3 Ideas From Business Process Management Your Lean Startup Should Implement

Business Process Management (BPM) is a broad discipline which, in essence, aims to improve corporate performance by discovering, modeling, analyzing, measuring, improving, optimizing and automating the business’s processes. Basically, we use a systematic approach to find out what works for our business, then endeavor to efficiently repeat this success.

Unfortunately, many popular current startup approaches abhor process, which is seen as overly bureaucratic and wasteful, and focus on quick and informal (though educated) decisions. The truth is, process takes time to research, design, implement and maintain, and above all, be repeatable — which, according to the book Repeatability by strategists from Bain & Co., is one of the most important traits of a business process. Entrepreneurs can learn from the BPM-related concepts here to begin to achieve that repeatability.

1. Design

The design phase includes determining what steps you should take to define your startup’s business processes, such as how to provide a service more cost-efficiently but still effectively, or how to hire new employees or contractors. These steps might include identifying the problem, researching solutions and gathering resources in order to put the entire system together. This is an important, formal phase many startups skip, only to end up with a business process that doesn’t quite meet their needs.

2. Create

This step, often labeled the Implementation or Execution phase, is the stage we all want to jump to because it entails actually completing the steps of the process. For example, if you’re selling shirts, you want to start printing and selling them to your customers. This step can be expensive, though, so do not start until you have completed the Design phase. Pay attention to the steps you are taking and document everything, because you (or someone else) will have to follow these steps later. Included in your documentation should be answers to question such as: What are the challenges you faced while executing? and How were they resolved?

3. Improve

After you’ve designed and implemented your process, you’ll want to ensure its repeatability by monitoring, optimizing and/or re-engineering the steps as needed. The goal is to continue improving by noting how the decisions we made while designing and creating have affected our service and product outputs using empirical observations, not just hunches.

This is a lot to take in, since BPM is usually associated with more established companies. But successful startups also need repeatable and profitable processes, and these ideas can help you begin to create your business plans and “recipes” while documenting and updating as you go along. Eventually you can use this experience to better your entire system by instituting structure and repeatability without expensive BPM software and formal processes. You can also improve your business process by incorporating ours — contact us to find out more.

4 Excellent Business Plan Software Packages to Help Grow your Startup

We previously discussed why you should write a business plan for your startup. It helps you organize your thoughts, turn them into a professional document with which you can communicate with potential employees, partners and investors, then keep your business on track as it evolves and grows.

These days, creating a simple business plan is fairly easy, with the wide availability of free templates on the web. But it can quickly get complicated as you delve into the details, and that’s where business plan software comes in. It can get you started in the right direction by answering such frequently asked questions as: What is an executive summary? What goes into a marketing plan? How should I best present my financial forecasts?

When you’re ready to take the next step with your business plan, here are four excellent software packages to consider.

LivePlan

Palo Alto has a long history of making business plan software (I’ve used them myself for nearly two decades), and LivePlan is the most commonly used software available. Its step-by-step process includes fill-in-the-blank planning, real-life examples and tutorials to produce a detailed business plan in no time. It can even gather your financials and sync with QuickBooks Online (an option I’m still learning about). There is no free version, but you can pay monthly until you have generated the reports you need, and you can request a refund if not satisfied.

Enloop

Enloop is a solid product that will automatically generate text, financial forecasts and reports once you enter your basic business information. It displays a real-time score that goes up as your plan improves, and compares your forecasts and financial ratios with peers in your industry, so you get quantitative feedback on how you are progressing. The free option doesn’t include all of these bells and whistles, but does provide a basic plan. Like LivePlan, you can pay on a monthly basis and cancel anytime.

StratPad

StratPad is a cloud-based product that provides basic plan-building services and integration with QuickBooks Online. For startups and students, they offer a free product; otherwise, a monthly fee provides access to both StratPad Cloud and StratPad Connect, a community of like-minded professionals, coaches and mentors. It also connects you directly to banks and other lending institutions to help you get any funding you may need. As with the others, you can cancel anytime and get a refund if not satisfied.

BusinessPlanTemplate.com

This site a template library, rather than software, but it offers hundreds of templates for specific types of businesses. For entrepreneurs on a tight budget, it’s a good starting point to generate a free plan for any category of company. As you embark on writing your business plan, try one or more of these options and see which one best matches your process and personality. I know I always see things more clearly after going through this endeavor, and I bet you will, too. Let us know how it’s going for you by reaching out to our startup community, where you’ll connect with fellow entrepreneurs. Join us!

3 Ways to Keep Your Entrepreneurial Motivation Going When Things get Rough

According to Wikipedia, motivation is “the reason for people’s actions, desires, and needs.” As entrepreneurs, we all have different reasons for starting a business, and those reasons may be all that stand between us giving up or giving it one more day.

Therefore, maintaining our motivation is key. Here are three ways I’ve found that help me keep going, even on the darkest days.

1. Connect your core values and beliefs with your business success.

One of my core values is helping my community. Running a successful startup that helps others fulfill their dreams relates directly to that core value. So when the going gets tough, I reflect on this desire to help others, then on all the ways I’ve achieved this so far via my work. The result is that I’m re-energized.

Think about what your core values and beliefs are – be honest with yourself, list those values, then figure out how succeeding in your business helps you reinforce those values. These unchanging beliefs will carry you through the dark days…and you will see a few!

2. Take a break.

Starting and running a business can be exhausting. Often, fatigue can cause us to lose motivation – this is normal and happens to every entrepreneur. But not every entrepreneur is able to slow down when so many things need to be done. I’ve learned that when I start to feel my motivation slipping away, I force myself to take a break. My business can do without me for 30 minutes or an hour while I meditate, talk with a good friend, read a book, even go out for lunch instead of eating at my desk – anything that replenishes me. Those few minutes away can result in hours, even days, of renewed motivation.

3. Lean on others.

When my motivation is waning, I lean on a close team member. If you’re a one-person shop, find an accountability partner – someone supportive who will hold you accountable to your commitments and goals. There are even groups that can match you with a partner. Either way, it’s important to know yourself well enough reach out proactively, before things are at their worst.

If I’ve thought about my core values, taken a break, and am still feeling like quitting it all, I reach out to my accountability partner to discuss why I might be feeling that way, and what I can do to get motivated again. This requires honesty and self-awareness, which can be difficult at times, but is worth it to keep your business on track.

So next time you’re feeling burnt out, try these techniques. Keep challenging yourself. Keep working toward the next change. If you don’t have something in your repertoire, develop it. We’re here to help. We believe in the growth mindset for entrepreneurs, and we’re building a startup community to help you connect to other entrepreneurs and be more successful. Join us!

3 Chrome Plugins that Really Help Entrepreneur Productivity

As an entrepreneur, you’re being pulled in a hundred different directions every day. With so many responsibilities, effectively managing your time to be your most productive can be difficult. I also find that tasks that are interesting to me are done more quickly than those I’d rather not do.

This procrastination causes “non-urgent” chores to eventually become “emergencies”.  Here are three Chrome plugins, with links, that I’ve found can helps with my productivity.

RescueTime
RescueTime monitors your usage of both websites and applications, then categorizes that usage to determine your productivity score. It also provides detailed reports of your activity, so you can better identify where and how you’re spending your time. You can then set productivity goals, like “I will spend less than 15 minutes today on Facebook,” and compete with yourself to meet those goals and increase your productivity score. This extension comes in premium and free versions.

Stayfocusd
Low on impulse control after hours of work, then StayFocusd is the plugin for you. It allows you to better manage the time you spend online by blocking, for a few minutes or a few hours, specific sites or pages you select. You can set browsing time quotas for social media, then once you have met your quota, you’re blocked from visiting those sites for the rest of the day. The “nuclear” option blocks all sites for a specified amount of time. You can use it as your own personal “Do Not Disturb” sign. This plugin has changed the way we work and has been the most helpful in improving our productivity.

Webtime Tracker
Rather than block your access to sites, Webtime Tracker shows you, right in your browser, how much time you’ve spent on a site. And since you probably use data dashboards to guide decisions for your business, this plugin provides a similar experience by giving you the data to make decisions about your online activity. Webtime Tracker’s extensive reporting tools help you discover your browsing habits using scannable charts and graphs. The data is available daily, as well as aggregated over time.

Regardless of which productivity tool you choose, the first step is recognizing the importance of time management, focus, and efficiency in the daily operations of your company. Perhaps one or more of these plugins will help you, and we would like to help you as well. If you have any questions, please contact us and learn how we can assist you in becoming a more productive entrepreneur.