Sunday, July 27, 2008

Writing an Executive Summary!

By Tim Berry,

The executive summary section of a business plan is a summary of the highlights of your business plan. Even though the topic appears first in the printed document, most business plan developers leave the writing of the executive summary until the end. This summary is the doorway to the rest of the plan. Get it right or your target readers will not go further than the executive summary.

What should an executive summary include?
For a standard business plan, the first paragraph of the executive summary should generally include:

Business name
Business location
What product or service you sell
Purpose of the plan
Another paragraph should highlight important points, such as projected sales and profits, unit sales, profitability and keys to success. Include the news you don’t want anyone to miss. This is a good place to put a highlights chart, a bar chart that shows sales, gross margin, and profits before interest and taxes for the next three years. You should also cite and explain those numbers in the text.

Different plans require different summaries
An internal plan, such as an operations plan, annual plan, or strategic plan, doesn’t have to be as formal with its executive summary. Make the purpose of the plan clear, and make sure the highlights are covered, but you don’t necessarily need to repeat the location, product/service description, or other details.

Never waste words in a summary.

If you’re looking for investment, say so in your executive summary, and specify the investment amount required and the percent of equity ownership offered in return. You should probably also add some highlights of your management team and your competitive edge.

If you’re looking for a loan, say so in the executive summary, and specify the amount required. Leave loan details out of the summary.

How long should an executive summary be?
Experts differ on how long an executive summary should be. Some insist that it takes just a page or two, others recommend a more detailed summary, taking as much as ten pages, covering enough information to substitute for the plan itself. Although 50+ page business plans used to be common, investors and lenders these days expect a concise, focused plan.

The best length for an executive summary is a single page. Emphasize the main points of your plan and keep it brief. You are luring them in to read more of the plan, not explaining every detail.

Don’t confuse an executive summary with the summary memo. The executive summary is the first chapter in a business plan. A summary memo is a separate document, normally only 5-10 pages at most, which is used to substitute for the plan with people who aren’t ready to see the whole plan.

A Standard Business Plan Outline

by Tim Berry,

As I write here about business plan outlines, please remember that your plan should be only as big as what you need to run your business. While everybody should have planning to help run a business, not everyone needs to develop a complete formal business plan suitable for submitting to a potential investor, or bank, or venture contest. So don’t include outline points just because they are on a big list somewhere, or on this list, unless you’re developing a standard business plan that you’ll be showing to somebody else who expects a standard business plan.

And in that case, if you do need a standard plan, then there are predictable contents of a standard business plan. For example, a business plan normally starts with an Executive Summary, which should be concise and interesting. People almost always expect to see sections covering the Company, the Market, the Product, the Management Team, Strategy, Implementation and Financial Analysis.

If you have the main components, the order doesn’t matter that much, but here’s the order I suggest.

Executive Summary: Write this last. It’s just a page or two of highlights.
Company Description: Legal establishment, history, start-up plans, etc.
Product or Service: Describe what you’re selling. Focus on customer benefits.
Market Analysis: You need to know your market, customer needs, where they are, how to reach them, etc.
Strategy and Implementation: Be specific. Include management responsibilities with dates and budgets. Make sure you can track results.
Web Plan Summary: For e-commerce, include discussion of website, development costs, operations, sales and marketing strategies.
Management Team: Describe the organization and the key management team members.
Financial Analysis: Make sure to include at the very least your projected Profit and Loss and Cash Flow tables.
I don’t recommend developing the plan in the same order you present it as a finished document. For example, although the Executive Summary obviously comes as the first section of a business plan, I recommend writing it after everything else is done. It will appear first, but you write it last.

Standard Tables and Charts

There are also some business tables and charts that are normally expected in a standard business plan.

Cash flow is the single most important numerical analysis in a plan, and should never be missing. Most plans will also have Sales Forecast and Profit and Loss statements. I believe they should also have separate Personnel listings, projected Balance sheet, projected Business Ratios, and Market Analysis tables.

I also believe that every plan should include bar charts and pie charts to illustrate the numbers.

Expanded Plan Outline
1.0 Executive Summary
1.1 Objectives
1.2 Mission
1.3 Keys to Success

2.0 Company Summary
2.1 Company Ownership
2.2 Company History (for ongoing companies) or
Start-up Plan (for new companies)
2.3 Company Locations and Facilities

3.0 Products and Services
3.1 Product and Service Description
3.2 Competitive Comparison
3.3 Sales Literature
3.4 Sourcing and Fulfillment
3.5 Technology
3.6 Future Products and Services

4.0 Market Analysis Summary
4.1 Market Segmentation
4.2 Target Market Segment Strategy
4.2.1 Market Needs
4.2.2 Market Trends
4.2.3 Market Growth
4.3 Industry Analysis
4.3.1 Industry Participants
4.3.2 Distribution Patterns
4.3.3 Competition and Buying Patterns
4.3.4 Main Competitors

5.0 Strategy and Implementation Summary
5.1 Strategy Pyramids
5.2 Value Proposition
5.3 Competitive Edge
5.4 Marketing Strategy
5.4.1 Positioning Statements
5.4.2 Pricing Strategy
5.4.3 Promotion Strategy
5.4.4 Distribution Patterns
5.4.5 Marketing Programs
5.5 Sales Strategy
5.5.1 Sales Forecast
5.5.2 Sales Programs
5.6 Strategic Alliances
5.7 Milestones

6.0 Web Plan Summary
6.1 Website Marketing Strategy
6.2 Development Requirements

7.0 Management Summary
7.1 Organizational Structure
7.2 Management Team
7.3 Management Team Gaps
7.4 Personnel Plan

8.0 Financial Plan
8.1 Important Assumptions
8.2 Key Financial Indicators
8.3 Break-even Analysis
8.4 Projected Profit and Loss
8.5 Projected Cash Flow
8.6 Projected Balance Sheet
8.7 Business Ratios
8.8 Long-term Plan

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why Start Your Own Work At Home Business Opportunity? Here's Why!

by: Jeff Schuman

Would you like your own work at home business opporutnity?
People choose to work from home for several reasons including
the desire to stay home with their children, the need for extra
income, or simply being dissatisfied with their current job. A
home-based business will provide you with an exciting way to
earn money and be your own boss. Numerous opportunities are
available to internet marketers.

When getting started working at home with your own home business
you should develop a business plan and research your options
thoroughly. Making wise decisions and following your business
plan each step of the way can help you in creating a steady
stream of income. Operating a home-based business will require
hard work and effort. You will not become wealthy over night. It
will take determination to succeed as an internet marketer. The
amount of money you make will be directly related to the amount
of work you are willing to do.

When making your business plan, include both short and long term
goals. Determine how you will achieve those goals and put your
plan into action. Affiliate programs are excellent home-based
business programs and there are numerous other internet
marketing offers that will create steady income if you are
willing to make the effort. Some of these opportunities may
require an initial investment from you and others are advertised
as free. Research all internet marketing opportunities carefully
to make sure you understand the terms and conditions.

Working At Home When working at home online, you will have to
distinguish yourself from the competition if you want to
succeed. You should know your target audience and know your
competition even better. Do not let self-doubt stop you from
accomplishing your goals. Every successful internet marketer
gives their business the very best effort possible. Hard work
and determination will make your work at home business a success
and provide you with a steady stream of income.

Working at home is one of the most exciting and challenging
endeavors you will ever undertake. A sound business plan and the
will to succeed will set you apart from the competition. Choose
the products or services you provide carefully. Make certain
your services will be needed over the long term and make
customer service your top priority. A loyal customer base is the
key to the success or failure of your home-based business.

Working at home with your own business is an excellent way to
gain independence and financial freedom. A sound business plan
and a strong work ethic are all it takes to succeed. The perfect
work at home business is the Plugin Profit Site.

About the author: contains the best make money online and make money websites available today. If you want to make money check us out here:

Make Money On A Home Based Business

by: Joel Teo
Have you ever thought about starting a home based business in order to make money? A lot of people have, but where do you start with this?

The questions about home based businesses and how they make money for you are unending. You need to take care to take the first step when you are thinking about doing this. Most people miss this completely and thus they end up losing all their money on a business that goes nowhere.

Making Money By Writing A Home Based Business Plan

All right, the business plan for a home-based business may not sound like making money but it works. Far from what you may believe, it is not that hard to write a business plan. This isn’t one you need to show off to anyone. You may not need it to show to the bank for funding.

What this business plan will do is describe what your ideal home-based business will look like and how it will make money for you. You can’t reach a goal if you don’t have it set in the first place.

Write out your ideas of what your future will be like. In the end, what do you want to do? To you want to work in your pajamas in the morning with kids watching TV and you sitting at the computer typing away? Do you want products that you make by hand for each customer? Do you want to stock up on wholesale products and sell retail?

The Next Step To Making Money With a Home Based Business

Your next step is to take the next step. That might sound redundant but look at your business plan. Your plan needs steps to get to where you want to be. Write out these steps, and then take the first one on the list.

Once you have the steps written down, it’s easier to get to where you want to go. Just follow the steps. Need help? Ask! Join a business forum and ask someone you trust to look it over. Read everything you can get your hands on about home businesses and how they work.

Taking That Dramatic First Step Toward Making Money with a Home Based Business

Once you have the plan, the steps and know what to do, what makes you resist? Perhaps you fear failure or maybe you even fear actually succeeding? Forget for a moment all about failure or anything else. Look at your first step. Concentrate on it.

What is it exactly? Think about how you would do it. Picture in your mind the first step and how exactly to go about it. Spend an entire day thinking about that first step and where you will do it and how it will be done.

Then, when you are ready, do that first step and don’t stop until it’s done. Whatever it is, once it is done; look at your accomplishment. Reward yourself with a treat for getting it accomplished. It was the first step to your goal; making money with your own home based business. You’ve earned it!

About the author:
Joel Teo is the owner of the Money Making Directory which boasts of money making tips, recommendations and resources to help ordinary people make money online. Signup for his free newsletter today at http://www.MakeThousandsToday.infoand receive his complimentary “7 Insider Secrets to making money online” Course.

Work Your Home Based Business Idea in Three Easy Steps

by: Jan Heering

Create a Business Plan first
The primary necessity is to get a perfectly designed plan of action for a genuine business. A business plan on its own is useless. It is a mere reflection, but it will not suffice you also need an action plan. A business scheme is the first step in working out your idea into actions that you can follow. Well-illustrated business plans can be found online or at your library.

Begin now

• Do not be afraid of failure. Remember failure is the first stepping stone to success, if this home based business idea does not work out for you now do not let this deter you. Always remind yourself of the spider when you feel like losing hope.
• Do not let that wonderful home-based business idea gather dust. Start today.
• Waiting for the right time to start your business might make success elude you forever. If there is any specific right time, it is right now. Do not waste your precious time.

Put a figure on it
This is the greatest stumbling block for most home-based business owners. That is, they fail to evaluate their work. If you do not give proper attention to this, you may have to wrap up your business. You need to know that real figures and numbers are needed for you to stay in business. If this is not your agenda of work, you are probably going all wrong.

Large businesses usually set up balanced scorecards. The idea is to have a referring point to compare how successful your work is. For example, to get five customers in one month you could settle on free seminars but if you see that your plan is not getting you five clients, you need to reassess your plan. Change of plan prevents waste of energy and resources.
Entire contents copyright © 2005 Morpheus Institute.

About the author:
All the information you need for a successful home based business.

5 Home Biz Mistakes Every Entrepreneur Should Make!

by: bb lee

In a previous article appropriate steps to start a
home based business were discussed.

This important article will review the 5 top mistakes many
home based business owners make that might evolve into a great
success story.

Warning! This approach is not for everyone. One theory is readers
will learn a new way of thinking and perhaps propel their
business ideas into motion.

Let's get started with the list!

1. Business Plans. Many article's online vow by the
business plan. Every new business owner must draft a
business plan if they want to succeed.

One successful business owner online never thought of
drafting a business plan. He learned the hard way.
He made many errors but claimed the learning experience
was a powerful teacher.

He further stated the lessons he learned were better
than any course in business school or college. He soon
learned how to deal with the many ups and downs in the
business world. Dealing with frustration. All things
you learn from the school of hard knocks.

2. Education. Once again many experts think several degree's
are the key to immediate success in any chosen field. Many
successful entrepreneurs never went to college. And quite
a few barely finished high school. Success is not always in
the books you read but in how you deal with your
business in the real world.

3. Rushing. Experts believe you should take your time
and wait to select the proper business for you and
your background or education. Taking time to study the
various ideas is key to success. Others see an opportunity
and immediately grab it.

4. Over confidence. Believing you will be successful and
ignoring negative opinions from friends and family. Family
might have good intentions, wanting to save you from making
an error in judgement, but they might throw a
wrench in your business idea. Halting the business venture

5. Unrealistic view. Always seeing the good side. Thinking
positive. That yes you can succeed in this business. Positive
thinking is an asset every self employed business owner
should own. Many business owners with a positive outlook
continue striding forward where others simply give up.

That's the list. It bares repeating that going against expert
advice is not for every new entrepreneur. But many new home biz
owners found great success in following their own path.

Writing A Business Plan What Makes A Good One

by: William Siebler

Writing a business plan can be a lot of hard work or it can be great fun. An effective plan can help your company to greatness. A poor one can lead you out of business. No plan is like asking to fail before you even start.

Not every business needs a 200 page bound business plan. However every business needs to have some idea of where they want to go and how they are going to get there. This article covers some key insights into writing a business plan that get your business to where you want to be.

The first stage of any plan is ANALYSIS. You need to take a very objective look at a number of factors that may impact your business. There are many factors to consider but the two major ones are competition and your operating environment.

Let’s look first at competition. Every business has competition, even if you think your product or service is unique. How is this? Well it’s quite simple really, people have choices to make. The most fundamental choice they make in most cases is whether to buy what you offer or but something else. For example I could buy a game console or I could buy groceries instead. Customers only have so much money available so you first task is to ask yourself what is my competition like and can I beat them? The more you understand your competition the more you can develop your business strategy of being different and outperforming them.

Now let’s look at operating environment. This is understanding what factors around your area of operation are likely to affect your business performance. For some companies this includes looking around the World in other cases it’s just your local neighbourhood. You need to ask questions such as:

How is the economy going?
What is consumer confidence like?
Where is technology heading in my industry?

After answering all the questions you need to decide how these might negatively or positively influence your performance.

Now you know more about your competition and operating environment it’s time to set some OBJECTIVES. This is what you want to achieve in the period your business plan covers. It is said that good objectives are SMART. That is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and targeted. Here’s an example of a SMART objective for a hypothetical business.

“By the end of this year we will have increased sales of product X by 7.5% over the previous year.”

You can see how clear this objective is. It is much easier to achieve high performance with clear objectives.

Now you need to outline your STRATEGY. How are you going to reach you objective(s)? This is where your marketing plan often comes in as it helps describe the programs you will run to achieve your desired objective(s). To continue the example above our strategy may be to gain distribution for our product in one new major retail chain.

To make your strategy work you must then allocate appropriate RESOURCES. Certain things will need to be provided to reach your goal. This could be dollars, people, equipment, etc. Your plan must have included the resources you are allocating and why you believe this is adequate to get the result.

Every business plans also has some PROJECTIONS. This is your basic financials that you plan will deliver. Are you expecting a profit or loss? How much?

Lastly you need to allow for CONTINGENCIES. Things change all the time and your plan needs to consider these possibilities in advance. A good way to do this is to ask What if?

What if a new competitor enters our market?
What if a distributor delists our product?
What if interest rates rise?

Your analysis should give you some idea of likely contingencies. It saves a lot of stress if you have some documented ideas for dealing with them before they become a big problem.

Writing a business plan is never perfect, the plan is on paper and you’re operating in the real world. However a good plan can really guide you in the right direction. Take time to put real thought into preparing your plan an above all make sure you USE YOUR PLAN!

Analyzing Customers in Your Business Plan

by: Dave Lavinsky

The Customer Analysis section of the business plan assesses the customer segments that the company serves. In it, the company must 1) identify its target customers, 2) convey the needs of these customers, and 3) show how its products and services satisfy these needs.

The first step of the Customer Analysis is to define exactly which customers the company is serving. This requires specificity. It is not adequate to say the company is targeting small businesses, for example, because there are several million of these types of customers. Rather, the plan must identify precisely the customers it is serving, such as small businesses with 10 to 50 employees based in large metropolitan cities on the West Coast.

Once the plan has clearly identified and defined the company’s target customers, it is necessary to explain the demographics of these customers. Questions to be answered include: 1) how many potential customers fit the given definition? is this customer base growing or decreasing? 2) what is the average revenues/income of these customers? and 3) where are these customers geographically based?

After explaining customer demographics, the plan must detail the needs of these customers. Conveying customer needs could take the form of past actions (X% have purchased a similar product in the past), future projections (when interviewed, X% said that they would purchase product/service Y) and/or implications (because X% use a product/service which our product/service enhances/replaces, then X% need our product/service).

The business plan must also detail the drivers of customer decision-making. Sample questions to answer include: 1) Do customers find price to be more important than the quality of the product or service? and 2) are customers looking for the highest level of reliability, or will they have their own support and just seek a basic level of service?

There is one last critical step in the Customer Analysis -- showing an understanding of the actual decision-making process. Examples of questions to be answered here include: 1) will the customer consult others in their organization/family before making a decision?, 2) will the customer seek multiple bids? and 3) will the product/service require significant operational changes (e.g., will the customer have to invest time to learn new technologies? will the product/service cause other members within the organization to lose their jobs? etc.).

It is essential to truly understand customers to develop a successful business and marketing strategy. As such, sophisticated investors require comprehensive profiles of a company’s target customers. By spending the time to research and analyze your target customers, you will develop both enhance your business strategy and funding success.

Becoming Wise - Wild & Free: Writing A Successful Business Plan - Part 3 - "The Feasibility"

Copyright 2005, Rod Francis

I am amazed at how many resources there are and how much information is available today on writing a business plan. There is software, documents, templates, outlines and a lot of experts that can help you. Most experts and resources will tell you exactly how to write a business plan and maybe even provide a template that only needs minor changes to fit your needs. All the emphasis is put on "writing" a solid business plan.

I agree that you need a good business plan but I don't believe that you need to spend hours, days or even months writing your story so that people can read all about what you are going to do. In the first place, most of the people that are going to read your plan are bankers or investors that are not so much interested in your story as they are in whether you will succeed. Secondly, you may spend a lot of time writing this great and wonderful story only to find at the end that you cannot make it work.

You need to start by analyzing the feasibility of your prospective business by using good software or a professional that can help you do the research and develop a set of projections that will be sure you have covered everything. Most businesses fail because they have not accurately projected their cash flow needs and perhaps because they have not been realistic in their projection of sales and expenses. Remember that writing a good plan is about first doing it for yourself.

For your plan to be feasible you have to decide what goals you want to accomplish and how you will get there. For instance, you may now have a job that provides you with a steady income. How much must your business make to replace that income and how long can you survive if your income is reduced? Can the project make enough money to satisfy the needs of investors? Investors typically want higher than normal returns on a high-risk investment like a start-up business. Can you meet the loan payments that are required and do you have sufficient equity in the business to satisfy the lender requirements in order to get the loan in the first place? Lenders will look critically at your cash flow and the amount of cash and assets you have invested in the business.

Several years ago I had a newly expanded business that in the first year of expansion increased sales by 50% and produced a substantial profit in the same year. The problem was that I did not properly project the cash flow needs and ended up in a position where I could not pay the bills or payments. How could this be? I asked myself the same question when I had to shut the business down. That is when I first learned about the importance of projections and analyzing the feasibility before leaping in. An inch from success will not get you where you want to be.

Take your time to do your projections and research each and every aspect of your business. It is not just guess work. In fact, you can be very accurate with all your costs and expenses. If you talk to all of the appropriate professionals, suppliers and service providers you will probably be as accurate as possible in most areas of your projections. The area that requires the most research is sales but, there are good techniques to come up with accurate estimates.

If you have researched and prepared your projections correctly and your business is feasible you have done a whole lot more than just create a financial projection. You have discovered what it takes to make your business work, you have created a network of professionals to assist you in the success of your business, and now it is easy to write the rest of the story. So, when you set out to "write" your business plan, start with the feasibility because it will tell you a lot about your business before you even get started. If it looks good you will be able to sell it to the bankers and investors. But, if it doesn't look good you haven't wasted a lot of time writing a fiction novel.

Look for the next article on Writing A Successful Business Plan - Part 4 - "What are Projections" of the Becoming Wise - Wild & Free series.

Becoming Wise - Wild & Free: Writing A Successful Business Plan - Part 2 - "Do It In Steps"

Copyright 2005, Rod Francis

So you’ve decided to write your own business plan because you know the value that the experience will give you. With the books and software that are out there today you can probably sit down and complete the plan in a day or so, right? Plug in the numbers, add the notes, write the whole narrative (story), print it and get it out to the banks or investors.

If you can complete a plan in a day or so you are either an expert, that has already done all of the research, or you are heading for big trouble, because you have not done enough research. If you are like most people you have a job, a family and commitments that take up a lot of time. It would be impossible to write a business plan that quickly, even if you know your stuff. You have probably heard the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” well, neither was a good business plan. To create a top quality business plan you need to research each and every aspect as diligently as possible. Take your time and think of everything, don’t leave anything to chance.

That sounds like a lot of work and a long drawn out process. How will you remember or even think of everything? How can you keep track of what you have to research? If you have to set your plan aside for a while, how will you remember where you left off? You may get tired, bored and even careless in your efforts because like most people you probably have Attention Deficit Disorder when it comes to doing this type of work.

The answer is to do your plan in steps. A good guide book or business plan software will ask you to complete work as you go, one step at a time. You read a section, do some research on the items(s) in the section and enter the information that you discovered. This way you are focused on each item as you go and never become overwhelmed. You will also be able to remember where you were when you have to set the plan aside for a few days, without having to re-read a novel. The process may still seem long but if you concentrate on doing your plan in steps it will be done before you know it.

This series of articles has been written in steps because most people don’t have the time to sit down and read a novel. You can even do your financial projections in steps, which is where I recommend that you start. Doing the projections will help you analyse the feasibility of your project before you spend a ton of time writing a complete plan that may or may not work for you.

Look for the next article on Writing A Successful Business Plan - Part 3 - "The Feasibility" of the Becoming Wise - Wild & Free series.

Becoming Wise - Wild & Free: Writing A Successful Business Plan - Part 1 - "Do It For Yourself"

Copyright 2004, Rod Francis

Most people write a business plan when they need to raise money. I wonder how many business plans would actually get written if the bankers, financers and investors did not require them? Not too many I would expect.

For most people, writing a business plan is intimidating because it is not something they do every day and it adds to the daily workload. For those that are already in business it means taking time out of their busy day to do something that does not make them money and besides they already have their plan in their head, right? For those that are just starting out it is all guess work and they are probably going to take the risk anyway, that is, if they can get the money.

So sit down and write a business plan so that you can get the money that you need. You can embellish it as much as you want to make it look very enticing for the investors and financers. You can even hire someone and pay a couple thousand dollars to get a really good plan. If you are a good writer you might as well save the costs and write the plan yourself.

Wait a minute. What about your own investment? Can you make enough to support your family? Are you going to spend thousands of dollars only to find out that the venture was not worth it? Are you going to spend years tied into a business that can never quite make it because you have put up all your assets for security?

I am here to tell you that business planning is not just about writing a plan to get money, it is about making sure that the venture is feasible and that it will be satisfying. When I say satisfying, I mean with regards to your personal and your financial goals. Writing a business plan is an opportunity for you to learn about your business, to start networking with suppliers and professional service providers, and a way to find out if it is what you really want to do.

When you sit down to write your business plan make sure that you are doing it for yourself first because when all is said and done it is you that needs to know the most about your business. Start with the financial feasibility by producing a set of three-year projections, which includes a cash-flow analysis. Make sure you research each aspect of your project by finding the right information and talking to the right people (suppliers, professionals, service providers, etc.) and be certain that you have covered everything. If the idea is feasible in your mind and on paper you can go on to write notes to the projections and add the narrative portion of the plan.

Take your time, do everything in steps and make sure it is something that you are absolutely sure you want to do. If you do it right the knowledge and insight you gain through the process will give you the confidence that you need to raise the money you require and you will have the ability to create a more successful enterprise.

Look for the next article on Writing A Successful Business Plan - Part 2 - "Do It In Steps" of the Becoming Wise - Wild & Free series.

Effectively Completing the Operations Plan Section of Your Business Plan

by: Dave Lavinsky

The Operations Plan is a critical component of any business plan as it presents the Company’s action plan for executing its vision. The Operations Plan must detail 1) the processes that are performed to serve customers every day (short-term processes) and 2) the overall business milestones that the company must attain to be successful (long-term processes).

Everyday Processes (Short-Term Processes)
Every company has processes to provide its customers with products and services. For instance, Wal Mart has a unique distribution system to effectively move products from its warehouses to its stores, and finally to its customers’ homes. Technology products manufacturers have processes to convert raw materials into finished products. And service-oriented businesses have processes to identify new areas of customer interest, to continually update service features, etc.

The processes that a company uses to serve its customers are what transform a business plan from concept to reality. Anyone can have a concept. And more importantly, investors do not invest in concepts -- they invest in reality. Reality is proving that the management team can execute the concept better than anyone else, and the Operations Plan is where the plan proves this by detailing key operational processes.

Business Milestones (Long-Term Processes)
The second piece of the Operations Plan is proving that the team will execute the long-term company vision. This is best presented as a chart. On the left side, there should be a list of the key milestones that the Company must reach, and on the right, the target date for achieving them. Sample milestones include expected dates when:

• New products and services will be introduced to the marketplace
• Revenue milestones will be attained (e.g., date when sales will surpass million dollar mark)
• Key partnerships will be executed
• Key customer contracts will be secured
• Key financial events will occur (future funding rounds, IPO, etc.)
• Key employees will be hired

Additional text should be used, where necessary, to support the projections laid out in the chart.

The milestone projections presented in the Operations Plan must be consistent with the projections in the Financial Plan. In both areas, it is important to be aggressive but credible. Presenting a plan in which the company grows too quickly will show the naiveté of the management team, while presenting too conservative a growth plan will often fail to excite the potential investor who will require a high rate of return over a relatively short time period.

- New products and services will be introduced to the marketplace
- Revenue milestones will be attained (e.g., date when sales will surpass million dollar mark)
- Key partnerships will be executed
- Key customer contracts will be secured
- Key financial events will occur (future funding rounds, IPO, etc.)
- Key employees will be hired

Angel Investors: 7 Online Business Plan Scams and 1 Real Deal

by: MaryAnn Shank

We've all seen the hype: "We'll put your plan in front of thousands of investors!" "We'll write you an award-winning online business plan!" "Only $3,000 for thousands of investors to learn about your company!"

I cringe every time I see one of these ads. Vultures are preying on honest business people who want to fund their businesses. Here are some ways to spot them:

1. "Only qualified investors see your business plan." Yeah, sure. And who "qualifies" them? Have a friend try to sign up as an investor (that part is usually free). How is she "qualified"? Is there a background check? Does she submit a financial statement? Odds are that she will be asked to do nothing more than sign a statement that she has a certain net worth. That's no "qualification" in my book. So who are these "investors"? Who knows. One could be your strongest competitor.

2. "You approve anyone who sees your business plan." Okay. So what are you going to do to qualify the potential investor? Are you going to run a background check? ask for ID? ask for tax returns? or just be so happy that anyone wants to see your business plan that you jump on the idea? (That's how these scams get away with charging thousands of dollars -- too many entrepreneurs are desperate for funding.)

3. "It's only $500 (or $300 or $100) to register." What does it matter if it's free? If it is diverting your time and energy and resources away from finding a viable investor, it's not worth it.

4. "Your idea is great, but we need to put it into our format. This will only cost $800." Don't walk -- run from these guys.

5. "Your idea is so great that we want to invest $2,000 in it." (That's after you spend $5,000 to put it into "their" system.) Do I really need to comment on this?

6. "Talk with a satisfied customer, or 2 or 3." Here's this entrepreneur who just got $2 million in funding, and he has nothing better to do than sell the web scam to you? Trust me, entrepreneurs who just get funded barely have time to eat, let alone talk.

7. "Look at all these written testimonials." This is harder to disprove because the testimonials look so real -- even the companies might be real. But unless the testimonials, and the companies, can be verified independently, I wouldn't trust them. And I'll lay odds that they cannot be verified independently.

There is one huge exception to this: ACE-Net ( This is more properly the Access to Capital Electronic Network run by venture capitalists, institutional investors and individual accredited investors. It was developed by the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy to encourage the creation of a national marketplace for investors to find and invest in equity offers by small companies.

ACE-Net isn't for all companies. Those seeking under $1 million will probably find the paperwork daunting. Those seeking over $5 million won't qualify. There are special qualifications, and of course lots of forms to fill out -- but nothing like the forms required for a formal initial public offering.

But for those who do qualify, it's an amazing tool in raising financing. Spend some time with the website and the forms, and see if your local SBA office can put you in touch with another company that went through the process.

As with any investor tool, don't rely exclusively on ACE-Net. Use it in conjunction with your personally developed targeted funding search. This, combined with an exceptional business plan, doesn't guarantee success but it places your company head and shoulders above all the rest.

Startup Advice: Advice from Experts to Start your own Business

by: Howard I Schwartz

Most entrepreneurs get paranoid over the idea of starting a business. With so many federal, state, and, local laws governing any business, it becomes crucial to make an informed decision about the venture. Here are a few steps worth considering before your business takes off in full swing

Most of us get paranoid over the idea of starting a business. With so many federal, state, and, local laws governing any business, it becomes crucial to make an informed decision about the venture. Gathering all the necessary information for a business setup could be a time-consuming, and an exhaustive process. Here are a few steps worth considering before your business takes off in full swing.

Initial capital investment:
The very foundation of your business rests on the initial capital amount you invest in it. Dearth of funds initially could spell serious trouble for you in future. So, whether it's an online or an offline business venture, make sure that you're not low on the initial capital to be invested.

These days, local banks have opened their doors for you to get loans for low budget business ventures. As long as you have a healthy credit score, getting a small loan is really simple. Just keep in mind that you don't go overboard on your initial business expenses. Watch your financial moves carefully. Once your business takes off well and gets you a huge profit, you could consider taking another loan to expand your business

Experience in managing the business
Lack of experience is a major put off for most people contemplating a business venture. This major deterrent as far as starting a business is concerned.

Expert business plan:
It is imperative to have concrete business guidelines. Most often, it's observed that, home-based and other small-scale businesses fair badly due to a lack of a business "blue-print". Such businesses suffer heavy monetary losses. Without a concrete business proposal, almost 70% of the businesses wind up within a year of being established. Therefore, a rough draft of the business plan taking into account all the minute details are necessary for any business venture. The business plan should explicitly define the target audience for your products. It should also present a detailed description of the average cost per product and your expected profit on each product. Besides, it should also portray the desired break-even point and your expected income from the business. Thus, for a smooth sailing business, it's extremely important that your business plan defines the ways of converting your business into a cash generating system.

Take valuable guidance from a business mentor:

Don't hesitate to learn from the experiences of your most admired business mentor. They would show you the right way to expand your small-scale business into a vast business empire. Never miss out on an opportunity to gather those pearls of wisdom from an established businessman. Most business books also talk about the ways to a successful business enterprise is only by learning from the experiences of seasoned business stalwarts. So, pick up all the nuances for a successful business from your very own business mentor. Keeping in mind all the above-mentioned factors you can ensure a long life for your start up business enterprise. We wish you luck for your forthcoming business venture.

For startup advice and guidance please visit:

The Use of Common Stock in Venture Capital Transactions

by: Dave Lavinsky

When raising capital for a business venture, a company can either raise debt capital, equity capital or a combination of the two. Debt capital is money loaned to the company at an agreed interest rate for a fixed time period. Conversely, equity capital is money invested by owners (shareholders) for use in business operations that need not be repaid. Combinations include convertible securities which may be debt that can be converted into equity at some point in the future.

The simplest form of equity capital is common stock. Common stock has many distinguishing factors as follows:

• Common stock is not convertible into another type of security
• Each share enjoys one vote
• Dividends are payable without limit but only when declared by the board of directors
• In liquidation, common stock holders are the last priority to which to distribute assets

In venture capital transactions, there may be two types of common stock which are issued. The first is Class A common stock, which is like preferred stock without the special voting rights which some statutes require in shares labeled ""preferred."" A second type of common stock is junior common stock. While this type of stock is not used very frequently, it allows companies to get cheap stock into the hands of key employees at minimal tax cost.

Determining what type of capital to raise and how to structure the financing transaction is of critical importance to growing ventures. As such, it is crucial to understand the key terms and consult the appropriate legal and business advisors when embarking on the capital-raising process.

The Marketing Plan and the Four P’s

by: Dave Lavinsky

The Marketing Plan section of the business plan demonstrates how a company will penetrate the market with its products and services. The Marketing Plan should include “the four P’s” – Product, Promotions, Price, and Place.

Products and/or Services
The first “P” stands for Product, but includes all products and services that the company offers. This section of the business plan should detail all the features of the products and services, how they work, their unique/proprietary attributes, etc. For products that are patented and/or technical in nature, drawings and backup materials should be presented in the Appendix.

Most growing companies offer certain products and services today but expect to offer more in the future. It is important to mention both current and future products/services here, but to focus primarily on the short-to-intermediate term horizon.

Promotions include each of the activities that induce a customer to buy the company’s products and services. Promotional activities could include advertising, public relations (PR), free samples, discounts, direct mail, telemarketing, partnerships, etc.

This section of the business plan discusses which promotions will be used and how they will be used. For instance, if partnerships will be used to secure new customers, the plan must explain which companies are partners, how they will be able to provide new customers, how the partnership will work (from operational/ financial standpoints), etc.

This section must be as specific as possible, particularly as it relates to discussing future promotions. To say that a company is going to generate PR in trade magazines is simply too vague. Rather, the plan must explain the type of article/feature that may be written about the firm and why, which specific trade journals that will be targeted and/or the projected publication dates.

In discussing how the company will promote itself, it is important to discuss how the company will position itself. This positioning statement details the attributes that customers will assign to the company, its products and services. The choice of promotional activities must support this positioning. For example, discounts might not be consistent with a desire to be considered an upscale brand.

This section of the plan should detail the price point(s) at which the company’s products and services will be sold. If the products/ services are sold as bundles, these should be detailed in this section. Rationale for the pricing should be given when applicable (e.g., why the company has chosen an initiation fee plus monthly membership fees versus a one-time lifetime membership fee).

The final “P” refers to “Place” or “Distribution” and explains how a company’s products and/or services will be delivered to customers. This section is crucial because if customers cannot access products and services, they cannot purchase them.

This section is especially critical for high-growth, capital-constrained companies. Attaining profit-effective distribution channels is often the most vexing challenge for these businesses. Examples of distribution methods include retail locations, website, distributors, wholesalers, direct mail catalogs, etc.

Many companies have multiple distribution methods to deliver their products and services to customers and each should be detailed here.

Detailing the “the four P’s” in the marketing plan is critical in proving to investors that your company will be able to efficiently and effectively penetrate its market.

About the author:
GT Business Plans has developed over 200 business plans for clients that have collectively raised over $750 million in financing, launched numerous new product and service lines and gained competitive advantage and market share. GT Business Plans is the sister site of GT Venture Capital

You Can Make Money With A Home Based Business

by: Hans Hasselfors

Would you like to make money by starting your own home-based business? People choose to work from home for several reasons including the desire to stay home with their children, the need for extra income, or simply being dissatisfied with their current job. A home-based business will provide you with an exciting way to make money and be your own boss. Numerous opportunities are available to internet marketers.

When starting your home-based business you should develop a business plan and research your options thoroughly. Making wise decisions and following your business plan each step of the way can help you in creating a steady stream of income. Operating a home-based business will require hard work and effort. You will not become wealthy over night. It will take determination to succeed as an internet marketer. The amount of money you make will be directly related to the amount of work you are willing to do.

When making your business plan, include both short and long term goals. Determine how you will achieve those goals and put your plan into action. Affiliate programs are excellent home-based business programs and there are numerous other internet marketing offers that will create steady income if you are willing to make the effort. Some of these opportunities may require an initial investment from you and others are advertised as free. Research all internet marketing opportunities carefully to make sure you understand the terms and conditions.

As an internet marketer, you will have to distinguish yourself from the competition if you want to succeed. You should know your target audience and know your competition even better. Do not let self-doubt stop you from accomplishing your goals. Every successful internet marketer gives their business the very best effort possible. Hard work and determination will make your home-based business a success and provide you with a steady stream of income.

Starting a home-based business is one of the most exciting and challenging endeavors you will ever undertake. A sound business plan and the will to succeed will set you apart from the competition. Choose the products or services you provide carefully. Make certain your services will be needed over the long term and make customer service your top priority. A loyal customer base is the key to the success or failure of your home-based business. A home-based business is an excellent way to gain independence and financial freedom. A sound business plan and a strong work ethic are all it takes to succeed.

Alternative Venture Finance: Federal Grants and Loans

by: Dave Lavinsky

While most companies seeking venture capital initially think about angel investors and venture capitalists, a large alternative source of financing is federal grants and loans. The two largest federal grant programs are run by the Small Business Administration (SBA), and by Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs).

An SBA loan, regardless of whether it is a direct loan from the SBA, or, as is more common, a bank loan guaranteed by the SBA, is essentially a bank loan. The benefit of it versus a traditional bank loan is the rate. SBA rates are typically much less than traditional business loan rates.

In most cases, in a guaranteed SBA bank loan, the SBA guarantees 90 percent of the loan will be repaid to the bank. As such, banks are at much less risk than in most other loans, and are a bit more flexible with regards to who they offer these loans. However, the SBA usually requires the founders of the company to personally guarantee the loans, which makes them risky should the venture collapse.

Alternatively, Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs) are privately organized corporations that are licensed and regulated by the SBA. Small or emerging businesses which qualify for assistance from the SBIC program can receive equity capital and/or long-term loans from these companies. Essentially, these companies provide their own capital, which is supplemented by federal funds, to the companies they fund.

Interestingly, U.S. taxpayers benefits from the SBIC program as tax revenues generated from successful SBIC investments have more than covered the cost of the program. Likewise the program has created hundreds of thousands of jobs.

In summary, SBA and SBIC financing are viable alternatives to financing from angel investors and venture capitalists and should be considered in the capital raising process. Similarly to angel and VC financing, companies seeking SBA and SBIC financing need a strong management team and value proposition, and a highly professional and compelling business plan in order to raise the capital they need.

3 Essential Tools for Starting and Maintaining a Small Business

by: Ryan Hough

We believe that there are 3 factors that drive the success of small businesses.

1) Acquiring start-up capital
2) Finding customers
3) Accounting for, budgeting and controlling sales and expenses

The following resources will help your small business achieve these success factors.

Acquiring Start-Up Capital

An adequate supply of capital is essential as many profitable businesses fail because they don’t have enough cash to pay their employees and suppliers. But what is an adequate supply of capital? The only way to tell is by doing a significant amount of research on your potential market and formally documenting this in a business plan. I’m sure you know that a business plan is a very important document that is crucial to convincing your banker to lend you money.

There are two ways to obtain a business plan.

1) Do it yourself by amending a business plan template, or
2) Hire a professional to do it for you.

Obviously obtain 1) will be a great deal cheaper.

Our research led to a website that has over 60 high quality and free business plan templates. We also found a directory that you can use to easily find a business plan writer in your city – where ever you live in the world.

Finding Customers

Finding customers is a difficult and expensive task for service business owners such as accountants, lawyers and plumbers. We believe that a cost effective marketing strategy for service business owners is to simply give all their personal contacts a few business cards.

Our research led to a few websites that have pre-designed business card templates. We felt that the diversity and quality of these designs was outstanding. In addition, we found that you can obtain a significant saving by finding a printing service on the Internet. We found that you could get 2,000 full color business cards for as little as US $150.

Accounting For, Budgeting and Controlling Revenue and Expenses

Accurate accounting is very important for small business owners. It’s essential that you have timely access to information that could make or break your business. If stocks are running low – you need to know about it. If a large proportion of your debtors haven’t paid – you need to know about it. If you do not react to these situations quickly you may have a situation where you don’t have enough money to pay your employees – or worse still someone is stealing cash out the till.

Our research led to a website that compares and reviews top accounting software for small businesses. The cheapest software cost US $89.99 and the most expensive software cost US $1,499. It was interesting to note that the top 3 ranked websites were not the most expensive and cost between US $250 - US $300.

Hopefully you now have an idea of some of the tools that you can use to grow and maintain your small business. If you would like to benefit from our research please visit our website. We do not charge for this research and offer the content freely on our website.

Identifying the Right Venture Capital Firm Partner

by: Dave Lavinsky

Venture capital firms are comprised of individual partners. These partners make investment decisions and typically take a seat on each portfolio company’s Board. Partners tend to invest in what they know, so finding a partner that has past work experience in your industry is very helpful. This relevant experience allows them to more fully understand your venture’s value proposition and gives them confidence that they can add value, thus encouraging them to invest.

Fortunately, most venture capital firm websites list their partners with great pride. Each partner typically has a bio that includes their educational credentials, business accomplishments and investments that they have made. In identifying the right venture capital partner to contact for your company, try to find the partner that, from their background, will truly grasp the opportunity and can really add value.

Once you have identified the most appropriate venture capital partner, it is important to figure out how to contact them. As partners are often inundated with business plans, having a personal connection and/or introduction is often the difference between getting heard and not getting heard. For instance, if you attended the same university or worked at a company that they did, call or email them and use this as the introduction. If not, it is important to network. Call people that may have been associated with the partner and ask for an introduction.

Getting the partner’s attention is the first key hurdle in raising venture capital. The second hurdle is getting them to believe in the opportunity, and finally, giving them the enthusiasm and information needed to convince other partners in their firm that investing in your venture represents a sound investment.

Top Ten Reasons To Create A One Page Business Plan

by: Maria Marsala

1. Choose opportunities more wisely and waste less time
because I have my plan in place (P 6)

2. A single page can contain all the elements you need to
tell your employees, board of directors, potential partners
or banker where you are taking your business and how you are
going to get there. (P 17)

3. The most important reason to have a business plan is to
clarify your thinking, regardless of the size of your
company (P 18)

4. It facilitates creating and analytical thinking, problem
solving, communication, and teamwork. (P 18)

5. It creates hope and enthusiasm about the future. (P 18)

6. It also brings out procrastination, frustration,
differences of opinions and possibly anger. (P 18)

7. Somehow writing initiates the transformation from idea
to reality. (P 21)

8. The written word produces a contract with yourself that
results in immediate action. (P 21)

9. Writing allows others to participate in your dream and
give you feedback (P 21)

10. Because your coach, consultant, business builder
strategist, friend, relative tells you that one of the
top reasons businesses fail is a lack of planning! That's why!

Quotes 1-9 are from the One Page Business Plan Book, by Jim
Horan. For more information on the One Page Business Plan,

How To Write A Quick & Relatively Painless Business Plan

by: David Silva

If you've never written a business plan before, the idea alone can be overwhelming.

It doesn't have to be the nightmare of your imagination.

Traditionally, a business plan is used to secure funding from a lender or a potential investment partner. It serves as something akin to your business's resume, outlining the purpose and scope of your business, identifying the goals, marketing and management, and establishing a basic balance sheet.

Now, even if you aren't going to seek additional funding, even if you're going to grow your business by yourself from your office at home, you'd be wise to put together a business plan. Simply going through the process has value. It'll help you develop a clearly defined vision of what you intend to do with your business and how you intend to do it.

These are some of the questions you should already have asked and answered before you sit down to write your business plan:

== What "want" does your business fill, and what service or product will you be providing to fill that want?

== Who will be your potential customer (this should be an established, niche market with die-hard buyers).

== Why will people purchase from you as opposed to the business down the street (in other words ... what's your Unique Selling Position)?

== How do you intend to reach your customers? A storefront? An ad in the phone book? Direct mail? An Internet campaign? Selling door-to-door? A combination of these?

== Will you need additional funding and if so, how much will you need and how do you intend to secure it?

Okay, so let's take a look at what you'll want to include in your business plan.

Most business plans are structured to examine four primary areas:

1. Executive Summary - a decription of the business
2. How you intend to market the business
3. How the busines finances will be arranged and handled
4. How the busines will be managed

Let's take a further look at these.

Executive Summary: what the business will do, its Unique Selling Position, the business goals, its ownership and legal structure, your skills and knowledge and how they will benefit the business.

Marketing The Business: describe your product or service, identify your market niche, how big it is, and how you plan to reach it. Define your customer, identify your competition, detail your pricing plan, outline how you intend to attract and convert customers.

Financing The Business: estimate your start-up costs, project your monthly operating budget for the first year, outline your ROI (return on investment) and cash flow for the first year, project your income and expense balance sheet for the first two years, explain how you're going to compensate yourself, establish who will maintain the accounting records and how they'll be maintained, and if you're in need of funding, explain how much you need and how it'll be used by the business.

Managing The Business: how will the business be managed day-to-day, what the hiring and personnel procedures will be, how the products or services will be developed and how they'll get into the hands of your customers. You'll also need to account for equipment the business will need, and how insurance, rental agreements, etc. will be handled.

That's it. In a nutshell.

If you'd like to see some free sample business plans to get a better idea of how they're structured and how they read, here's a good source for you:

An Exporter? Who, Me?

by: NC

(NC)—If you're a small- to medium-sized business with a potential market for your product abroad, you may profit from making a move into exporting.

Your first reaction may be "Me, an exporter?" but it isn't as farfetched as you may think. Even if your company is relatively small, there may be a market for your product or service outside of Canada. In fact, 90 per cent of Canadian exporters have annual export sales of less than $1 million. What's important is having the right product or service, a commitment to succeed, and a sound strategy.

The best export strategies are built on the foundation of an up-to-date and comprehensive business plan. If yours isn't as current as it should be, you might consider refining it with the help of the resources offered by Located at, this Web site provides lots of free tips, advice and tools, all related to starting, running and developing your business.

Take your business plan, for example. It should enable you to:

• identify the strengths and weaknesses of your company;

• establish your objectives and strategies, and analyse your company's performance with respect to them;

• determine your cash needs so you can approach banks and investors with confidence; and

• communicate your intentions to employees and investors.

If your plan falls short in any of these areas, check out the free, Interactive Business Planner, located in the Tools section of the site. It covers everything your plan will need, including:

• identifying the types of information required in your plan;

• locating information on basics such as marketing and costing; and

• preparing financial projections for your business.

Once you're satisfied with your business plan, you can return to the Tools section and use the Interactive Export Planner. It's similar to the Business Planner, but also covers issues such as:

• adapting your products or services to a foreign market;

• getting an overview of the targeted export market;

• creating a market entry strategy and an export implementation plan; and

• preparing financial plans related to the targeted export market.

And don't forget to use the Exporting link on the home page. It will point you to other essential sources of information that can help your company find business opportunities around the world. Once you take the leap, you may discover that export success is a lot closer than you ever imagined!

- News Canada

About the author:
News Canada

Raising Capital for Your Business – How Long Does it Take?

by: Dave Lavinsky

Most companies vastly underestimate the time commitment necessary to successfully complete a financing. In actuality, a company seeking financing needs to budget between 500 to 1000 work-hours to the capital-raising process, spread out over a 6-9 month time period.

The key processes in the capital-raising process include 1) perfecting the business plan, offering memorandum, and other company due diligence materials, 2) developing a comprehensive, targeted prospective investor list, 3) contacting this list and responding to investor due diligence requests, and 4) negotiating the transaction.

Completing the business plan typically requires at least 200 hours of work. This time is dedicated to conducting the market research to validate the opportunity, developing a comprehensive financial model, determining the most effective way to lay out the business strategy, and actually writing and proofing the business plan.

The next step, developing a comprehensive, targeted prospective investor list is also very time consuming. There are thousands of potential investors, each of which has very different tastes regarding the types of ventures that interest them. Some invest by market sector (e.g., healthcare vs. telecommunications), stage (seed stage vs. later stage), geography, or a combination of these. Many hours must be dedicated to determine which investors are the right fit for your venture. This process involves creating a master investor list, visiting each investor’s website to view investment criteria and past investments, and determining who is the right contact at the firm.

To see how easily the time adds up, consider that only about 25% of prospective investors who show an initial interest in a transaction actually progress to detailed company due diligence. Only about 10% of this 25% actually progress to a bonafide offer of funds, of which only 25% of these actually result in an investment transaction. So completing a financing transaction requires, on average, contacting approximately 160 pre-qualified prospective investors.

The due diligence process, where investors scrutinize the investment, can also be very time consuming for the company. Investors often request many documents, some of which can be easily retrieved from files (e.g., prior tax returns), while others may take more time to prepare (e.g., additional market analysis, customer lists with past purchases, contact information, etc.). Finally, negotiating a transaction can take a significant amount of time depending upon the complexity of the transaction and number of parties involved.

Too many companies fail to raise capital since they are unaware of the significant time requirements to do so. Those firms who understand these requirements and budget accordingly are the ones most likely to persevere and end up with the capital they need.

The Management Team Section of the Business Plan – Don’t Just Include Resumes

by: Dave Lavinsky

Even the best new concept or existing plan will fail if executed poorly. The Management Team section of the business plan must prove to the investor why the key company personnel are "eminently qualified" to execute on the business model.

The Management Team section should include biographies of key team members and detail their responsibilities. It is important that these biographies are not merely resumes that include the educational backgrounds and previous job titles and responsibilities of the team members. Rather, biographies should highlight the most relevant past positions that the individuals have held and specific successes in each. These successes could include launching and growing new businesses or managing divisions of established companies.

Team member biographies should be tailored to the company's growth stage. For instance, a start-up company should emphasize its management's success launching and growing companies. A more mature company should emphasize how team members have successfully operated within the framework of larger enterprises.

Depending upon the stage of the company, key functional areas may be missing from the team. This is acceptable provided that the plan clearly defines the roles that these individuals will play and identifies the key characteristics of the individuals that will be hired. However, it is generally not favorable if personnel are missing for ultra-critical roles. For example, a plan that is fundamentally a marketing play should not seek financing without a stellar marketing team.

The Management Team section should also include biographies of the company's Advisory Board and/or Board of Directors. While having well-known advisors/board members adds credibility to the business plan, it is highly effective to explain how these advisors will directly impact the company through strategic advice and/or providing conduits to key clients, partners, suppliers, etc.

In summary, the Management Team section of the business plan is an opportunity to prove to investors that your company has the necessary talent to succeed. Rather than waste this opportunity by merely showing employee resumes, which could be included in the Appendix, the section should be used to explain precisely how the team is uniquely qualified to execute the venture in its present state.

As President of, Dave Lavinsky has helped the company become one of the premier business plan development firms. Since its inception, Growthink has developed over 200 business plans. Growthink clients have collectively raised over $750 million in financing, launched numerous new product and service lines and gained competitive advantage and market share.

Restaurant Business Plan Software Considerations

by: Angie Noack

Whether you are an entrepreneur looking to start your first restaurant, or you have been working in the service industry for a long time, restaurant business plan software can help you create a streamlined business plan that will improve your chances of funding. Here are few things to keep in mind when comparing various packages.

Your needs - Various business plan software packages are geared toward different sizes of restaurant business and different levels of funding needs. Make sure the software does what you need it to do. Don’t go overboard on a program that offers more than you need.

Feedback - Make sure to get in touch with other people who have used the software before and get their feedback. The more reputable restaurant business plan software vendors will provide testimonials and contact information of previous customers. Make sure to compare. Keep an eye out for positive comments about ease of use.

If you have been in the restaurant business already, you probably have a number of contacts you can network with for information. Ask other restaurant owners you trust if there was a software program they used or have heard good things about. Word of mouth recommendations can often provide valuable leads.

Support – Make certain your software vendor offers full support for their programs. Many top vendors offer 24/7 online and toll free support for their programs. When weighing benefits, this is an important factor to take into consideration. You want to be assured you can get the software to work.

Cost – Once you’ve narrowed your choices down by the above benefits, it is time to consider costs. Check different vendors, as there can often be a large difference in prices between vendors for the same title. Make certain to factor in shipping and handling costs and delivery time of your restaurant business plan software when comparing prices.

Once you’ve chosen and installed your software, it’s time to get to work creating the business plan for your restaurant. If you have any trouble, be sure to get in touch with the vendor’s support as soon as possible. Good luck with your new business venture!

About the author:
Angie Noack is a business strategist with a sharp edge for technology. With her unique ability to combine these two skills, she's able to help businesses save time and increase profits. You can find her online at

Developing a Business Plan = Developing a Succesful Business.

by: Anthony Jewell

Whether you are starting up a new business or you already have an established company, the importance of a business plan may be over looked. Yes, they can take some time to draw up but just think of your business plan as a map of a country. Without the details and information on this map, trying to navigate yourself around a country will usually end up leaving you lost. Probably travelling the same routes over and over again, taking you 2-3 times longer to find your way(if you do every find your way).

A detailed business plan could mean your success in business. Consider this. How can you take your company in the right direction, developing the methods you need to succeed if you do not know what you are trying to accomplish. It would be like building a house with no plans and trying to put the roof on first. Yes, you may be successful in building the roof but your house will be missing some essential pieces. You may not miss these pieces at first, but down the line(especially when the winter comes) you are going to be wishing you built those walls too!

A business plan plots a course for your business to follow. It allows you to determine and realize your growth but more importantly what steps are needed to be token to achieve this. It helps you figure out the materials you need in place so that you can first build a strong infrastructure for your business. Another great thing about a business plan is that like any map it can be changed over time to represent the lay of the land. Which allows you to make any changes that need to be made to your route and to help you navigate them better.

While you are developing your business plan you will see that it will start to show you what you will need to do to be successful. Including such things as materials needed, your timeline and projected numbers for your business. It also will show your projected income and losses, as well as how your business will do in the first months and year(s) of operations. This information is priceless.

Another important factor of a business plan is that it will show you how you need to grow. You may wonder why this is so important? Simple. It falls right under you developing a marketing plan and picking out areas/markets for you to advertise in to grow your business. Without knowing where your business is going, there will be no way for you to develop an accurate marketing plan. These two things go hand and hand with each other.

So remember whether your business has been around for days, weeks months, years or is just an idea in your head. Develop a business plan which will help you develop a successful business.

About the author:
Anthony Jewell has over 6 Years experience in the Web & Graphics World. You can visit my business at

Describing Intellectual Property in Your Business Plan

by: Dave Lavinsky

Most companies that are worthy of raising venture capital have proprietary Intellectual Property (IP). In fact, the quality of the IP and the management team are often the two most important aspects of a venture capitalist’s investment decision. The challenge that many ventures face, however, is that most investors will not sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and NDAs are critical to maintaining the proprietary nature of the IP. This article details the appropriate strategy for addressing proprietary IP in your business plan in order to attract investor attention while retaining the confidentiality of your inventions.

Focus on the Benefits of and Applications of the IP: The business plan should not discuss the confidential aspects of the IP. Rather, the plan should discuss the benefits of the IP. Remember that even the most amazing of technologies will not excite investors unless it has tangible benefits to customers.

The business plan first needs to discuss the products and services into which the IP will be integrated. It then must detail the benefits that these products and services have to customers and differentiate them from competitive products. When applicable, it is helpful to include non-confidential drawings and backup materials of the products and services in the Appendix.

Focus on Customer Needs and the Relevant Market Size: The business plan must also discuss how the benefits of the IP fulfill a large customer need. To accomplish this, the plan needs to detail customer wants and needs and prove that the company’s offerings specifically meet these needs.

Secondly, the plan needs to discuss the marketplace in which the IP is offered and the size of this marketplace. Critical to this analysis is determining the relevant market size. The relevant market size equals a company’s sales if it were to capture 100% of its specific niche of the market. For example, a medical device’s market size would not be the trillion dollar healthcare market, but rather the sales of all competing medical devices.

Focus on Competition and Competitive Differentiation: Your business plan must also prove that your IP is better than competitive inventions. In identifying competitors, note that listing no or few competitors has a negative connotation. It implies that there may not be a large enough customer need to support the company’s products and/or services. On the other hand, should there be too many competitors, then the market may be too saturated to support the profitability of a new entrant. The answer -- any company that also serves the customer needs that you serve should be considered a competitor.

The business plan should detail both the positive and negative aspects of competitors’ IP and products/services and validate that your offerings are either superior in general, or are superior in serving a specific customer niche.

Prove that you can Execute on the Opportunity: As importantly as proving the quality of the IP and that a vast market exists for its applications, the business plan most prove that the company can successfully execute on the opportunity.

The plan should detail the company’s past accomplishments, including descriptions and dates when prior funding rounds were received, products and services were launched, revenue milestones were reached, key partnerships were executed, etc.

When a company is a complete start-up, and no milestones have been accomplished, the plan should focus on past accomplishments of the management team as an indicator of the company’s ability to execute successfully.

Results: Getting Investors to Sign the NDA: If you are able to convince the prospective investor that the IP is integrated into a product/service which yields real customer benefits in a large market, then the investor will take the quality of the invention for granted when reviewing the plan. Later, during the due diligence process, the investor will review the actual technology. At this point, a discussion regarding signing an NDA would be appropriate.

About the author:
GT Business Plans has developed over 200 business plans for clients that have collectively raised over $750 million in financing, launched numerous new product and service lines and gained competitive advantage and market share. GT Business Plans is the sister site of GT Venture Capital

Keys to a Good Business Plan

by: Anthony Jewell

A business plan is a very important part of any business. It is usually drawn up before the business launches, but can also be developed after a business has already taken off. A good plan can take some time to develop but the effort you put into it will be well worth it to make your business succeed. Not many people know exactly what goes into a good business plan. What alot don't realize is that each business plan is unique to each business. Just because a Candy Shop's business plan is successful for them doesn't mean it will be successful for a Webhosting business. Though the design of the business plan may be similar, it is truly the details inside that make it work.

Here is an example outline of a business I developed for . This will give you an idea of some of the subjects that go into a good business plan:

1.0 Executive Summary
1.1 Objectives
1.2 Mission
2.0 Company Summary
2.1 Company Ownership
2.2 Company History (for ongoing companies) or
Start-up Plan (for new companies)
2.3 Company Locations and Facilities
3.0 Products and Services
3.1 Product and Service Description
3.2 Business Advertising Program
3.3 Sourcing and Fulfillment
3.4 Technology
4.0 Strategy and Implementation Summary
4.1 Customers, Target Market & New Technology
4.2 Competitive Edge
4.3 Marketing
4.4 Main Competitors
4.5 Strategic Alliances
4.6 Milestones
5.0 Web Plan Summary
5 Development Information
6.0 Management Summary
6.1 Organizational Structure
6.2 Personnel Plan
7.0 Financial Plan
7.1 Break-even Analysis
7.2 Projected Profit and Loss
7.3 Projected Balance Sheet

As you can see it seems a little complex, but the best thing to do is to break it down into parts. Usually each category(Category 1-7) will remain the same on most business plans. Some categories may be added in or taken out all together. The key is to provide as much essential data as possible. For example on Number 5.0 - Web Plan Summary. You business plan mike look something like this:

Part: 5.0 Web Plan Summary
5 Development Information has already developed the necessary tools for business including:
- Business Identity
Our logo is unique to us, displaying a eye appealing, unique symbol that when seen can be easily recognized as creating brand labelling.
- Ecommerce service features a fully operational ecommerce website system that allows products to be added through an admin section on the site. It also has the ability to take, receive and process orders, remove sold products, creating promotional offers and coupons/vouchers and also displaying featured products on the front page of the website. Also included in the ecommerce program is an area to add, create and manage website ads placed on the
- Website development
All graphics for the website development have already been developed, coded and integrated into the ecommerce system. The website is live and taking orders on
- Products
Development needed products(such as logos) have already be developed and an inventory of over 150 products are on the website at any given time. As soon as logo is sold(as well as during down times) a new logo/new logos are being developed to the highest of quality and added back onto the website.
- Marketing Material
Marketing plan and materials are in the works.

As you can see from above what details are given have already been researched and found out. There aren't any comments from a personnel stand point, just facts that have proven. You can also project different areas of your business plan but you will have to do some research on this as well. So when you are developing your business plan you want to deal with facts and information you already have or can get(not comments or guesses).

When developing a good business plan, research is definitely key. The effort you put into it will determine the effort you will put into your business.

About the author:
Anthony Jewell has over 6 Years experience in the Web & Graphics World. You can visit my business at

In Business Planning, Competition is Good

by: Dave Lavinsky

When developing the competition section of your business plan, companies must define competition correctly, select the appropriate competitors to analyze, and explain its competitive advantages. To start, companies must align their definition of competition with investors. Investors define competition as any service or product that a customer can use to fulfill the same need(s) as the company fulfills. This includes firms that offer similar products, substitute products and other customer options (such as performing the service or building the product themselves). Under this broad definition, any business plan that claims there are no competitors greatly undermines the credibility of the management team. In identifying competitors, companies often find themselves in a difficult position. On one hand, they want to show that they are unique (even under the investors’ broad definition) and list no or few competitors. However, this has a negative connotation. If no or few companies are in a market space, it implies that there may not be a large enough customer need to support the company’s products and/or services. Business plans must detail direct and, when applicable, indirect competitors. Direct competitors are those that serve the same target market with similar products and services. Indirect competitors are those that serve the same target market with different products and services, or a different target market with similar products and services. After identifying competitors, the business plan must describe them. In doing so, the plan must also objectively analyze each competitor’s strengths and weaknesses and the key drivers of competitive differentiation in the marketplace. Perhaps most importantly, the competition section must describe the company’s competitive advantages over the other firms, and ideally how the company’s business model creates barriers to entry. “Barriers to entry” are reasons why customers will not leave once acquired. In summary, too many business plans want to show how unique their venture is and, as such, list no or few competitors. However, this often has a negative connotation. If no or few companies are in a market space, it implies that there may not be a large enough customer need to support the venture's products and/or services. In fact, when positioned properly, including successful and/or public companies in a competitive space can be a positive sign since it implies that the market size is big. It also gives investors the assurance that if management executes well, the venture has substantial profit and liquidity potential.

About the author:GT Business Plans has developed over 200 business plans for clients that have collectively raised over $750 million in financing, launched numerous new product and service lines and gained competitive advantage and market share. GT Business Plans is the sister site of GT Venture Capital

Why You Need a Business Planning System NOT a Business Plan

by: David Coffman

Copyright David Coffman

When someone mentions business planning we have been conditioned to think about writing a business plan. There are hundreds of books and articles, tons of software, an army of consultants, and a multitude government programs to help you write a business plan. There are virtually no resources to help you set up what today’s business environment really demands – a continuous, ongoing planning system. A commonly accepted theory is that for a business to survive and prosper it must be flexible and nimble. It must be able to turn on a dime as conditions warrant. Having a written five-year plan is not part of this picture. In fact, trying to follow a long-term plan during rampant change is not logical. It is applying linear thinking to a non-linear situation. It just doesn’t work. Having a formal, written business plan is so accepted as being crucial to success that there haven’t been many studies or surveys to test this premise. If business plans were such a wonderful thing, there would be a significant and conclusive difference between businesses that have them and those that don’t. Interviews of 100 founders of companies on 1989s “INC 500” list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. found only 28 percent had “full-blown” business plans. The 1993 AT&T Small Business Study found that 59 percent of small businesses that grew over the previous two years used a formal business plan. A 1994 survey of the country’s fastest growing companies found 23 percent lacked a business plan. “The Relationship between Written Business Plans and the Failure of Small Businesses in the U.S.,” by Dr. Stephen Perry, surveyed 152 failed and 152 non-failed small businesses in 1997. He found that 64 percent of the non-failed firms had no written business plan. He also found that non-failed firms had more extensive written plans than failed firms, 23 percent compared to 9 percent, respectively.As you can see the results of studies and surveys are all across the board and don’t prove anything. Clearly, a significant percentage of successful businesses don’t have written business plans. None of these studies reveal the nature of the process that created the plan. Was it the result of an annual process with occasional updates or an ongoing, continual process? As Professor Albert Shapero said, “Companies that plan do better than companies that don’t, but they never follow their plan.”The focus needs to be on the PROCESS not on the plan. If a continual, ongoing planning process is in place, a written business plan is just not important. Writing a business plan without a planning system in place is a massive effort that is done very infrequently. Many businesses write three to five year plans and update them annually. The plans are reviewed periodically during each year to analyze the plan vs. actual variances. Little, if any, thought is given to strategy between the annual updates. Strategy should be the focus everyday. Setting up a planning system allows and sometimes forces you to focus on strategy. A planning system consists of two functions. One is a goal setting and attaining process, and the other is a trend watching or environment scanning process. Setting up a planning system takes several steps. The first and foremost task is to set aside or make time for planning on a regular, ongoing basis. It must become part of your routine, not an occasional event that can be easily postponed. In the evaluation phase, the owner or management team and the company are analyzed. From the analysis, key or critical areas of the business are identified. These areas are filtered down to focus on the most important ones. Performance measures are determined and systems to gather and process the necessary data are set up, if needed. A base of current performance is used to set goals. Now the regular, ongoing stuff begins. Strategies are formulated, tested, implemented, monitored, and reworked until the goals are achieved. Each planning session is split between working on strategies and trend watching. As goals are achieved, the goal setting and strategy formulation process begins again. Let’s put the focus back where it belongs on continuous, ongoing planning instead of writing business plans. As Karl Albrecht said in his book Corporate Radar, “The majority is not always right, the conventional wisdom is not always wise, and the accepted doctrine could well be flawed. The more fashionable an idea, the more it is likely to be exempt from critical evaluation. Breakthrough thinking sometimes calls for contradicting the most widely held assumptions and beliefs.”

About the author:David E. Coffman CPA/ABV, CVA has authored a number of articles, reports, white papers, and books about small business valuation and planning topics. He founded Business Valuations & Strategies in 1997 to work exclusively with small businesses in these areas. His “Power to Prosper Small Business Planning System” is available at

Why Doesn’t Your Business Plan Consistently Secure Your Desired Results?

by: Leanne Hoagland-Smith

From small businesses to large corporations, when you render all the challenges and issues facing these economic engines from employees to growth and innovation, the inability to secure desired results or implementation always float to the top as the number one to number three obstacles that prevent business success. As a business owner or management executive, have you ever asked yourself one of these five questions:

1. How do I move from my vision to my desired results?
2. How do I get my employees to perform?
3. How do I recruit new employees with the skills that my company needs?
4. How do I attract new customers or clients?
5. Why can’t I consistently achieve my desired results? All of these questions when rendered down are about implementation.

The failure to implement each corporate wide business goal consumes valuable resources specifically time, people and money. These resources may have been already allocated to other initiatives. Effective implementation is what separates the successful companies from the not so successful ones. Many authors from Rick Page in “Hope is not a Strategy” to Jason Jennings and Laurence Haughton in “It’s Not the Big that Eat the Small, It’s the Fast that East the Slow” write about the affects of poor implementation. Possibly why implementation continues to vex today’s businesses is because executives search for an ineffective answer through a business plan instead of a strategic business plan. A recent search using Inventory Overture revealed that searches for business plan were over 200 times as many as for strategic business plan (148,650 vs. 614). From these searches, it suggests that business owners may be looking for the wrong answer. Why choose a strategic business plan over a business plan? The answer is simple because a strategic business plan defines “Who Does What By When” through the critical success factors and supporting goals that are in alignment with the sales and marketing plans. The structure of a strategic business plan is all about implementation. Using the ADDIE Plus methodology may help you in your efforts to create an effective strategic business plan. Assess - The current market conditions, future market conditions and the organization need to be assessed. This evaluation should begin with an overall organizational assessment and may extend to internal and external customers. Design – After the evaluation, a design is crafted. This design should include the vision, values and mission of the organization and is overall architecture for the plan. Simply, speaking this is the “Big Picture.” Develop – The plan is developed according to the structure of the organization. Smaller plans or pictures such as marketing and sales fit within the overall plan. Implement - Using specific goal setting and goal achievement, the strategic plan is implemented. At this juncture, who does what by when is identified. Evaluate – Goal achievement is the mechanism to monitor and evaluate successful implementation. Plus - Follow-up is the plus to ensure necessary course correction that may again require some new assessments along with design, development, implementation and evaluation. Using the ADDIE+ methodology provides business owners a consistent vehicle from which to create, monitor, evaluate and follow-up on their strategic business plan. If you truly want to reach that next level of success by bridging the implementation gaps, stop focusing on a business plan and take the time to create a strategic business plan that clearly defines who does what by when.

Copyright 2005(c) Leanne Hoagland-Smith, About the author:Leanne Hoagland-Smith helps individuals and organizations to double results through innovative training and development. She builds lifelong change through proven processes seeking that next level of success. If increasing your revenue, improving your culture or finding balance interests you, visit www.processspecialist.comor ask to subscribe to complimentary copy of Power Choices a monthly newsletter at