Business Plan – The Next Steps

Strategy Plan One

July 7, 2012

business plan - commercial loan criteriaBusiness Plan

You have taken the time and effort to develop a draft business plan, and now you are looking to move to the next steps.

Depending on how you developed your plan, whether you completed the draft independently or not, you may want to strengthen your plan before approaching necessary funding agencies, investors, or partners.  You may just want to take steps to ensure you are implementing a stronger, more objective business plan that will have the higher probability of working for you.  Here are some tips you may find valuable.

Business Plan Review

As much as you would like to state, that you have put in the greatest efforts to create the best plan, you need to be open to constructive feedback.  Be willing to adapt and be flexible to adjust the business plan accordingly.  When your draft is ready, provide it to friends, family, mentors, consultants and or specialists in your business field.  Give the party the task of critically analyzing the business plan, but also to provide you with constructive feedback to make it stronger.  With external feedback and recommendations, you will be developing a better business plan in a more objective manner.  Ensure that you try to acquire the services of professionals (paid or unpaid) to assist in the process, as there are aspects of the business plan these professionals will target and provide recommendations on.

Don’t forget that if financials are your weak point, have an accountant or bookkeeper review those necessary financial projection documents, such as the projected income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement.  Some financial analysis should be completed and included within your business plan on those projections.  Stronger financial statements and interpretation of those numbers will signal investors and lenders that you are serious and have done your homework.

business plan - commercial loan - presentationAs you may approach lending agencies or business grant and contribution programs, it is always a good idea to try to arrange a preliminary meeting to understand the requirements and criteria of these agencies and programs.  To acquire a commercial loan for your business, you will need to know the specific commercial loan criteria.  With a better understanding of what you need to meet, you can adjust that business plan and financial documents accordingly.

Revising to Make the Business Plan Stronger

Following feedback, be keen to adjust the business plan.  With that open mindset, take in that constructive feedback and turn the draft into a more polished document.  Here are some common tips and feedback for business plan revision:

  • Write a spectacular Executive Summary to catch the reader’s immediate attention
  • Remove non-essential descriptions and sections
  • Write clearly, with concise and “to the point” sections of the business plan
  • Ensure that the narrative part of the document is error free
  • Financial statements should be clearly laid out and error free
  • Cite sources to support points and data references in the business plan
  • Add appendices for accompanying documents
  • Make versions of the business plan specific to agency or external party requirements
  • Ensure you demonstrate meeting lending or program criteria
As a valuable additional step, have what you consider to be your final revised business plan reviewed again externally.  This will help in catching any of those little errors and help you finalize the document.

Final Business Plan Ready for Submission and Presentation

With a complete business plan now on hand, you should understand your business front to back thoroughly.  Be ready to make brilliant summary presentations on this business plan, as now you will be approaching lenders, partners and programs to seek financial or business support.  You will want to make an impressive impact.  Depending how you and the other party want to proceed on a presentation, be prepared to highlight the business case, through a visual PowerPoint presentation, or just through a powerful personal presentation with appropriate handouts.  Whatever the case, always be prepared.

With a few added steps, you will achieve your goal of developing a stronger, more objective business plan to present to appropriate parties.  Always remember that your business plan is your blueprint to implement your own successful project or business.  The plan is a living, breathing document, and needs to be revisited, reviewed and revised frequently as markets and business environments consistently change.

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Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

Business Opportunities in the Education Field

Strategy Plan One

January 30, 2012 

To facilitate some discussion and thoughts on business opportunities, here are some potential business opportunities in the educational field for your entrepreneurial considerations:

 

The Education Field

In any field and any business sector, educated, qualified, certified people are needed.  Whether it’s to improve operations or management, people and organizations need to continuously undertake capacity building.  Continuous learning is a part of society and natural business functions; it will always be viewed as an essential need.  As an entrepreneur in the educational field, you may want to concentrate your efforts in providing educational services in niche areas such as technology, innovative product development, business management and personal development.

 

Establishing Schools and Online Learning Platforms

A first consideration for entrepreneurs may be to establish a learning school or facility, or online business.  The prospects are good if you do your research in your field, markets, and area of specialization.  When it comes to industry areas where certifications, degrees, and diplomas are needed, your local area or jurisdiction may require you and your business to become accredited.  Accreditation may take awhile, so it is advisable to do your research and be prepared.  Once accredited, doors open to government programming and additional resources, along with access to new markets and learning customers.

 

If you are astute with web design or have access to people who can do this, and some resources, you can take your opportunity online.  This could be a significant opportunity as a web-based platform for learning. Web based, you have access to a global market of learners (no physical location required).

 

Contracting and Procurement

Procurement of educational products and services is another lucrative angle for entrepreneurs.  If you know and can navigate through government procurement processes, an entrepreneur could land a lucrative contract to provide a client base, or government base with courses, personal development tools, and educational products.  Businesses and organizations are buying into the “continuous learning environment” as development strategies.  Doors are open to provide the platform and tools for continuous learning.  Put your educational thinking cap on for this opportunity.

 

Partner or contract yourself out to other larger educational institutions.  Rather than be an employee, you can shop around and enter into contracts with several post-secondary institutions.  Run it as a business, schedule you contracts and bill out as a legal entity.  Be prepared to offer your services during regular work days, evenings and weekends.

 

Consulting

This is always an area of consideration for the veteran employee or manager.   With years or experience behind your name, you can make a potential killing in consulting.  You must also have good connections, good partnership building and negotiation skills.  One of the most important skill is the ability to deal with people as you will need to be influential, selling yourself, your firm, and your services.

 

Entrepreneurs and small businesses occasionally need the assistance of a consultant for ongoing business mentoring, coaching and skill development.  These forms of business advisory support constitute great higher-level educational / learning business opportunities for a consultant-entrepreneur.

 

With any and all business opportunities, it is advisable to do your research, and seek as many professional sources, mentors and colleagues to help you build your business plan and business opportunity.

Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

4 Key Sections of a Business Plan

Strategy Plan One

January 25, 2012 

When considering business plan development, there are 4 key sections or components to business plans:

 

1.       Business Plan

 

Your first emphasis should be on the content / body of the business plan.  This section of the full document contains the descriptive body of the business or venture.  As you develop this, add in content from research, outside consultations, and your own views, opinions and information.  Keep in mind to write this as objectively as possible, rather than your own biased, subjective views.  It may be easier to write each section separately to begin with.  Later link the sections together.

 

To make the business plan stronger, research all elements thoroughly before writing.  Sources of information include info from successful business people, the internet, library, local business development agencies or business advocacy group, competitors, industry expects, or consultants.  Strengthen your business plan by quoting your source of information.  In a logic sense, you should support any outlining assumptions with factual information.  Use clear and plain language that your reader will understand and will grab his/her attention.  As you work on sections of the business plan, write out ideas completely and clearly, otherwise you may get lost, loose direction or focus.

 

In your own process, you should write drafts first, then edit for a final product.  For the final draft, ensure the product in smooth and error free.  An error-filled document shows incompetence or unprofessional work.  Proof read to eliminate errors, typos, of confusing grammar.

 

2.       Financials (In pro-forma format)

 

The four essential financial documents:

-          12 month cash flow projection

-          3 year cash flow projection

-          3 year projected balance sheet

-          3 year projected income statement

Funding agencies, investors and lenders will need these documents to base a funding or investment decision on.  These documents will demonstrate if a project is projected to be viable, profitable, and/or meet financial goals.  Financial ratios and indicators are important financial measurements of the business.

 

3.       Executive Summary

 

The executive summary is the upfront section of the business plan that highlights key features of your business.  This section summarizes the body and financial sections of the business plan.  It is the first section of a competed business plan intended to grab the attention of the reader.  It should summarize sections in bold, colorful, and brief wording.  Usually a page or two, the executive summary will highlight the merits and benefits of your business or project.

 

4.       Appendices

 

The appendices contain the supporting documents, such as resumes, certificates, diplomas, letters of reference, equipment and supplies quotes, letters of intent, partnership agreements, Articles of Incorporation, maps, photos, product/service samples, and other documents that will support your business plan.  Organize this section, labeling each appendix.  Make references in your business plan to the specific appendix.

Financial funding agencies and, commercial lending institutions want to ensure that you are actively involved in the business planning process, especially if you acquire the assistance of a professional or consultant to help you develop a business plan.  You should fully understand the business plan and its implications as a guiding tool for you.  As a final note, business owners who develop and write business plans have a better chance of succeeding than those individuals who did not.

 

Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

Financial Resources for your Business

Strategy Plan One

January 22, 2012 

Your Own Money

Yes, you will most likely need to invest some of your own hard earned cash for your start-up or for your business expansion.  Usually it’s a smaller percentage of the overall funding requirement, but it all depends on the size of the project and the size of the financial requirements.  A good starting point would be to set aside your own savings that would equate to 10-25% of the project costs.  It will also depend on what the lenders or other agencies require, and what other sources will round off the full financing package.
Commercial Loans
Business loans are the most common financial source for business projects.  Loans are usually at a higher percentage rate as the risk associated with business loans is higher than with car and home loans.  Most commercial lenders will require a detailed business plan, will conduct a credit check on you, and may ensure that you have collateral or security to back the loan.
Business Grants
If you do some homework and research, you will find that you may be eligible for business grants in the US and in Canada.  Grants usually exist in two formats – repayable and non-repayable.  Repayable grants involve the gradual repayment of a grant over a period of time.  You do not have to repay a grant from a non-repayable grant program.  However, keep in mind that each program will have terms and conditions, and in most cases if you don’t stick to the terms and conditions, those grants could become repayable.  In this current economic climate, it has become harder and harder to acquire grants, and each program has become highly accountable.  If you are privileged to be a recipient of a grant, it is worth your while to follow through with your commitments and adhere to the terms and conditions.
Other Sources
You could also obtain other sources of funds for your business through a small line of credit, loans from friends or family, investors, or from credit cards.  Be extremely cautious with lending sources or credit companies that carry high interest rate terms on the principle amount – these sources would be the absolute last resources for funding your business.

Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

Make money as an entrepreneur, and a little business planning will help

Strategy Plan One

January 20, 2012 
You may have heard stories or know someone successful who has made a pile of money as an entrepreneur.  Others may also know of stories where the person has lost everything.  There is no sure-fire way of guaranteed piles of money as an entrepreneur but here are some tips that may assist you to become successful and make varying levels of income.

 


Characteristics and Traits

Do you have the personality and traits required to be a successful entrepreneur? This is an excellent question to ask yourself and good starting point for self-assessment.  A cross section of successful entrepreneurs exhibit characteristics such as motivation, determination, educated, experienced in operations and management, excellent partnership building and negotiation skills, and good people skills.  They have great instinct and have vision.   With goals in mind, successful entrepreneurs can see a pathway and plan to achieve those objectives.

Money and Financial Planning

Entrepreneurs need money to start a business.  Whether it’s a $500 or $1 million start up, self-starters will need owner equity requirements to start up a business.  That doesn’t mean you need to cover 100% of the costs, but that you need some of your own cash that can be leveraged to obtain a commercial loan and other sources of funding.

Astute entrepreneurs are good financial planners.  They can foresee the financial risks and plan to mitigate those risks.  Entrepreneurs undertake strong financial analysis to ensure goals can be met.  They analyze financial indicators such as return on investment, return on equity, profit margins, etc.  Business owners will develop a future financial plan for the utilization of profit, or potential investment plans for retained earnings.

Business Planning

A high percentage of all successful ventures have completed detailed business plans.  A business plan is your blueprint for business.  It incorporates everything you must plan for in your operations and management of the company.  Through research and due diligence you will identify the right markets for the right products and services at the right price at the right time.

Establishing goals and objectives is the essence of every plan.  The management, operational, financial and strategic plans are all built around end goals and objectives. With proper planning you will achieve your revenue goals and objectives.  The more effort you and your team put into planning, the closer actual results may be to your planned objectives.

Partnerships & Collaboration

To increase your chances of success, consider partnering with successful people or companies.  If you want to be successful as a new entrant in an industry or want to expand, you will most likely need to consider partnering and collaboration.  Partnerships bring new skills, new markets and new revenue streams to your existing base.  It is exciting to know that success usually breeds success.  Never underestimate the power of partnerships.

Revenue Generators and Opportunities

Analyze your revenue streams carefully.  Assessments of opportunities are extremely important.  Your role as a manager, executive and owner is to maximize benefits from existing resources, operations and new opportunities.  An opportunity may provide a low revenue level, but the profit margins may be huge.  Likewise, a huge revenue generator may result in a break-even or losing venture.  Once again, assessments and planning around these opportunities are critical steps to undertake.

Remember, nothing is guaranteed.  Money, income or revenue levels can never be guaranteed, but through your commitment, hard work, planning and perseverance, your chances of becoming successful and making a pile of money may increase like mad.

Go forth and plan well.

Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

Business information, resources and tips for the entrepreneur

Detailed Steps for a Strategy Plan

Strategy Plan One

January 19, 2012

The Detailed Strategic Planning Process

A strategic plan can be a part of a business plan or a stand alone document to formulate a strategy for implementation.  In developing a Strategic Plan, our team recently undertook the steps and approach below with one of our clients.  The following may be helpful in planning out a process for development and implementation of your strategy:

  • Assessment of market and regulatory trends, globally and locally
  • Identification of key success factors in modern businesses (this industry and other industries)
  • Review of current sector physical assets and human resources
  • Conduct a SWOT analysis  of the competitive environment facing the business
  • Assessment of each product and/or service line , including:

Supply and demand,

Management,

Market,

Cost

Best Fit (alignment with the business’ values, ethics and goals)

  • Identification of goals and objectives for future industry participation
  • Constructive development of strategies (including options)
  • Development of priorities
  • Resource identification and requirements to achieve goals and objectives
  • Development of budgets and financial risk management
  • Implementation
  • Reviewing & measuring results, and revising as necessary

As highlighted in the steps, you will note the phases of the process, including review, analysis, development, implementation, measuring results, and revision of planning.

Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2012

6 Key Areas of Interest for Entrepreneurs in 2012

Strategy Plan One

January 18, 2012

Here are some of top business trends picks for entrepreneurial considerations:

1.         Consulting specializing in Business Improvement and Efficiency

As long as you can demonstrate operational savings that exceed your billing, you are in!  With declining revenue sources and increased global competition, a business needs to keep up with change.  Insert in a consultant who can review current status of operations and recommend significant change, with reduction of costs, increasing efficiency, identifying redundancies.

2.         HR Firms – specializing in job placement.

Globally and nationally we are all experiencing higher than normal unemployment rates.  As the economy improves slightly (and it will), opportunities will arise.  Business opportunities such as placement firms are a potentially excellent opportunity.  There may be additional opportunity in acquiring contracts to handle HR placements for local and federal government agencies.

3.         Hi – tech green energy industry

There is no end to escalating oil prices and everything associated around this energy source.  Countries and companies are scrambling to diversify energy sources.

4.         Negotiators  

With significant developments in the resource sector and in internal trade, a skilled negotiator would be fitting.  Astute negotiation skills are required in partnership building processes.  If you are skilled or will gain skills in this area, big business wants you.  The bigger the deals you can successfully negotiate, the better your compensation package.

5.          Data miners

Businesses continue to express serious strategic interest in defined customer details and buying behaviour.  Programmers and technicians are needed who can tap into the right information to convert a high percentage of lead information into sales and revenues.

6.         Outsourcing Specialists

Governments are always finding ways to outsource and contract out rather than build up capacity internally.  Plentiful opportunities exist within government procurement of goods & services.  If you know the government procurement system like the back of your hand, and you have unique products or services for Federal government, you may have an excellent opportunity here.  These opportunities may not be the best return on investment (ie: in some competitive scenarios you may be the low cost provider), but the benefits, such as volume of business and duration of contracts, may outweigh the cons.

Strategy Plan One

© 2012 Strategy Plan One

Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur

Strategy Plan One

January 15, 2012
Here are a few characteristics of successful entrepreneurs:

Self Starter

-         a motivated individual that needs very little direction to proceed

-         highly competent and confident to always take the first step and to take on risk

-         highly responsible for own actions, essential to anyone who takes the initiative to start their own business.

Determined

-         ability to navigate through all challenges and issues with ease

-         ability to stay the course until the very end

-         a strong will and strong mind to see things through

Ability to Manage Risk

-         ability to foresee the elements of risk

-         ability to analyze risk, and implement a plan to mitigate or reduce risk.

Vision

-         the ability to see the end goal or objective easily, and can strategize a pathway to achieve the goal

Ability to Adapt

-         ability to adjust and to learn to change

-         embraces a continuous learning environment

    © Strategy Plan One 2002-2012

Grants for Business – Avoid These Common Mistakes

Strategy Plan One
January 13, 2012
1.  Minimal effort / minimal application package
Incomplete information packages or applications will set you far behind in the process.  Have a clear understanding of the requirements and ensure you provide more than the minimum.  Ask questions if you are unclear on any section of the grant application. Developing a business plan in advance will help you prepare for applications.

2.  Sense of Entitlement

The decisions behind grants and contributions programs are based on merit or criteria.  Do not approach the process thinking that because you are disadvantaged in some way, that program officials will just roll over, not analyze your application, and approve without meeting the conditions.  You will not be entitled to a business benefit of this nature; you must demonstrate that program criteria have been met.

3.  Not understanding the programs applying to

Common mistakes are made in applying to the program without understanding why the program exists, how to apply for a business grant, or what has to occur throughout the whole process.  Understand your needs first (ie: funding needed), and then find the appropriate program that meets your needs.  Carefully review and analyze the program and its criteria.  Ask questions.

4.  Not following up with further documentation

It may occur that the program officer may need additional information (it happens frequently).  Make sure you are readily available to fill in the gaps, submit supplementary documents, and do whatever it takes.  If you are not available or are late in your responses back, chances are that the program will either place the funding application on hold, or decline it all together.  If you put an initial effort in, follow through right to the very end.

5.  Contingency Planning

If your grant application is not accepted, have you thought about alternatives and your next actions?  You may have been declined, but don’t give up.  Use this as a learning exercise.  What are your other options?  Other grant programs, lending agencies and even investors may provide a source of capital for your business.  Be prepared with alternatives and an action plan.

Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2002-2012

Business Plan Format and Tips

Strategy Plan One

January 12, 2012
Business Plans, like Résumé’s can be developed through a variety of formats, but business plan content usually contain similar information.  A business plan can consist of a body of descriptive work and many financial spreadsheets. The descriptive template is the body of the business plan, with many questions in the main sections of the business plan.

A well-developed business plan may include (but not limited to):

-          Executive summary

-          Project description

-          Business description

-          Proprietor / ownership details

-          Industry background information

-          Business trends, marketing, market information

-          Operational description

-          Products, services and sales description

-          Management and human resources

-          Competition factors

-          Risk management

-          Financials and financial analysis

-          Appendices

Business plans should be developed through research, independent outside advice or consultations, and from your own input.  Planning assists you to think about the complete business thoroughly, forces you to do research when you need more information or seek clarity, and to critically analyze your ideas and strategies.  Business plan development is time-consuming, but worth while.

Business plans should be user-friendly and should be used a guideline for your business.   It should have a definite time frame attached to it as industry and market conditions change.  Business plans can and should be revised often.

If you seek additional grants or funding assistance for your business, a business plan should be presented to individuals who would assess it and make a funding decision based on its content and merit.  A business plan should capture the attention of the reader with bold, factual information that is easy to read in brief, but descriptive format

Strategy Plan One

© Strategy Plan One 2002-2012