Memos and Reports


Memos and Reports are perhaps the most commonly used medium for communicating business information and probably the most abused. The benefits of using memos and reports are that they allow the manager to communicate a lot of detailed information at one time. They also provide documentation of what was communicated that can be helpful in the future. The same message can be communicated to a number of people within a relatively short period of time.

The problem with memos is that they often go unread for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They have no clear objective or purpose.
  • They are too long.
  • They are written in a way that is difficult for the reader to understand.
  • Irrelevant data is included.

Reports are also a problem in many companies. Stacks and stacks of reports are generated and circulated on a regular basis and much of the time no one reads them because:

  • The reports are sent to the wrong people.
  • The reports are prepared in such a way that it is difficult to extrapolate the information needed.
  • Too much information is communicated.
  • The reports have not changed over time to meet the changing need of the managers.

If you are generating memos and reports within your area, you’ll want to make sure that you are not guilty of any of these shortcomings. If your people are using memos and reports generated by other areas that are not meeting their information needs, you should work with your peers and/or higher-ups to make the necessary changes.

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.

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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.

Seeking Specialized Knowledge


For generations, most people never sought specialized knowledge after completing school. What they learned about business, managing, selling, or their profession was acquired on an accidental hit-or-miss basis.

Now that’s changed. Today there are seminars, workshops, short courses, and conferences where you can learn the latest techniques and knowledge about anything you need to know. These sources of specialized knowledge have three advantages over conventional education. They are taught by experts, not be people whose only qualification is a degree. Second, the subject matter relates directly to your needs. Irrelevant information is avoided. And third, you’ll acquire as much useful information from other attendees as you do from the instructors. Specialized learning meetings attract only sharp people eager to make more money and enjoy greater success.

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.

Accounting Information


Accurate cost data are required for the successful implementation of the integrated physical distribution management concept using total cost analysis, for the management and control of physical distribution operations, and to aid in setting selling prices and in justifying price differentials.

As the cost of physical distribution increases, the need for accurate accounting for the costs becomes increasingly critical. Since the physical distribution function is relatively more energy intensive and labor intensive than other areas of the firm, its ratio of costs to total company costs has been steadily increasing. Efficient and effective distribution policies cannot be determined until the costs related to separate functional areas and their interaction are made available to distribution decision makers.

The quality of the accounting data will influence management’s ability to exploit new markets, take advantage of innovative transportation systems, make changes in packaging, choose between common carriers and private trucking, increase deliveries or increase inventories, and determine to what extent the order-processing system should be automated.

The accounting system must be capable of providing information to answer the following questions:

a)        What are the impacts of physical distribution costs on contribution by product, by territory, by customer, and by salesperson?

b)        What are the costs associated with providing additional levels of customer service? What trade-offs are necessary and what are the incremental benefits or losses?

c)        What is the optimal amount of inventory? How sensitive is the inventory level to changes in warehousing patterns or to changes in customer service levels? How much does it cost to hold inventory?

d)        What mix of transportation modes and carriers should be used?

e)        How many field warehouses should be used and where should they be located?

f)          How many production set-ups are required? Which plants will be used to produce each product?

g)        To what extent should the order-processing system be automated?

To answer these and other questions requires knowledge of the costs and revenues that will change if the physical distribution system changes. That is, determination of a product’s contribution should be based on how corporate revenues, expenses, and hence profitability would change if the product line were dropped. Any costs or revenues that are unaffected by the decision are irrelevant to the problem. For example, a relevant cost woul be public warehouse handling charges associated with a product’s sales; a non-relevant cost would be the overhead costs associated with the firm’s private trucking fleet.

Implementation of this approach to deceision making is severely hampered by the lack of availability of the right accounting data or the inability to use the data when they are available. The best and most sophisticated models are only as good as the accounting input, and a number of recent studies attest to the gross inadequacies of distribution cost data.

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, Lectures, Line of Sight

The Laws of Preference


Scientific analysis always uses theories and models as simplified pictures of reality. Irrelevant details are stripped away to permit us to concentrate upon essentials. The economist’s simplified picture or theory of preference is based upon two axioms:

  1. Axiom of Comparison: Any two distinct baskets A and B of commodities can be compared in preference by the individual. Each such comparison must lead to one of three following results: a) Basket A is preferred to basket B, or b) B is preferred to A, or c) A and B are indifferent.
  2. Axiom of Transtivity: Consider any three baskets A, B, and C. If A is preferred to B, and B is preferred to C, then A must be preferred to C. similarly, if A is indifferent to B, and B to C, then A is indifferent to C.

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

Using Judgmental Forecasts


Judgmental forecasts are based on subjective views – often the options of experts in the field. Suppose a company is about to market an entirely a new product, or the board is looking at plans for 25 years in the future. They won’t have any relevant historical data for a quantative forecast. Sometimes there is a complete absence of data, and at other times the data is unreliable or irrelevant to the future.

 Quantative forecasts are always more reliable, but when you don’t have the necessary data, you have to use a judgmental method. There are five widely used methods:

  • Personal insight. This uses a single person who is familiar with the situation to produce a forecast based on his or her own judgment. This is the most widely used forecasting method – but is unreliable and often gives very bad results.
  • Panel consensus. This collects together a group of experts to make a forecast. If there is no secrecy and the panel talk freely and openly, you can find a genuine consensus. On the other hand, there may be difficulties in combining the views of different people.
  • Market surveys. Sometimes even groups of experts don’t have enough knowledge to give a reasonable forecast about, for example, the launch of a new product. Then market surveys collect data from a sample of potential customers, analyze their views and make inferences about the population at large.
  • Historical analogy. If you are introducing a new product, you might have a similar product that you launched recently, and assume that demand for the new product will follow the same pattern. If a publisher is selling a new book, it can forecast the likely demand from the actual demand for a similar book it published earlier.
  • Delphi method. For this you contact a number of experts by post and give each a questionnaire to complete. Then you analyze the replies from the questionnaires and send summaries back to the experts. You ask them if they would like to reconsider their original replay in the light of summarized replies from others. This is repeated several times – usually between three and six – until the range of options is narrow enough to help with decisions.

 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

Nontalent vs. Weakness


As you might expect, great managers take a welcomingly pragmatic view of our innate imperfection. They begin with an important distinction between weaknesses and nontalents. A nontalent is a mental wasteland. It is a behavior that always seems to be a struggle. It is a thrill that is never felt. It is an insight recurrently missed. In isolation, nontalents are harmless. You might have a nontalent for remembering names, being empathetic, or thinking strategically. Who cares? You have many more nontalents than you do talents, but most of them are irrelevant. You should ignore them.

 However, a nontalent can mutate into a weakness. A nontalent becomes a weakness when you find yourself in a role where success depends on your excelling in an area that is a nontalent. If you are a  server in a restaurant, your nontalent for remembering names becomes a weakness because regulars want you to recognize them. If you are a salesperson, your nontalent for empathey becomes a weakness because your prospects need to feel understood. If you are an executive, your nontalent for strategic thinking becomes a weakness because your company needs to know what traps or opportunities lie hidden over the horizon. You would be wise not to ignore your weaknesses.

 Great managers don’t. as soon as they realize that a weakness is causing the poor performance, they switch their approach. They know that there are only three possible routes to helping the person succeed. Devise a support system. Find a complementary partner. Or find an alternative role.  Great managers quickly bear down, weigh these options, and choose the best route.

 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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