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Category Archives: Business

Tips Develop Successful Business Plan

Have An Overall Vision

When writing your business plan it is really important to have an overriding vision of what your business is going to do, what it is going to be, and what you want to achieve. Very often it is tempting to get straight into the technical details, the monetary concerns, financial matters, where you will be sourcing supplies, etc. Now all these things will be vital in your business plan, but it has to be held together by a coherent, broader vision.

Remember the proverbial expression ‘not seeing the wood for the trees’? You need to see the ‘wood’ first, then delve in and start examining the individual ‘trees’, meaning the individual items which you will be breaking down later. So a great point is to make sure that you have that overarching vision – and if you cannot find one, then maybe it is an indication that you are obsessing on a few technical aspects that do not necessarily make up a whole business as you had imagined it. A business that makes sense and is going to be sustainable in the future is one that has that clear vision within which all the smaller parts contribute to make it successful.

Contextualise Your Budget

Of course your budget will be extremely important. But sometimes people sort of pluck figures out of thin air, not giving it the context it needs in the business plan to make real concrete sense of how that budget is going to work.

So it is crucial that every time you mention financials in your business plan, to really give them the correct context. When I have worked with clients in developing business plans, there has been a budget or amount set aside for example to be spent on marketing, which has been decided a bit arbitrarily. I mean with no real research, no understanding of what that amount needs to be spent on, and what that budget will truly achieve. It seems to have been put there to fill the need to attribute a certain sum to marketing.

Make sure you are researching each point of your budget, make sure that you are giving it context and it makes proper sense within your overall plan.

Don’t Make Assumptions About Customers

To be an entrepreneur does require plenty of self-confidence, sometimes almost a bloody-minded determination to make your business work. But this confidence spilling over into thinking that you know what ‘the market’ wants can be dangerous, without checking that it’s true. You need to do your research that the market does ultimately want what you will be offering, whatever products or services you will be selling.

That is a great thing to make sure you have in your business plan, that your business will be built around those real customer wants. Do not make callous assumptions, or statements like “I know what people want”, “People are going to love this”, and so on. Have you done your research? Do you really know that the people you will be targeting want your product / service, and crucially do they want it AT THE PRICE that you will be offering it at? Whilst confidence in your plan is fantastic, you must make sure that it does not lead you down a blind alley along a path that is not desired by your target market.

Resources for Entrepreneurs

Market Research Resources
These books can be found in the reference section at the library. Most cannot be checked out. However, you may luck up and find them on an online bookstores at a fraction of the cost.

Print Directories

  • Directory of Associations / Directory of Tradeshows
  • Sourcebook of Zip Code Demographics
  • American Market Place
  • Small Business Sourcebook
  • Best Customers – Demographics of Consumer Demand
  • Survey of Current Businesses
  • Industry and Trade Outlook
  • State and Metropolitan Area Data Book

Online Resources

  • Reference USA
  • ABI/Inform
  • ProQuest
  • Census – Business Census

Above are just a few tools to get you started on your business plan writing journey. If at anytime you feel stuck, contact one of the organizations listed to speak with a counselor. If you need assistance with your marketing or financial plans, they can help you with those, too. Just be sure to have a plan.

Inconvenient Truths UK Business Plans

Start-up businesses are often too optimistic in their income forecasts

We all tend to be over optimistic. There are plenty of high profile, high value projects that ended up with a price tag many time greater than the initial budget forecast – the building of the Channel Tunnel or the Millennium Dome (now the O2 Arena in Greenwich) are just two examples. Getting input from professional business plan writers is one way to deal with this problem.

Having an active plan also means that you can monitor actual performance against your plan and take action if you see that things are going off course.

Business owners do not know what is in their business plans

This can happen when professional business plan writers are brought in. The plan they create is fabulous, it secures the funds the business needs, but all too often the business owner never really understood what was in their plan, so it is of little ongoing use and their business risks going off track. If you hire in professional business plan writers ensure you understand what they have said about your business and that you know how to monitor your performance against your plan.

Start-up companies do a bad job of identifying their target markets

Perhaps one of the most tricky elements is identifying your target markets. It is not necessary to do lots of research but it is important to think deeply about what you know about the people who will buy your products and services. Who are they? How old are they? How wealthy are they? Where do they live? What do they like and dislike? Where and how to they currently buy similar services and products to those you will be providing?

If you have worked through the above questions and based your marketing strategy and sales forecasts on what you discovered, your plan will be stronger. If you also devise mechanisms for monitoring performance, based on the knowledge and assumptions behind your forecasts, you will have a much greater chance of improving your sales forecasts and marketing strategies, as your business develops.

Stop Wasting Your Time

Additionally, simply going through the process of building the plan will provide you with a great deal of information you will need while running your business.  Additionally, as the business grows, you will want to use the business plan to help guide you in your future planning and decision-making processes.  Finally, if you expect to raise money using investors – whether friends and family or through venture capitalists, you will need a good, strong business plan.

The Business Plan: Types

The first thing you’ll want to do for your business plan is to determine what it is going to be used for.  Basically, there are four types of business plans:

Startup plans – sometimes this will be more of an overview of the business with expected sales and expenses, discussion about the product or services, the market and marketing.  These plans can be very short (10 pages) and effective for the startup phase of the business.

Operational plans – that focus on how the business will operate, heavily focused on processes, systems and people.  Ideally, cost analysis of the various processes and systems should be included, but often, current financial information and projections are used in the plan.  These can be equated with business architecture and strategic planning.

Presentation plans – these plans are used to attract partners, donors, executive teams and investors.  The key, here, is that this plan is used to attract them. Rarely will they be the final piece of information required.  In this type of plan, we focus on outcomes: the product and why there is a great need for it in the marketplace, what an investment will do to bring the product or service to market and what type of return one might expect as a result of investing or partnering with the company.  It will normally include a lot of visuals and is, essentially, a marketing piece.

Investor Grade Plans – these are the all inclusive business plans that combine all three of the other plans, with the addition of exploring risk.  This is the epitome of a marketing and investing tool that potential investors will try to tear holes in (versus trying to justify) to determine whether or not they will invest.  The executive summary, alone, needs to be powerful enough to engage potential investors to read further.  Financial plans need to extend three to five years.  This type of plan requires the greatest investment in research and financial planning of the four plans.  It will be the authority on operating the business.

The Business Plan: How?

Many people begin their business plans with a simple template.  Templates can be found all over the internet, in books, through SCORE (Service Core of Retired Executives) the SBA (Small Business Administration) and the SBDC (Small Business Development Centers).  You can take courses on how to develop the plan, or you can work with a consultant or business plan expert (Note: I emphasize with. For your business plan to be practical, you need to fully understand what is going into the plan, why it’s there and what to do with it!).

The most important aspect of the plan, however, is that it needs to work for you and your business.  If you are a visual person, you might create a plan that is pictorially based.  If you are a task-oriented person, you might use bullet points to describe many areas of the business.  If you are a story teller, create a story, first, before even looking at a template.  Templates can be intimidating given all that is required.  Take it one step at a time.

The Business Plan: When?

When?  Your business plan should be your road map.  How often do you look at your road map when you are going somewhere you’ve never been?  Hopefully, you will look before you begin to veer off course.  Does this mean that you need to look at the whole thing, from beginning to end each and every day?  Not practical.  So when do you look at it?

The easy answer is: depends on your industry.

The better answer is – it’s too big to eat all at once.  Just like eating an elephant, you need to break it down into manageable pieces.  That means that you will want to put the marketing plan in one folder, put the SWOT analysis into another folder, your financial information in another, your processes in another, etc.  Your business plan does not necessarily need to be a single three inch thick document.

With the plan separated, it becomes much more practical to use and update.  You might do marketing every day, but do your SWOT only once a month or once a quarter.  Ideally, you’ll manage your finances regularly and can look, at any time, to see where the business is financially.  As you update any area, stick it in the appropriate area.  Once a year, you may wish to pull out a whole section, or the whole plan section by section to review and make plans for the following year.

Started Guide to Self Employment

How detailed a plan do you need before you jump in and get started? That depends on two things-the amount of risk you are taking and how much outside financing you need. For example, if you are a painter that has been employed by a reputable contractor and you want to start your own business by taking some additional jobs on your own, you aren’t taking much risk. As long as you verify that you are not putting your full-time income at risk, you may be able to just start taking jobs and plan as you go. When I started my coaching and consulting business, I used a personal credit line in an amount that I knew I could pay off to cover expenses. I did some planning to ensure that I would have a good chance of success and keep my expenses under budget. If you are planning a business start up that involves significant upfront investment, you will want a more detailed plan. Even if you plan on financing the business through personal loans, a second mortgage, or your own savings, you will want to know that you are investing your money wisely and developing a plan will help you be sure of this. If you are seeking outside investors or business loans that are not secured by your personal assets, you will need to convince investors or lenders to say yes to your request with a detailed, realistic and well-researched plan.

Business description

The description of your business is based on its mission, vision, and values. What will your business do and how will it generate income? Will you have employees? If so, what training, education or experience will your key employees need? Your description should clarify exactly what service or product(s) your company will offer and identify your target market. It should also indicate what business structure you will use and identify the key players in the company.

Market

After you have defined those basics, it’s time to discuss the market for your business. Who are your competitors and who dominates the market? Think about the unique strengths that will allow you to obtain a sustainable competitive advantage in serving the target market you identified above. In order to succeed, you will need to identify and build upon your unique strengths. You might want to perform a SWOT analysis to help you clarify your competitive position. A SWOT is simply a collection of lists-your strengths and weaknesses (things that are inherent to the business you plan to run) and your opportunities and threats (things that are external to your business) You should only list things that pertain to your business objective. For example, if you want to be a model, an attractive appearance would be strength. If you want to be a technical writer, your appearance is probably irrelevant. Once you’ve made your list, take it a step further. Clarify how you can use your strengths to counteract your weaknesses and take advantage of market opportunities to build a sustainable advantage over your competitors and develop a plan to overcome potential threats.

Financial

This is the most important piece of your plan. If your business is not profitable, it won’t work as a business! If it’s something you love, you can still enjoy it as a hobby. If it makes a difference in the world and you want to fund it, that’s fine. Just be realistic and recognize whether or not you can make a living out of what you plan to do. If you can’t-it’s better to know that up front.

You will start with a detailed listing of your start-up expenses. While expenses will vary depending on the type of business you plan to establish, common start-up expenses include legal work, logo and brochure design, training, and site selection and improvement. You will also include the available assets you will use to pay for start up expenses and the loans or outside capital that you will obtain. Start-up expenses, assets and funding all refer to what is needed and available before you actually start your business.

Then you will project your future income and expenses after you start doing business for the first year in a projected profit and loss statement. It’s important to be as accurate as possible here. Many businesses will operate at a loss when they first open because it takes time to build up a customer base and becomes established. That’s OK, if it’s part of your plan and you know how you will keep the business going. It’s not OK if you were too optimistic in your projections and can’t find the money to keep operating until the business starts turning a profit. When I studied for my MBA, we learned to game the system by starting with the numbers that we needed and adjusting the different income and expense numbers so the end result was a profitable “business.” That’s OK for the classroom, but it’s not really an effective or smart way to plan your business. If your projections show that the business is not likely to show a profit or that you can’t afford to fund it until it does, rethink your plan. Is there anything that you can realistically do to turn things around? If not, it’s better to look at a different business idea until you find one that works.

As you work on your profit and loss projections, give a detailed monthly forecast for the first year and quarterly forecasts for years two and three. Of course, these forecasts will change as your business grows and prospers, but they should be based on a realistic evaluation of the market and the competitive conditions your business faces. Be prepared to explain to lenders and investors where you will find your first clients and how you will establish and grow your customer base. In business, nothing happens until somebody buys something. Who will buy from you and what will you do to ensure that they keep buying?

Packaging the Plan

Congratulations! You’ve finished the hardest part of completing a business plan. If you’re a solo entrepreneur and you don’t need outside funding, you can stop planning and stop doing. If you need to convince lenders or investors to help you fund your business, you’ll want to take the time to present your plan in a professional format.. A good way to do this is to add a cover sheet and executive summary in front of the body of your plan. The cover sheet will identify your business and the key people involved in the business. The executive summary will briefly summarize your plan so an investor or loan officer can quickly determine whether or not they want to look at the details in the body of the plan. Obviously, you want the answer to be yes, so take the time to make your summary as compelling as possible. Then, attach supporting documents as an appendix at the end of the plan. This section would include things like tax returns for the owners that are funding the business and any documentation that supports your financial projections.

Business Plan Organization

A Business Plan is a business document; you are not writing prose. It should contain a precise and concise format and be organized into numbered Sections and Sub-Sections, which contain specific information in short, paragraph form. Plans should be produced in paper form, computer format and online format. Computer Format means the Plan is integrated into the Company’s Computer Network. It also means the Table of Content’s Sections are hyperlinked so you can easily navigate and access information on the Plan just by clicking on the links.

You should have your Business Plan uploaded securely, online (via login and password access) on your website so that Key Managers, Employees, Sales People, etc can access the information remotely no matter their location. You can have different versions available online for particular purposes, segregated by different logins and passwords. For Example, you can have your Sales Plan accessible remotely so your Salespeople can use it as a sales tool or update it with up to the minute feedback for the Sales Manager and the Marketing Department. Another example would be having your Funding Business Plan accessible online with versions for different audiences: bankers, venture capitalists, angel investors, etc.

Business Plan Sections

The Table of Contents is one of the most important parts of the Plan. The TOC should be very detailed and well organized so that the reader and user can find and access the information easily and quickly. You can write a great Plan with all the necessary information in it, but if the reader can’t easily find or access the information, then the Plan ceases to be a useful tool.

The TOC should be organized by each Section and Sub-Sections of the Plan with the corresponding page numbers. It is strongly recommended that your Plan be developed as an outline document, with all the Sections and Sub-Sections in the Table of Contents hyperlinked to the page where the information resides. This way the reader and user can access the information quickly and easily.

The Executive Summary should be written last. Why? Because it organizes and summarizes the entire Business Plan. You cannot achieve this effectively until all the other sections (2 through 8) of the Plan are completed. We suggest developing two renditions of the Executive Summary – a short version of 2 – 3 pages in length and a longer version of 5 – 7 pages. The short version should be written after the long version is completed, keying on the most significant information from the long version.

The Executive Summary gives the reader a quick overview of the important facts contained in your Business Plan. The long version of the Executive Summary can act as a standalone document to be used to succinctly explain your Business and generate interest in your opportunity, or products and services. For instance, the long version of the Summary can be sent to a Venture Capital Firm to generate and gauge initial interest, to be accompanied by your one-sheeters: Fact Sheet / Venture Overview / Investment Overview. If interest is indicated, you can send the VC Firm a custom tailored Funding Business Plan (customized to their particular investment requirements) which will contain the short version Executive Summary.

Brevity, yet completeness and inclusiveness, is key when writing your Executive Summary. It should be concise yet have adequate detail about your Business Plan. It may take several attempts to achieve this balance.

This section encapsulates who you are as a Company: the History, Structure, Ownership, Locations, Products and Services Summary, Strengths and Weaknesses, Performance, Customers, Trends, Company Assets and so forth. This section comes first in the Business Plan (following the Executive Summary) since it serves as an introduction to the necessary details and background of your company.

This section builds on the Company Section explaining in more detail who will run the company and how it will be run. You can have the greatest business idea but lack the right people to execute your Plan. Therefore, the Management and Operations Section is one of the most important elements of the Plan.

Writing Business Plan For Small Business

Press for Success

Far be it from me to dampen your enthusiasm, but you should give yourself every opportunity for success. That’s what the planning part of the process of creating your business plan will do. By the time you have pressed your way through it, you will not merely have some neatly arranged document to keep on file, you will have a working tool that addresses the essential factors that influence your future.

Besides, your friends may be 100% behind you in your new venture, but, in case you are hoping to involve others who have actual money to invest, you may need to be able to make a convincing case. Wouldn’t it be nice to have anticipated possible questions and be ready with plausible answers? If you are risking your own money, that is perhaps even a stronger reason to do some indispensable planning.

Easy Writer

If you are one who is intimidated by the blank page, never fear! There are several good software packages that will guide you through the process, such as Business Plan Pro Complete from PaloAltoSoftware. Business Plan Pro Complete walks you through the entire planning process and generates a complete, professional and ready to distribute plan with a proven formula for success. The planning wizard makes it a snap to get started since you simply answer yes or no questions to create your custom business plan framework. Bplans.com offers free business plan samples and how-to articles as well as a wealth of other information. It is definitely worth taking the time to checkout. Microsoft Office Online Templates also has a variety of free templates to use with their products. The wizard indicates the information you need and you fill it in as you go.

Business Plan Short cut

  • Why You Need a Business Plan

For start-up businesses, planning can make or break your business. As little as 20% of new businesses make it past their first year. A business plan will also help when you’re seeking financing from banks, as it clearly demonstrates your plans and intent. If you have a good business plan and stick to it, it’s hard to go wrong. For businesses that have been operating for a while, planning may not seem to be that important. Most business owners will have created some sort of business plan at the start but may not have updated it as the business has grown. By revisiting the plan you can incorporate new growth strategies and identify fresh opportunities. If nothing else, it’s a good chance to sit down and spend some time thinking about your business and your personal goals.

  • Getting Started Using Templates

If creating a business plan seems daunting, don’t worry. Microsoft has teamed up with a number of organisations to create lots of templates to help you get started. Visit Office Online to download a wide array of business templates for both new and existing businesses. Each template has of sections for you to complete, describing your company, products you will sell and so on. The majority of the content of a business plan is in narrative form. This is where you describe your business and plans, relying on Microsoft Word’s features. For financial content, including cost and revenue calculations, expenses and so on, use Microsoft Excel to enter and calculate figures. If you are not sure where to get started on the financial side of things, the Template Gallery even has financial templates that will help you create all kinds of useful documents.

  • Inserting Financial Information

To make life easier, Microsoft Office has a few tricks to combine both the business plan narrative and financials. To start, open the Word document that contains your plan and scroll to the section where you want financial information to appear. Then, open your Excel spreadsheet and select the range of cells you would like to paste into the business plan and select Copy from the Edit menu. Then, back in your Word document, select Pastefrom the Edit menu to paste the financial information into your document. You’ll notice that on the bottom right-hand side of the table of data you have pasted, there is an icon that looks like a clip board, with a drop-down menu. This is a ‘smart tag’. Click on the down arrow to open the drop-down list and select the option for Keep Source Formatting and Link to Excel.

This option will link your spreadsheet to your Word document so whenever you change or update the spreadsheet, the changes will be reflected in the document as well. This will enable you to keep your business plan up-to-date. As your revenue and costs change, your business plan will reflect those amendments with a minimum of effort.

Business Consultants

Business consultants have the education and background to help entrepreneurs with creating professional strategic business plans.. Before anything moves forward, there is a substantial amount of paper work that helps entrepreneurs. First one being that they are able to clearly see their path and the second one is that when applying for business loan or equity they are asked to present a clear picture as to what they plan to do. Business consultants make such plans for a living; their expertise of having done this so many times at commercial level is very useful for startups.

Another reason why business consultants are useful is that they do not own the business and have no personal involvement. Hence they do not hold a bias towards it or against it as they are not its competitors either. That way, whilst making suggestions they can also present the business owners with useful critical information as to where they are lacking; or better yet, if the venture should even be worked on. Business plan writers bring both upsides and downsides in account.

Choosing a tier 1 visa business plan director, businesses ensure that they get in depth guidance about how to perform their business activities in a long run and on day-to-day basis. Simpler business plans might just contain detailed information about processes. But only a tier 1 visa business plan writer explains the roles and duties. This gives useful information about what kind of a person is suitable for what job. Here again, internal bias towards a person in a certain role gets eliminated as there is a chance a new businessman would incorporate a dead weight into the business due to relation.

Ingredients of Successful Business Plans

A business plan sets out the method for running a specific activity over a specific future period.

Business plans are needed essentially for the four following reasons:

1. A formal, explicit document of the planning process;

2. A request for finances;

3. A framework for approval;

4. A tool for operational business management.

This may come as a surprise to my fellow business consultants, but producing a successful business plan is not as difficult as people often think, so long as they follow a logical sequence. Here is my considered view as to the critical steps.

1. Understand what you are planning and why;

2. Define the activities of your organisation;

3. Outline the current position of the business;

4. Review and discuss the external market conditions, undertake and understand a competitive analysis, and define your market positioning;

5. Define your core objectives;

6. Prepare and articulate the strategy to attain and meet the objectives;

7. Identify and review risks and opportunities;

8. Prepare a strategy to deal with risks and exploit opportunities;

9. Refine the strategies into operational plans;

10. Prepare financial forecasts including revenues, costs, cash-flow, capital expenditure and assumptions adopted;

11. Finalise the plan;

12. Get it approved;

13. Use it;

14. Review it regularly and update as appropriate.

Without being too prescriptive, there are certain necessary elements which need to be included. Such elements are:

· Preliminaries – such as contents, contacts and definitions;

· An executive summary;

· A description of the business;

· A review of the market, the competition and market positioning;

· The vision, mission and objectives;

· The corporate strategy;

· The plan for developing the products and services;

· Financial projections;

· An outline of the risks and opportunities;

· A conclusion.

Any casual viewer of the BBC programme, Dragons Den will be aware of how easy it is for weaknesses or gaps to be identified. Depending upon the purpose of the plan, this may, or may not, prove to be critical. It is often easier to recognise such weaknesses and gaps, and be prepared to deal with them, either by noting them in the plan itself, or having appropriate answers available should the need arise.

As a business consultant, this may sound like heresy, but I believe that any plan should be produced by the senior management of the organisation. That is not to say that the consultant does not have a role to play in its preparation. He does. Senior management should prepare the plan as they will then be able to present and discuss it, demonstrating to their audience that they fully understand their business and market. I believe that the consultant’s role is to help facilitate the preparation of the plan, the consultant can help undertake the necessary research, and can cast a critical and impartial eye over the plan.