Case study: Entrepreneur knows where he's going

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This article appeared in the June, 2009 issue of CRN magazine.

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The company believes in rigorous business plans.

With it extensive list of vendors and business partners, including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, IBM Australia, Cisco, Netgear, 3Com and Lynx Technologies, the business plan is a critical tool for ensuring everyone is moving in the same direction.

It's a philosophy managing director Ryan Spillane applies to all his other businesses covering all sorts of sectors, from book-keeping to selling bite-sized cakes.

Spillane is a true entrepreneur and a business plan for each business, regardless of its orientation, is critical for keeping that flame going.

The Correct Solutions business planning process works on several levels. Each requires time and effort but according to Spillane, it's been a key to the company's success.

At least once a year the company's shareholders come together to talk about where the business is going, what critical issues lie ahead and where it is planning to go.

That discussion covers issues such as which products the company is happy with, whether it's satisfied with its suppliers and vendors and whether those partnerships need reviewing.

In addition, Correct Solutions produces a business plan updated each quarter. There is also a monthly update of its financials.

Preparing the quarterly business plan requires a major brain storming session on Saturday. Spillane says the last one took an entire day and even then they didn't get through all of it.

"It looks at what our target will be for the next three months," he says.

He says the company identified a number of areas to focus on.

First, education was now seen as a key market to target. In a recessionary climate, education is one sector expected to boom, along with health and infrastructure.

Spillane says: "We have quite a few education clients but we would like to pick up two or three new schools in the next 12 months, so what's involved in doing that? Who are the stakeholders?

"We'll need to assign a certain amount of technical skills through the company to be able to take up these schools and look after anything they need."

He says the company emerged from that session with plans to refresh its marketing documents and guides for customers on how to work with their computers.

In that session, the company identified areas that needed attention and that perhaps had been neglected. This came under the subject of branding.

"We've done that before and as time has gone on, we've just been fine tuning and some documents haven't been tuned and others have," Spillane says.

"Now we are going through all the documents we use for customers and bringing them up so they look the same."

The components of the Correct Solutions business plan include targets, markets, sales figures, staffing and key performance indicators.

The company has also identified staff morale as an issue to address. Apart from the weekly company updates and technical updates, it plans to take staff out to a good restaurant once a month, just to give them the space to connect and feel part of a team.

Spillane says it is absolutely crucial to keep updating business plans. Doing one and putting it away for a year or two is self-defeating and bad for business.

"If your business plan isn't growing and developing, your ideas will stay stagnant,'' he says.

"Realistically, every quarter, our business plan gets rewritten. That way you are dynamic and you are keeping an eye on the market trends. You've got to keep up with it. Otherwise you would be still selling telex machines."

Spillane says sales targets are not the most important part of a business plan. Better starting points are costs, who the company wants to work with, and the products and services themselves.

"For a new reseller, they need to look at what products they want to work with, and to know and understand those products. If they can know with conviction and understand those products, that is the quickest way to sell them," Spillane says.

Good customer service and ensuring strong communication with customers are also important to the business plan as the sales will naturally follow from that.

"Part of it is getting involved and having conversations with your customers,'' Spillane says.

"Find out where their business is going over the next 12 month. That's very important to you because you can position yourself to assist them with those plans they have in the next 12 months."

In other words, part of the plan also requires the reseller to understand the customer's business plan. If the two plans are aligned it helps both enterprises.

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