generally, going from one geographic area to the next. This enables them to spread the costs of launching the product over a longer period and to refine their strategy as the rollout proceeds.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Managerial Accounting


Managerial accounting refers to the internal use of accounting statements by managers in planning and directing the organization’s activities. Perhaps management’s greatest single concern is cash flow, the movement of money through an organization over a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. Obviously, for any business to succeed, it needs to generate enough cash to pay its bills as they fall due. However, it is not at all unusual for highly successful and rapidly growing companies to struggle to make payments to employees, suppliers, and lenders because of an adequate cash flow. One common reason for a so-called “cash crunch” or short fall is poor managerial planning.

Managerial accounting is the backbone of an organization’s budget, an internal financial plan that forecasts expenses and income over a set period of time. It is not unusual for an organization to prepare separate daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly budgets. Think of a budget as a financial map, showing how the company expects to move from Point A to Point B over a specific period of time. While most companies prepare master budgets for the entire firm, many also prepare budgets for smaller segments of the organization such as divisions, departments, product lines, or projects. “Top-down” master budgets begin at the top and filter down to the individual department level, while “bottom-up” budgets start at the departments or project level and are combined at the chief executive’s office. Generally, the larger and more rapidly growing an organization, the greater will be the likelihood that it will build its master budget from the ground up.

Regardless of focus, the major value of a budget lies in its breakdown of cash inflows and outflows. Expected operating expenses (cash outflows such as wages, materials costs, and taxes) and operating revenues (cash inflows in the form of payments from customers and stock sales) over a set period of time are carefully forecast and subsequently compared with actual results. Deviations between the two serve as a “trip wire” or “feedback loop” to launch more detailed financial analysis in an effort to pinpoint trouble spots and opportunities.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Role of Diversification


Corporate diversification is everywhere. Virtually all of the Fortune 1,000 (the largest 1,000 corporations in the US) are diversified, many of them to a great extent. Some corporations consist of dozen—even hundreds—of different businesses. Besides such corporate giants, many smaller firms, some with only a handful of employees, also diversify.

What is the strategic role of diversification? Popular answers to this question have changed dramatically over the last several decades. During the 1960s, diversification fueled tremendous corporate growth as corporations bought up dozens of businesses, regardless of the good or service sold. Managers based this diversification on unrelated businesses on the assumption that good managers could manage any business, allowing the formation of huge conglomerates of completely unrelated businesses. In the 1970s, managers began to emphasize diversification based on balancing cash flow between businesses. Corporate managers attempted to diversify so that the resulting portfolio would offer a balance between businesses that produced excess cash flows and those that needed additional cash flows beyond what they could produce themselves. The 1980s brought a broad-based effort to restructure corporations, as managers stripped out unrelated businesses and focused on a narrower range of operations. Restructuring usually also involved downsizing, and the largest corporations shrank in relation to the rest of the economy. In the 1990s, corporations have once again taken an interest in using diversification to grow. But unlike the unrelated diversification that took place in the 1960s, the trend in the 1990s is to diversify into related businesses, or at least into businesses in which the strengths of a popular managerial team fit the needs of the new business being added to the corporation.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

The Master Plan


Many people assume that a formal business plan is only for big time businesses. Wrong. A business plan is for anyone who wants to give their enterprise their best possible shot. It is where you detail out all the operational, marketing, and money matters of your business. It is, in essence, a road map. With it, you will better be able to reach your goal. Without it, you run the risk of spending precious time and money traveling in circles or unwittingly wandering into danger zones.

In response to the question, what a business plan is, follow the following”

  • A business plan is written by the home-based business owner with outside help as needed.
  • It is accurate and concise as a result of careful study.
  • It explains how the business will function in the marketplace.
  • It clearly depicts its operational characteristics.
  • It details how it will be financed.
  • It outlines how it will be managed.
  • It is the management and financial “blueprint” for startup and profitable operation.
  • It serves as a prospectus for potential investors and lenders.

A study for “why” of creating it, note:

  • The process of putting the business plan together, including the thought that you put in before writing it, forces you to take the objective, critical, unemotional look at your entire business proposal.
  • The finished written plan is an operational tool, which, when properly used, will help you manage your business and work toward its success.
  • The complete business plan is a means for communicating your ideas to others and provides the basis for financing your business.

While you are to be the author of the document, you shouldn’t hesitate to get professional help when it comes to areas outside your ken, such as accounting, insurance, capital requirements, operational forecasting, and tax and legal requirements. Finally, in response to the question, “When should Business Plan be used?” note:

  • To make crucial startup decisions
  • To reassure lenders and backers
  • To measure operational progress
  • To test planning assumptions
  • As a basis for adjusting forecasts
  • To anticipate ongoing capital and cash requirements
  • As the benchmark for good operational management

If you have been doing your research and homework all along, you probably have most of the raw material for the business plan, so it won’t be such an awesome task.

Business plans differ greatly, depending on the nature and scope of the enterprise. Some elements a person in a retail sales business would need in his or her business plan may be totally irrelevant for your service business. Similarly, business plans vary in length—from five or six pages or a virtual booklet; some are written in an engaging narrative style while others take another approach—just the facts. However, while business plans may differ in style, tone, length, and components, there is some common ground. Below is a list of items that should be in almost every business plan:

  • A summary of the nature of your business and its principal activity with a detailed description of the product(s) or service(s) you will offer.
  • A statement as to the form your business will take (sole proprietorship, partnership, incorporation) and how it will be managed and operated (with information on employees or subcontractors if applicable).
  • A discussion of any extra-ordinary (and potentially problematic) matters revolving around such things as space requirements, production processes, and operating procedures.
  • A discussion of major trends in your trade or profession.
  • A discussion of your competition and the basis on which you will compete.
  • A description of your target market that might include a profile of a typical customer or client.
  • A discussion of your plans for pricing, sales terms, and distribution.
  • A discussion of how you intend to advertise and promote your products or services.
  • A detailed statement of startup and operating costs for at least the first year.
  • A discussion of how your business will be financed.
  • Profit and loss and cash flow statements for at least the first year of business.

If this list has made a business plan seem all the more scary and arduous a task, don’t panic. There are books on the market that will guide you through the process.

A clean attractive business plan is a sine qua non if you will be applying for a loan or looking for investors. But even if the document is for your eyes only, you owe it to yourself to produce a professional-looking document. Since it is your road map, the neater it is the better it will serve you when you refer to it at various stages of your entrepreneurial journey.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Premium for Speed


A factor that is driving the trend towards automating the sales department is the extent to which speed has become a strategic advantage in the selling process. Once, it was acceptable for salespeople to promise to get back to customers with answers to questions. Increasingly, those salespeople are finding that by the time they get back to their customers with the necessary information, the sales opportunity has evaporated. The ability to respond to customers quickly is crucial to success, and the tolerances are narrower than ever before.

Similarly, the ability to compress the sales order cycle is becoming an extremely significant factor in a competitive situation. Your customers, who are under the same competitive pressures as you, are placing more and more emphasis on increased cash flow and reduced inventories. Reducing your sales order cycle from four days to two can make an important and measurable difference, certainly enough of a difference to determine whether or not you get the order.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, and my Lectures.

Accrual Accounting and Cashflow


Before the end of World War 1 most managers kept track of cash out and cash in. many senior citizen owner-managers still do today. There is an inherent problem in keeping the records that way, however, if the business offers and receives much credit. Doing business on credit displaces the time of the exchange of cash from the exchange of goods and services. Sometimes very little cash comes in during a particular month and very much cash comes in during other months. The same is true of cash out.

Keeping in track of what you pay or get paid for credit transactions causes the monthly reports describing the operations to fluctuate from month to month even though the goods and services flowing in and out of the business may be very much the same. About 1920 the accounting profession began placing emphasis on the accrual method of accounting to overcome this difficulty.

The accrual method portrays the smoothed-out profit as if all the transactions had been for cash and as if the business had purchased only exactly what was needed to make the sale. It is not an accurate portrayal of everything going on in the business, but it is a good approximation of the net effect of those things that affect profit. The problem is that so much emphasis has been placed on the accrual method income statement and balance sheet that the importance of cash has been regulated to virtual obscurity.

Even this result is satisfactory when the reports are describing large businesses with access to external financing through the stock market, commercial paper, and bank loans at the prime interest rate. But companies that do not have access to these external sources of financing have a different problem. For them, the flow of cash through the business means life or death, whether the accrual based profit is great or terrible. When new or small businesses need cash they must turn to the bank, the banker will look to the personal savings and assets of the owner-manager for collateral.

Accountants have not forgotten nor overlooked the importance of cash. They recognize the need for cash in sufficient quantity to keep the business operating. For their purposes, however, they often infer the cash available to the business from the income statements and describe future cash availability with the balance sheets. They, and others, frequently describe it as: cash flow equals net profit after taxes plus depreciation and other noncash expenses, such as amortization.

This statement is incorrect except under some very stringent preconditions that rarely exist in practice for a small business. This statement is an approximation that is valid for large and stable businesses in which changes from year to year are small and the statements from which the cash flow is inferred are annual reports. For a small and new business looking at monthly financial reports this approximation is inadequate. In a small, growing business the net cash flow to the firm’s bank account does not equal the net profit plus depreciation. Profit is not cash nor is it cash flow.

Although this pronouncement may be unconventional, entrepreneurs are realistic. Successful entrepreneurs ask how it really works and then get on with building their business. In the conventional approach the analysts, having inferred cash flow from profit, depreciation, and amortization, stop there, allowing their readers to assume that the resulting cash is in the bank wiating to be spent.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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