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Small Business Owners: Plan to Hit Your Profit Targets

To make a Profit, the business needs to focus, not on breaking even, not on survival, but on business profitability – literally, the ‘ability’ of the business to aim at and produce a specific dollar amount of profit as a percentage of projected gross income. Only when this is the clear business target is it possible to build a business that can deliver profit to the owner year after year. Only then can that business truly become an ongoing, revenue-producing asset for the owner. How is this done? How can a business become a profitable asset? Show me the Money! Most small businesses are inherently profitable. Depending on the business, a reliable profit of 10% to 30% of total annual sales already exists as the potential, ongoing profit return on investment of the company. But where is this Profit? Why is it so hard to see, let alone produce?

As a small business consultant for a major consulting practice, I was continually amazed at the number of small-to-medium sized companies operating with a ledger notebook and aluminum box for cash. I was stunned that the computer was used only for internet email, customer letters and office decoration. The accounting software (QuickBooks or Peachtree) was on the computer for tax purposes used by the accountant at tax time. As a consultant I was able to help the small business owners realize the most effective way to run a profitable business was to plan to be profitable. By getting the owner to understand that expenses and sales should be planned towards a goal and events controlled in such a manner as to yield the profit target. By not monitoring the profit and loss statement, the business events control the owners, and management cannot drive process and procedures toward profits. The accounting software packages were then set up to view each product by profit and loss statements on a monthly and annual basis. This allowed the small business owner the ability to react quickly to any deviations from its budgeted plans (cash falling through the cracks). The organization learns from the feedback it gets by comparing budgeted goals to actual results(revenue decreasing). Communication increased throughout the organization about employee expectations towards profitable goals.

Owners, when was the last time you updated your business plan, which is probably on your bookshelf where you placed it since you initially developed it. Now, don’t get bogged down in the document, just dust it off and use a red pen to ask your self the following questions:

Profit Planning: Budget vs. Business Plan

Has the management team updated the business plan to reflect current/future market industry ‘realities’?

Does my management team understand the ‘market intricacies’ of each product they sell and service in the business unit they oversee?

Does my management team understand the ‘customer’ product needs and wants they sell and service in the business unit they oversee?

Have you developed a profit and loss statement for each product? What are your sales revenue, direct costs, and overhead expenses for each product?

Have you benchmarked your Gross Profit margin against industry standards? Is it high or low?

How are your products sales trending? Quarterly? Is product cost percentage lowering as you sell more volume of products? If not, can workflow be streamlined.

Is my business making money? Do I have a simple profitable business model in place for every product?

Have you identified your bestselling product lines vs. your worst selling products? Select which product will grow your business?

Have your management team created action plans to meet planned product profit specific objectives and goals in target areas?

Employees/Operational Readiness

What is the current morale of the employees? Who will champion the ‘Profit Program’ that they can believe in?

What are the current ‘roadblocks’ to lowering cost and increasing throughput of products? Why?

What are the training needs of my employees to achieve profit goals? How will training improve business or morale?

Do the employees know what’s expected of them? How will they be held accountable for performance?

How will they be rewarded? Plan to give Incentives, increase Profit-Sharing, surprise Bonuses, spontaneous Intangibles?

Have your managers and supervisors set specific production objectives and goals in target areas?

Are my employees cross trained in key (growth products) production areas? Why not?

Do I have financial measurements scorecard posted in work area? Do I have relevant workflow processes posted in work area?

Do we have the best technology solution in place to reach profit goals?


Has my customer base changed?

Has my product/service offering changed?

How often/how many new customers have I obtained in the last year?

What product do my customers need to solve their problem? What services can we offer to provide convenience or can we lower product cost?

Are there any solutions outside the industry that will ‘wow’ the customer? Is the marketing strategy relevant to customer wants?

What is the company reputation to the customer? If low, how can we improve reputation and brand image to the market?

Do I know who my best customers are? What do they really want?

Do I have more/fewer customers? Why did they leave?

Who are the current ‘bad customers/clients’? Money Owed? Should I keep them or sell them?


Do I have new competitors? Who?

Do I have more/fewer competitors? Why?

What are the current competitive threats to my business?

How are my competitors resolving the customer problem? Who?

What industry has the best innovative solution to address my customers need? Why? Applicable?

What technology is a competitive threat to my bestselling product?

Evaluate answers against the strengths and weaknesses of your business capability. Formulate your strategy according to the opportunity available in the marketplace. The game is to make money for the long term, not to see how many widgets you can ‘hide’ at the end of the month or play financial engineering games with the books.

Price Points

It is never a good idea to cut your price, even in tough economic times. If you do cut your prices, only do it for a limited time encouraging customers to “act now.” This should be a last resort effort.. The temptation to cut your price in tough times is great. Ask your management team ‘If we cut prices, how will you get the prices up when the tough times are over?’ Stay on the message. Your value doesn’t diminish in tough times. Why should your price go down? Businesses should focus more on customer satisfaction. By focusing on delivering more than you promise, you are putting the customer first. It reinforces their decision to buy.

Business Partners

Look for businesses that you can partner with to cross-promote your products and services while sharing the costs. For example, a laundry mat offers free detergent with each washer load and the free detergent is paid for by both the owner of the laundry mat and the supplier of the detergent. The price was not reduced, but there is a unique incentive for the customer with a specific start and end date, which will get the customer to “act now.”

Plan to profit with sales this year. Explore new markets, new prospects and new products and pitches. This year, the three Ps of marketing your business are: prospects, products and pitches. All three may need to change a bit to get you to a profitable year.

You can do it. Surround yourself with mentors who you can talk to plan for success. It’s amazing the difference it makes just talking through your ideas. Think of planning as preparing yourself for success with a clear profit picture in mind.

New Markets

As you review your business plan, ask yourself where else you can sell your product or service. Go back to those customers who have not bought from you in a while. Have a compelling reason for them to buy from you now, such as improved service, different products or greater customer satisfaction just to name a few. Does it make sense to enter new geographic markets? Have any competitors in that market left or ‘retrenched, waiting for better times’?

Update Your Offerings

After reviewing your business plan is it necessary to change or update your product or service offering? Will product or service changes or additions allow you to sell more to your existing customers? An “update” here could mean a redesign of your web site, starting a blog, joining a social network. Essentially any way you can expand your reach to potential customers. The reason newspapers across the country are closing is due to lack of readership. People are moving to the internet for their news and information… and to find your business!

Improve Your Pitch

Thoroughly understand your product and service and why someone should buy it from you. Use written testimonials from some of your satisfied customers.

• Tell your story in five minutes or less.

• Practice to perfect your pitch “before” the sales call.

• Listen well. Ask questions & really listen to the client’s needs and concerns.

The bottom line is practice makes perfect. Be a dedicated practitioner in client connection. You are the owner. Your time, care and connection in the sales process will bring results. In these times, you can be tenacious & focus on seeking out new opportunities which will pay huge dividends when the economy turns around.

Our nation is experiencing a recession and has been in a prolonged serious economic downturn in the past decade. According to Tom Reilly, MissouriBusiness.Net, “Seventy percent of today’s CEOs have never led a company in or out of a recession and 60 percent of today’s salespeople have never sold in tough times”.

On every championship team, great coaches must receive accurate information in order to adjust their strategy to win the game. To be a truly great small company you must operate from a core value of honesty toward strategy and profitability. Remember the old management adage ‘If it doesn’t get measured, it doesn’t get done’ and ‘Lost Opportunity’ (bad decisions) can close your business. Planning profitability is a proven business method that allows your business to measure whether its succeeding or failing, not smooth talking inexperienced senior executives, presenting the latest management theory of the month to the board.

Remember, Enron, WorldCom, George S. May International, Arthur Anderson and Tyco.

Oral Agreement by Directors of a Company to Share Profit With a Person: Effect of Failure of Company



A (Managing Director) and B were the only registered directors and shareholders of a Nigerian Company. The company decided to increase its business prospects especially in the public sector by involving C who was expected to use both his expertise and political contacts to gain business advantage and expansion for the company. A and B orally agreed with C that profits made by the company shall be shared equally with C and that C would be made a director of the company. On the basis of the said agreement, C contributed greatly in securing a contract for the company which made A commend C’s effort vide a letter.

Consequently, C was designated and instructed to act as the Director of Business Development (DBD) of the company and other efforts were begun to ensure that C was made a director of the company as orally agreed by all the parties. But there was never any written resolution passed to make C a director neither was the register of directors of the company amended.

Consequently, the company secured a contract where it made a total profits of N60,000,000 (Sixty Million Naira only). Shockingly, A and B had refused to share the said profits with C.


The scope of this write-up is to: identify the attendant legal issues arising from the scenario; and appraise the identified legal issues in the light of the extant principles of law (statutory and judicial). Also, a brief attempt will be made to advise C on the strength or otherwise of his case.


1. Whether C was in law a director of the company.

2. Whether C can be said to be a partner with A and B.

3. Whether C was an employee or worker in the company.

4. Whether C is entitled to share in the income made by the company


1. Whether C was in law a director of the company:

Generally, the question of: who is a director of a company is more of a question of law than fact. Section 244 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) describes ‘a director of a company registered under this Act is a person duly appointed by the company to direct and manage the business of the company’. Undoubtedly, the directors’ roles are as fundamental to the wellbeing of a company just as blood is to the survival of the human body. Perhaps, that is why company statutes all over the world make special provisions about the procedures of appointment and removal of a director.

In the light of the foregoing, one can safely say that C was not a director of the company because he was never validly appointed so. Though, C was designated as a Director of Business Development (DBD) of the company but nothing was done to amend the necessary registers of the company at the Corporate Affairs (CAC) registry. In other words, the designation of C as the DBD without filing necessary amendments in the company’s register of directors was a mere expression of intention which was never perfected in law.

2. Whether C can be said to be a partner with A and B:

According to Section 3, of the Partnership Law of Lagos State, partnership is the relationship which subsists between persons carrying on a business in common with a view to profit. From the foregoing statutory definition, one can say a partner is a person who carries on business with such other partners. It is imperative to examine the various statutory rules that determine the nature of partnership. Section 4 of the Partnership Law provides thus:

(a) ”Joint tenancy, tenancy in common, joint property, common property or part ownership does not of itself create a partnership as to anything so held or owned whether the tenants or owners do or do not share any profits made by use thereof.

(b) The sharing of gross returns does not of itself create a partnership whether the persons sharing such returns have or have not a joint or common right or interest in any property from which or from the use of which the returns are derived.

(c) The receipt by a person of a share of the profits of a business is prima facie evidence that he is a partner in the business, but receipt of such a share or of a payment contingent on varying with the profits of a business, does not itself make him a partner in the business; and in particular –

(I) the receipt by a person of debt or other liquidated amount by installments or otherwise out of the accruing profits of a business does not of itself make him a partner in the business or liable as such;

(ii) a contract for the remuneration of a servant or agent of a person engaged in a business by a share of the profit of the business does not of itself make the servant or agent a partner in the business or liable as such;… ”

From the foregoing, it is clear that partnership is a question of express agreement between the partners because the law will not ordinarily presume the existence of partnership between persons doing business together. It then suffices to say that: a mere contract made with a servant or person for remuneration or sharing of company’s profits does not ipso facto make such servant or person a partner.

It is noteworthy to state that C’s case falls within the contemplation of Section 4 (c) (ii). The legal implication of this is that C was a servant of the company who was entitled to share out of the income of the company. But he was not a partner in the strict legal sense.

3. Whether C was an employee or worker in the company:

It is imperative to examine first the Labour Law angle of the relationship that existed between the company and C before considering the strict contractual aspect of the relationship. Accordingly, Section 91 of the Labour Act, ‘contract of employment’ means an ”agreement, whether oral or written, express or implied, whereby one person agrees to employ another as a worker and that other person agrees to serve the employer as a worker”.

In the same vein, the Act defines a worker as ”any person who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer, whether the contract is for manual labour or clerical work or is expressed or implied or oral or written, and whether it is a contract of service or a contract personally to execute any work or labour… ”

In the case of Iyere v. Bendel Feed & Flour Mill Ltd., the Supreme Court of Nigeria described a contract of employment as follows:

”… a contract of employment connotes a contract of service or apprenticeship, whether express, or implied, and if it is express, whether it is oral or in writing”.

Hence, C was a worker or an employee of the company because he was indeed working for the company. In other words, there were enough instructions and directions given to C which point to the fact that C was working for and on behalf of the company when he worked as the DBD of the company.

From another point of view, the facts at hand can also be addressed from the strict contractual agreement sense. It is trite in law that parties are bound by the terms of their agreement. In the case of Akanmu v. Olugbode, the Court held as follows:

”The elements of a valid contract are offer, acceptance, consideration and intention to enter into legal relations… Once the offer is unconditionally accepted, a valid contract has come into existence”.

Also, in the case of Dragetanos Const. (Nig.) Ltd. v. F.M.V. Ltd & Ors., the Court of Appeal held as follows:

”… it is appropriate and necessary to restate the time-honoured principle and ingrained in the Law of Contract that, ‘pacta conventa quae neque contra leges neque dolo malo inita sunt, omni modo obsevanda servanda sunt’, in order words, contractual agreements which have neither been fraudulently nor illegally entered into by parties, must in all respects be observed or enforced”.

Also, in the case of Nicon Hotels Ltd. v. Nene Dental Clinic Ltd, the Court of Appeal held as follows:

”An agreement voluntarily entered into must be honoured in good faith. Equity looks at the intent and not forms and will always impute an intention to fulfill an obligation”

In the light of the foregoing, it is safe to assert that a contract can be established between the company and C as evident in the various instructions given to C by A, the Managing Director of the company. Of course, the actions of the parties show clearly that there were offer, acceptance, consideration and intention to create a legal relation among all the parties. Hence, the decision of the company and the subsequently joint efforts made by all the parties in securing a contract constitute a subsisting and enforceable contract among the parties.

4. Whether C was entitled to share in the income made by the company:

This issue deals primarily with the determination of remuneration of C. Though, the friendly oral understanding between the parties about profit sharing was not contained in any written ‘Profit Sharing Agreement’, profits shall be shared equally because parties had orally agreed it to be so shared. However, it is to be noted that there may arise an evidential issue if A and B deny their oral agreement. It is also imperative to add that: assuming without conceding that there was no agreement (oral or written) among A, B and C, equity will still allow C to share in the profits based on C’s sweat equity.

Therefore, it is safe to say that C is entitled to his own share of the company’s income because of his sweat equity (he contributed actively in the contract from where the company made N60m). It was indeed wrong for A and B to solely convert all the income made by the company.


In the light of the foregoing, C can either sue for breach of contract of employment, or breach of contract simpliciter which can be deduced from the circumstances of both the actions and relationship of the parties. As answered by the statutory provisions above, the question of what constitutes a contract of employment is a question of law. Of course, the exact remuneration of C is equal proportion with A and C of the total profits made by the company from the contract carried out by A, B and C.


It is imperative to state that C’s case is standing on a very weak footing in partnership law, but he may have a remedy for breach of contract of employment because there was indeed an employment. More specifically as noted above, C can sue for breach of contract simpliciter because there was indeed a subsisting contact among the parties.

Take Your Customer Service Dept From ‘Cost Saving & Cost Reduction’ To High Profit & Business Growth

The more communication I have with people involved in telephone service and sales, such as Contact/Call Centers and Customer Service Departments, the more amazed I become at the reluctance to create more sales and profit opportunities through better interaction with current customers, reactivation of lost accounts and new business acquisition.

Companies are forever seeking ways to cut costs and reduce staff – particularly so in Call/Contact Centers (turning so many into ‘Call ‘n’ Wait’ disaster zones) – they often fail to see what rewards they can achieve by using the following formula:

1 humble telephone + 1 skilled operator + 1 established sales system = HUGE PROFITS!

Here are twelve ideas that can dramatically improve your bottom line RESULTS build greater customer RELATIONSHIPS and earn you (a company of any size and industry) more REVENUE.

1. Build the loyalty of your current customers

A ‘no brainer’ right? Why is that so many customers cannot get through to you, when it suits them?

Why are you constantly offering free incentives and reduced prices to gain new business?

CRM is meant to be the new service elixir. Well it is worth nothing if you don’t listen to your customers.

Here’s an example – in the last six months or so, a metropolitan daily newspaper has offered ten-week subscriptions for $39.90 (I pay more and have subscribed for 20 years), contests (win wine if you subscribe, see a rock group in concert!) and give-aways to induce new subscribers. Me, I get some sort of special club membership with the odd discount or special offer. But hey, so do the new subscribers! Who’s ahead?

2. Gain referrals from current customers

The cost of losing customers is almost incalculable. Add to that the people they tell about their bad experiences and the people they never refer to you.

Instead, offer your current customers a total strategy of satisfaction and benefits. Then, encourage them to tell others.

Don’t reward these referred customers (but do give them total satisfaction and benefits). Do reward your current customer for their referral. Develop a system that will encourage customers to tell friends, family, their customers and associates about you and then say ‘thank you’ or offer them something of value for their efforts.

3. Add VALUE to every sale

Here is a really simple equation: If you give value – you get more sales.

That’s it. If your people are trained to offer advice and information, educate customers, offer them creativity and innovation then your customers will buy more products and services, more often.

Even if your prices are slightly higher. This was the IBM way, back in the 60’s and 70’s with some great lessons to be learned. IBM charged the steepest prices in the industry but their service and support was legendary. The phrase ‘no one ever got fired for buying IBM’ originated way back then.

4. Turn an enquiry into a prospect

Then, turn that prospect into a customer. Then turn that customer into an advocate, one of your company’s ‘raving fans’.

All you need are trained people, a system and a monitoring and measuring plan. Simple? Yes it is, and like all things mentioned in this article, I will bet that some of your people excel at this and a number of them perform basic courtesies with callers – and that’s it.

5. Create an upsell program

One becomes two. Two becomes four. Four becomes … greater than the GDP of Argentina.

It is so simple, easy and effective and so few organisations employ this strategy. Many of your people don’t do this because they think the additional cost will put the customer off. It doesn’t. Not if the customer actually sees the benefit of greater quantity or improved quality.

6. Cross-sell at every opportunity

What can your people add on the original purchase? Extended warranty, on-site service, insurance, a savings if they purchase an additional item(s), a special offer or other options?

If everyone in your organisation upsold and cross-sold at every given opportunity, your sales would soar. I have witnessed increases of between 15-45% in companies where a simple upsell/cross-sell strategy was installed.

7. Negotiate on price

Don’t just offer a discount or ‘best price to you’. Let me reiterate, if you give value – you get more sales. Negotiate price. Train your people that by dropping price, they are giving away margin. So, if you offer a discount negotiate an upsell and/or cross sell. Package or bundle your offer to make it attractive and a genuine customer benefit.

8. Follow up

Every time your people give a quote, send a proposal or brochure out via fax, mail or e.mail, they should record a follow up timeframe.

Between one hour and three days. Everyone who requests information should be followed up by telephone. This leads to a higher close or conversion rate (I have witnessed 20-50%) or, if they have purchased elsewhere – your follow up call may be the commencement of a relationship … or not. But you won’t know if you don’t follow up.

This rule should also be applied to complaint management. Most companies have no follow through with people who have complained.

9. Adopt a ‘keep in touch’ program

What can you do for your customers that will allow you to contact them on a planned, regular basis?

Special offers, new product or service introductions or …? The best forms of ‘keep in touch’ are e.mail combined with a regular phone call.

But be warned – you should have a purpose for every call you make or email you send. Don’t just bombard your customers (and prospects) with garbage.

10. Develop a systematic approach to lost customer reactivation

The longer you fail to make or maintain contact, the likelier you are to lose customers forever.

If you check the most recent contact vs previous contact frequency, you can detect a lost or about to be lost customer. Do something to regain their business.

This is the most costly part of your operation – the lost customer, the lost referral.

Do you have a lost customer reactivation plan?

11. Gain new customers

Why are there so few high quality telemarketing divisions in companies? Certainly, the ‘T’ word is considered dirty and grubby in some quarters and indeed it can be. However, where you have trained professionals, comprehensively developed objectives and strategies why wouldn’t a well run telemarketing campaigns gain new business and new relationships for your organisation?

Quality telemarketing will generate leads, open up new business channels/market segments, build business with small, marginal and distance customers, give you real value (as a follow up) from exhibitions and seminars.

This is one of the most under utilised resources for business acquisition (and reactivation).

12. Develop and work your system

Success will come in all of the previously mentioned guidelines, tips and hints if you adopt a systematic approach. That is:

a) A sales and service oriented contact management system, based on a quality CRM package.

b) Well trained people who consistently add value to and gain value from every call they take or make.

c) Monitoring, Measuring and Reviewing each of the above and seeking continuous improvement both in contact management and people skills.

It is simple and what’s more, it works. Use the power of the humble telephone (and quality people) wisely, and you will gain great RESULTS: Relationships and Revenue.

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