Your Business Mission – What the Heck Do You Do, Anyway?

Do you really need a business mission statement? Is it just some fancy words to put in that business plan that collections dust on your shelf, or is there really more to it?

One of the key attributes of successful businesses is that they clearly know what they do. Defining the goal or the "mission" of your business can be the key to your success.

A good mission statement does three things:

"States what business you are in." Defines your target market. "Provides inspiration for your business.

One of the best examples of a mission statement comes from Levi Strauss & Co. [http://www.levistrauss.com/Company/ValuesAndVision.aspx]

"We will market and distribute the most appealing and widely worn apparel brands. Our products define quality, style and function. We will clothe the world."

Clothing the world is a pretty lofty goal, but Levi Strauss has the ability to do this for one reason — Their founder, Levi Strauss, started the business with a mission and focus.

Levi started his wholesale dry goods business in San Francisco February, 1853. Rather than hoping to make his fortune in the Gold Rush, he created a fortune by wholesaling clothing and fabric to the small stores supplying the thousands of miners and later, families of the West.

In 1872, he was contacted by Jacob Davis, a tailor who had developed a method to rivet the stress points of the pants he made from fabric he bought from-you guessed it — Levi Strauss. Jacob did not have the funds to patent the process, so he teamed up with Levi Strauss to patent the original blue jean in 1873. The rest is history.

Now, if Levi Strauss was your typical small business, he would probably have spun off in ten different directions in their early years, but the company remained focused on supplying quality clothing and fabrics to the working men and women of the West, and later the world. Rather than focusing on their core market, they would have fallen into the AFAB method … Anything for a Buck.

Most small businesses suffer from this lack of focus.

When we work with struggling business owners, the first thing we ask them is "What is your bread and butter?" What one product or service provides you with the majority of your business profit?

Unfortunately, most business owners can not answer that question. They did not define their core product or service and target market when they started, and end up doing a little bit of everything, and nothing well.

Or, they focus most of their time on a product or service line that they like, without knowing whether it actually is their most profitable.

Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this problem.

You have to determine your gross profit margin from each of your product lines or services. Get together with your accountant, and figure out what you need to do to separate your revenue and expenses by the major product lines of your business. Then, you can find out your gross profit margin, or the percentage of gross profit you receive from each activity.

The product or service with the highest gross profit margin is your core business activity. It is the bread and butter of your business, and the key to your company profits.

Now, you must focus as much of your company resources as possible on this core activity. Market it, systemize it, and turn your business into a machine for duplicating this product or service over and over again.

What happens?

Well, rather than running around like a chicken with your head cut off, putting out fires all over your business, you suddenly have the focus to know where to spend your time and energy. You know your core, and you can work to make a good thing even better.

This focus will transform your business and your life.

Remember the term "Jack of All Trades, but Master of None"? You can not really really good at something without focus, and focusing on your most profitable core product or service will make your business even more efficient.

Does this mean that you should never expand beyond your core? Of course not, but you must make sure you are really good at your core product or service before you venture into different directions. Creating a strong bread and butter business will give you the base necessary to expand.

Your core product or service is the foundation for your business. Build it well.

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The Biggest Challenge For Cloud Computing In 2012

Cloud computing has become quite the buzzword in the IT world. Whether you prefer to use the term cloud services, cloud hosting, cloud computing, or whatever … you need to be aware of the challenges and what you're getting into before you jump right into it.

Security always appears top of the list, coupled with what I interpret as confusion over how and what is needed to make best use of the cloud. So in short, for me, a lack of understanding remains the challenge. Whilst security is critical, I feel the need to provide some counter points.

Any computer connected to the Internet is at risk from hackers, whether it is in the cloud or in a private data center. Would it be true to say that an SME, with necessarily limited resources, is able to better secure its data than say Amazon? In addition, who says everything needs to be in the cloud? Adopting a cloud computing strategy is not an 'all or nothing' decision. Data can remain within a data center or on promise, while applications that need to access such data can be based in the cloud. That's the whole principle behind the different cloud types – private, public or hybrid.

I think that anyone considering a move to the cloud needs to carefully consider their motivations and objectives for doing so, and to question what data and workflows they and their customers will feel happy placing in the cloud. Most importantly, select a vendor that can accommodate your cloud migration strategy, now and in the future. The challenge in 2012 is not that of cloud computing, the challenge for cloud vendors or providers of Cloud 'services' is that they need to not only promote the benefits of their particular offering, but also educate the market on the benefits of cloud, full stop.

Another major challenge will be Bandwidth. It's probably the case that the majority of SME / Bs have 'plenty' of local network bandwidth with which to conduct their in-house operations / business, however, it's also probably the case that in their pipe (s) into the 'Cloud' and that could be an awkward bottleneck if you swallowed the cloud philosophy without adequate preparation – which, of course, you'd never do.

For the pessimists amongst you, please see Moore's Law and Nielson's Law, there's always Parkinson's Law, which reads: "Usage expends so as to fill all available bandwidth."

Shipping Companies’ International Services – What Mode of Transport to Use?

There are a few freight forwarders which ship goods only within the same country. Usually, the shipping companies' international services are quite extensive. Most are able to arrange any mode of product transportation for their clients. You will certainly get the advice and assistance that you require to make a decision, but the final choice is yours. That is why it is important to know as much as possible about the available options and to be able to define your needs clearly.

The choices of transport which you can select from include road, rail, sea and air. Of course, the range of options may be limited depending on the initial location of the goods and their final destinations. For instance, if you want to use shipping companies' international services for transporting goods from New Zealand to Australia or from the US to Europe, you will have just two variants – sea and air. Taking, these limits into account, you can quickly define the criteria which you will base your choice on.

What is the nature of your product? What are the weight, size and volume of the goods? Perishable products such as fruits and vegetables require faster shipping from one country to another so that they can be effectively preserved. In this case, speed should be the leading criterion when making a choice. Most companies export large volumes of goods with reasonable weight and this is the reason why sea transport is often preferred for international shipping. This mode of transport is suitable for goods with odd shapes and sizes. On the other hand, for a small volume of goods even air transport can be cheaper.

How important are speed and safety for you? Undoubtedly, the fastest choice of transport available is air. However, it is typically the most expensive of all shipping companies' international services as well. In this case, you have to know exactly how much faster delivery will cost you and whether you can afford to pay the price.

When it comes to safety, you have to consider the risks associated with the different kinds of transport. For instance, air transport accident is much less likely than a road transport accident. However, in case of a plane crash, the risk of your goods being completely destroyed is times higher.

How much can you afford to pay for the transportation of your goods? It is best to compare the costs of each mode of transport for your particular product depending on its nature, size and volume. This will help you make the right choice between the shipping companies' international services.

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