Category: Business

Create a Business Plan to Reach Your Goals

Business plans are for those who plan to go in to business or are in a business already. Starting a new business also needs planning, time management, scheduling and organizing to make it a success. Business plans are made so that there is some direction to your work and you don’t go “off track”; get bogged down with details that can wait etc.

A business plan gives you a plan of action that you can use to meet your requirements. Creating a business plan involves a lot of points that must be factored in. There are some things that are common to almost all business plans like projecting cash flow, marketing plans etc. But each business is different and so is each business plan. What suits one may not suit the other. There is no master plan that one can use. A good business plan is like a good outfit that highlights your best features.

Before you create a business plan you have to plan the plan. The plan has to take in to account your goals and objectives, where you want to be, say, 3 years from now, what steps have you thought of to get to that goal etc. This is more so if you are starting a new business. There are many decisions to be made like your business strategy down to the color of the paper. You will be accountable to the business plan you present so you have to be very clear about what your plan is going to say and how.

Basically there are four types of plans, the mini plan, the electronic plan, the working plan and the presentation plan. Each has their own pros and cons. Key issues have to be addressed in all types of plans and these would consist of

o A business concept,
o Specific financing needs,
o A marketing plan and
o Important financial statements, especially regarding cash flow, income projection and balance sheet.

Your business plan would depend on the type of business you have decided to do. You have to consider issues like

o Is there going to be a partner or investor?
o Any employees?
o Your own role… hands-on manager or just supervisory
o Financing… what kind?
o Is your product a niche market product or a broad spectrum service?
o Are you considering expansion?

These are some issues; there are others which would depend on your individual requirement. Your plan also has to tell you what you intend the plan to do like

o Is the plan going to help you raise money?
o Will it help bring in talented employees?
o Will it double as a presentation plan which you show to suppliers or prospective clients?

After these issues are addressed one will get an idea whether the business venture you have decided on is going to be viable or not. It is not unknown for a business to end at the planning stage because the assumptions were not up to the mark.

Here Is the Biggest Industry Where Your Next Business Is

It is really a good time to have your own business. Emerging marketplaces with a rich growth potential, a steady economy and an improved consumer spending have set the groundwork for a prosperous future for small-sized businesses within America.

It has been witnessed that the SBA loans are granted frequently; now along with the low interest rates and the Baby Boomers inching toward their retiring age, it is a pretty good time to realize your long-cherished dreams of entrepreneurship. These factors combine together to form a really excellent atmosphere for entrepreneurs who are looking forward to living their dreams of owing small-sized businesses.

Buying or acquiring or merging with a business is a crucial life decision that should be done only after performing extensive research works and after considering all the internal and external business factors. However, whenever a business is being bought, the most important part is to pick an industry; this point will become ever more important if an entrepreneur is making this decision. For this reason, here is the low-down on the top industry that has displayed remarkable potential as well as stability for investing money and for embarking on the eventful journey of becoming a small business owner.

The warehouse and storage sector

Quick facts

· The Net Profit Margin for 2015: 36.8 percent

· The projected growth for 2016: 5 percent

The self-storage industry is becoming one of the topmost growing sectors within the U.S. economy. For the past four decades, this sector has grown by leaps and bounds and has been termed as “recession-proof” by many trade analysts.

During tough economic times, many Americans gave up their everyday luxuries before getting employed within the countless storage units that dot the American continent. In a fluctuating economy, doing a business that does not change much and even carries great financial tides is a key bonus for any business owner.

Close to 9 percent of Americans have their space earmarked within a storage unit-even if they are having an attic or a garage. One more interesting fact-if you happen to combine all the storage spaces within the nation, it will easily equate to more than 2.3 billion sq. ft. of space-that is, indeed, expansive! More than 6 percent of the storage units are often leased to the military personnel, too. That is, by investing in the business, you will not only let the nation’s military contribute to the business’s bottom line but also earn its precious loyalty. Last but not least, this sector is having a high profit margin (close to 36 percent) and has an admirable annual growth rate (nearly 5 percent).

Why is Business Planning So Critical to Business Success

If you don’t know where you are going (i.e. have a roadmap), then how do you expect to get there? Running, expanding or starting a business without a business plan is like trying to drive from New York to Chicago for the first time without a roadmap or MapQuest! Planning gives you a path to follow, otherwise, you are just guessing. In running or starting a business, the learning curve is short before you run out of resources and are forced to close. Therefore, a business plan helps you set up a sound framework, model and system ahead of time, as well as, address potential problems and threats, so that you can capably run a business. If you don’t have a system in place to deal with problems and you don’t have a sound strategic plan in place, you will find yourself needlessly sidetracked by working “in” the business instead of “on” the business.

A Business Plan will save you a lot of time and money. Careful planning ahead of time will help you wisely budget your resources and significantly minimize the time you spend assessing threats, problems, obstacles and opportunities.

A business plan actually creates the future you want it to be. It gives you the process to develop the future business you want, whether it is to successfully start, expand, acquire or build. Granted, a business planning process can’t predict everything and markets change very quickly; yet, a business plan puts a solid process model in place to deal with such unpredictability. Otherwise, you will become even more lost in the unpredictable nature of future market changes without a system in place to deal with and predict these changes.

A business plan is an actual guide to starting, acquiring, expanding, building and managing a business. It is a step by step process that will guide you through the complexities and intricacies of building a successful company. Business school will teach you something about business planning, an MBA will teach you a little more, but most good business planning experience comes from doing and learning from others who have gone before you. Find a good business plan mentor!

If you need to raise funds for your business venture or project, a well thought out business plan is the very best tool available to achieve the mix and amount of funds your business requires. A good business planning process will actually determine and design financial structures which specifically address your funding requirements. Utilize a planning process to develop and design a financial structure customized to your particular company’s requirements. When times are tough in your business, industry or lending market, a good funding plan will give you a fighting chance of obtaining the badly needed funding.

A business plan is a fantastic communication tool. It establishes a system so that you can effectively communicate with your executives, managers, employees, shareholders, investors, lenders, customers, potential customers, markets, suppliers, on down the line. So many companies fail because effective communication was significantly hampered by assets and people doing contrary things. Effective strategic planning within the business planning process establishes strong communication ties, links and systems so that all the fore mentioned human variables can come together in a directional, well coordinated strategy for success.

Nothing stays the same from one day to the next in this global, fast tracked business world. Because of this constant change, your business will quickly fall behind and suffer without having a good business plan in place. A plan puts a system in place to identify and address changes in the market place so you can proactively seize and turn them into opportunities. Without a forward thinking system in place, changes in your market place can quickly become insurmountable problems and obstacles. A business plan empowers you to convert these changes into opportunities and increased profitability.

Ways To Start Changing Your Mindset For Success Especially If You Are An Entrepreneur

The minute you felt called upon to seek out your freedom and prosperity through entrepreneurship or running your own home based business, what kind of thoughts and emotions flooded your mind?

Did you immediately feel totally confident that this would be the turning point of your life where you get to design life on your own terms and create your version of heaven on earth?

Or did you get filled with a sense of worry and overwhelm over whether or not you have what it takes to make such a huge thing happen?

For most people it’s always a little bit of everything… That’s why I am making this little article for you because I want to make sure that you don’t get stuck halfway through your rise into greatness and success.

If you know that becoming an entrepreneur and being independently wealthy is the reality that most suits you, then you certainly need to read through and gain better clarity as to how you can handle those voices and emotions of distress that will try to keep you stuck in the old way of life.

Why you need a change of mindset now

Most of humanity has been conditioned into a level of conscious awareness that has set the “normal standard” too low. For most success seekers, the dominant thoughts that saturate their days are those of worry, insecurity and fear.

This my dear reader is like getting into a battle that’s already been lost before it even begins because all external results and yes, that includes your business as well, can only come about if the level of consciousness and mindset you dwell in, is one that’s set on “success”.

When you already doubt whether or not you can win and gain victory in this endeavor, when you always feel like you’re not enough or that you don’t have enough, you are actually create a self-fulfilling prophecy that will come to confirm the secret beliefs that you carry.

You need to believe that you can succeed.

It’s important that you believe not only in the truth that you are capable of prospering but that you will produce the harvest that you want.

The level of your self-confidence will determine your level of productivity and your self-confidence plainly reveals how much you believe in Self.

When you believe in yourself you will always give yourself the chance to make things right because you know that you can make things better and that you do have something valuable to give to the world.

That faith and confidence that is very crucial for an entrepreneur can only come through a renewal of the mind and that’s why you cannot afford to postpone the study and retraining of your mind while you grow your business.

It is the winner’s mindset that we all need to cultivate in our lives, especially for those of us who didn’t grow up in abundant, prosperous environments.

I have created more resources and a video that explains what a mindset is and how you can effortlessly shift it, which I encourage you to check out but as of now, here are just three big ideas that will help you realize the kind of mindset you’ve currently got as well as how to start shifting it.

1. Start becoming aware of- what you are noticing and paying attention to – in your world:

Recognize whether or not you have self-defeating thoughts. What kind of an outlook do you have about life and entrepreneurship? Do you approach it with the expectation of overwhelm, struggle, pain?

What kind of things are you noticing as you go about your daily routine?

What kind of forums, communities and engagements are you having?

Are you noticing more prosperity or lack in your business?

Negativity and pessimism are like migraines and are quite difficult to ignore because they constantly nag at you. Sometimes these thoughts can be quite overwhelming and easy to recognize. However some people have become so accustomed to them and having created coping mechanisms, barely realize that they dwell in negativity and pessimism.

The best way to start recognizing where you stand is by keenly observing the words you use, the conversations you engage in, the actions that are subconsciously playing out and the way you predominantly feel throughout the day.

I have met a lot of clients who say they are positive and use affirmations yet halfway through our conversations all they speak of is what they don’t have and how much of a struggle life is.

This is certainly a pattern to watch out for because if you get so used to lying to yourself by pasting affirmations on your intellect and yet dwelling in negativity subconsciously, you might think that the universal laws or other people are to blame for your struggles and failure when in truth, it’s all coming from your mindset.

2. Learn to condition your mind by focusing on a specific desire.

Choosing, defining and living from your true desires is so powerful and paramount when you decide to seek out a liberating lifestyle.

This is because it means you stepping out of the norm that you were taught and raised with, to pursue your uniqueness and individuality.

There is great power in that! Which is why I only work with individuals who want to create a passion business, because I realized that even for myself, the only reason I overcame the African slum life and started creating success and prosperity was because I was passionate and in love with an idea.

If you don’t know what your passionate about, do something about it. If your entrepreneurship isn’t yet aligned with your passion and purpose, do something about it – you’ll be amazed how quickly things will shift in your world once you live from your true desires.

3. Learn to take risks and enjoy them

Most of us are so afraid of risks because we are working with false ideas about who we are and how life works.

When you learn the truth about your real identity, the role you play in life and how life really works, taking risks that you enjoy won’t sound so ridiculous or illogical.

Now, I can get into great details here just with this one tip and in fact I do in one of my training classes and a report I made on how to create massive breakthroughs as an entrepreneur, but just know this…

It’s very important that you learn the value of taking risks; taking a step toward something when you don’t really know where your foot is going to land, and doing so with full confidence that it can only turn out right.

This doesn’t mean being silly, or doing it recklessly while still ignorant of the principle of life. It’s why we first teach on what the principle of life is and how you can align with Spirit so that your mind can be conditioned rightly.

Then and only then will you know in the depths of your soul that you were born to be a risk taker and in fact all the good stuff that you want in life will come by very quickly when you stop tip-toeing through life looking for safety.

An entrepreneur who’s looking for safety is sure to be highly disappointed because without this ability to have a well-governed mindset that knows how to take great risks and enjoy them, massive success and prosperity will not become a daily reality.

If you liked this article and are looking for more ways to make your life absolutely awesome and prosperous as well as digital solutions and education that can show you how to become independently wealthy please visit our website below.

Business Plans Every Entrepreneuer Must Have

Business Plans Every Entrepreneuer Must HaveI am mentoring small businesses and I am amazed at the ideas I read from the entrepreneurs I have the pleasure of meeting.

Unfortunately, not many have well laid out business plans and most use the Internet for planning.

A big percentage of the documents they use from the Internet are impressive, but what they do not understand is that one cannot use a business plan tailored for another region of the world to fully execute his specific business.

Business concepts are similar universally, but execution and sustainability differ depending on one’s environment and market.

The business plans I have read display glorified projections and their market analysis clearly depicts great profit.

In short, one look at a business plan will tell you that some issues have yet to be thought out clearly. For example, competition, risk, challenges and so forth.

Before embarking on your venture, draft at least three business plans.

Individual

This plan is the truest of them all. I refer to it as the naked business plan. It covers almost everything including risk and possibility of failure. No business life lesson can be complete without a discussion on risks and risk management and no business can be started without embracing risk.

Risks are inherent in everything we do – business risk management is the key to ensuring risks are identified and a plan-B or C thought out. Some risks we can control while others we cannot.

This plan should cover who you are as an individual, what your honest strengths and weaknesses are and how you will handle stumbling blocks or closure.

It should address questions like; Can you persevere through tough times? Do you have a strong desire to be your own boss? Do the judgments you make in life regularly turn out well? Do you have an ability to conceptualise the whole of a business? Do you possess the high level of energy, sustainable over long hours, to make a business successful? Do you have specialised business experience?

Financial projections in the plan should cover, at the very least, five different modules. You should work on the plan yourself and get prepared for any outcome.

Investors

I like to call this the headlines business plan. You only have one shot at getting investors – make the best out of it.

This is a plan that shows what team you will be working with and how you plan to invest to make money for investors. Show a well laid out plan that includes short and long term financial gains.

The confidence, coupled with experience, shown in this document will determine whether you get the initial investment you seek.

Financial projections in this case can be three to five years. They are there to show sustained profit. You should not glorify the plan nor try to get a lot of money for the start-up.

You must mention what your competition is and how you plan to create your own niche market – having a business plan that does not have a thorough SWOT analysis could raise the red flag. You might end up not getting financial support.

Pick the right team, get professional advice, try to separate your product from the rest in order to achieve your own niche.

Do not spend too much money. Most people think that having a lot of money is fundamental in starting a business. That is a fallacy – you can make a lot out of very little.

Universal

This is the plan that you started out with – the ”sitting research” through which you came out with pros and cons of the venture. The plan that has been developed from different Internet searches to better understand what you will be dealing with.

This is the longest business plan. This plan has a lot of data, but you should sieve out information that is irrelevant for your business. Without this plan, it is difficulty to cover everything that needs to be covered in your proposed venture.

What Defines a Serious Business Buyer

Individuals who desire to purchase an established small business must be well prepared before the search process begins. Well managed, profitable and successful businesses are in short supply and very high demand. Business owners and business brokers alike have little patience and interest in wasting their valuable time with buyers who have not taken the appropriate steps to demonstrate that they are fully prepared to acquire a business.

How does a buyer define themselves as being a “serious” candidate and not a casual, curious, tire kicker? The goal of this article is to outline the steps that a business buyer should take in advance so that they can stand out and be recognized as a serious and credible buyer?

Let’s start with a few examples demonstrating who is NOT a serious candidate.

    • I want to buy a small business in the area but am not sure what type yet. Can you send me information on three of the businesses you have listed for sale – the industrial manufacturing business, the durable medical equipment company, and the online retailer?
    • I am still working at my current job but am contemplating leaving the firm and purchase a business within the next couple of years.
    • My background is entirely in the printing industry but I want to make a change and thought about buying a wholesale chemical products company.
    • I have a little money saved up but need to get a loan to purchase a business. I am not sure how much I would qualify for or how large a business I could afford.
  • I want to buy a business but will need the seller to finance the purchase. I will pay them back entirely out of the future cash flow of the company.

Preparing a business for sale takes considerable work on behalf of the business broker and seller. Just a few of the steps include valuing the business, preparing the Confidential Business Review (executive summary), and organizing all of the corporate, financial, and tax documents. For a buyer to be recognized as a serious candidate, they too have work that needs to be accomplished prior to being in a position to venture in the marketplace and begin assessing business opportunities.

So, what makes a buyer a serious candidate?

  1. Personal profile and resume

Construct a detailed personal profile and biography. Not only will the seller need to see this document but any bank requires this as well. A resume is just a starting place. The document should cover the following questions:

  • What is your education and work experience?
  • Who will be buying the business? Just you, you and your spouse, a partner, an investor?
  • Why you are interested in buying a business?
  • What is your investment criteria?
  • What transferrable skills do you possess that qualify you for managing the business?
  • How will you be financing the acquisition? If bank funding will be utilized, a prequalification letter should be included. How much money do you have for a down payment?
  • What is your timetable to complete the acquisition?
  • Who is your advisory team? Which attorney will be drafting the Asset Purchase Agreement and facilitating the closing? Do they have experience with business acquisitions?
  • What are the contingencies for the business acquisition? Do you have to leave a current job? Do you have to secure funding from a partner or a bank? Do you have to relocate and sell a house?

How will the buyer be funding the purchase?

Buyers should be knowledgeable about the size of business they are qualified to purchase. Will the buyer be utilizing personal funds for the transaction or will third party financing be used? Most acquisitions (without real estate) require 25% of the purchase price as a down payment. (Funds needed for closing costs and working capital are often provided as part of the loan package and can be financed.)

Buying and selling a small business requires a two way exchange of information. The buyer should be ready to disclose the amount they can invest and have a detailed plan on how they will finance the entire transaction. The idea that the seller is going to finance the sale is not a plan and this type of buyer will be quickly dismissed. Business brokers can be a great source for recommendations on which lenders are appropriate and likely to finance the business they represent.

The buyer should have a current personal financial statement prepared. If bank financing will be utilized, the buyer should be clear on their borrowing capacity and have a lender prequalification letter in hand (a banker can prepare this in a matter of hours). Don’t expect the broker or business seller to provide complete access to sensitive and confidential business documents without receiving assurances that the buyer has the appropriate resources to either purchase the business outright or obtain a business acquisition loan.

What industry experience or transferrable skills does the buyer have?

The optimal situation is when the prospective buyer has direct industry experience. This is especially pertinent when bank financing will be involved. Obviously, every business is different and each will have unique requirements for successful ownership. For some businesses, the buyer may be able to satisfy this requirement by having related practical work experience or transferrable skills. Certain businesses may require licenses, certifications, or a particular expertise to operate. If the buyer does not possess these it will be critical to confirm that there is a manager or key employee in place that has these qualifications. In other situations, the business may be very specialized and a buyer lacking a critical credential will be disqualified from obtaining bank funding. These issues should be discussed early in the process as the business broker will need to determine if you are managerially qualified to operate the business.

What is the type of business the buyer is seeking and why?

A serious buyer has developed a detailed and concise “investment criteria” for the business they seek to acquire. Several of investment criteria attributes will include the type of business, the industry, the geographic location, the size of business, and the price/value of the enterprise.

Serious buyers will focus on enterprises which are suited to their background and qualifications. A buyer who inquires about an industrial packaging distributer, a restaurant, and a custom millwork company will not be treated as a serious candidate. Having an investment criteria that relates only to “profitable businesses” or “those businesses which generate a minimum of $150,000 in cash flow” without regard to the business type, industry served, geographic location, and size is a clear red flag that the candidate has not put the proper time into honing their acquisition objective.

  1. Realistic expectations.

Successful entrepreneurs recognize that there is no such thing as a perfect company. Business ownership involves taking on some level of risk and acquiring a business is no different. Buyers who seek to purchase a business 100% free of any flaws will be searching for a very long time. There will be areas of improvement for every business and the buyer will have to make a decision as to which negative elements are acceptable and which ones are not. Buyers who are too risk adverse may just not be cut out for small business ownership and being an employee is a more suitable career objective.

Additionally, buyers often fail to realize that there is a limited supply of great businesses for sale… those that have year over year revenue growth, excellent profits, and bright prospects for continued advancement. Many of these businesses sell for the full listing price and for these types of successful businesses, buyers should be careful when submitting an offer less than 90% of what it is listed at. Most of the time there are a multiple buyers who are evaluating the business and those candidates who submit, either a low-ball offer or an offer with unrealistic terms attached, will be wasting the valuable time of all parties involved not to mention possibly burning a bridge with the business seller and eliminating themselves from consideration.

  1. Ability to react quickly

A serious buyer is well organized, has done their research, and knows what they want and what they can afford. They are decisive and capable of moving through the process in a timely and methodical fashion. If a partner, spouse, or investor will be involved in the acquisition, these individuals are consulted with in advance and are in agreement with the defined objectives. If advisors will be assisting in the evaluation, the advisors are aware of the acquisition search and are on standby for their assignment.

A serious buyer should have an understanding of how businesses are valued in addition to a comprehension of the typical steps in the acquisition process. They are prepared with a list of well thought and detailed questions designed with the objective of determining if the opportunity meets their investment criteria. A serious buyer recognizes that a quick no is far better than a slow no and they tackle those gating issues from the outset that would disqualify the business from being acquired. Once the opportunity is qualified a serious buyer is in a position to make a ‘realistic offer’ and provide a letter of intent or terms sheet. A professional support team has been identified for the drafting the Asset Purchase Agreement and facilitating the transaction closing. Lastly, a serious buyer will understand the due diligence process and already have their checklist in place. Funding for the acquisition has been planned and money for an earnest money deposit is liquid and available.

  1. Professional Communication

A serious buyer is honest, direct, and forthcoming. Now is not the time to be cagey, cute, or evasive. You want to convey at the earliest opportunity your investment criteria, time table, financial wherewithal and reasons for pursuing the acquisition. This type of communication will build a foundation of trust and honest dialog in the weeks ahead. One viable solution for a serious buyer is to retain a business broker to assist with the search and business qualification. This approach provides far better results than a haphazard approach of firing off requests for information on any business posted on-line that catches their fancy. The business-for-sale industry is not the real estate industry. There are no open houses. This is a highly confidential process where professionals are involved and retained to protect the sensitivity of the business for sale data. A buy-side broker is paid by the prospective buyer for the time, energy, and work that is generated on their behalf. They are compensated to produce results.

Prepare Your Plan on the Back of an Envelope

In the recent economic slowdown it can sometimes feel like a crowbar is required to pry money from investors to help you grow your aspiring business. But during times when capital is tight, it’s time to get creative. Companies that focus on systematically meeting their short-term goals typically discover that they also achieve long-term business success, with or without the benefit of outside investment.

So how do you quickly mobilize your current resources, capital and team to realize your goals and targets? Prepare a plan of attack – more commonly referred to as a business plan. But cast aside any worries you have about preparing a thick tome with fancy verbiage and financial projections. The business plan to achieve your short-term objectives is not graded by weight or page length, but instead by the quality and clarity of the strategies you commit to paper.

In this case, we recommend you prepare a business plan that fits onto the back of a regular sized envelope.

You may have returned to the previous sentence for a moment and asked, “An envelope? How can I prepare a business plan on the back of an envelope?” It’s a great question and there’s a very simple answer: If your objective is to achieve an important internal goal, rather than impress an audience of bankers, investors or strategic partners, then an informal “envelope plan” can be a perfect solution. It enables you to quickly organize, document and communicate your business strategies to management and staff. And in some cases, a brief document is more effective than thirty-plus pages of brilliantly bound business plan literature – particularly when the priority is to rally your team around a common cause for an upcoming month or quarter.

A quick warning before we look at the steps to prepare an “envelope plan” for your business. If in fact, your goal is to secure financial backing from investors or lenders, then you will naturally need to develop a more robust business plan with well-supported financial statements. A more comprehensive plan, track record and qualified team are expected if you intend to gain the attention of serious financing sources for your business.

But assuming your plan is for short-term internal purposes, you can prepare an “envelope plan” in five easy steps:

Step 1: Clarify the Goal

Begin by preparing a very precise, quantifiable statement of no more than one or two sentences to clarify the goal your company will achieve. For example: “ABC Cleaning Company will increase revenue from repeat customers from 8% of total yearly sales to 20% of total yearly sales by the end of calendar year 2009.” Your goal should be clear, measurable and tied to a specific time period or deadline.

Step 2: Outline Your Strategies

The next step is to develop a bulleted list of the primary strategies you will implement to meet your stated business goal. In this case, “What can ABC do to increase repeat business?” Examples might include:

  • Offer a 5% discount to repeat customers
  • Improve the quality of product/service offerings
  • Introduce additional training and quality standard programs for entire staff
  • Implement customer service follow-up process to increase satisfaction and referrals
  • Commit to be on time-every time
  • Develop and maintain database of customers and send weekly and monthly correspondence
  • Use social media strategies to more fully engage customers

Step 3: Identify Your Tactics

The third step is to write one or two bullets with the specific actions to be taken to make each strategy outlined above a reality. For example:

  • 5% Discount – Advise Sales Manager of new pricing initiative
  • Better Training – Investigate web-based training courses
  • Customer Database – Locate appropriate contact management program

Step 4: Perform a Cost/Benefit Analysis

The fourth step is absolutely critical. Prepare a two-sentence assessment of the financial costs and rewards of executing your envelope plan. For example… “The cost of executing this plan, including the pricing discount and the cost of the other initiatives, is $37,000. The financial reward for executing this plan, assuming that the level of new customers remains unchanged and the business from repeat customers increases to 20%, an increase in annual sales of $875,000 is expected”. Not a bad return on your money actually!

Step 5: Get Buy-In

Your final step is to share your “envelope plan” with other members of your team to gain input and buy-in into the advantages of implementing your strategies. The envelope plan appears simple, but it’s concise, geared toward action and infuses financial costs and returns into your overall businesses goals.

How To Develop A Successful Business Plan

Make Sure You Have A Business Plan

The first point to keep in mind about business plans is… have a business plan! This may seem obvious but is overlooked. Many people start businesses without a plan; sometimes it can come from sheer bravado, thinking “I don’t need a plan”, or alternatively you might hear “It’s all inside my head, that’s my business plan”. The reality is no matter how much you work with things in your head, no matter how confident you may be and how much you think you already have a great vision for your business, there are so many great reasons why you should get it down on paper.

Most of all if you are seeking funding for your business, it will be absolutely crucial to go along and show someone an actual plan, because there will be very few people who will loan you money on the basis of what’s just in your head. So it’s pivotal to have a plan and be committed to preparing that document. If you are someone who shies away from planning, or you don’t like writing or preparing documents, nevertheless you are going to have to force yourself on this occasion. I say that because it is such a key document for the future success of your business, such a tool throughout its development to return and refer to.

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.

Don’t assume what customers want, do your research and make sure that is clear from the start in your business plan.

Research Your Competitors (But Don’t Copy!)

Every business plan should focus a lot on the business’s potential competitors, because research and analysis of the competition effectively gives you plenty of useful information. It may guide you as to where you should be advertising and marketing, or certain strategies to use or ones to avoid because you see they have been used unsuccessfully by others.

I often see people split into two camps. On one hand those who almost ignore competitors in their business plan, because they do not want to think about the issue yet and feel so confident they have a great idea for the market regardless. But I recommend not being overconfident when it comes to competitors. They are still there for a reason, they are still around and in business for a reason, so view them with that in mind.

I teach that you should seek to learn from competitors; obviously never copy another business’s idea or what they are doing, but you can absolutely learn from their mistakes or see what they are doing and discover ways to improve it. All of that analysis belongs in your business plan: make sure you have your competitors under the microscope and make sure that is a solid chunk of your plan. That is some of the best research and information you will gather about what will make your business successful in future.

Be Prepared For Risks

It is a fact of life that any new business or enterprise has a degree of risk attached to it. Therefore it is important for your business plan to analyse and calculate that risk, showing how you will engage with it. There is no business plan out there that is risk-free, but very often where the risk is higher then the rewards will be as well.

What should come into your business plan is how you assess it, how you foresee anything occurring that could have an adverse impact and how you would deal with it in the right ways. If you are looking to obtain funding from a bank or people you know, it is essential to show what the risk factors are in the proposed business and how you plan to defend against them.

It could be, for example, the risk of a change in the economic environment – what are your contingency plans for that in terms of dealing with such a situation? There may be many other risks as well specific to your particular sphere of operation, but that ability to plan ahead for all scenarios makes for a robust business plan. When I have received business plans, the very best responses come from people who have looked at the risks and have an answer for every question. What you never want is to throw a scenario at your plan and have to answer “I don’t know what I would do in that situation”. You want to plan for every possible contingency, and certainly all the major risks to the ongoing success of your business.

Obtain Feedback On Your Plan

When writing a business plan you sometimes end up locking yourself away. You might have unique ideas which lead you to seek some isolation and secrecy, or if you are going to be a sole trader you may only have one person to consult namely yourself. But it is fantastic to try and get broader input on your business plan – whether from a professional, or simply from friends and family whom you trust. I say that because of course you need to be careful with commercially sensitive ideas, as you do not want to pass your plan on to someone in the pub who then starts your idea before you across the road.

But do not be too paranoid, make sure you are showing it to people you trust, whose feedback you welcome and can be genuinely useful in guiding how the plan takes shape. Very often when working as individuals we get very close to certain details and miss out a big thing that has slipped your mind. You can concentrate so much on essential financials and supply logistics, but overlook other issues like marketing or opening times. By showing the plan to someone you trust, they can have a look and see what might be missing or worth developing more. Getting that valuable second opinion on how robust your idea is will put you in a much better position to start and keep going successfully.

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Things Successful Small Business Owners Do

If you’re stuck wondering how to be a successful small business owner, know this: running a small business often simply means making good use of successful small business ideas. Successful small business owners face many ups and downs throughout their work. They know that small business ideas cannot turn out successful unless they use the proper approach and strategies.

If you want to be one of the few successful small business owners, remember that having a good strategy is crucial. Without the right strategy and a proper approach, you are not likely to achieve your goal.

Some small business owners manage to overcome their everyday challenges, while others seem to give up after a while. So, let’s find out what successful small business owners do differently from the unsuccessful ones. Let’s turn their experience into your success through your small business ideas.

1. MAKE ANNUAL REVISIONS OF YOUR BUSINESS PLAN AND BUDGET

Every business goes through changes every now and then, including your small business. For this reason, your business plan and budget should be somewhat flexible to bear such changes along with your business goals. Without revising your business plan and budget, you shouldn’t expect your business to flourish and expand.

The flexibility of your business plan will help you avoid and overcome the eventual unpleasant surprises on the market. Also, such flexibility will give you some time to adjust to certain changes you may experience on your way.

Every business experiences both success and failure points each year. In order to detect and estimate these points, you should revise your budget and business plan every year. While revising, you should check if you are still going in the right direction. If not, you may need to make some changes and adjustments to achieve better results in the upcoming period.

Successful small business owners don’t hesitate to reallocate funds, if that is what it takes to achieve success. In order to increase profits, after they conduct a business revision, smart business owners define and implement the necessary changes immediately.

2. UPDATE YOUR OFFER AND ADD VALUE TO IT

People change, as do their needs and habits. As soon as you notice that you aren’t selling as much as you used to sell before, it is time to make changes. If people aren’t purchasing what you currently have to offer, that’s a clear hint that something needs to be done.

A simple price cut may be the first thing that comes to your mind. As much as lower prices may seem more appealing to your customers, they also point to a devaluation of what you offer. Devaluation of your products or services is never a good thing, so try doing just the opposite – add value to your offers.

The best way to update and add value to your products and services is by developing new offers. If possible, try to offer something completely new to your customers. You could offer product bundles, training programs and workshops, and so on.

3. DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

Most successful small business owners believe in daring to be different. They know their target consumers. Trying to target everyone and anyone as a consumer will get you nowhere fast. Instead of trying to make products for the masses, focus on a clearly targeted community and grow with it. Once you target your consumers, it is easy to understand their needs.

Understanding your consumers is the secret to a successful business. When you know their needs, you can modify your products and services in order to satisfy them. Satisfied consumers will not only become your regulars, but they will also spread the word about what you offer. This may become the best marketing strategy for your business.

Spreading the word about your products or services is called a referral marketing strategy. It’s been proven that most of the faster growing small businesses turn to this kind of marketing rather than relying on traditional advertising.

4. KNOW YOUR COMPETITION

Successful small business owners know their competition. They know that keeping an eye on the competitors and understanding their policy and pricing is crucial to the business. It is wise to consider your direct competitors in your area, as well as indirect competitors.

A direct competitor offers the same primary services to the same target group as you, and they are easy to follow on the market. However, an indirect competitor company offers the same or similar products as a segment of a wider product or service offering.

In some cases, the indirect competitor may offer a product that is an applicable substitute for the original product. Successful small business owners know how to position their company against the indirect competitors. They take both types of competing companies seriously and they account for them in their annual business plan.

5. HIRE THE RIGHT PEOPLE

Even though hiring the right people for your business sounds obvious, it can be a really tough job for small business owners. Also, not hiring the right people could be a huge downfall for a small company. People who don’t share the concept of your business approach and goals are not the type of people you want to engage in your business.

Candidates who don’t have the right temperament, skills, or talent for the job position that you offer can be too pricey for your company. Having the right people in the right job positions can make your company outstanding. Exceptional companies recruit exceptional people.

6. ACCEPT TECHNOLOGY CHANGES

Technology changes on a regular basis nowadays. Successful business owners are very well aware of that, so they change accordingly. Doing things the way they were done years ago will not provide the same success nowadays.

Accepting technological improvements can help your company become more effective and efficient. Keep yourself informed about the latest in new technology, and the improved solutions it brings. Choose the most appropriate ones for your business and adopt them. Your customers will be grateful and you’ll experience great benefits.

7. TRUST YOUR INTUITION

If you believe your intuition has been serving you well so far, listen to your inner voice carefully. Your instincts can lead you a long way. If you still feel strongly about something, regardless of the lack of facts or data – act on it. What seems right for other businesses doesn’t necessarily mean that it will work for you as well.

Relying on intuition is often the first step out of your comfort zone, and the first step towards becoming a leading company on the market. While you watch your business grow and spread, remember that having faith in yourself and the business you are running is crucial. Being aware of your inner voice can lead you to making business decisions with more confidence and a greater success rate.

Big Data and Small Business

Let’s start with the definition. When the term “big data” is used, what does it really mean? Jon Miller, co-founder and CEO of Marketo, calls big data a catch-all term for very large and complex data sets that exceed the processing capabilities of the typical available computer software. In general, big data refers to the compilation of everything that takes place over the internet: transcripts from Twitter comments or call center conversations, online videos, podcast uploads and visits, webinar broadcasts, all blog postings, all website visits, all credit card transactions, all ATM activity, all online purchases, online advertisements, music downloads and photo uploads.

As regards marketing, big data refers to all information that details retail sales, online sales, market share, website visits, blog and newsletter reads from your website, responses to online customer surveys, online responses to special offers and online advertising, plus all marketplace and industry data about global, national and regional business conditions.

Whatever you need to know about your customers, the industry and the business conditions in which you operate is buried within big data. But in the avalanche of information, deciding which data to access and deciding how to interpret it is the marketer’s challenge. Determining the right questions to ask is the primary imperative, as the late management guru Peter Drucker pointed out.

If you want to use big data in your marketing plan, then propose questions that will elicit the answers you need to fine-tune your marketing mix. Maybe you’d like to become more effective in converting website visitors into customers? A list of the names of prospects who visited your website, spent more than one minute reading your blog or newsletter, forwarded your post to someone and then tweeted some content about what s/he discovered would indicate a serious shopper for your products or services. Big data can help predict which marketing activities are most likely to convert a prospect who has reached that level of engagement.

Google Analytics can reveal part of the game plan, but only big data can get seriously granular. For example, algorithm-based predictions can forecast the expected impact of marketing campaign activity on those who surf your website and suggest who should receive special offers via email or who should be invited to join a focus group. Algorithm-based predictions can also forecast the likely impact of marketing activity on revenue that will be generated in upcoming quarters.

Based on what is learned through big data, marketers can make highly specific and informed decisions about customer groups that have the most sales potential, strategies intended to build brand awareness and loyalty, advertising choices and budgets, social media choices that are likely to create the most buzz, the ROI of that buzz and the marketing message that drives sales.

Who will become your best customers, why will they become your best customers and what will be the average amount of money they will spend in your business? What amount of brand loyalty can you expect from those customers, what types of advertising will resonate with them, which social media platforms do they prefer and will those customers create good word of mouth for your products and services (still the best form of advertising)?

So how can small businesses and Solopreneurs access big data? It can be done by hiring a marketing firm that we most likely cannot afford, I’m sorry to say. At this time, big data is the playground of big businesses. If it’s any consolation, marketing firms are still trying to get arms around big data themselves. For now, traditional marketing analytics will have to suffice for the 99%.

Traditional marketing analytics remain useful and certain data we already own: sales data from our basic financial records, customer zip codes, popular service packages, pricing data and the number of Facebook and Twitter followers, for example.

Market testing is expected to remain a vital part of developing a marketing strategy, even when big data is used. Business owners and marketers will continue to measure the impact of their promotional strategies. Finally, whether big data or marketing analytics are used when devising a marketing plan, proposing the right questions is the starting point.