Archives for December 2013

24Dec

Adelaide’s Entrepreneurial & Business Courses and Programs Compared

Getting started in business is about making contacts. Contacts come from a myriad of sources. One great source when you are just starting out is class. Not only will the connections come from the teachers you meet, but the folks you’ll be alongside in class.

In business school one of the things they tell you on your first day is to look right and look left. One of the people you see in class will become a leader in the industry and could be your best contact. With these classes, perhaps that leader could be you.

Adelaide Business Startup Education Programs – Contests

eChallenge: This competition is sponsored by the University of Adelaide. The challenge is for teams of two to six people to come up with business plans for projects which are not funded at this point in time. The workshops, mentor meetings, venture showcase and pitch day all make it possible to bring new ideas to life. Part of the requirements for consideration for this contest include:

  • One team member must be currently enrolled 
  • Team members cannot be employees of any of the sponsors
  • The idea must not have been funded previously

Adelaide Business Startup Education Programs – Classes and Programs

SAYES: South Australian Young Entrepreneur Scheme: This program is all about providing skill building and confidence building platforms to young business owners. Guidelines for applicants include:

  • Must be between 18 and 35
  • Must have a business idea 
  • Must be in the early stages of building the business

MEGA: The point of this program is to bring together creative minded individuals in the digital content, mobile or ICT fields. They are looking for companies and individuals who can innovate and drive the marketplace. As this workshop is held on Tuesday evenings it is easy to attend and grow while focusing on growing your business during the day. At the end of the program there is a large scale pitch to investors and industry leaders.

Innovyz: Over a three month course, inspired entrepreneurs will learn from global teachers how to turn their idea into a reality. Not only will the business flourish but the end game with Innovyz is to then become a part of a network which helps others flourish. Great minds can come together and create world changing tools, with the right support, the right business model and the right innovation. There will be ten companies selected to relocate to Adelaide to grow their business through the funded accelerator program.

Venture Dorm: In twelve weeks this program aims to take students through a flipped classroom model of learning. In order to find a sustainable and actionable business model students are immersed in a rollercoaster of learning which acts as the foundation for a life of creating business. Working directly with mentors who have “been there, done that” students learn what to do and what not to do.

Young Business Leaders SA: This ten month program teaches students to be leaders in industry. Not only will they be challenged to reach their potential but they will network with other students and industry professionals. Graduates of this program will walk out with a Diploma of Management from the Australian Institute of Management.

New Enterprise Incentive Scheme: A program started by the Australian Government, this initiative is designed to bring education to job seekers and small business entrepreneurs. Working with suchorganisations as TAFE Small Business Centres and Business Enterprise Centres students will explore real world issues. Not only is this program funded for the student but for the business which springs from the program. Applicants for this program must be registered with the Disability Employment Service or Job Services Australia.

Business SA Coaching and Mentoring Program: A ten month program for those who have been in business for over two years consecutively, this program aims to help students grow in the market. Through networking, coaching meetings and small class sizes the ability to thrive comes to fruition.

The University of Adelaide: Higher education provides a sound basis for entrepreneurs. Not only will you be able to follow your passion but you learn all aspects of being a smart innovator. For students looking for a Bachelors or Masters degree this university has the tools to guide you to future heights of industry. Innovation and Entrepreneurship Degrees:

  • Master of Applied Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Graduate Diploma in Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Graduate Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Bachelor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Adelaide Business Startup Education Programs – Weekends and Workshops

Startup Weekend: If you have a great idea, this event helps you get it off the ground in 54 hours. The busy weekend brings together industry experts and entrepreneurs. Learn about launching new websites and new products. Over 30% of all the ideas which form here, are still going strong in the real world. Additionally, as this is one weekend it may be more affordable and more convenient than a class which lasts several months.

Which Program is Right for You?

Finding the right program depends on where you are in your education and where you are with your business. It is smart to find a program which makes you think, which inspires and which helps build confidence and connections. When you want to grow your business fast is good but strong is better.

Weekend programs and contests are great for those who are running with an idea and want to throw it out to the masses. Does it work? Can you communicate every point of the program or product? Do people want it? These are things you will find out in a high energy weekend or workshop.

Longer workshops are ideal for those looking to formulate an action plan. You will have time to process ideas, to try them out and to build upon them. Additionally, for those who come off as a bit timid or cynical at first a longer program could help establish the trust and the connections you need in the industry.

24Dec

Get Mentors and Improve your Business

In a recent interview with Chris Hooper and another with Michael Dawson (on Adelaide Entrepreneurs) they both discussed the positive impact that mentors have had on their businesses.

You’ve probably heard the saying that you are the average of your five closest friends. This may not be a scientifically accurate statement but I think the sentiment certainly rings true for me. The idea being that; if you are surrounded by other people with a common goal such as building businesses, its much more likely that this environment is going to motivate you and lift you up to greater heights. On the other hand, if you hang around with your regular friend group, perhaps people you went to school with, its probably going to have less of an impact on your business and perhaps even a negative impact if they are trying to hold you back (intentionally or unintentionally).

The idea of getting mentors is that you can mix with people who have “been there and done that,” they have experience with business, they’ve had success and you can learn from them and benefit from their networks, advice and friendship.

The action step for this video is to go out and look for some mentors for yourself. The advice I’ve got is to get as many mentors as possible, look for people both in and outside of your industry. Look to your existing networks; your friends, family, business networks to find people who could be mentors for you.

 

Nick Morris is the founder of Adelaide Experts and an SEO Strategist at Web Marketing Adelaide.

23Dec

Lean Startup Tips for Adelaide Businesses

In this interview I talk through a few lean startup tips (The Lean Startup is a book by Eric Ries) with Trevor Glen, software consultant. This interview was recorded for the Web Marketing Adelaide podcast and originally appeared at Episode 31.

 

Transcript

[spoiler title=”Click to reveal/hide the transcription”]

Find the relevant links at the original show notes at the WMA Episode 31 Show Notes.

Nick: Welcome back to the Web marketing Adelaide Podcast. I’m your host Nick Morris and today, we are talking about Lean Start-up Methodologies. We have a special guest Trevor Glen, he’s an Adelaide based software consultant from Sorugo. Good day Trevor how you doing?

Trevor: Yeah, good day Nick, yourself.

Nick: Pretty good! It’s good to have you along for this video interview for my Podcast listeners to listen to the audio. I am now doing a lot of video interviews, so if you head to our website at www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au, you can actually see the video version of this interview, which would also be up on YouTube and I can see Trevor there ready to go so, I think we’ll just launch into this by – I’ll get you Trevor to just explain to us a little bit about yourself, what you have done to get you up to this point and what are you working on right now?

Trevor: Yeah sure, thanks, thanks for having me on today! My background has always been a software engineer at Motorola for a number of years and when they decided to shut down the software center, we had a team there that worked pretty well together, so we thought we’d start a software business. Along the way, we found a number of things that we could do well together as a team, some failings that we had as a team as well but most importantly what we’ve come across over the past few years, and specifically the outcome of the process of this lean start-up idea, and how a lot of the things that we did along the path that, perhaps at the time seemed like the right idea would have if I’d known about the lean start-up back then would have been a lot better.

Basically, we started a software company, from that, we decided to try and develop a product, and that product that we developed is an online backup solution that is distributed backup solution. So, rather than have a single server towards the back-up, they distributed around the network. So, utilizing spare how dispersed to a community of users. We made it, as a simply, made a lot of – we did a lot of great stuff, software that we made is fantastic software, then in terms of marketing tree strategy is where the lean start-up really, in my opinion, hasn’t nailed, the process that Eric Reese describes in his book as fantastic and I think a lot of it applies to what we could have done perhaps a little bit better as well.

Nick: Great! That was pretty good, just to expand on that, so the lean start-up sort of, lean start-up is a book by Eric Reese – I haven’t actually read it yet. It’s sitting over there on my dresser, that I need to read but it is a set of methodologies. Did he sort of invent them or did they exist before and he sort of popularized it? How did that fit in?

Trevor: From my understanding of the background and certainly, I’m not an expert on lean start up, it’s just my own reading of the book and my own understanding of the lean principles where I believed developed at Toyota in Japan and in relation to manufacturing. So, really what it is about it is cutting out a lot in the fat in the manufacturing process to ensure that there is minimum amount of waste and minimum amount of processing that occurs prior to them actually doing the manufacturing. So, in that regard, I think what Eric saw and what he’s applied and what others have applied even before him and didn’t perhaps give it that name, was a way of applying that to a start-up of a business and that can apply. I think it applies really, really well to software businesses and especially web start-ups. They can apply across the board as well.

Nick: Great! Let’s move on and start off the topic with, why don’t you explain a little bit about what the lean start-up approach is and what it is about?

Trevor: The way that I look at it, I guess my interpretation of the book and certainly, you say you haven’t read it and I’m sure most people haven’t to date but I definitely recommend you read it. It’s a great, it’s not a long book but it’s very well written and you can get the concepts pretty quickly. Lean start-up is really about developing what your minimum viable product is. What’s the thing that you can get out to the market as quickly as possible to start either making money ideally, but at the very least, learning what it is that your market needs before you can get to the point of selling it. So, a minimum viable product I was reminded – actually just this morning, I was watching the dropbox story, which is a great example of lean start-up, of an application of the lean start-up.

They’re actually talking in there, the founder was talking in the video about the fact that a lot of the lean start-up stuff that they did, some of it was delivered and some of it they actually just accidentally come across as well but in there, his minimum viable product was actually a video that he posted on Hacker News site, where he basically did a screen grab of him using the technology, using his product and invited comments from people and straight away he was interacting with the market and finding out from the market what it is that they would willing to buy.

So, what they bought [Inaudible 00:06:15] is getting a product out there as soon as you can and then from that, following the process of building something, measuring what you’re doing and learning from it. So, upfront you want to ask yourself some key questions. What is it that people gonna buy? What is it that people might buy that are in my space and start investigating that, and that’s not desk work, that’s actually putting something out there and getting people to, either put their email address online – another thing is having a landing page where people can actually go in and say yes, I am interested in this product when you launch it.

By doing that, you can actually see that there is an appetite for your product out there in the market. Having a landing page is where you are actually having different types of wording and finding out what it is that your market, the type of language they use as well. But at every step along the way, you want to be building something, measuring what it is that you’re building, measuring that and learning from it and in the book they talk about that, that in the early stages of a company, it’s not actually about the number of dollars that you have in but those sort of learning points that you have.

So, what is it that you have learnt along the way, obviously it all needs to turn into a business eventually where you are making money but along the way, it is actually you can be showing progress, not by how much you have sold but by how much you have learned and how closely do you rely to having something that is of interest to the market and what they are willing to pay for.

Nick: That makes good sense. Seems to be concepts that every business should follow but is it, specifically for technologies type businesses, start-up businesses? I mean, you mentioned that it can apply to other businesses too, can it apply to every business, in your opinion?

Trevor: Look, I think there are facets that can apply to every business. I think the build measure learn, sort of idea can definitely apply to probably every business in some way. The value of it to a technology start up of course is that you can get a web page up in 5 minutes. You can change the content of that web page in 30 seconds, so your time to market for and time to be able to react is a lot quicker than say, a manufacturing business, where if you were trying to get out and a build a widget and find out if people are interested in that widget, even just the idea of getting to a prototype stage where you might deliver a prototype to 20 different people and get their opinion on it.

That’s a lot costlier than getting the next Instagram created website for example. It’s a lot easier to do than software and technology. So, specifically software in the world, so our industry in that regard could be a better place to make the most of the ideas of lean start up but also – I think what they talk about in the book is that start-up doesn’t necessarily mean someone working out of their garage. The idea of this, it is really about a being a lean entrepreneur, an entrepreneur can exist within larger companies too you know.

The term entrepreneur is usually given to those sorts of people and those entrepreneurs can actually, given the right structure go out and do this process within a large company as well so if you think about start-up not necessarily in terms of a business but in terms of an idea and it’s about innovation and about applying those principles to taking that innovation to market in a way that actually gets the most customers quicker, quickest is really the end go.

Nick: That would make quite a bit of sense there as well. I guess the other thing with the web is that makes the measurement path easier.

Trevor: Exactly! That is exactly right, again going back to manufacturing example and giving someone a widget measuring that is hard. They play with it for an hour or 2 hours, they give it to their son and they play with it for 3 hours and measuring that is a lot harder with a physical device that as a whole industry around that process whereas you are exactly right on the web with tools like Google analytics and even tools like un-bounce is I’ve come across recently as a landing page tool, and there is a lot of them out just Google on the front but you can find that information.

Nick: Yep, definitely it is one of the advantages of the web. When I sort of first heard about this lean start-up approach, lean start-up methodologies, I was actually hearing about it from Podcast and things, whether talking about more from an established business who is launching a new product. I just want to get your thoughts on that, that its not just for starting a new business but it can also be used for an established business who’s launching a new product or perhaps some other new aspect.

Trevor: Definitely I think, to be honest the way that I see this and it’s sort of an innovation can be simply even a new process of how you do what you do. Following the lean start-up methodologies is a great way to do that, and it really is just about testing in a hypothesis in the market to see if it is actually gonna stick, if you want to put it another way and that can apply to any new business, to any new product, to any new process, to any new service. Any of those can take some of that lean start-up ideas and apply it to their business.

There’s probably going to be eco-system of support around that. In the book, they talk about , I think it’s Intuit is the name of the company. I might be wrong on that but basically, I think they’re pretty large software vendor in the U.S. I think it counts as a top software and they actually, they might be as big as 15,000 people. Whenever they bring a new product to market, follow this lean start-up idea or methodology because it’s a great way to bring a product to market.

So, around that, their management structure support and understand that there has got to be some give and take around dollars. It can’t be just all about next quarter’s results, excuse me because what you’re trying to do is get something out of the market and get some feedback around what it should be doing before delving too deep into product development.

Nick: Yeah, great! We will move on now. You actually recently gave a talk, I think it was at the lean start-up meet up in Adelaide and you wrote a blog post about some of the not so much mistakes you made but your business in which we want to perhaps talk about a few of them. The two I’ve sort of singled out, that I thought would be interesting were, one, listen to your market and two, expect failure. So, could you just talk to us a little a little about the listen to your market aspect.

Trevor: It comes back to the build measure learn thing. One of the things that I think the mistakes we made is that we thought we knew what our market wanted and went out and developed a fantastic piece of software that sold for that imagined market and as we got it out we realized that, there was a market for that, maybe they weren’t willing to pay as much as we needed to charge or they weren’t willing to use it in the way we thought they would use it, so, listen to your market. In my mind, it’s really about the fact that you actually need to be out there talking to the market every step along the way.

Don’t invest too much time in building this wonderful software or wonderful system that nobody’s ever gonna use. If you don’t know what the market wants and what the market’s willing to pay for, then it’s absolutely irrelevant how good your software is and really, that is the key part of that listen to your market, is to not only listen to them but actually explicitly go out there and solicit at their feedback as early as you possibly can. We did do some of this through you know betas and sure enough, but we weren’t asking the right questions.

The questions we are asking them about the market was, does this product work for you? Are there any bugs, when really what we should have been asking was would you be willing to pay money for this? And at that point what’s missing from it that would make you want to fork over your cash? That’s really, at the end of the day, for business, that’s what matters, is people paying for it not how many users that you have.

Nick: Yeah, absolutely and I don’t know if that thing relates to it is often described that people can say that they will buy a product but actually buying a product is a different sort of thing. So, if you can, I don’t know, are there any strategies that you are aware of where you can kind of bridge that gap between what people will say and what they will actually do?

Trevor: A great way to do it, obviously, it depends on your product, is to ask for a credit card number, so even if you don’t have a product to say or that your you know you’ve got a product that you don’t think it’s exactly 100% there, is to actually ask for a credit card, is to get people to pay for it now. What they are paying for and know that is something you can test, so are they paying for 2 years subscription or are they paying to get into the beta program? That’s one way around it. It is a tough one, it’s one that I don’t think there’s a catch or a solution for but it really, I think if you are solving their problems along the way, one would hope that the money comes with that.

So, if you are actually solving a market need, yeah you’d hope that eventually, that would relate into dollars, and so if you’ve got that right and you listened to your market and you know what is that they want, then you can find that out and then you can do some testing around that as well. So, even if you get the point to the product, the product will point where you are, yes, we are happy with this as a product in the market. You can then see a different product points and so okay, let’s try it at $300 a month and see what sort of results you get and using that information, we’ll be able to determine what the sweet spot for that particular market.

Nick: Yeah, that seems to work out for businesses when they’re not, before that when they are trying to speak to the market. What’s a good way to get out there and do that? I’ve heard mentioned before that you should do lots of cold calling to your target market and to get them on the phone and talk to them about their problem so you can really understand it. Is that a good strategy do you think or are there any others?

Trevor: I think it is. I think, certainly like occasionally like Adelaide is quite good in some look outs because getting access to some of the people is key decision makers in companies can be relatively simple because of the size of the network here in Adelaide. So, everybody knows everybody as you would know, so eventually, it doesn’t take you too long if you want to talk to the head of XYZ or the head of this branch. Obviously, that’s important the market you are trying to enter into, so, having those conversations is really, really important and especially if you want to try and find someone who can help you to develop the product to help you be your channel to the market.

Having early conversations with those sorts of people, and people who are actually talking to the market you are selling to day in and day out. So, they might be selling a product that’s similar to what you are proposing, maybe not a competitor but something that is complimentary. If you go out there and talk to them and find out because they will know you would hope, what their customers paying points are and be able to cover off a large set of customers with potentially one conversation. Look, other ways you can do it as well are surveys, again come back to the dropbox example with the video .

If your audience saw you know that you need to get earlier doctors on board, find the areas on the web where those people are having conversations. If you are selling, you’re selling something that relates to over clocking your motherboard well, there is an over-clockers website, a forum there, so go talk to those people there. So, being smart about it and using the internet to do, and social media is another great example of that and might get informed coming to social media in that regard as well just a bit different flavor of it, but going out there and using and finding out what your customers are talking, even if you are just watching the conversations that they are having there, you will find out a lot about what their talking points are by linking groups, now Google Plus communities, these sorts of environments now, utilize those to find out what it is that your market is saying so… It does depend on what your market is if you obviously if you sell consumer product, versus say an enterprise product will be different communication style. So, is and they would communicate in different ways and will have to ensure that you use the language of those different communities but generally find out what is your market talks and get involved in those conversations.

Nick: That makes sense, obviously. Another thing I’ve seen and I think you sort of briefly touched on it earlier on in the interview, was you can get these sort of email, captcha things that you put up on a website and then you just drive traffic to it perhaps by adwords or some other paid mechanism and it might be like a simple question related to some sort of product that you’re thinking of developing and then the idea is, what kind of conversion can you get to people putting in their email, address which is you know it’s not a payment but an email address is something that’s semi-valuable. So, people don’t just give it out. Yeah so at least you’ve got some sort of investment there. I guess that’s another thing that you can do. Have you had any experience, any ideas on using paid traffic?

Trevor: Another book that I would recommend that is along the same lines of the lean start-ups in terms of thinking about your business in a different ways is The Four Hour Work Week. I definitely recommend that as another book to read, it talks a lot about paid search and setting up a niche and I think really paid search is best search for a niche. Without product at one stage there, we had online back-up. As it turned, you’re looking at business, probably a couple years ago now, you are looking at $6 a click. So, if you are selling a product that is $60 a year and at $60 a click, you’re gonna need more than 1 in 10 people to sign up from clicking on your ads.

So, that might be an expensive way for you to get more traffic, however if you’ve got a niche product that people still search for but it’s not highly auctioned or what’s the term, bid on in the Google adwords infrastructure, then you’ve got a better chances of getting some conversions happening there and that’s but obviously, it has to make sense and that’s where you’ve got to make sure that you marry up your adwords content with the content on your website as well so, so definitely it can work. I haven’t personally been involved in [Inaudible 00:23:19] that have done it successfully but again, if you could read Four Hour Work Week, there’s some great examples in there of people who had just done that.

Nick: Yeah I just thought reach back and pull out the book of The Four Hour Work Week, which I do have, so yeah glad to say that I’ve actually started this one and like the lean start-up and sort of so good, it’s really quite well written and interesting. Let’s move on to the second point here, expect failure, can you elaborate on this little bit?

Trevor: In some ways, that’s the, our background as software engineers working for a large software organization quality was of the outmost and releasing anything that had a bug in it was a big no no, for a various reasons especially at that point in time. Once you got a mobile phone or a base station out in the wall, having to do patches on those to fix bugs isn’t that easy and could be quite costly if you can imagine a phone recall for an organization to bring back a mobile phone to be able to re-flash it and to fix a bug, is just not gonna happen. So, I get it, for an organization like that makes sense, but we probably took some of that, took too much of that methodology, applied it to our business where a back-up product has to work, absolutely no doubt about it but it has to work. But, it has to work for the things that people will need it to work for, so, getting it out there it doesn’t have to be perfect.

If people expect that things that gonna be wrong with software, sadly enough, it says if that is the case but what’s more important is that you put something out there knowing that something’s gonna fail because you wouldn’t have thought of every single moment that somebody’s gonna use your software. Again, if you’re doing a consumer sort of solution, I guarantee it will get it out there and someone will use it in some way that you never even thought of you know. They are still running Windows 95 or they’re trying to install it on their laptop, that’s only got 1 megabyte of space left, you know.

So, things like that that you’ve, you can’t even, you probably wouldn’t even think of before you released your software but what’s so important is knowing that’s gonna fail and being prepared for dealing with various failures. So, being responsive to people’s concern and one probably important thing from my personal perspective is owning up to them, not trying to hide the fact that this software has failures, and then once you’ve found those problems, releasing often and that is another important part of, I guess, the lean start-up is that you are always releasing new versions of your software, getting it out there, so that people can experience the new version and fixing bugs in that time.

Nick: Yeah, that makes sense. Well, I think that last point about owning up to them is something probably certain business owners, me included struggle with sometimes because you’re sort of so invested in it and you feel like it’s you know part of you so almost saying that it’s failing is almost a thing against you personally and it’s difficult to own up sometimes, having that at front of mine you should always be owning up and getting onto it quickly and making sure you give them good customer service.

Trevor: I think an important, there’s some cultural things that exist in Australia to around value. Australians generally whether be two puppy or whatever is it we’re not great on trying things and expecting something of it to fail. So, culturally, you have to deal with that as well and you have to battle your own internal feelings about this as well as others in the community or why are you doing this? It probably gonna fail anyway and that relates not only just to lean start-up and entrepreneurship, generally in Australia and it’s get them a soap box over here. In my opinion in Australia, this we are well placed, pretty better than many other places in the world to be entrepreneurs. The way that our system works where you can lose all of your money on a venture and still be able to feed the kids, have a house over here, have a roof over your head and still be able get health care, is better than 99% of the world. I think it’s a fact that we need to embrace that failure, embrace the fact that we are going to fail in certain things and recognize that when that happens you are actually in the best place in the world for failure to occur and not be end up living up in a car as we’ve seen happen for people who are not even entrepreneurs in the States and all around the world over the last few years with the financial issues.

People who thought they had a stable job, lose the job, can’t find any more work and end up out on the streets. So, in Australia [Inaudible 00:28:46] we’ve avoided most of that at a micro level. At a micro level, I think that people would just accept that they can and will fail at something and just have to go because it is so much more satisfying than just doing the 9 to 5.

Nick: Yeah absolutely, and a concept that I think relates well to this I’ve heard described, this fail forward, so trying to make sure when you do fail, you actually learning something from it, so you can re-apply that to your business or change something or fix something.

Trevor: Yeah definitely and I think it’s one of the things that, one of the reasons that I did the blog post and why I’m more than happy to spend the time with you today is because, there are some of those things, the mistakes that we made, I don’t want others to make those mistakes. So, I think, we’ve, a lot of what is happening in Adelaide in the last few years you know Silicon Beach, these co-working groups that they are setting up, there is a real vibe around entrepreneurship and start-ups now in Adelaide that didn’t exist in the past. So, I think it’s important that we all do work together to pool our learnings, so that we can all collectively grow this opportunity of Australia being, in Adelaide, be a great place to have a start-up.

Nick: Yeah, it really is interesting. I’ve been going to various events lately and through another project, I’ve just started what I’m gonna be interviewing various entrepreneurs in Adelaide. It’s really interesting thing that the community grow and concepts like, what we’re talking about today, like the lean start-up methodologies I think are really gonna be important for people who have that energy and have that desire to start something but want to make sure that you’re doing it in the right way.

So you’re not, it’s not much of a waste and so you listen to your market as you’ve said and coming up with solutions that are gonna actually solve some problems that make up, importantly pay for so you can fund your venture so that you can get some value out of it in the end. I sort of touched on briefly again the minimum viable product idea, you sort of explained, what it is to begin with and you sort of mentioned the dropbox video idea. Could you just expand on minimum viable product a little bit, maybe some examples of what a minimum viable product could be?

Trevor: It is, my experience today with minimum viable products has been its [Inaudible 00:31:24] for some people and in their industry they have their minimum viable product. It has to be quite complete before anyone would even consider using it. It’s probably in something like a – especially if you’re talking about technology where you’re traditionally working with technology where you’re working with lawyers and doctors because lawyer and doctors would be less willing to put up with bugs, less willing to put up with issues.

So, that doesn’t mean you don’t go out there and talk to them and find out what the issues are, and try to build that in but your minimum viable product that might be a lot more full featured, released, a well rounded than it might be for say something if you were targeting earlier doctors in the software industry who would know that things are gonna fail, know what the term alpha and beta means and what that would mean for this data, know that if you’re can using a service, they’re gonna have to back up their own data because it may fail at any point in time.

So, you do have to think about who your target market is what it is they might be looking to do but the way that I’ve done it recently is really just to develop a list of features or user stories that describe how the system should function and working with the market in terms of finding out what those features should be, is really just keep looking over those list of features and come back on what you think, now do we really need this for people to start using the product, for people to start buying the product and constantly checking your own assumptions about what it is that you think you’re gonna be building for people. And validating those assumptions with the market and getting it out there.

So, when it comes to a web based software, you know, obviously things like minimum viable product, someone is going to have to log in, someone is gonna have to do something with your app, whatever the key feature is of your app and be able to log out. If that’s what you need to do with your app, then that may be your minimum viable product but, in other cases, you actually may want to include in your minimum viable product, the acceptance of people’s money. If you think that you need to do that before you can launch, then that’s, again, [Inaudible 00:33:52], but again – so I think from my experience, I think, the two definitions of minimum viable product, one is sales based.

So, what’s the minimum viable product that we can release to people who are gonna start buying this solution and the other is, one in which and that was from the dropbox example, one in which people are actually just going to start providing you feed back on it. So, either of those could be determined a minimum viable product but it just really depends upon what it is that you are trying to achieve. I mean for the latter, if I could get something out there as soon as you can, that is going to extract some feedback from people and get some direct, so that you actually use your product and heading towards the goal of you buying it eventually, I think is a better approach than waiting too long until you have something that people are going to start using straight away and buy straight away.

Nick: I mean it’s probably not a perfect example but when I started, first started the Podcast, I had this idea and I had the idea for a while and then I was putting it off heaps and then, eventually I thought I would try and take a bit of a lean approach to this and I’ll just record a podcast and you know I just did it on my phone, which is probably not the best technology and then I thought I’d try to prove over time with the thinking that the main part of the product is really the content and not so much, even on a basic level of sound quality but there are sorts of bits and pieces that sort of surround that sort of extra bits which I can add later, where the minimum viable product is just the content and the sound getting out there.

Trevor: And that’s really good because see what I mean what you’ve shown there as well what you’re doing your podcast and the blog and all of that is not specifically a business, it’s about, you know, marketing sort of opportunity or marketing process that you are following to get people aware of you and to provide that content but you can still apply the lean start-up thinking to that and so, that’s where, to go back, I think to your very first question of where can it be applied? I think if you start thinking about what the methodology is teaching you or trying to achieve, you can apply in a lot of different facets of business and not just around the making of money.

Nick: Absolutely, that’s been a really great interview Trevor. Thanks a lot for coming on. I think this very useful for people who are looking to start a business but also people who are in business and they are looking to sort of improve their processes in relation to products or leaning themselves up. If anyone wants to find out more about you and sort of what you’re doing, where’s the best place to do that?

Trevor: You can obviously find me on places like Linked in, I’m on there and that’s it, sorugo.net is my company, so have a look there. I would love to help people understand more about their current idea for going into market and can help them make that happen.

Nick: Fantastic, I’ll have some links in the show notes for this episode with – to your blog post and then also to your website and your social profile where people can find you. Thanks again for coming on and have a good one.

Trevor: Thanks for having me Nick, take care mate!

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Nick Morris is the founder of Adelaide Experts and an SEO Consultant at Web Marketing Adelaide.

23Dec

Financial Forecasting for Startups by Silver Whale

Before you jump into a new business idea, you should do a bit of research first to see if you idea is likely to be a winner. I recently interviewed Pratib Parthiban from Silverwhale about financial forecasting for startups, one of the services that they offer. This interview originally appeared in episode 34 of the Web Marketing Adelaide podcast.

Transcript

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Nick: Welcome back everyone to the Web Marketing Adelaide Podcast. I’m your host Nick Morris and today we’re talking with Pratib from Silverwhale about Forecasting Your New Business Idea. Good day Pratib, how are you doing?

Pratib: Hey, Nick, how are you? Good man.

Nick: Great! Now, before we get stuck into the questions I’ve got here for you on forecasting thing, how about you just tell us a little bit about yourself and about what you do?

Pratib: Yeah, my name is Pratib. Basically, I’m the Director of the Silverwhale Private Limited, and what we do in Silverwhale is basically to provide financial projection for a new business idea of projects and that’s what we do. Sometimes we also perform some additional research to make sure that the assumptions and the fundamentals that we use in the projections are accurate.

Most of the times, they research will be done by the business idea owner and usually we’ll back that research up using financial figures and that’s what we’ll do. And most of the time, customers or clients try to do a financial projection to see the viability or how much the value for the business idea that they can get from investors and also for like just for decision making purposes. Yeah, that’s how we are trying to like help, a lot of start-ups and encourage start-ups to do financial projections before actually embark in their adventurous journey.

Nick: Great, great! Do you tend to work with a particular type of business or is it fairly across the board or…?

Pratib: So far, I don’t really specialize in anything because for me every business idea is very unique by its own. It’s just very hard to generalize everything and so, it just creates a big opportunity for me to learn different models and just to learn how the business operates. I can learn about different industries as well by just not focusing on certain industry, so that’s kind of like, been my focus since I started the business.

Nick: Awesome, awesome! Let’ get started on the topic. I’ve got a bunch of questions here to ask so let’s just stuck into them. The first one I’ve got here, you’ve kind of already touched on it briefly in your introduction there but the question is, why is it important to do financial projections when you are having your business idea?

Pratib: I think that is a very good question to me because most of the businesses should know the answers for this and I would like to steal some business tips from Sir Richard Branson. One of the things that he used to propose is that, in any of his adventures he always plan on what to d. If he hit the water, how to survive, if it’s not turning up as how he plans to turn up, and I think I kind of summarized the need for financial projection because with financial projections, you can b basically assist you in decision making, gives you different scenarios but too, to give you different scenarios on what to do when something goes wrong.

Let’s say for example, one of your material cost goes up and you can basically see with just like in 2 seconds what’s the impact gonna be on your profit and loss. Based on that, you can make some fair judgment on what to do next, should I increase the customer or should I try to negotiate and get a better deal from the supplier or you might realize that the impact is not that much on your profit and loss and you might think that you know that’s fine. I can basically like go on with this and obviously for decision making, that’s the main reason why we need financial projection. For me, I think if someone asks me the need for financial projection, I always tell them the three big reasons.

One is for decision making, second is to complete their business plan and third for seeking investment. On the second point, there’s two side of argument, do we really need business plan or can we just go on with the project idea? For me, I try to think that it need business plan but it does not have to be a 60 pages document. It can be very short and concise, it’s a road map, it’s a guideline to tell you how you’re gonna run your business. You have to make sure that the business plan covers all the fundamentals of a business and business plan helps you to like identify what other aspects are missing from your business. That’s where financial projection comes in.

It basically supports all the assumption, the pricing model, the business model that you’ve created for your business idea and that’s the reason why for complete your business plan, you need financial projections. And the third main reason is for seeking investment and lot of investors are particularly very interested with return on investment and with financial projection, it helps you to identify the return on investments for your business idea. So, running business it’s very easy. Usually, investors use multiply of earnings, lets say for example, my business is earning $100,000 a year at this point of time. Initially, investors will just use a multiply of 5 or 6 or 7 and then that’s the value of the business they will be willing to pay for. For a start-up business, it’s very hard to tell them how much you’ll be earning in 4 to 5 years down the road if you don’t have a financial projection. That’s where financial projection comes into the picture. It does not have to be like full in detail like exactly of how much a pen in your business is gonna cost, how much a ruler is gonna cost but it has to cover stationery expenses. It has to cover electric expenses and it has to be valid and logical sequence of number and that’s what financial projection is all about. It’s just some inputs and outputs, it’s not very complex, so I think those are the three reasons why we need financial projections.

Nick: Great yeah! It’s something that probably a lot of people, including myself, when I started my business probably I don’t really think about that. I got this idea and might not have all of the inputs and the outputs, sort of in their heads and they sort of just jump into the start-up of their business idea then later down the track, they find out, oh you know, maybe I should have planned this better. So, I think getting this kind of information now, I can see the difference is a good step, a good learning process for people thinking of starting a business, you know, starting a business or start-up in the early stages. It seems to really make sense. What are some of the tools that you use to do the productions or to run it?

Pratib: For me, I’m personally very happy with Microsoft Excel, and I’ve been an Excel user for the past 6, 7 years, so I think the main reason why I prefer to use – there are sophisticated financial models of there but for a layman and for a lot of other business owners out there, who are very, they are very specialized in their own area, in their own product but to [Inaudible 00:07:16] my message to them, is to commit everyday and they can also work on Microsoft Excel by themselves. They don’t have to get a specialized knowledge to use the financial projections because when I build a financial projection, I want the user to use it on a daily basis.

I want them to go on and make some mistakes, make some changes, learn how the whole projection works and for that reason Microsoft Excel is a very good tool. There are a lot of forums on the internet that teaches a lot of skills, a lot of tips on how to improvise your financial models. So, in that sense I use Microsoft Excel. The second tool that I use is definitely the internet. It’s a very good place to do your research and usually what I’ve tried to do is, if I say I’m building a financial projection for a restaurant for example, I tried to contact restaurant owners and ask them what are their expenses? What are the things you have to include in your monthly budget? So, that gives me some idea on like what are the things that I have to include in my own financial projection. One of the good website sometimes I use is cora.com, I’m not sure if you have heard about it? I basically I guess…

Nick: Cora?

Pratib: Yeah. Is basically like a lot of things that you can learn from that like how to do your financial projections and they always recommend top down and bottom up approach. So, top down from a sales perspective like how many percentage of the target market you want to target? How many percentage you can convert that for your sales, for your business? Whereas, bottom up approach comes from a cost perspective like how much your product gonna cost upward. How much is that gonna be, like cost per percent, how much is that gonna be? You have to include bottom up and top down approach when building a financial projection and Excel is a very good tool for that. So, I’m very happy with Excel.

Nick: Great, Great! I like what you mentioned there about, you want the business owners to use it every day, so obviously you’ve developed your delivering sign to them that they are gonna continue using it as you say as opposed to like just to graph thing and here’s the projection that I can as in the beginning like plug in a new cost over parts or particular supply that they have an update on what they do or whatever?

Pratib: Yes! I think that’s the main function, main feature of the projection that we build in Silverwhale. What we do is, we try to make sure the financial projection models is as dynamic as possible, so anyone can go in and change the assumption. Whatever number you can put in and it should produce the output that it should produce based on the formula that we have built at the back of the model. We try to make it as user friendly as possible because we can’t be there on a day to day basis to tell them that this is the things that you can change but just making them as user friendly is good. It helps the business owners to make daily decisions and even before we pass the complete projection model back to the client, we make sure that they understand how to use it in and out.

So, that kind of like help them as well and sometimes they try to come back to us and tell us that you know what I tried to include 3 other cross element but it’s not allowing me to do it. Can you help me to teach and we’d be more than happy to just assist them, just to coach them throughout the journey and do our best for them to like be a very compatible user with the financial model that they have.

Nick: Sounds good. What are some of the inputs that you need. You mentioned that you do some research and you actually reach out to businesses already in that industry just seems like a really good idea but what are some of the general inputs that people, pretty much every business I guess, would need to put in?

Pratib: It really depends on the complexity of the business. Some business is very simple, very simple model to follow. Some follows are, I want to say completely more like challenging model, so in that sense, it really depends on the complexity of the business but to give you some info, you can probably use a lot of accounting input, like for example, you have your financial statement, you can look at a sample of financial statement for your business. Let’s say, lets come back to the restaurant example, over the internet, you can try to find out a lot of like financial statements for restaurants and based on that, you’ll have some input on a lot of things that you have to look out for.

Those are the inputs that we will use in our projection. What we do, is usually we sit down with a client, try to understand all the business assumptions and for me, in a financial model, assumption is the most important part. If you can get your assumption as accurate as possible, then your financial model should reflect as close to reality. So, in that sense for me, the assumption is the biggest part. I would definitely recommend clients to spend more time on coming up with your own assumption or their own business assumptions. Sometimes what happens is that most of the times like clients kind of like always estimate their sales figures, obviously because that’s their own idea for huge confidence for the business and so then that’s where I come in.

I try to challenge that idea, I try to like put on my black hat and tell them that you know what, are you very sure that you can get 10 to 20%, when research have shown that a new start-up can only get 10% of the total after 12 established market. So, anything more that 10% can be seen as over estimation but in some idea, the idea can be really good but 20% is such a good ideal target. So, the assumption is the biggest input that everyone has to get, right. On the assumption right, one of the assumptions that I think every businesses should consider is that, how long can they take to get the number of customers that they need to break even in their business. So, most of the times businesses have a great idea on, okay, I need 10 to 20 customers to keep this business going month to month basis but do they know how long it will take to get the 10 to 20 customers? So, that is a very important piece and also cost per customer. They have to know exactly how much they have to spend to get one customer in the door and that is another input that they have to consider and anything that related to product, any cost that relates to product has to be considered for marketing expenses. It’s very important we kind of under estimate marketing expenses a lot of times. So, that is like experiences and talking to your business mentor, your business coach that can help you to say that you know what, I think your marketing expense is too low for your kind of this business. You might want to increase your marketing expenses. So those are the inputs that you always look out for.

Nick: Yeah, that’s really interesting. Some of those things I would have thought, will be difficult to grasp early on at the start of the business or beforehand, such as the cost per customer. What are some of the ways, is it just from sort of just talking to other businesses and doing research? Can you get failure here with this numbers or is it more something that you sort of get it as accurate as you can and then you can refine over time?

Pratib: I think your last sentence is very accurate like you should get it as close as possible and then refine it over time, because I believe cost per customer should decrease over time because your brand is already out there, so you don’t have to incur much as cost when you started but you can talk to your competitors. Some competitors are very helpful, like you’ll be very surprised when some customers call their competitors, you can be very honest with them you know. I want to try and open a business such as this, how much, you know like what are the things that you consider and how much do you spend to get your customer?

Sometimes you have to do some mystery shopping, you have to act like you are coming from a research company and stuff and it is totally legal to do that. You’re not lying or cheating, you’re just gathering some research for your own business idea, which is totally fine. You can also do some questionnaires and talking with your real customers. Go to them, tell them this is what you’re planning to sell, how much are will you willing to pay it for? And questions that you can ask is, where do you find this kind of business to help you out? How do you find this business to help you out, and they will give you some ideas on what are the advertisement mediums or tools that you can use and from there, you can get a fairly rough idea on how much cost is gonna take you to get that customer like in your door.

Nick: Absolutely yeah. I think as you say some people might be a little bit apprehensive about sort of calling their competitors. If they are willing to help, that’s great, and if they’re not, you might have sort of get your hands dirty a little bit and do some mystery shopping but it’s important information you need for, it makes sure this business idea you know has the ability to get off ground. Something that sort of just came to me, does your consulting or does your financial projection process, does it you were able to advice how much sort of start-up capital people who need for business or is that sort of a simple thing?

Pratib: That’s a very good question. Based on the projection, based on the business model, we are very good in a very good position to advice them, this is how much capital they need. We can definitely do that because we always try to maintain cash flow positive for their business, so in that sense, we try to identify, we try to estimate the capital up front before they start the business but the thing is, it also depends on how much they’re willing to spend as well. Let’s say, they say, I only have ten thousand as my capital then we have to work with that. You have to tell them that you know what, you might want to like get more capital or you might want to like decrease the cost per product.

You can do these kinds of things to decrease the cost per product. So, that kind of play around with your own capital, buy yeah you’re definitely. Based on the financial projection, we can definitely advice them how much capital they need, but that’s not gonna be the final figure because when you really start the business they could be additional cost that being incurred or you might realize that you know the capital has been over estimated. You have more money in your bank, which is always good. So, in that sense it really depends on how you are running the business once you’ve launched your business.

Nick: Yeah, it occurred to me when I was talking to with Trevor Glenn a few weeks ago in an episode about Lane start-up methodologies, it occurred to me that this sort of approach where you have this forecasting document, your Excel spreadsheet, which is able to be, with the inputs and assumptions that are able to be changed, it seems to fit well with the Lane start-up approach.

Pratib: Yeah, I mean very good point. I’m a very big fan of Lane methodologies. I’ve been to their trainings and all those things and one of the book that I would recommend to all start-ups to read is the Hundred Dollar Start-up.

Nick: Ok, I’ve heard of that but…

Pratib: It’s something pretty similar to Four Hour Week book and it kind of gives you different ideas on how you can launch your business with a very limited capital and which is always good. What I try to propose to customers is that you should always launch your business with your own money. Try to sell few products with your own money and once you have an established track record of sales and then go to investors and then fish to investors because then you have more demand power. Investors will not be telling you how much your business earns, perhaps you can tell them that hey, I’ve managed to sell 10 to 15 product in just one month, which is gonna be a big hit and you should invest in this.

It just gives you a more buying power when it comes to speaking and negotiating with investors. So that’s my proposal like obviously it really, some businesses need huge capital at start, manufacturing organization is a perfect example. They need a huge capital to lease the machineries, to buy, the plant and factories and all those things. So, in that sense the lean start-up, lean methodology can still help them to minimize the cost but obviously the capital as one be as small as the business models out there.

Nick: Yeah, yeah. That make sense but certainly, for the smaller business that haven’t got that message, cost behind and that’s something they should be looking into and Hundred Dollars start-up. I’ve heard that I recommended by – it’s on my list of books to read. I’ll put a the link in the show notes. Anyway I’m just gonna check it out. Okay, next question I’ve got here is perhaps a little tricky one. What happens if a projection doesn’t turn out to be accurate or sort of starts to go off the direction of the business, sort of diverge from the projection?

Pratib: To be honest, most of the times, I think all the times, the projection will not be as accurate as the real life but I think this is where we have to understand the use of financial projections. Financial projections is a dynamic road map. It tells you where to go and how to get there. Though you are actually travelling on the road map, you might find that a, I might use route a, shorter, it’s nearer and it’s costs free for me. So those are the things that you might want to consider when someone’s doing the financial projection. It does not have to be a 100% accurate and if it’s 100% accurate, then I think there’s something wrong with the financial projection because of the way they are doing the business because you want to prove the financial projection wrong.

You want to prove in the sense that you want to tell them, hey I can make more money than what I’ve already projected or I can reduce the cost compared to the one that I’ve already estimated before I launched the business, which is very good but a dynamic projection helps you to do all these changes when you are doing the business. To get it as close to real life, I think there’s two different research you can do, one is try to get some data from primary research and secondary research. Primary research is where you can do like speaking to your customers, speaking to competitors, speaking to business mentors. You can also – of the two different start-up we find what did was basically then approach our customers, give them a questionnaire and ask them to answer a few set of questions and they are happy to do it. There was nothing for them to do – you didn’t have to give them any complimentary gift or anything.

They were more than happy to help us out and that gave us a very, very useful information because that’s coming straight from the customer and I think that’s a very good way of gathering some information, whether your product has a demand on the market before it actually go into it. If they set demand, you can ask them a lot of questions like how much are you willing to pay for this kind of services? How much are you willing to pay for this product, and that gives you a rough idea on your pricing model as well.

Secondary research is where you try to get into industry wise data or research. There are a lot of research being done in a lot of industries so you can go into there you can type into that universities usually have a lot of research papers on a lot of businesses entrepreneurship. So, you can always access this report and try to get more information on it and yeah so with primary and secondary way of research data, you can definitely build a financial model that is close enough to help you to predict or estimate the money or the expenses that you’re gonna incur in the future.

Nick: Great that’s good. Let me see if I can try and summarize it a little bit, make sure I’m understanding correctly. Sounds like the forecasting sort of product that you are providing specifically is like I said, the Excel spreadsheet and that’s a lot about the accuracy or the results of the forecast depend on the assumptions and the inputs you’re putting into that spreadsheet and in order to make a better forecast, you need to make sure your inputs and assumptions are accurate but updated if they need to be and you mentioned some of the ways you can do that with your primary and secondary research and also change in over time. So, you have to keep in mind is that it’s a road map, it’s not necessarily, exactly what’s gonna happen. It’s more about garnering more information, decisions and you should also keep in mind that you should be always break the forecasting in that you want to make more sales, you don’t want a limit to….

Pratib: Another one thing that I can also help you to understand how important financial projection is that let’s say for example there is a short supply in your materials and you have to enter some cost to get material from a different supplier and that’s gonna impact your costing but you might decide that you’re not gonna do anything with your costing, all you might decide that, you know what, I need to get more customers in for this month to get the same level of profit. But how do we decide how many customers do we get?

It’s a very hard thing. If you have a financial projection, then it’s very hard to tell you that hey, guess what, you just need another 3 more customers. So, it’s quite easy for you to find 3 more customers to power the additional cost. So, those are the things that can help you if you have a proper financial projection and not only that. I think one of the most important thing for a business is to always maintain cash flow positives.

A business can be earning $1,000,000 per annum but if its cash flow is negative then it’s gonna be very hard to pay suppliers, pay expenses or even emergency fund. So, financial projection helps you to maintain cash flow positive. It helps you to tell that these are the cost that you need to cover, the minimum cost you need to cover to maintain cash flow positive. So, that’s where financial projection helps a lot as well.

Nick: Yeah, definitely cash flow. It could be a tricky one for sure that’s the thing I’ve sort of noticed when I was starting my business with almost no idea what was I was doing.

Pratib: And I think all I was on the same boat, I guess like a was stuck in all of this.

Nick: Yeah, definitely. So, if you my listeners or people watching this video are in a position where they’re about to start a business, then get on top of your financial forecasting, could definitely be something to help you out along the way. The last question that I’ve got here, which you’ve kind of really covered to some degree but it, how can or should projections affect the day to day decision making of business owners. Could you give us some examples? You mentioned the supplier thing, kind of different suppliers. Are there any other examples that you can think of?

Pratib: I think another good example is that one my own experience, what happened was that one of the business project idea was a seasonal idea. So, in Summer, it is a hot product, in Winter, it’s not a very hot product, so, how do you do a financial projections for that? So in that sense the sales projection for Summer will be very high. You’ll be very optimistic in Winter. You will be very conservative, projection. So, that was a very good project because it really challenged me to think that okay, so what is the minimum level of customers that you have to get in Winter to keep your business going? In Summer, you can go out, get as much customers as you need whilst in Winter, these are the minimum level of customers that you have to get to operate the business because obviously in business they are fixed cost and a variable cost. As long as you’re covering your fixed cost, you should be happy or the business was quite okay to cover the fixed cost in Winter.

So, the financial projection was there to help them to identify the number of customers they have to get just to cover the fixed cost, whereas, in Summer, when the variable cost increases with the number of products that they sell, so, in that sense, it was quite alright to get more customers in but in Summer, so in Winter, they managed to identify that alright, that’s cool we just have to get 3 to 5 more customers just to cover the fixed cost. So, that’s another example on how financial projection helps seasonal business. So that’s one I example. Another example is I’m trying to think – I was thinking before this meeting, I’m just trying to figure out what idea was, written on investment.

I think what happened was that this business was seeking investment of, if I’m not mistaken $10,000 from 2 investors, and 2 investors had different return on investment and obviously, as you might have found a return on investment is basically what they are getting from money that is invested in the business and you have to make sure that the businesses that was seeking the investment are comfortable with the rate of return that the investors are seeking for. So, doing a financial projection helped them to tell them that if you are taking $10,000 you’re safe or your base return on investment should only be 5%. If investors are looking for 7%, then it has to be a best case scenario. So, a business can put a confidence, how do I put it, like confidence probability on how many times in a month they’ll reach a best case scenario. If it’s less than 50%, then I So, that’s how financial projection can help them to identify which investment proposal is best for their business.

Nick: It’s good that you’ve discussed investment as well which is something I have no idea about. So, it’s always good to get some different areas of expertise for different types of businesses that perhaps seeking an investment. That’s pretty much all I’ve got much on my questions. It’s been quite an interesting interview and I think there’ll be lots of stuff here for people thinking of starting a small business or in the early stages of start-up a more of start-up type business. Thanks very much for coming in and talking to me Pratib. It’s been…

Pratib: Big thanks for having me. I think this is such a good opportunity and the project that you are doing – I’ve been spending like 1 day just looking through all the videos that you have published before this. So, it’s been a really good, very good project, keep it up!

Nick: Thanks for that and if they want to find out more about you and about your business where can they do that?

Pratib: I have my own website which is www.silverwhale.com.au so that’s where you can get more details of the business and you can call. I don’t really charge for initial consultation. So, if you go to an Accountant, they can do the financial projection for you but I think they’re gonna charge like $150 to $300 an hour just to talk with you on your business idea but for me I take that opportunity to learn about your business model. I learned a lot of things when I talk with entrepreneurs like you. I’ve learned about other things that I’ve been missing out in my business. I get like a lot of ideas by just speaking with you, so in that sense there is always gonna be like a learning opportunity for me. So, in that sense, I’m more than happy to sit down with [Audio breaks 00:31:31] any type of normal consultation with them.

Nick: Yeah, we just lost you for 2 seconds there. You said sit down with…

Pratib: Yeah I’m more than happy to have an initial consultation for cost free with any start-up entrepreneurs or business owners because at this time are very good opportunities for them to learn how financial projection can help them and also they for me to learn about the business idea because speaking with entrepreneurs help me with all my business thinking and stuff. So, it is a very good opportunity as well. So, all I’m saying is feel free to contact me you know, costs free stuff. The only way you can find out is by trying so, there are a lot of books out there for you to identify the importance of financial projection and modeling. So, feel free to check them out, yeah and hopefully good luck with all your business adventures.

Nick: Great yeah. Thanks for that and that sounds like, as you say, there’s nothing to lose from anyone who contacted you if they are thinking about getting a financial projection. So, definitely I’ll put some links in the show notes for this episode on our website www.webmarketingadelaide.com.au we’ll have links there to Pratib’s website and those would be the video obviously from this episode and the audio up there as well. Thanks very much again for joining us on this show.

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Nick Morris is the founder of Adelaide Experts and an SEO Consultant at Web Marketing Adelaide.

23Dec

Business Processs Improvement with Jo Shanahan from DVE Solutions

For this interview I’m joined by Jo Shanahan from DVE Solutions and we’re talking about business process mapping and improvement. This is a very interesting topic and I think all businesses could get something out of this interview.
Jo Shanahan DVE Solutions

 

We cover

  • Who can benefit from business process improvement?
  • What are some signs that business owners can look for to know that they need to make some process improvements?
  • Some typical processes that businesses struggle with
  • Tips for creating new processes
  • The role of technology in processes

Links

Transcription

[spoiler title=”Click to reveal/hide the transcription”]

Nick: Good day everyone, my name is Nick Morris. Welcome back to Adelaide business. For this interview, I’m joined by Jo Shanahan from DVE solutions. Good day Jo, welcome to the show.

Jo Shanahan: Thanks Nick, thanks for having me.

Nick: The topic we are talking today is sort of like what Jo specializes in, which is business process improvement. Before we get into that Jo, how about you tell us a little bit about yourself, a little bit about DVE?

Jo Shanahan: Yes, sure. So, I come from manufacturing background, I’m a mechanical engineer and I worked at GM Holden in the manufacturing plant. So, what I’ve basically done with DVE is taking all the systems and processes knowledge that I learned in manufacturing, which is effectively the best in the world, and I’ve been bringing that to other businesses, small and large around the country and enabling them to work more effectively and efficiently in a manner that is used quite widely in manufacturing but not so much in offices which is basically where we work.

Nick: Cool, cool

Jo Shanahan: And do they, sorry…

Nick: Yeah, I was gonna say you have an office both in Adelaide and Sydney, is that right?

Jo Shanahan: Yeah. So, we are based in Adelaide, we have an office in Sydney, we work all around the country and DVE Business Solutions basically takes that knowledge and we specialize in process improvement, custom technology and training. So, we take all of the information that we gather from the business, we come up with some recommendations that can provide a full holistic solutions for the business or we can just provide small improvements and advice around process improvement or technology or a combination of both.

Nick: Cool, sounds interesting. Who can benefit from this services that you provide, is it small businesses, big businesses, is it particular industry, B to C, B to B?

Jo Shanahan: We’ve worked across O industries, there’s no particular industry that we worked, with O businesses, the knowledge of the business and their industry is where they specialize, where we specialize is just how to improve processes. In terms of the size of the business, typically you’re high growth businesses or largely established would be the main areas where what we can offer is valuable and where you’re trying to actually get more out of less resources, where you try and be more effective with your time or do things better, for example if you’re getting ready to scale or if you have scaled or maybe assistance and processes haven’t caught up with you yet.

Nick: Cool, what are some signs that perhaps businesses can be on the look out for, to know that they have the ability to improve systems or is it something that almost every business has some way they can improve?

Jo Shanahan: I think most businesses have some way they can improve. I guess some of the sort of things we hear our clients say where we know that we can help them is, you might not know exactly what is wrong, but you’re just thinking there must be a better way. So, it’s gonna be a better way to do this, like I don’t know what it is, but there’s gonna be something different. That’s where we can come in and help you work out what it is, or it might be that you actually have specific goals for your business, growth goals. To achieve those goals you’re gonna have to invest some sort of resource, in terms of perhaps, of people power or finances and instead of wanting to do that, you want to look at doing things more effectively.

The other key indicators are often, just typical things like duplicate data entry. If you’re finding yourself or your team copying and pasting the same data multiple times, that’s usually an indication that you can do something better, or if the communication between team members isn’t effective, so you know, the whole left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and people aren’t communicating and getting frustrated, that can also be a sign of process improvement being able to be effective and helping with that.

Nick: Cool, that sounds good. It sort of leads into my next question, which is, the clients usually have a specific processes in mind when they come in and bring you in, or is it more about asking you what can be improved?

Jo Shanahan: Yeah, that’s a good question. It sort of comes in both directions. Sometimes there might be a call process that people actually just know this is a really important process and we’re not doing well enough and we want specific help on that one and in that case we will come in and work with that one specifically or as I said before, there might just be like, something is not right here, there is got to be a better way. Actually, we don’t even know where to start, we’re feeling completely overwhelmed, perhaps you could you could just come in and review our whole team and all our processes and provide us some recommendations on what processes would be, would give us that 80% gain with that 20% effort.

Nick: Great! Another question I had was, how wired reaching your, are your recommendations gonna be, for instance would you, if someone’s got some support system maybe like a phone support system and maybe you see an opportunity to completely get rid of that system and bring in something else, like maybe an online system or something like that. Would you make those sorts of recommendations or are you more about just improving that phone support system?

Jo Shanahan: We work on a couple of different levels again and it depends largely on what the client wants, so if the client say to us, we just want some immediate fixes that we can implement tomorrow, then obviously that affects the level of recommendation that we give. Some clients say look, we just want a big blue sky picture of what’s possible for us in the next year or two and then that guides some of those bigger decisions or and probably more often than not, a little bit of a combination of both.

So, some recommendations on what you can just do now that might be quick and easy and actually what you could be moving towards in the future. So, for example going back to that duplicate data entry example, if someone in the team or yourself spending multiple hours in a week manipulating data in a report that has to get submitted regularly, we might create an advance excel solution that just in a click or two, lets you provide that entire report in a format that you need, so, you might save an hour or two a week in a year.

That adds up significantly but at the other end of the spectrum, we might say, well look, that’s an internal solution but what you really need is a full management system. So, a customized system that’s built around your processes that is entirely customized to your needs and you and your team have input into and that is gonna be a fairly large project and that might go for a year or more in different stages. So, yeah there’s this combination of immediate benefits and then long term strategic benefits and we try wherever possible to give a bit of balance of both but sometimes clients have a bit of a focus on what direction they want to go in.

Nick: Great! Are there any typical processes that perhaps you could give us examples of now that many businesses might face, maybe give us a light bulb moment where we think maybe this could help me in some ways, maybe typical processes that can be improved.

Jo Shanahan: Yeah, we see, what I try to get businesses mapping out is their core business process. So, there should be one process an over arching one, not a little specific one but one process that is actually the core of what the business is about and that should involve effectively getting some business in and delivering a product or service to clients and then, that’s a really good starting point. So, often clients have trouble in people, especially business owners, especially when you’ve been going through a rough phase.

It just feels really over whelming, you know if you want to scout you’ve got to setup your processes effectively but you’re actually not sure where to start. So, one of the main pieces of advice I always try to give is start with that co-business process and map that out at a fairly high level and then start sliding in other processes around it. Now, if you’ve got processes that you say that really aligns to our core business process, the question should really be asked why you doing it? So, if you’re doing work that is not assisting or enhancing or facilitating your core business process, you should be questioning why are you doing it. So, that exercise in itself is a really useful exercise just from a getting started point of view but typically, more generic processes are sort of your lead generation, your sales process, the specific processes that are drilling down a little bit further into how you actually deliver your specific product or service and how the customer interacts and works with that and how the different team members in your team interacts with that. Then of course, you’ve got, like your billing processes and so a lot of systems like for example Zero, people we work a lot on processes, where they use to use mild, they wanted transition to Zero, that actually isn’t a system change.

You have to change a lot of processes to introduce an entirely different online system that is gonna make you work differently and more effective. So, we work with a lot of people who are transitioning to a new type of system and help them to move their processes along with that because I think that’s often under estimated, the amount of work that can actually take. So, yeah billing, receipting, finalizing your customer relationship management, all of those sorts of generic processes pretty much every business has and some are fairly standard but a lot of them are going to be tailored to how the business runs and the vision of the business itself.

Nick: Great! And you mentioned technology in there and a little bit with Zero, I guess that’s an interesting point in that, we’re saying lots of technologies coming in, in different sort of parts of how a business runs, many of them disruptive and made them making process that have existed for a while, completely automated. Is technology a big part of what you do or is it only a part when it’s necessary? How big a part does technology play in the process improvement?

Jo Shanahan: Yeah, we work very, very closely with technology. We develop our own systems flow so we have a few different areas. We always try, if technology cannot enhance a process we’ll always try and recommend a technology solution. I mean that’s the way that the world is going and that’s what we do ourselves as well. We really believe in practicing what we preach, so if a client or a business didn’t want to have technology aspects or didn’t want to consider technology, then that’s perfectly fine as well. We just go and look up processes.

One of the things we do differently in our process mapping is we actually incorporate a systems online and we always show with our processes the different touch points of the process and the people to the system. So, that is one of the things we do a little bit differently to traditional process improvement and that’s because we really believe that processes are driven by systems these days and systems processes drive the need for systems as well, so it works in reverse as well. So, we always make sure that we consider processes and systems together.

That’s one of the advantages of DVE and how we actually do this quite differently to a lot of other businesses and so, in addition to the process improvement aspect, we can often do reviews and we source what systems are available. We might do a review on a system that a client’s looking at and compare it to what the needs of our business and the people in the business, to make sure that you are not going to go and implement a system that is actually not fit for purpose or we might complete the design built from scratch and customize systems.

So, it might be advanced excel or it might be a web-based, database with work flowing portal technology and things like that, and again that depends on what the client needs and so if there was something off the shelf or propriety system or a cloud based system that suited the client’s needs, we would always recommend that they’d go in that direction but if they find themselves in a situation where they’re changing their processes to suit a system in a manner that’s not making them effective, then we never recommend that.

So, if that’s happening and that’s a significant impact on the business, we’d always say that you should be looking at your own system. If your processes are having to response too much to a system, then get a system that you can actually build around your ideal processes.

Nick: Cool, yeah. That’s really interesting. I guess one follow-on question from that I had was, do you ever find that businesses might sort of jumped on the technology bandwagon and gone a bit far and adopted some technology which perhaps, it would be better for them to step back and make that more of a job that a person could do or anything like that? Do you think people a little bit gotten on with the technology or is technology almost always is the best way to go?

Jo Shanahan: I think that technology is often almost always the best way to go, however what I see happen a lot is people get so excited about a new system that they forget how much work it actually takes in implementing the system and so they just decide, ahh, we want the system, it would be great, let’s implement it and then the change management around the processes and the people that are going to have to interact to that system, that’s not managed very well. So, an implementation, a successful implementation actually takes quite a bit of planning and work and that’s something where businesses often fall down.

They don’t realize that or they realize that a little bit too late and they were already into the system. So, if you go and look out a system it’s really important to do the homework upfront. Make sure it is the right system for what you need because it might be easy, this all looks great, we will implement this, but actually, once you’ve done all this work to implement a system, you don’t want to change it to another one. You’re have to think about you’ve got all your data in it, you don’t want to have data migration all this sort of thing. So, once you’ve got one, you want to have it for a while. So, it’s really important to do that homework beforehand to make sure that it does actually match the business and people’s needs, not only now but because things are changing so quickly, you need to be thinking about whether it’s going to be able to score with the business too. So, often you see small businesses particularly, they might get a free version of a software or something and they thought I’ll just start with this and then they become so ingrained in its use and all their data’s in there and it actually becomes quite a big job to change.

So, I always try to get people just thinking about that a little bit earlier on in the piece and then other aspect of that is the, still around the implementation, is people feel that there is a pain point in their business and especially because there are so many solutions, it is very easy just go and try to solve that pain point by finding a new system. I’m not saying that these things are going to solve all their problems but often if the problem is actually [Audio breaks 00:15:26] the root cause of the problem and then looking at actually managing that system and the implementation around it.

Nick: Cool, interesting, yeah. It it’s an interesting thing about technology. I think that’s something that people should definitely take note of because obviously, it’s changing and then your thoughts there on making sure that you do your research beforehand. I think that thing really makes sense, first on implementation, do you help with the training and the implementation side of things as well, for the business, it seems like that’s a pretty big part would you say?

Jo Shanahan: Yeah we do. So again it depends on what the client has in terms of resources and needs as well but often as I’ve said, that is often the largest part of any of these projects and the make or break of a system is around the implementation and often very largely the communication around the engagement of the people who are going to be using it. So, if you’re not communicating the changes effectively, there can be a perception that it’s a negative implementation when in actual fact, it’s not the system that is the problem, it’s just the way it was implemented.

So, we always try where possible to assist with the implementation and when we, certainly when we do custom systems, we always try to assist with the engagement of the users and the communication around that but we have we, also have been hired on many occasions to implement especially larger systems in larger businesses and actually work on implementation project and get the people, the different people that are going to be [Audio breaks 00:17:03] talking to each other and engaged in the project.

So, it is more successful and the user uptake is of a higher degree than if you just throw out and say this is what you’re using now and then, in terms of that, we’ll also do quite a bit of training. How we provide training obviously, if we build a system we provide quite a lot of training around how to use it to make sure people understand that. I have done a lot of work around setting video user guides and that sort of thing and we also help to facilitate training with experts in other systems if that’s required as well, depending on the project.

Nick: Cool, yeah, that definitely seems like an important step as well because I guess especially in an established businesses where there had been a process for a while, everyone’s gonna be probably against change and there could be some push back there. So, I think getting them involved in the process and making sure you get that training done is a good thing. If someone’s at to the point where creating a new process for their business, do you have any sort of tips for how they can try and make sure it’s as efficient as it can be from the get go?

Jo Shanahan: Yeah. So, the first thing in terms of selecting the process as I’ve said previously, is to make sure the starting point is your core business process and making sure that you’re focusing as much as possible. So, 20% of the processes, you are going to make 80% of the difference. So, that is going to be the core business process and then the main ones that lead into and out of that, so, always start with those. In terms of the individual process, the best thing to think about is be really clear on where it starts and where it finishes.

You can make anything into a process if you really want to, so, just provide yourself some definition and framework so a good solid starting point and finishing point and then knowing that you want to actually map out what goes in between those points is really important. One of the things we do, which I would suggest is a really good thing to do, is adding in a system swim line and showing the systems touch points. So, don’t just look at the people, in this day and age, people are interacting with systems all the time, so if you are going to be knowing that is a reality, then actually set it up so that’s what shows as well.

So, you can show a systems swim line if you’re using swim lines for your process mapping and you can just flow the processes into the systems swim line as well and basically, what that does is if you went along the system line, you would see all the touch points that that process has with the particular system and that is a really useful bit of information. The other thing that’s important is, as you’re mapping each step, be very clear that in each, when you think of a process, make sure it is actually one process, so a lot of times people put a whole bunch of things in what they consider one process and if you look at it, it’s actually a few different steps.

If it is a few different steps, map it out as a few different steps, but one other thing that can be difficult is to understand the level of the map that you are gonna be creating so you want the level of information or the detail that you’re going into the map to be fairly consistent. So, you are to do a really high level map which might be client calls with an inquiry, then they get passed over here and then they get sent to this person and then they get an email or you might go into, that’s where we write a mid level map. You might be a really, really high level, which just outlines at a high level, how general client communication occurs in the business or you might go into a deeper level, which includes things like actually how you do some of those steps and each of the people that might be definitely involved. So, at the beginning of the process, you really want to think about the start and finish points but also the level to which you want to be mapping it.

You want a lot of little detail and you want to know every little step and someone new coming into the business needs to be able to follow every bit of it and learn from it or actually you just try to demonstrate where people are involved and where systems are involved and what the basic flow is. So, have an understanding of that because we often see people mix the two up and that’s when it gets really confusing for people. The other thing to think about is making sure that, along the way you’re considering the decisions that have to be made.

So, particularly a business owner or someone who has very intimate of the knowledge of the processes, mapping it themselves, they don’t show it as a decision, so they kind of make them as they’re mapping it, so they don’t show it as a decision point but if you had someone new doing it, they might get stuck and they might go ahh, where there’s actually two options here, what one do I pick? The business owner or the person who knows it really well would be like, well, that’s obvious, you pick this one for this reason but you’ve got to write a map if you don’t know that.

So, just always try and think where are their decisions, where are the options along here and make sure you show those and then the other main thing is the and then this comes from my manufacturing background is really asking why, so in terms of the next stage, the first stage is you map it all out, the second stage you start improving it. If you want to improve something, you need to be asking why are we doing this, so always questioning it. So, if you’re mapping this out and you notice that you’re updating the same spreadsheet three times, in a process it spans over, say a day or two, just be asking why are we doing this three times?

Do we need to do this three times? Maybe we do and that’s okay, or maybe no and that’s actually ridiculous and you’re spending ten people’s time four times a week doing three updates when it could be done in one, so, and then that could be a really significant saving. So, that’s how you start to find those improvements but the first thing to do is map how it is now. I guess that’s actually over arching all of those individual tips on how to map. As you go forward to do some mapping exercises, you need to map how it is now first.

You need to understand how it currently works and then work on improving it. Often, people get excited by the mapping and they start improving it straight away and its better off not doing that. You’re better off just mapping how it is now, getting some clarity around what the actual current situation is and then starting to ask the questions and ask why and then map out how it could be and start trying how it could be. Then, that’s how you develop a culture of continuous improvement. You want to be constantly improving these processes and you’ve got, you need a starting point to be able to improve from.

Nick: Awesome. Thanks very much for all those tips Jo. We are gonna go into some, a little bit of an example with some mapping and stuff in a minute but before we get started I just want to say thanks for coming on the show. It’s been really interesting getting your insights on process mapping, which I think is probably a topic that a lot of people know is important but they probably don’t, you know make it a point to think about it on a day to day basis like you guys do. So, it’s good to hear your thoughts on that. If people want to find out a bit more about DVE, what’s the best place they can do that?

Jo Shanahan: They can go to our website at dvesolutions.com.au or you can email us at info@dvesolutions.com.au as well. So, yeah feel free to ask any questions, or get more a bit more feedback on how to do some process mapping [Audio breaks 00:24:51] or any sort of technology, implementation and changes like that.

Nick: Cool, well, we’ll put the links and the information up on the website, which is adelaidebusiness.net.au and you can go check out Jo’s stuff over there. Now, we’re just gonna go into a little bit of example, get Jo to share her strategy there and try and go through a typical sales process that, or an example sales process a business might have and how to sort of map that out and so go through the process a little bit. So, take it away Jo at your end, so we can get an example.

Jo Shanahan: Okay.

Nick: Alright.

Jo Shanahan: Can you see my screen there?

Nick: Yep, so we get your screen up!

Jo Shanahan: Okay, beautiful. Now, we typically use Microsoft Video, but for the purpose of this very simple example, I thought we’d just use Lucid Chart which is an online software, which enables you to do process mapping. I thought it might be a little bit more accessible to you people viewing and so it might be a little bit easier. So, alright, first things first. We start with the starting point. This is the terminator, it’s the starting point of any process map. We’ll have one at the start and one at the end. So, remember in my tips I said to think about the starting and finishing point of the process before you get going mapping. So, what process did you want to do today Nick?

Nick: So, I thought like a sales process, might be something that a lot of businesses can relate to. Yeah, let’s start with something like a sales process.

Jo Shanahan: Okay, beautiful! And so what would you consider a starting point?

Nick: I guess for a of lot of, with my clients in particular, where we’re talking about web marketing, I guess a lot of, starting point would be the client, potential customer goes to the website, fills in a form, so, I guess it’s a lead capture is for probably the first touch point.

Jo Shanahan: Okay, so lead then comes in, we’ll be a bit generic. It could come in any number of ways. So, what we actually, what we could do here, oh I’m getting excited, process mapping makes me get excited. So, what do we want to call, what do we want to call the final, what’s the end point of this process, the sales process, would it be the sale?

Nick: Yeah, I guess it would be the sale, yeah.

Jo Shanahan: So, you can see there where the end point can vary, like it can go on forever. We can make the end of the sales process the end of the project you know. So, it’s really important that we understand what we want the beginning and the end of the process to be, so, we’ve got somewhere to start. So, I’m just gonna shove this down in this bottom corner, we keep in mind that that’s our end point.

We are gonna just map a little bit in between. So, now you mentioned before that leads come in, in a variety of ways, before we spoke a little bit about how we forget about the decisions, this could be a potential decision point. So, if a lead comes in via the website, via in person, would our process be different or would it be the same, are we treating all leads the same or are we treating them differently, depending on how they come in?

Nick: I suppose it will be better to treat them differently because you maybe, if it’s a lead through a website, then you’re probably gonna, then making it time to go follow-up with them, whereas, if they’ve called in directly, you have to speak with them while they’re there in person. It’s perhaps a little bit of different process as well.

Jo Shanahan: Okay, sure, alright we’re gonna put a decision point in, then. So, the decision here is method of contact. So, we’re just putting that next to the box here. Now, you want to make sure, I’ll just do a few tips as I roll through this. You want to make sure that you only have one of these arrows coming out of each shape. If there’s more than one arrow coming out of a shape, then it’s probably a decision and therefore, the shape should be a decision.

So, you can have more than one arrow coming out of this diamond decision shape here, but not out of any of the others, sort of one of the rules. Alright so, we’re gonna say for this one here, we’re gonna say method of contact online. Let’s say that could be email or website, and then, oops and then we’re gonna have another method here, which is, what was the other one you said? In person.

Nick: Yep!

Jo Shanahan: So, you can see here how we’re kind of moving with the process, trying to get rid of that, odd arrow there. We are moving the process, it’s gonna be slightly different, depending on how we determine our actions or activities are going to be based on whether they came through online or in person. So, what would our next step be if they came through online?

Nick: I guess it will be probably to give them a call or an email depending on, I guess the way you want to do it, yeah to ask them about their, what their needs are and to present your solution as their solution, try to sell them.

Jo Shanahan: So, we’re gonna say follow up [Audio break 00:30:58] and this one here, in person. What might we do differently if we saw them straight away in person? Would we go straight into that? Contacting them about, like is the only extra step this follow-up via email, phone call?

Nick: Yah.

Jo Shanahan: Like if they come in, in person, we go straight into that conversation?

Nick: Yeah, I think so, you’d go straight to the conversation if you, if they are in person.

Jo Shanahan: Okay so, we might say we’re gonna discuss opportunities, so what we’re gonna do here is we’re just gonna move this over here, and we’re gonna show that the follow up via email phone call, fades into this discuss opportunities, so oops. I don’t need that. I did get excited. There we go. So, what we’ve got here is we’re showing that there is an extra step when they come in online, which is that we have to do some activity to follow-up with them. Obviously, if they come in, in person, we can just discuss opportunities straight away, but if they’ve come through online, we have to follow-up with them and then we can discuss opportunities.

So, then there might be another decision point, which is like are they interested in working with us perhaps, and that’s probably gonna be a flat, or there might be a yes or no but there might be a not now but later, please? So, we put three in this, put a yes and a no and we’ll put a not right now, and what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna send the not right now off to, that’s not the shape I wanted. We’re gonna send that off to the, I don’t know, CRM, add in CRM, and then the CRM process take care of that. So, you know, once they’ve been added in the CRM, they’re gonna be contacted regularly again, and you’re gonna be asked that “Are you interested?” question more than once?

If they are not interested, actually we might even do the same thing, we might add them into the CRM as well and that might be the end of the show for this particular process. If they are interested, then we might have some, I don’t know, scoping conversations, and then that might be the end of that. We might get the sale, that might be the sale after that, it’s quite simplistic here for this example. So, you can see there how, just asking those questions enables you to map out very simply what might feel like a really complicated process and this also shows where I spoke about the different levels. So, this is fairly simplistic, but I’ve actually made a decision not to take into too deep level.

So, this is scoping conversations for example, that could be hugely complicated and there might be an entire process around that or multiple processes around that and that’s fine but we’ve made a decision for this map that we don’t, we want it to look to be simple and easy to follow. So, we’re just gonna leave it that. We might have other maps or documentation, work instructions, procedural items, things like that, that we might link from this directly to those, so that we can get more information, but for now, for the purpose for the level that we want this map to be at, we’ve kept that sort of level. So, that is basically a very simple sales process map and how we would do it.

Nick: Awesome Jo! Thanks for walking us through that example. I think it’s really crystallizes what we’ve been talking about being able to see the shapes and being able to see how the mapping works. What was this program that you did this in encode? Is this something that people could access too?

Jo Shanahan: Yes! This is called Lucid Chart, it’s lucidchart.com and it’s a software as a service. I’ve used it a bit, it’s really good and it’s cloud based. So, you can have a couple of people using it once and things like that. It’s very accessible and it doesn’t have quite the level of complexity, that Vizio has at the moment and so, we typically used Vizio for our clients, but it’s something that I’d quite like to play with and I think for people who just want to get started mapping their own processes, it’s a really quick and easy way to go without having to purchase software and things like that. So, and for the purpose of most people’s processes, this would be more than suitable to cover what you need.

Nick: Awesome, so I’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well. That brings us to the end of this interview. Thanks again very much for joining us Jo, it’s been really interesting having you and having you go through this stuff with us.

Jo Shanahan: Excellent. Thanks very much for having me, and hopefully I’ve been able to teach you a few things.

Nick: Definitely, yeah! Processes it’s a thing in my business at this point in time as well, so, it’s definitely given me a lot to think about. What was your website again, for people who want to go check you out?

Jo Shanahan: It’s dvesolutions.com.au

Nick: So everyone go check out Jo’s website there and we will see you next time. See you!

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Nick Morris is the founder of Adelaide Experts and an SEO Consultant at Web Marketing Adelaide.

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