Monday, January 16, 2023

Friday, October 14, 2022

5 Tips for your 2023 Business Plan - Written By Jeff Newkirk


The world has been adjusting to the new normal since the pandemic. We have pivoted. Businesses throughout the world are bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic and governmental shutdowns.

As a business owner, how can you best prepare for life beyond a pandemic? The answer is simple, but not necessarily easy to implement. Your answer: Develop a business plan. 

Follow these five steps to develop a plan that will help your business to continue moving forward.

Step 1: Know Your Current State

The first step to any good business plan is to fully comprehend your current situation. This means to know your company’s financial performance, sales success (or lack thereof), resource needs, and systems and processes today. Know where you stand currently.

Using a SWOT analysis will help you evaluate all components. Don’t complete this on your own. You’ll need help, especially from those in the trenches.

Step 2: Develop One Year and Five-Year Goals

Developing one year and five-year goals will set the tone for the rest of your business plan. Take time and analyze where your business is now, and then decide where you want to see your business in the long-term. In other words, what is your vision? It is where you want your business to go in terms of financial growth. In terms of Sales. In terms of employees and other critical resources. Do you currently have the operational capacities and efficiencies to help you achieve your vision?

It is always recommended that your goals be quantitative. Tracking and measuring progress are the only ways to determine where you are on your journey to meet your vision. Make sure you include scorecards so you can easily track and report out successes.

Step 3: Strategy Development

You now know where you want to see the business in one year and five-years. But how will you get there? Within each major component of the business, address the needs. You need to know the resources requirements, the sales and marketing efforts that will be needed, and the systems and processes to build efficiencies that will enhance growth and improved financial performance. And, speaking of financial performance, will it cost anything to implement your plan?  Make sure you know what that cost is, and that there is a return on your investment.

Step 4: Communicate

People can’t read minds. Once you have developed goals and have strategies lined up to help you achieve, then let people know. Your team needs to be motivated and inspired to achieve. Your plan will not be fulfilled by happenstance. Rather, you need to communicate all components of your plan and allow for feedback. By allowing your team to provide feedback, you may learn of knew and better ways to achieve. Point is, you need buy in. You need people on your team who will produce. Communication will allow you to improve production and achieve your goals and vision. 

Step 5: Be Agile

Having a plan in place is important. In fact, it is critical to the long-term success of your business. But, like any good plan, it may need some adjusting along the way. That means you need to be flexible. Market conditions may change. Supplier costs may increase. New competitors may enter the market. What will you do? Adjust. Make sure you have the ability, through your team, to changes things as necessary. This will help you stay ahead and continuously move your business forward.


Jeff Newkirk

Blanton Advisors

Associate CFO, Executive Coach

Friday, September 16, 2022

Do You Meet the 3 Requirements for People Skills? By Jeff Newkirk


Did you know that September is International People Skills Month? Having people skills can make the difference between a solid career trajectory versus not so much. You may be curious as to what, exactly, denotes people skills. According to people skills can be defined as a set of skills enabling a person to get along with others, to communicate ideas effectively, and to achieve personal or business goals.  Merriam-Webster defines people skills as the ability to work with or talk to other people in an effective or friendly way.

Interesting that Merriam-Webster implies that goals are achieved based on using the term “effective” in their definition.  In both definitions there are three components that are critical: (1) you play nice with others; (2) you communicate well (which I assume is both written and verbal); and (3) you get stuff done.

Let’s dissect each to be sure we are following this month’s theme.  First, playing nice with others seems simple and straightforward. And, I would argue, it is simple if everyone in your environment is like you.  In other words, if you work with people just like you and surround yourself with people just like you in your personal life, chances are you will experience a friendly environment. However, what about working with someone who you find challenging?  Are you still willing to play nice?  Throw in a differentiating variable and there may be conflict.

Differences can create challenge, and that’s when the rubber meets the road. When this occurs, we have a choice to make. Do we put our head in the proverbial sand and wait for things to pass, or do we hold our head high and address the differences facing us? It is sometimes difficult to “play nice” and address differences at hand, right? Some would say yes, some no.  I believe one can always address differences and issues with grace and professionalism. That’s a novel approach these days, but it can be done.

The second item in our definition of people skills is communication.  Communication is more than a two-way street. Communication is verbal and non-verbal. Communication is good and bad. Communication is one-on-one, as well as to a large audience.  Get the point?  Here’s the key… whether you are communicating to a group, or individual, verbally or in an email, it is the quality of the communication that determine the communication’s effectiveness. And, quality will be based on the receptivity of the audience to which the communication is directed.  To effectively communicate one must know the audience. Knowing the audience will dictate the best method of communication (verbal or non-verbal), as well as the construction of word choice.

For example, I had an awesome boss early in my career.  He was one who people greatly admired. I met with him weekly to provide updates and status reports.  To me, that meant providing detailed accomplishments and thoroughly written plans.  To him, it meant having a conversation and reviewing the week verbally. I did not realize his true opinion of my weekly update until much later, but the truth was that he hated my detailed reports.  Did that make me a poor employee?  Was I incompetent? Yes and no.  I was not incompetent, but I was not the greatest employee. Why? Because I was not communicating to my audience. Fortunately for me, he was a patient mentor.  He provided me with some valuable lessons on communication.

The third and final component of our people skills definition is “get stuff done.” So, at this point we play nice, we communicate well, and now we need to achieve results.  I think this is the true test of one’s people skills.  Achieving results is not always easy, even when we play nice and have excellent communication skills. I would suggest that one will not achieve results without playing nice and communicating well.  If you cannot get along with others and/or you do not know how best to communicate, chances are exceptionally good that you will not experience success.

Let’s tie this all together. Can one be a good leader without people skills?  In other words, can one be a good leader without either communicating well, playing nice or achieving? I would say no.  John Maxwell, leadership guru, defines leadership as the ability to influence others. This makes perfect sense. One cannot be a good leader if they are void of people skills, because their ability to influence would be nonexistent.  You cannot influence others unless you have good people skills. And, you do not have good people skills unless you play nice, communicate well, and get stuff done.

The next time you are in a difficult situation, think about your own people skills. Challenge yourself to meet all three components of the people skills definition.  Easy to say, hard to do, but worth the effort!

Written by:

Jeff Newkirk - Blanton Advisors Associate CFO, Executive Coach

Friday, August 26, 2022

5 Ways To Boost Remote Work Efficiency - By Jeff Newkirk


The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed millions of employees to work from home. It’s now become the norm, and many businesses are still adjusting to the remote work life and learning what does and does not work. When you’re running your business remotely, there are some challenges we’ve never had to deal with. Connecting with customers and employees through the screen isn’t easy. However, making your business profitable through remote work CAN work. Without intentional efforts from workers and management, remote work—can leave staff feeling distracted, isolated, unmotivated, and stressed.

Here are 5 Ways To Boost Remote Work Efficiency. 

  1. Look for specific areas where you can do better. 

Every business can be better…all the time. Working from home changes the culture of thinking proactively, so you have to ask yourself some questions. “Do we have all the resources we need to get the job done”, “how can we improve our communication through a screen and using our phone”, “what limits employees and customers by working remotely and what can we do to address these issues?” Don’t let these issues continue without taking action. Address any concerns before they grow into roadblocks.

Significant areas of concern in remote workplaces and where employees get most frustrated are technology, an area where productivity is lost. For example, many employees say their aging equipment can hinder productivity due to breakdowns, slow downloads, and workarounds. Make sure you and your employees have the best equipment you can afford. This will help productivity and satisfaction with your team.

2. Communication is key. 

Communication is critical when working in any environment, but even more now when working remotely. You must practice as much transparency as you possibly can. If your employee doesn’t have all the information they need, they cannot reach their full potential. Managers must overcommunicate in order to move more productively. Managers must encourage their team and assure them that they can express their voice and ask questions if necessary. Ensure your employees feel comfortable asking questions and giving feedback to complete the work efficiently and effectively. 

You should also be clear with the goals and rewards they can gain from their performance. This helps build more morale which we know results in better performance. 

A weekly touch point is recommended just to remain in alignment. It is very easy to lose touch, and when that happens there is a greater potential for miscommunication. Employees can lose focus and missing priorities. Stay communicated. 

3. Use meeting time wisely. 

Sometimes it feels like you’re in meetings all day long when working remotely. But remember, the more time employees spend in these meetings, the less time they have to complete tasks. That’s why it’s crucial to use meeting time wisely.

Meeting time has increased significantly since the pandemic. But that actually is ineffective when trying to collaborate at our best. When making a one-on-one or group call, try making them micro meetings of 15 minutes for those less complex tasks. Short meetings dedicated to discussing one or two issues can maintain productivity and increase efficiency.

4. Promote a proper workspace environment. 

Remote workers should have a designated area of the home to work where they can concentrate and minimize distractions. Encourage employees to have a separate workspace so they can separate home and work life because sometimes they can combine into one, and work is no longer the number one priority. 

5. Set priorities and stick to them. 

Because demand for workers is competitive, it’s vital for leaders to step in and help prioritize. Things change quickly for reasons that may be out of people’s control. Daily checks and expectations are the priority, saving everyone from frustrations and guiding them in the right direction. You will see immediate results by creating a defined schedule and sticking to it. 

Jeff Newkirk - Blanton Advisors Associate CFO, Executive Coach