Plan Canvas Blog

5 Things to Never Forget When Pitching to Investors

This month’s post was contributed by Digital Exits, a broker selling online businesses. If you would like to be a guest contributor to this blog, please send your idea for submission to or use our contact form. We’ve all heard stories about entrepreneurs who started with nothing and worked and worked until they built […]

Just What Is Plan Canvas, Strategy Execution Management, And What Does Napoleon Hill Have To Do With It?

We are often asked to explain what Plan Canvas is. Quite simply, it is software and consulting as a service to help you develop and execute plans for your business or non-profit. Develop a plan, execute to the plan. Why should you care? Because doing so doubles your chance of succeeding beyond startup. Because doing […]

New Year’s Resolutions are for Chumps

Happy New Year! We hope it is off to a good one. Now that we have made it through all of the end of year advice on new years resolutions and we have had a couple of weeks to quickly forget all of the resolutions we have made, here is a quick, if tough, message. […]

How To Stay True And Be Of Value

An article at Inc. entitled “How to stand out with your holiday messaging” suggests 3 major things for businesses to keep in mind during the holiday season, summarized as follows: Express gratitude Stay loyal to the brand Be of value It is in that spirit this post was created. Be sure to stay with it [...]

How “My Fitness Pal” Applies to Business

The popular app “My Fitness Pal” has about 20 million subscribers. You start using it by describing a little about yourself. Nothing too detailed. Just some basics like height, age, weight, etc. Next, you define some goals that aren’t limited to reaching and maintaining an ideal weight. That’s part of it. But to lay out [...]

Out of the Darkness – Suicide Prevention

We are taking a break from typical business topics in this blog post and instead focusing on the subject of suicide, beginning with some alarming statistics. Here are some according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP): Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Each year, nearly 45,000 people die […]

Share the Good Things You Do – Just Don’t Cheapen It

At work or in your business, how do you share the good things you do outside of it, that benefit others, without making it sound like a cheap marketing ploy? On a recent episode of the Business is ART podcast at the TrueChat Network, guest Joseph Lewin discussed the importance of having a business identity. [...]

The Difference Between Goals, Strategic Objectives, and Tactical Objectives

There’s rarely ONE correct answer. Ask 10 different experts and you will get 10 different answers. That seems to be true of many things – and so it goes with terms like goals, objectives, strategic objectives, and tactical objectives. Here is our take on these particular terms. Goals are big, lofty things Goals are big, [...]

You Need Project Portfolio Management – Just Not So Complicted

An article at the Project Management Institute (PMI) entitled Project Portfolio Management Techniques starts out with a statement we often use at Plan Canvas as well: “According to Gartner research, out of $1 to $2 trillion invested in IT deployments in North America annually 30% or $300 to $600 billion is wasted.” That’s just in [...]

There May Never be a Perfect Time to Take Time Off – So Just Do It

Even though we were in the heat of redesigning the Plan Canvas software, as well as working on our go-to-market strategy, every member of the small-but-mighty Plan Canvas team took time off over the last 4 weeks. Why would we do such a crazy thing just when things were so hectic? Because things have been […]

Plan for Success – Focus on Execution

Success doesn’t just happen. You have to make it. But first, you have to define what it is. A note from Jon Umstead: Plan Canvas is great for startups but it was built with the operations/organization leader in mind – that was the perspective I was coming from when Business is ART was written, and […]

The Entrepreneurial Bug is Often a Childhood “Disease”

On the July 24 episode of the Business is ART podcast, the guest was Travis Pine, President/CEO of Lone Pine Holdings LLC and President/CEO of his new startup, Solstice Innovations, Inc. an insurance technology company that Travis is just now beginning to stand-up. Early in the podcast, Travis noted that he caught the entrepreneurial bug [...]

From Entrepreneur to Student to Career to Entrepreneur

Elise Mayville-Umstead This week’s blog post is from guest-contributor, Elise Mayville-Umstead, founder of Umstead Farrier Service, Prince George, VA. Some entrepreneurs go into business because they have an idea they want to explore. Others, like Elise, go into it to explore a specific career or passion. We have divided Elise’s guest-post into 6 key lessons. [...]

Success is Personal

While recording an episode of the Business is ART podcast (airing Tuesday, July 17 at 7pm), my guest, Donerik Black, and I discussed the importance of knowing what success means to you before launching a business, a career, or taking whatever that next leap of faith may be. Donerik is a Business Consultant and Managing […]

How to Focus On Today With an Eye On The Future

We recently received the following email: “Hello, Mr. Umstead. My name is Tarik Woods. I currently attend Wright State University, studying communications. I am reaching out because I am interested in interviewing you on my talk show [on campus]. I work in the New Media Incubator at Wright State where, this past semester, you spoke […]

Yes, You Can!

Plan Canvas founder, Jon Umstead, recently had the honor of being a guest on entrepreneur coach and author Virginia Phillips’ podcast “Yes, You Can”. Her book Yes, You Can!: Your Roadmap to Dream, Create, and Profit was released earlier this year and is a tremendous guide for anyone dealing with even a hint of doubt. […]

Airing Our Dirty Laundry – The Absence of a Good Go-to-Market Strategy

We began the month of May asking a question – what’s holding you back? If you follow us closely, you may have noticed a few things: We did not post blogs on a regular basis. We did not produce new Business is ART podcasts on a regular basis. We temporarily shut down the Plan Canvas […]

Doing Nothing is a Choice

In Business is ART, author and Plan Canvas founder, Jon Umstead tells the story of Larry, a former co-worker who used to say, “If at first you don’t succeed, keep on sucking ‘til you do succeed.” It was Larry’s way of saying that you shouldn’t be afraid to try again. Take the leap of faith […]

What’s Holding You Back?

Chapter Two of the book Business is ART is entitled “Refusing to be Constrained by the Shackles of Choreography,” which is an original way of saying, “be original.” Just because something has been done the same way forever doesn’t mean it’s the best or only way to do it. Innovation and progress are dependent on […]

The (Mythical) Steps to Successful Strategy Execution

As a Strategy Execution Management (SEM) software and consulting business, the very topic of strategy execution is naturally near and dear to our hearts. The big question that always hangs in the mist is “How do I get better strategy execution results?” An article at Entrepreneur entitled “4 Steps to Successful Execution of a Strategy” […]

One of These Attitudes Will Get You Far

The majority of this post is an excerpt from our soon-to-be released white paper entitled “Strategy Execution Improvement Requires Institutional Change.” Before getting to it, we would like to add an editorial note to say the title perhaps should be expanded to include, “And it requires individual change as well.” During a recent demonstration of [...]

If Strategy Execution is a People Problem – Who ARE These People?

A lot of sources say that the problem with strategy execution is a people problem, not a strategy problem. In fact, an article at Harvard Business Review (HBR) is entitled exactly that. There is a lot of truth to that sentiment, although, as we have discussed in previous blog posts, we believe that a good […]

I’m a Small Business – Stop Using Words Like “Strategy Execution”

One of our missions at Plan Canvas is to take big company business practices and strip them down to their simplest forms so that small business, entrepreneurs, and freelancers can use them to their benefit as well. Why? Primarily because our purpose is to help others succeed. But more pragmatically, things are just too complicated. [...]

Do You Know How to Encourage the Heart?

On the Business is ART podcast this week at the TrueChat Network, guest Andrea Davis, co-founder and partner at Flashpoint Leadership Consulting, discussed “Leadership’s Impact on Employee Engagement.” Among the items Andrea discussed was The Leadership Challenge by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. First published in 1987 and now in its sixth edition, […]

Why Your Vision Statement Matters

A March 21, 2017 article at Entrepreneur entitled “How To Engage Employees Through Your Company Vision Statement” by Andre Lavoie sites a study that found “60% of employees didn’t know their company’s vision.” Yet, an understanding of and appreciation for the Vision and Strategies is an integral part to both improving employee engagement (approximately 30%) [...]

10 Ways to Create Disengaged Employees

It’s easy to find advice on how to improve employee engagement, some good, some useless. Here are some ways to create DISENGAGED employees. Our advice? Don’t do the things listed here.

Employee Engagement Begins With You

There is a lot of advice available to us on ways to improve employee engagement, but, the truth is, it begins with you. We often overlook that simple reality. No matter where you are in your career, role, or position, while on the job, you are constantly on display. Your body language, facial expressions, tone […]

Tell Me One Thing the REALLY Works in Business

What REALLY works in business? Everyone wants a magic pill. Unfortunately, there is none, but one thing that comes very close is a well run peer group / mastermind . There are a multitude of peer group and mastermind options available to you. It is incumbent on you to find the one that works for […]

Read This Before Joining a Mastermind Group

If you’ve ever thought of joining a mastermind group, please read this. I’m Jon Umstead, author of Business is ART and founder of Plan Canvas. In this week’s post, I’d like to speak with you directly from my heart – then invite you to join me. Several years ago, I became a believer in the […]

36,900,000 Results When Searching for “How to Stay Inspired”

If you enter “how to stay inspired” into your search engine, it will net about 36,900,000 results. You’d think with so many people, organizations and articles out there to help us get or stay inspired, we’d find it much easier to do so. But the hard truth about inspiration is that while finding it is [...]

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

Where Do You Find Inspiration? Before answering that question, it’s important to note that there is a difference between inspiration and motivation. Motivation is external and compels you to do something. Inspiration is internal – something you feel. As an example, three deaths by suicide served as the motivation behind writing the book, Business is [...]

Quit Calling Objectives “Goals” – Just Quit It

This might be a little nit-picky, but, there is a difference between goals and objectives. Goals, by nature, are not particularly SMART…you know: Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time-bound These are actually the characteristics of well-defined objectives. You measure your progress toward achievement of goals through objectives. Objectives support goals. We said that goals are not [...]

Do Employees Really Need a Sense of Purpose?

“Executing a strategy without engaged people is impossible, and brilliant strategies without execution are meaningless.” That’s how an article at Inc., entitled Why Strategy Without Execution Will Get You Nowhere begins. It’s like we wrote that ourselves. In fact, we have written very similar statements on numerous occasions. Want to know why? Because it’s true. [...]

If You Know Better Do Better

We recently heard the story of a hard-working retail cashier, stressed from the holidays, managing to keep her cool in the face of rude customers. One particularly disrespectful customer reflected on his actions, returned to the store, and fell just short of an apology by saying, “That wasn’t your fault. I know better.” A genuine [...]

How Do I Stick to New Year’s Resolutions – We Object to The Question

How do you stick to New Year’s Resolutions? If you just heard a collective “Ugh” from the Plan Canvas team, it’s because that is an old, tired question that begins with an assumption that, every year, we have to make new resolutions because we just couldn’t stick to them the year before. But, hey, all [...]

Great Ideas for 2018 – A Resolution Revolution

Let's make 2018 the year of the resolution revolution. No more empty promises that fizzle out within the first 2 to 6 weeks. Let's get serious this time. An article at The Balance entitled Top New Year’s Resolutions for Business Success has some easy, actionable ideas that we really like a lot, particularly: Make business [...]

What is SEM – Strategic Execution Management?

As we prepared to launch Plan Canvas, a bootstrapped passion project led by subject matter and technical experts, none of who had a clue about marketing and public relations, we began thinking about how to truly position ourselves in the market. Plan Canvas’ origins are in the book Business is ART (Articulate, Revise, Track), which […]

2 Main Phases of Business – Planning It and Running It

There are two major phases to starting and maintaining any business or organization: planning it and running it. We refer to this as strategic planning and strategic management, and actually break things down a little further. Strategic Planning is the formal development of plans (vision, goals, objectives, initiatives and action items). It includes: Analysis & [...]

Are Mastermind / Peer Groups Worth It?

Are mastermind or peer groups worth it? The short answer is "Abso-friggin-lootely!" But there is a longer answer to consider. On a recent episode of the Business is ART podcast on the TrueChat Network, podcast host and Plan Canvas founder Jon Umstead spoke with business coach Steve White and Entrepreneur Christina Walters about the value [...]

A Damn Fine Design Studio

Our featured subscriber of the month is FRW Studios and its founders/owners Julie and Lance White. As their tagline states, FRW is “a damn fine design studio” based out of Dana Point, CA. FRW offers efficient, creative, lasting solutions for all of one’s marketing and advertising needs. Their primary customer is marketing departments that want [...]

My Team Sucks!

My team sucks! I’m sure we’ve all felt that way at times. We’ve probably all been on teams in which either we are the ones carrying the load, or there is that one person that never pulls his/her weight, or, for some reason, no one can get along. No matter what the situation, there are [...]

To be a More Effective Leader Stop Leading in Isolation

If you want to be a more effective leader, stop leading in isolation. You may think that because you walk the floors of your business, get down in the trenches with your employees, and surround yourself with a great team whose input you appreciate, you are not leading in isolation. But unless you are working […]

When Your Boss has the Attention Span of a Gnat

Have you ever heard someone say, “My boss has the attention span of a gnat?” Have you ever said it about someone else? Perhaps you should think twice before ever saying it again. Not only is it demeaning, the very characteristic you are complaining about can actually be a good thing. In fact, it is […]

Is Being a Leader Really all THAT Hard?

We largely agree with an article at Inc. entitled “The Brutal Truth About Why Being a Leader is So Hard” except for 2 things. First is the title itself. The truth about leadership being hard isn’t all that brutal. Difficult at times? Yes. Brutal? No. Additionally, being a leader isn’t hard. Being an effective leader [...]

What is Your Leadership Style?

According to the author of an article at SmallBizClub, entitled “Which Leadership Styles are Most Effective?”, there are 5 types of leadership styles, including: Transactional Leadership Charismatic Leadership Democratic/Participative Leadership Laissez-Faire Leadership People-Oriented/Relations-Oriented Leadership What is your leadership style? This list (and accompanying descriptions) is as good as any. The question is, “What type of […]

A Decision Not to Launch is Not Failure to Launch

The Plan Canvas official launch was September 5, 2017. Like all new business ventures, we started with an idea. In our case, that idea was to create tools and a community that make business success much more likely. The odds are already stacked heavily against most business ventures, and the unfortunate truth is we make […]

Your Irresistible Value

On last week’s Business is ART podcast on the TrueChat Network, marketing and customer relationship expert Keri Vandongen (Earn Loyal Customers) was the guest. The episode was entitled “Defining Your Purpose”, but something like “Your Irresistible Value” may have been more appropriate. Are you more engaged in your customers than they are in you? Keri […]

Congratulations Raffa P.C.

We decided the topic of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was a good one on which to blog this week. Last week, we shared on Twitter and LinkedIn an article by Roger Wolens of The Green Organisation entitled How Millennials Are Reshaping What's Important In Corporate Culture, so the topic was fresh on our mind. The [...]

What Performance Metrics Should You Track?

Most businesses and organizations naturally pay attention to 2 critical performance metrics – revenue and profit. Some may refer to “revenue” as sales, income, fees, etc. However it is labeled, it means the same thing – how much money you are bringing in. The word “profit” might mean different things to different people/businesses. For examples, […]

10 Tips for Your Business or Startup

It’s not enough to formally plan your business. Strategically managing it can make the difference between wild success and running your business into the ground. But it all may seem overwhelming at first brush. Here are a few tips for tackling it in chunks.

Strategize to Maximize

Running a successful business means much more than having a product that customers want and are willing to pay for. It is also about formulating actionable plans, being flexible enough to make changes to them as you go, having the discipline to measure progress, and, importantly, having the patience to think before taking action. It [...]

When Should You Plan to Access Capital?

Sometimes, you need access to capital – a cash infusion to make your dream a reality. Hard work isn’t always enough. Don’t let that prospect scare you because there are options. It is up to you how well you prepare for them. Micah Dickson, Small Business Community Lender with Fifth Third Bank was a recent […]

Using LinkedIn for Lead Generation

Do you use LinkedIn for lead generation? I sat in on a free webinar by lead generation expert Doug McIsaac the other day and found it very informative. I’m not a paid spokesperson for Doug, but if you are considering a LinkedIn campaign or making it a part of your daily sales, marketing and PR […]

You Should Put Yourself on a PIP

I’ve been put on a Performance Improvement Plan…a PIP!!! My. Career. Is. Over. That’s kind of what we think of a PIP, isn’t it? Because, that’s kind of what it classically is. It’s bad news. It means you really ticked someone off. It means you better meet all of the objectives defined in the PIP […]

Top 3 Ways to Stop Clicking On the Top 3 Ways to do Something Headlines

You know you’ve done it. You do it all the time. We all do it. As Mel Brooks’ character King Louis XVI says in the classic movie History of the World Part I, “I just did it and I’m ready to do it again, don’t tell me you don’t do it!” What is “it”? Clicking on those damned […]

Did the Plan Fail, or Did You Fail Your People?

You have great people. You have a great product and service. You have a plan, and, man, is it a good one. And then…crickets! Nothing. Nada. Zilch. What happened? It could be any number of things. One of them could be you, or more specifically, your leadership. Did you fail your people? An unscientific experiment […]

Fail Forward – Lessons Learned from Experienced Entrepreneurs

If you’re going to fail, fail forward. Last week I attended various sessions at Dayton Startup Week, a weeklong event put on by the Dayton Tech Guide. One of the sessions that caught my eye was entitled “Tales from the Crypt: lessons learned from a failed startup” with presenters Andy Cothrel, Founder/President of Blue Marble […]

In the Pursuit of Harmony

A recent guest on the Business is ART podcast at the TrueChat Network was coach and best selling author Tom Rubens. We focused on Tom’s book Lifeness: Harmonize an Entrepreneurial Life, but there are several points made during the show that are summarized here. One of the things Tom likes to tell people is that […]

Should I Sell My Successful Business?

Sell the business? When an entrepreneur starts off, they’re often so concerned about whether or not their business will succeed that they don’t know what to do when it actually does succeed. So many authors and motivational business speakers focus solely on starting out and facing challenges and achieving success. But what happens when you […]

Modern Business Failures Part 3 – Polaroid

Every consumer industry has a few huge brand names that are synonymous with it. For fast food burgers, there’s McDonald’s and Burger King. For discount stores, there’s Wal-Mart and Target. The list goes on. These companies are massive, and they’ve been around so long, it seems like they’ll be around forever. But there are no […]

Working Full-Time While Starting a Business

You’re ready to turn that idea you’ve been kicking around into a full-fledged business. You have the plan, the vision, and metrics for success all place. There’s just one problem: You already have a full-time job. Ideally, you would just quit your full-time job immediately and exclusively pursue your startup. Unfortunately, that’s not a realistic […]

Obvious blurred lines – improve focus by unfocusing

Have you ever heard or used the following phrases: You’re over-thinking things, or, you’re getting into analysis-paralysis. How about: Look before you leap? So which is it? Think and focus, or stop thinking and jump? It strikes me as kind of funny that new research suggests it’s both. It seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it? […]

Modern Business Failure Part 2 –

“Failure” is an ugly word. Some say there is no such thing as long as you are learning and applying that knowledge to your next attempt. Let’s just assume for a moment that failure is real, and is indeed an option. As an entrepreneur, failure is something you’ll have to come to terms with. You […]

What is that supposed to mean? Nothing is holding me back!

As discussed in a previous blog, I had the great honor of having my book used in a 300-level course on strategic management and leadership at Urbana University this semester. Last week I met with the students from the class to listen to their feedback on the book. The following critique and testimonial was written […]

Lessons learned – stop talking, start listening, start conversing

This past semester, Business is ART was used as the textbook for MGMT 315 – Strategic Management and Leadership, led by Cate Brinnon, assistant business professor at Urbana University in Urbana, Ohio. But it was I who took away several valuable lessons. Just before the course began, Cate asked if I would be open to […]

The Cost of Lying

Lying. Hey, it’s not so much a lie as it issssssssss….an exaggeration of the truth. What’s the harm, right? Nothing personal, right? It’s only business. Bada-bing, bada-boom. Sometimes, being an entrepreneur means acting like you’re a bigger deal than you are to land a client. Or saying you know how to do something and then […]

How do you stay motivated when you just don’t wanna?

How do you stay motivated? Do you have a few tricks? There is an old adage that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. I’m generally an optimist, but with a heavy dose of realism and a hint of skepticism, so I tend to believe that even the […]

If You Have to Meet, Run Better Meetings

More meetings! Ugh! Everyone is busy. Sometimes the thought of adding another meeting to the calendar is cause for an anxiety attack. How can you get anything done when you have to go to all of these meetings?! You’re not alone if you feel this way. A large percentage of the workforce does. But not […]

Can You Turn Your Hobby into a Business?

Many successful businesses trace their roots back to a hobby. You may have heard a motivational business speaker share their story about how they realized one day that they could make money simply doing something they enjoyed. A hobby certainly isn’t a bad way to start a business. After all, hobbies tend to be low […]

5 ways to add new life to your tired business

You’re tired. You’re angry and frustrated. Employees keep leaving and those who remain are less than enthusiastic about staying. You are working your tail off to add new customers. You continue to cut costs, but just can’t seem to get profits up to where you’d like them. You’re thinking about throwing in the towel, cashing […]

Want to Get Ahead? Be a Consultant to the Boss

“Make the boss look good and you’ll look good.” That was some early advice I received in my professional career. There is a lot to that statement, and a lot of room for misinterpretation. A few meanings include: Don’t showboat Don’t try to one-up the boss Don’t publicly call-out the boss on his/her mistake Don’t go […]

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