Category Archives: business plans

In conversation with Stephen Goldberg, a discussion of the value of Business Planning. “It’s about the process, not the product.”

Read the full article and watch the video here.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson
 
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 Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph’s, “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans”.  Read the book.

Some final Words from Uncle Ralph … on Business Plans

Get the most out of the process.   

Preparing a Business Plan will always force you to learn some things that you didn’t know you needed to know and it will deliver some results that you hadn’t expected.

Most importantly, you will now have a document that has been shared and endorsed by your management team, your investors and your strategic partners and will serve as a performance management tool to achieve your business and personal objectives.

As a bonus, your title page will likely have a new corporate name, logo and marketing slogan that you developed for your business plan. Now you can incorporate them into your business cards, brochures, e-mail signature and stationery so that your business looks like it has already arrived.

You should also now have an “Elevator Pitch” and be comfortable using it: “Hello, this is who I am, what I do and why it matters to you.” You should be ready for any opportunity to promote your business with the 10-second version, the two minute version, the PowerPoint slide show, the YouTube video, the e-mail intro and the .pdf attachment.

You have probably enhanced your spreadsheet and financial analysis skills and have templates ready to assess any new changes in the industry or market landscape. And your future business expansion projects for new products or new markets.

And you’ve been promoted to “expert” if you, or anyone else, needs another Business Plan!

 Re-Write for every Reader

Your plan needs to be written differently for different readers and different purposes. Not a substantially different plan obviously, just different emphasis and focus on what the particular reader will want to know and what you want from them.

Edit your Business Plan accordingly for each reader. It is also impressive if you personalize the cover page for each new audience.

Prior to approaching the banks or financial institutions, you should visit their websites to check their preferred business plan content and presentation. Verify if they have a particular business plan template or application form that is required. You may discover that up to a certain amount, say $100,000, they only accept applications online (avoiding wasting their time on small business clients). You may also discover that your personal financial statements and net worth are at least as important as your business plan. So get those in order and attach them to your plan.

Some readers of your plan may be more focused on your management credentials and experience; others on your marketing and sales plans to support the revenue forecasts.

Submission of your Executive Summary first will help you not only gauge their interest, but also determine which questions they will be seeking answers to.

There is never  a Final Version

Your Business Plan is a working document that you should refer to regularly and review and revise annually. It was never intended for outsiders only or for one-time use only.

Of particular value for ongoing management of the business will be your financial goals, performance measures and the timetable in your Strategic Action Plan.

Continuing to monitor your progress against the plan is absolutely the best way to keep on track and achieve the objectives that you set for the business.

Remember the planning mantra: Review. Revise. Repeat.

That concludes my input and ideas for your Business Plan; the rest is up to you. Tuum est.

And good luck with your plans, that also helps.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

From business launch to owner’s exit

Bplan strategyYour Business Plan is an essential management tool that is too easily under-estimated as a useless bureaucratic requirement to apply for financing. “It would be easier if they just said No!”

My own experience with business plans has led me to the conclusion that became the sub-title of my book, The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans:

It’s about the process, not the product.”

Do not make the mistake of focusing on filling in the blanks to create a Business Plan document. The real value for entrepreneurs in preparing a Business Plan is the process of involving your management team in the assessment of the market, study of competition, developing a business strategy and testing the financial consequences of different scenarios and alternative plans.

My first Business Plan was 30-years ago, when I started TTX Computer Products (a simple one page summary and first year budget), followed by a more formal Business Plan when we applied for a line of credit. It helped us get the first $50,000 and the process eventually got us up to loans of $4,800,000.  My experience continued with other ventures and dozens of projects for clients in a wide variety of businesses. From start-ups through business expansion plans to successful exit strategies.

The most important lesson?

The value to an entrepreneur or business owner comes from the process, not the document.

Use the business planning process to understand the market, develop a strategic plan and test alternative scenarios. Then continuously review and revise the plan based on ongoing market feedback and actual results.

It’s a continuous process: Like any other road map, it should be consulted regularly. Do we still have the same destination? Are we on the right course? In the best vehicle? With the driver and passengers all in the right positions doing the right things?

What are the essential elements?

The objective is to prepare a document that describes the business opportunity, then defines the strategy, concept and business model to realize that opportunity and the operating plans to succeed as a sustainable long-term business.

The important steps in the process:

  1. Analyse and understand the market, the opportunity and the competitive landscape.
  2. Develop a strategy and action plan to realize the business opportunity.
  3. Test alternative scenarios, strategies, operating plans and the potential financial results.
  4. Document your final decisions on strategy and operating plans and the expected financial results.

The final Business Plan will have three parts – a description of the plan, the financial projections, and the supporting documents.

Who needs one and when?

A solid Business Plan is not just for start-ups seeking financing. It’s also for existing businesses to launch a new project, a new product, or enter new markets. Every business should have a documented strategic plan with measurable objectives that can be shared with management and employees, business partners and sources of financing.  The documented Business Plan is also an important tool for preparing an exit strategy or management transition plan for businesses that are at that stage in their life cycle.

What are the biggest mistakes made in Business Plans?

Entrepreneurs often put too much focus on filling in the blanks of a template without providing solid data and analysis to validate the strategy and the financial forecasts. The plan may be missing the persuasive arguments on how you will succeed based on competitive advantages and your unique knowledge, skills, experience, contacts and resources. Do not neglect the sincere language that will attract believers to your stated mission, vision and values.  Prepare to answer the tough questions, especially recognizing and responding to the risks and uncertainties.

The most important recommendations in The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans?

First, you do not have to “Do-It-Yourself,” but you should know what will make it successful, so that you can provide direction to whoever is helping you prepare a Business Plan. Be prepared to defend the strategy and the numbers in your plan. Remember the objective is to prepare a plan that will generate confidence and enthusiasm in yourself and in others and that will serve as a guide to managing and monitoring performance for a successful long-term sustainable business.

Happy planning!

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Start with a SNAP Review Business Diagnostic

SNAP: Strategic Needs Assessment and Performance Review

business challengesA comprehensive business diagnostic will assess your strategic position, your plans and objectives and analyze your current performance to identify opportunities for improvement.

It includes a review of the issues with management, employees and customers and an analysis of financial results, sales and marketing performance, customer service and operating effectiveness. It will lead to a new plan that is more in line with your strategic objectives and delivers higher profitability and performance.

Our recommended approach

Start with a survey of the competitive landscape and your position in it. How do you fit in to meet customer needs? Do customers see you as a Porsche or a pick-up truck? Are your marketing campaigns and sales pitches all aligned with your strategic plan, on message, and directed at the right prospects with targeted opportunities?

Internally, the business diagnostic should include a survey of management and staff perceptions. Are you fun and friendly or severe and stressful? Do they see you supporting personal development and encouraging initiative in pursuit of business objectives?

Financial performance should be measured not only against your plans and forecasts, but also against industry average ratios and the performance of the best in your business.  Look at your operating margins, leverage ratios, inventory and receivables turnover, sales performance in dollars per square foot or per sales rep or per dollar invested in plant and equipment. How do you compare?

When the business diagnostic is complete, share the results with your management team and develop a realistic plan to improve on the key performance measures and accelerate progress toward your strategic objectives.

It starts with a comprehensive and objective diagnostic and ends with a new plan.

Consider a Quick SNAP Review from DirectTech Solutions

Fixed Fee Diagnostic – only $1795

Includes:

  • Initial review of company background, sales and marketing performance and financial results.
  • Discussion with management of the strategic plan and objectives and current key issues.
  • Survey of up to three key staff members and three key employees.
  • Presentation of our analysis and recommendations

Visit DirectTech Solutions to learn more.

Limited offer to qualified clients. Standard consulting agreement applicable.

Please contact us to discuss your needs and how we may be able to assist you in doing better for your business.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

And check out two new books by Uncle Ralph, Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and The9Don't Do It the Hard Way Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans.” available online or at your favourite bookstore.  To learn more or buy a copy: Click here

Real Life Story: “The answer is still No

Saying-noThis is my true story and I’m sorry, it’s not very encouraging. In spite of everything I have just said about preparing a great Business Plan, you still may not get the financing you want.

In the early 2000’s during the infamous Dotcom bubble, my partner and I decided to launch an e-commerce venture that was essentially a virtual distribution business for computer products. We consolidated product information from various sources in a database and then developed an online catalogue application for computer retailers with all the products showing comparative pricing available from alternative sources. We also offered the retailers a customized storefront where they could present the same products to their customers at marked-up prices.

It may sound pretty boring now, but this was in the early days of e-commerce and online shopping. We got rave reviews from the computer distributors and retailers, “Wow! How did you do that?” Lots of users and sponsors signed up. But it was going to be costly to develop and support and we were not generating much revenue – so it was time to prepare a Business Plan and get the million dollar financing we needed to conquer the world.

We did the research and prepared the documents and financial projections to support a multi-million dollar valuation and started knocking on doors. Again we got rave reviews. “Great product, great Business Plan, etc., etc.”

Everything looked good for us: two experienced entrepreneurs with prior business success in the same industry; a proven business model with early customers in place; a realistic plan to build and grow the business; and reasonable projections to deliver a very high return on investment.

But the answer was still – “NO!”

Everyone had a different reason not to invest in us, but they all concluded with “Good luck and goodbye”. So we finally concluded ourselves that it was time to let it go and cut our losses. Like many other Dotcoms we went back to pursuing other career and business options.

It may happen to you. Don’t be discouraged.

It’s just time to listen to the lessons learned and come up with a new plan. You may not have to change your goals, just the route for getting there.

(Note: In all these Real life Stories, the names and business details have been changed to protect the actual subjects of each story.)

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs

 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

BoomerpreneurAs recently posted on FindependenceHub with Jonathan Chevreau.

Young entrepreneurs seem to get all the attention, but there are also a lot of experienced Boomers considering entrepreneurship for the next phase of their career or retirement plan. Are you one of them?

The first important point for you to recognize if you are considering that option, is that past success in business or management or even as a business owner, does not ensure you will succeed in a new business. You need to be smart and humble enough to seek support, advice and market feedback before you start.

I have worked with many entrepreneurs on new business start-ups, and my advice is the same for any entrepreneur, young or old, experienced or not: Look before you leap.

Yes, that does mean you have to do a Business Plan, but remember, “It’s not about the plan, it’s about the process.” Preparing the document is much less important than the process of strategic analysis and testing the financial consequences for alternative business models and potential operating scenarios.

My recommendation for going through the process is to start with the basics. First, do you have what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur?  Here is my short checklist list of the Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur to consider:

  • Energetic, independent, confident, competitive, persistent, action-oriented, decisive.
  • Passionate, persuasive communicator.

If you don’t have all these personal characteristics yourself, then you better look for a partner to include in your plans. If any of those characteristics are missing in the leadership team, the business simply cannot succeed.

The second question is whether you and your family are ready for the life style choices that are associated with being a business owner – no longer the regular hours, professional support and infrastructure that you may be used to. In your own business you will love the independence and doing it your way, but you may not enjoy being often alone and in unfamiliar territory. If that’s all part of the attraction, then you are off to a good start. The key at this stage is to assess if your personal skills, interests and objectives are all consistent with the plans for your new business venture.

If the answer is yes, then you are ready to take a closer look at the Before You Launch Checklist to ensure you have everything you need before you start:

  • Skills, knowledge, experience, and contacts relevant to your business plan.
  • Expectations and preferences for the entrepreneurial lifestyle – work routine and environment, prestige and compensation, work/life balance.
  • Personal strengths and weaknesses that will help, not hurt, the business.
  • A healthy foundation – family, physical and financial.  Solid not shaky.
  • Strategic resources in place – partners, suppliers, facilities, key customers and employees.
  • Financing for start-up – including money in the bank to cover the first few months of negative cash flow. If you can’t put a checkmark with confidence in every one of those boxes, then you are not yet ready. You need to accept and analyze the deficiencies then start to work on filling in the missing elements.

If you have completed these checklists and the light is green for GO (or at least flashing amber for proceed with caution), then you are ready to start on a more complete Business Plan.

Good luck, that also helps.

Bplan-2015-1Entrepreneurs often find themselves working hard to prepare a Business Plan, because the bank asked for one.  So they spend a lot of time and effort, and sometimes a lot of money, to prepare a very elaborate documented business plan with all the supporting facts and figures and extensive financial projections.  And the bank still says no.

It’s a painful lesson: a good business plan is not enough.  It is necessary, but not sufficient, to get financing.

The first question most potential investors and lenders ask is, “Can I see your Business Plan?” And usually the entrepreneur needs help with the strategizing, documentation and financial analysis to put one together. But I always ask entrepreneurs to confirm that they can meet all the other requirements before committing time and resources to a Business Plan.  Too often after we have spent time and effort together to prepare a solid business plan that confirms the prospect of a viable business and the potential returns to investors and lenders, we then discover that the owners cannot deliver on the other requirements that we should have known from the start. So what else is required?

Lenders and investors have a checklist. It includes more than the request for a Business Plan. Be sure you are aware of the whole list and that you can meet all the other requirements before delivering your Business Plan.  Remember the first requirement is to invest sufficient cash yourself (or from the three F’s  – friends, family and fools) before you ask for more cash from the cold-blooded banker or investor who is neither friend, family, nor fool.

Here are some more observations from experience with borrowers, bankers and investors:

1. They will not get it.

Start by accepting that your lenders will never fully understand what you do for a living or why, your motivation, your challenges or your circumstances. But you do have to try to get them to understand enough about you and your business plans that they can be confident that working with you will be good for them.

Remember their objective is to earn a return on their investment and limit the risk of losing any money. Learn to speak their language and address their needs.

2. It’s only for the money.

You will need to prove that their money is all you need; because you have already looked after everything else.Bplan-2015-2

The banker or investor does not want to worry about your customers, your management team, your sales and marketing efforts, your operating efficiencies, your health, your marriage or anything else except the financing you need.

3. They do have a checklist.

When you meet and fill in all the forms, remember the banker wants to be satisfied on these five criteria:

  • Character – do you have a reputation of integrity and responsibility on prior financial obligations?
  • Capital – do you have enough personally invested in your business to also be at risk?
  • Capacity – does your business have the ability to support the cash flow requirements?
  • Collateral – if your business cannot support the loans, what assets are available to cover them?
  • Conditions – is your industry in good economic condition or in a downturn?

Good answers on these points will provide the start to a good relationship with a confident and willing partner instead of tentative support from a cautious and reluctant partner.

So be prepared to meet all the requirements in addition to a good Business Plan and you are more likely to get the green light for GO!

Good luck. That also helps.

 

It’s done.

I finally expanded the quick 10-Minute summary into a Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans.


Including:

  • A clear concise 50-page Guide that describes all the requirements for a great Business Plan .

  • Valuable ideas and information on the personal and strategic business decisions required before you start

  • Recommended Templates for your Financial Projections

  • A quick summary 10-Minute Guide to Business Plan basics

  • An actual sample Business Plan that delivered results


Check it out at: http://www.diybusinessplan.com/DIYcompleteGUIDE.htm


Why Do-It-Yourself?


As a management consultant, I have often been hired to help with Business plans. (As an entrepreneur, I’ve also written a few of my own.) But if you hire someone, it still needs to be “your” plan. Nobody can go away and write it for you.


It needs to reflect the entrepreneur’s passion, competence, knowledge and commitment to the business. A consultant can help with the planning process, words, numbers, and presentation, but investors, lenders and strategic partners need to know the entrepreneur behind the plan, not the consultant.


Learn how. And do it yourself.

Finally we’re writing the all important Executive Summary to the Business Plan. And, of course, it has to be concise.

(Most advice also says to write it last, but I think it’s a good starting point as an outline of all the points you will cover in more detail – so I recommend that you do a draft Executive Summary first.)

But the final objective is prepare a brief (1 – 3 page) summary of the key points in your Business Plan, which might be a 20-page document or more, plus all the supporting data in appendices.
An excellent guide to the Executive Summary is available at Garage Technology Ventures (Garage.com). They emphasize that aside from being concise and still answering all the important questions the Executive Summary is primarily a selling tool for your Business Plan. It allows potential lenders, investors or strategic partners to quickly decide if they are interested in participating in your plan.
And even more important than the executive summary is that one sentence or paragraph in your cover letter or e-mail (or elevator pitch) that convinces them you may be onto something that could be a viable business.


Enjoy the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but don’t miss the opportunity to learn some lessons to help your business go for gold!





You can help your business to perform like an Olympic champion if you take these ideas from the Olympics as your inspiration:
  • Have a four-year plan to achieve Olympic records


  • Decide: Go for gold, or Quit.


  • Learn from your losses


  • Push your limits


  • It’s not for the money


  • Don’t cheat


  • It’s never too late

To see the full article visit: “Olympic Lessons for Entrepreneurs.”

Be inspired to take your performance to Olympic heights.