Business Plan Benefits
You can be sure that writing your business plan will be a time consuming process. However, undertaking this process is completely worthwhile. Your plan will help you gain focus, sync all of the supporting programs, develop short and long term strategies, show investors what you are doing and what you are asking, and support your vision with an evolving guide to evaluate your progress and plans for the future.
Familiarize Yourself with the Business Plan Table of Contents
Download a business plan template or review some of our sample plans to get a sense of what goes in a plan as well as the table of contents.
Start with What You Know
Begin by completing the business plan in outline form with what your currently know about the business. For now, keep it short and choppy. The goal for this phase is to leave with an understanding of what you know about the business and what you don’t know.
The industry analysis, market analysis and competitive analysis are three very important sections of the business plan. On the one hand, they help you assess the market opportunity, the size of the market, trends in the market, etc. What you learn here can have effects on the nuances of your product and service as well as your sales and marketing strategies for how you will position your product and service. Additionally, this research will allow you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and determine just how you will differentiate yourself from them.
Now that we have the supportive research to help us tackle the sections that you were originally unable to complete it is time for a brainstorming session. This looks different for each business plan and each entrepreneur as the gaps, red flags and concerns are never the same. In any case, take the time to dive into these incomplete sections.
The next step before you are ready to complete a first draft is to build out your financial projections. The financial plan breaks down the financial projections of the company in detail, compiling all revenues, expenses and profits into conventional accounting sheets (a balance sheet, cash flow statement and profit & loss statement). The goal of this section is to show how the strategy outlined in the plan is sound from a financial standpoint, presenting a realistic business and investment opportunity. This section also communicates the need for any outside investment and the uses of these funds.
Create a First Draft
Once you have complete the strategy development phase, you’ve ironed out all of the kinks, and you’ve created your financial model, you are ready to take your initial outline, your research and your newly minted strategies and complete a draft of the business plan.
Edit, Edit, Edit
Read through your business plan several times to ensure that you catch all of the grammatical and design mistakes. You will also want to read through your business plan to ensure that you have provided enough content and context in each section so that the reader is not left with any questions after reading a particular segment.
If you need any help writing your business plan, contact us for a free consultation!
A business idea is not enough to build a successful business. Ideas are everywhere, but successful businesses are not. The difference lies in having a solid business model and business strategies around your great idea. The best way to do this is to complete a professional business plan.
The business planning process provides structure and guidance, determines resources you need to succeed, establishes a direction for your business, provides a way to measure results and provides a way to gain financing. In a sentence, a business plan takes your idea for a product or service and creates a business around it. In this blog post, we will show you just how to write a business plan.
A typical business plan contains 10 sections and takes anywhere from 180 – 400 hours to complete, as outlined below:
How to write a Business Plan: Executive Summary 2 hours
The executive summary is a 1-4 page description of the entire business. Though this is the first section that your readers will see, acting as a sales pitch to introduce the rest of the plan, it will actually be the last section that you write. When you have completed the rest of the business plan, you will want to return to the executive summary, highlighting the key takeaways of each of the other sections.
How to write a Business Plan: Mission and Vision 5 hours
This mission and vision section outlines your mission statement, overarching vision and values for the company and often presents your company’s value proposition to your clients.
How to write a Business Plan: Product and Service Description 5-25 hours
The product and service description gives a detailed breakdown of all aspects of your product or service. This section typically includes a general overview of the current problems in the market and your solution to these problems, your product/service advantages, your proprietary features, any liabilities associated with your product and service and your plan for overcoming these liabilities.
How to write a Business Plan: Market Analysis 20-30 hours
This is the first research section of the business plan. It defines your company’s target market segments, or the groups of people that you will sell your products or services too. You will want to narrow down your key market segments, the lowest hanging fruits, as muss as possible and then provide information about this target segment such as market size, break down of demographics and important market trends.
How to write a Business Plan: Industry Analysis 20-30 hours
The second research section of your business plan should provide an analysis of the industry in which your business will operate. You should provide your reader with an overall understanding of the size and trends of the industry as well as any other important factors that will affect how companies in the industry do business.
How to write a Business Plan: Competitive Analysis 20-30 hours
The third and final research section in the plan provides readers with a breakdown of your direct and indirect competitors. You will want to narrow down the definitions of your direct and indirect competitors as much as possible. You will then want to provide a layout of the competitive environment, evaluating your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, ultimately communicating your competitive advantages, differentiating factors and why your company will succeed in spite of the competition.
How to write a Business Plan: Sales and Marketing Plan 20-30 hours
This section outlines your sales goals, distribution strategies, marketing strategies, SWOT analysis (your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), branding strategies and customer service plan. After determining who your target market is in the market analysis, this is your time to determine how you will target them given your competitive advantages and the strengths/weaknesses of your competitors.
How to write a Business Plan: Operations Plan 10-40 hours
Your operations plan explains all of the internal systems, procedures and equipment necessary to produce and deliver the product to the customer. Relevant sections that may apply to you and your business include location, equipment, purchasing policies, manufacturing process, personnel and organizational chart.
How to write a Business Plan: Management Team 20 hours
This section introduces the reader to the entrepreneurs and executives who will run the business, as well as the board of directors and/or advisors that will play a crucial role. The goal of this section is to assemble a team that is capable of successfully caring out the funding necessary to succeed as outlined throughout the business plan. You’ll want to provide a succinct biography for each member of the management team in this section as well as a complete resume in the appendix of the plan.
How to write a Business Plan: Financial Plan 35 hours
The financial plan breaks down the financial projections of the company in detail, compiling all revenues, expenses and profits into conventional accounting sheets (a balance sheet, cash flow statement and profit & loss statement). The goal of this section is to show how the strategy outlined in the plan is sound from a financial standpoint, presenting a realistic business and investment opportunity. This section also communicates the need for any outside investment and the uses of these funds.
The business plan writing phase is when your idea will grow and change the most. Don’t be surprised if your business plan looks nothing like your original idea. It almost never does! Stick to it — after lots of creative planning, researching, and strategy development, you will have a complete, well-integrated strategy for your new business.
Now you know how to write a business plan, right? Well, as you can see, writing a business plan can be a daunting process. If it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, contact us for a free consultation regarding our business plan writing and start up consulting services!
The reason why most people dislike giving presentations (such as your startup pitch), is because they aren’t any good at it! Thankfully, there are some tips that you can implement fairly quickly to step up your game.
You need to show some energy during your presentation. Your audience will make a very quick judgment call as to whether they want to listen to this presentation or merely be present while they check their emails on their iPhones. Your pitch is not a conversation at a cocktail party; use your hands, project your voice, have some movement, add variety to your tone and appear to be excited about your product or service by acting animated.
2. Structure a Story
You should structure your pitch in the form of a story with a beginning, middle and end. The beginning brings your product to life and excited the audience for the rest of the story to come. Think, opening action seen of a James Bond movie. The middle provides the plot and supporting evidence: what is the problem, who are the bad guys and how does the hero solve the problem. The ending builds on the beginning and middle of the story with a climactic action scene that brings closure to the story and leaves the audience feeling utterly satisfied.
3. Be Memorable
Your investors will likely have seen tens if not hundreds of pitches in their career. Your goal is not end up as another forgotten entrepreneur whose business plan made it to the trash. However, keep in mind, your main goal is to show your audience that you are able to make this business a success. As a result, humor, self-deprecation and unprofessionalism is not the name of the game. It can be subtle, such as a powerful image in your deck or unique structure to your presentation.
4. Know Your Audience
The more you know about your audience, the more you can use it to your advantage. If the majority have kids, have advanced degrees or enjoy sports, you can incorporate these pieces of knowledge into your presentation to establish common ground and likability. You will also want to think hard about your audience’s pain points. What is that they need you to answer in order to achieve your desired outcome? What is it that they don’t want to hear that will send them running for the hills?
5. Keep It Simple
Don’t confuse your audience by providing them with every last detail of your product or service. Give your audience the essentials what you want to convey and why it matters. Use as few words as possible to still get your message across. It is OK to use facts and figures in your presentation, but only if these numbers help you to tell your story in a compelling way.
6. Keep Your Pitch Deck Visual
You want your audience’s attention on you. They are investing in you and not your pitch deck. The more time they are spent trying to read a spall sentence on your slide, the less time they are focusing on you. You can provide two version of your presentation: one with a lot of detail that can be left behind as a takeaway or emailed, and one with mostly images and key takeaways that support the message you are delivering at that point in time.
7. Practice, Practice, Practice
It is all too apparent when someone has not prepared. You should know your presentation in and out. Furthermore, you should be prepared to answer questions that are not provided in your presentation. In fact, it is a good rule of thumb to have backup slides ready to help you answer questions that you anticipate the audience asking. Not only will this help you to answer the question, but it will show your commitment and that you came prepared.
8. Stick to the Time Frame
If you have been giving a time frame for your presentation, stick to it. You can even plan on going under and leaving time for questions. Your presentation will always go longer than you anticipated, and if you end early, your audience won’t mind a bit.
9. Demo and Remote Control
If you have a demo, have someone else deliver the demo. The last thing you need is the confusion of operating your demo while trying to remember your talking points. Additionally, plan on investing in a remote control to change from slide to slide if you do not already own one.
Before moving on from each slide or each major point that you are trying to make, be sure to summarize the key takeaway. This not only helps to provide a clear transition and signals the audience that you are moving on, but it helps drive the point across.
If you are not already doing so, start working these 10 tips into your pitch strategy to step up your game.
Finding the right contract developer can be a big undertaking, especially if this is your first time doing. This blog will provide you with some critical advice on how to develop an effective and efficient relationship with a contract developer.
1. Define the goals of your project
Before you approach any contract developers, you will need to understand and have clearly defined your project goals. Usually, you will fall in one of two boats: you either want to develop a prototype or beta that will allow you go out and start testing your product, or you will want to make the end product perfect, just as you envisioned it. If you fall in the former category, you will likely be able to higher the cheaper developers. Though, keep in mind, you will need to do a lot of hand-holding and provide a lot of feedback. If you fall in the latter category, you will need to shell out the money for a professional developer that can create great code and provide advice for overcoming any ambiguities.
2. You are paying your developer to code, not to consult
It is important to go into the relationship knowing that your developer is not your strategic adviser The more clearly you can convey the desired features that you are going for and your vision for the end product, the better the outcome will be. If you can provide mock-ups of how you envision the end product, even better. The more you know what you are looking for and the better you can communicate this to you developer, the better chance you’ll have of getting exactly that.
3. Negotiations and Milestones
For the most part, you have the upper hand when negotiating with your contract developers. If you are not sourcing your work to several developers, you should be. Not only does this allow you to compare pricing, services and capabilities, but this gives you leverage in your negotiations as well. Two great ways to leverage this power to protect yourself are through milestones and payment terms. Setting up milestones will allow you to see progress and determine if you want to continue with the developer before you have gone too far down the process. Similarly, setting up the payment terms to have as much payment as possible towards the end of the project, after you have been able to review some of these milestones, will further protect your pocketbook.
4. Elance and Lower-Than-Market-Value Developers
In today’s globalized society, you can find great developers abroad via freelance websites such as Elance for a fraction of the cost of a domestic developer with the same skill sets. Be sure to review their portfolio, ensure that you can clearly communicate with the individual and they are able to answer your questions in an intelligent and timely manner. If they have reviews posted, be sure to read those as well. One great way to interview the developer (and to work with them down the road if you contract them) is to communicate via Skype.
5. Project Management
You may have thought that hiring and paying your contractor was enough to ensure that your project is appropriately managed. However, this is not always the case. While it is in their interest to do their best work for their clients and to keep them happy, be sure to touch base frequently to ensure that progress is being accomplished.
It is very rare for a contract developer to get it right the first time around. This should be expected. Rather than letting your emotions get the better of you, take some time to clearly describe to your developer what you don’t like about the product and what would make it better. Again, clearly defining the scope of what you are looking for will help.
Like most service providers, the better you pay, the better the service you will receive. If you like what you have received be sure to pay your developer for their hard work. Additionally, pay on time. This will make them much more likely to continue to do their best work for you down the road.
Too many entrepreneurs and startups get caught up trying to be everything for everyone. You can always add features or sub-products down the road, but don’t lost sight of your mission and your core competencies. Focus on one problem that your target customers have and solve it.
Once you start throwing in every decent idea that can be added to your product and service offering, you will find yourself with a disjointed solution that only partially solves your customers problems. As a startup, you need to determine your core competencies and stick to what’s truly essential.
Exercise: Trimming the Fat
No matter how refined you think your product or service is, cut it in half. Pare down the features until you are left with the most essential ones, and then do it again. By doing this process, you’ll avoid over-engineering, you’ll be much more efficient, you’ll spend far less on product development and employee costs and you’ll wind up with a much more narrowed target market to focus your limited sales and marketing budget on. Furthermore, you’ll end up with a product/service that truly solves your customer’s core problem.
Earlier, we wrote a blog post on California passing legislation creating new business structures for social enterprise. In this post, we’ll discuss what exactly the triple bottom line approach to sustainable business (social enterprise) really is.
Triple bottom line refers to the 3 “P’s” – Profit, People, Planet. It is a term often connected to companies that are actively engaged in eco-friendly policies or community interests. Like any business, a triply bottom line oriented business will focus on generating profits for its shareholders. However, it will also focus on people, often by hiring immigrants or under-served members of the community. Additionally, these companies will focus on providing the most ecologically friendly products and services and conducting business operations in a manner that is as friendly to the planet as possible.
Generally, the triple bottom line makes good business sense. Though, the degree to which companies to proclaim a triple bottom line mission actually execute on the people and planet side of the equation is unique to each company. While incorporating these key words to the company’s mission is a great way to gain support from certain market niches, its important to actually execute these practices so as to not alienate these same market segments.
More information about the triple bottom line principles can be found here.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, you will want to launch your startup in a fertile environment with ample funding and quality of life (for good employees and good prospects likely seek out this characteristic in determining where they will put down their roots).
To gauge the health of small-business lending in each city, NerdWallet analyzed business loans made by community banks in 2012. The researchers also considered business friendliness and assessed the local economies based on the average income of residents, the unemployment rate and the cost of living. Education levels and population growth measured available talent. More information can be found here.
#5 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Small-business lending in 2012: $118.5 million
- Businesses per 100 residents: 10.3
- Average income: $25,450
- Population growth rate: 2.1%
#4 – Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Small-business lending in 2012: $125.5 million
- Businesses per 100 residents: 10.7
- Average income: $26,727
- Population growth rate: 1.2%
#3 – Austin, Texas
- Small-business lending in 2012: $28.4 million
- Businesses per 100 residents: 10.8
- Average income: $31,170
- Population growth rate: 3.8%
#2 – Raleigh, North Carolina
- Small-business lending in 2012: $43.9 million
- Businesses per 100 residents: 10.5
- Average income: $30,377
- Population growth rate: 3.1%
#1 – Atlanta, Goergia
- Small-business lending in 2012: $62.2 million
- Businesses per 100 residents: 9.8
- Average income: $35,884
- Population growth rate: 3%
With limited legal designation for social enterprises, social entrepreneurs are forced to struggle with which legal form to choose for their ventures. Traditional legal entities are not well-suited to blend the social and profit-making purposes of a social enterprise. Management of for-profit companies are liable to shareholders for failure to maximize profit. On the other hand, management of non-profit organizations are liable to the IRS when they reward investors.
Fortunately, California Governon Jerry Brown signed into law Benefit Corporation (!B 361) and Flexible Purpose Corporation (SB 201) legislation. The passage of this law creates two options for socially responsible business models in California.
Generally, Benefit Corporations are corporate entities that are required to pursue social and environmental objectives in addition to seeking profits. Flexible Purpose Corporations are corporations that seek profits and at least one broader social or environmental goal. For more information about the two entities, visit this site.
While these structures are ideal for corporations that would like to be held to a higher standard of social and environmental responsibility, neither will provide tax advantages to the organization. Nonetheless, board members and management can now be shielded from violating their fiduciary duties of maximizing shareholder profits. Also, while both have been signed into law and they are not mutually exclusive, it is unclear which structure will produce the best results.
Generating a business idea takes creativity. Fortunately, we can exercise our creativity like a muscle. And it can even be fun. Try these three games to inspire new ideas. Who knows, it might lead to the next million-dollar startup!
1. Mix and Match
What two products could be brought together for the first time to create a new one? For example, take license plates and dry erase boards. People can custom their very own license plate! While this couldn’t work from a legal standpoint, you get the idea. Try some of your own.
2. Solve It
Begin by questioning everything around you and constantly asking yourself, how could things be better? Listen to complaints from friends and families and determine how you could fix these problems.
3. What If?
Let your mind wander and dream. What do you really wish were possible? What if you could snowboard uphill? What if you could monitor growth among children?
As a new startup, you will find yourself doing some form of sales around the clock. Selling investors or bank officers, selling potential strategic partners or key employees, selling customers and clients. Sales is king in the new economy. You success will be determined by your ability to generate revenue and sell, not just your products and services, but also yourself.
Here are five signs you’re well positioned to succeed at the art of selling:
1. Remember, you are in the people business.
Don’t make the mistake of getting so caught up in what you are selling that you forget to make meaningful connections.
2. Focus on the results, not the effort.
Don’t confuse results with efforts. Your success in selling is all about getting results. Therefore, you should evaluate your results and not your efforts. You don’t try to get an appointment, you either get it or you don’t.
3. Do the uncomfortable thing.
Don’t shy from the tough customers or the tough sales. You can’t bring the big deals home without getting into the deep waters where the big fish swim.
4. Wow the customer.
Sales is all about emotion. Constantly look for ways to inspire a customer’s emotional involvement and create the urgency to take ownership.
5. Ask for the sale
This may seem very simple, but most salespeople never ask for the sale. If you don’t ask, you will only sell to those who are going to buy regardless.
More details about these 5 tricks can be found here.