The Business Plan: Your Professional Bio

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PREPARE TO WRITE YOUR BIO

Putting thought and energy into preparing to write your professional bio pays big dividends. Like the resume you provide when you’ve apply to a company, your business plan that includes your professional bio will hopefully be shared with people you haven’t met. You want to be certain it provides a complete picture of who you are and represents you well.

Your professional bio needs to demonstrate you have the specialized and general knowledge to launch and operate the business, explain why you’re qualified to launch and operate this business, provide examples of achievements pertinent to this business, and that you have the personal where-with-all and strength of character to be successful.

SPECIALIZED AND GENERALIZED KNOWLEDGE TO LAUNCH AND OPERATE MY BUSINESS

Think through and make a list of the specialized and general knowledge someone starting and operating a business of this type needs to have.

If you haven’t worked in this type of business go online and research businesses offering this or a similar product or service.

Here are some examples of the specialized and general knowledge you’d need for several businesses.

Example 1: A Virtual Florist and Gift Basket Service

Specialized Knowledge: Flower Arranging, Gift Basket Design and Assembly, Inventory Management

General Knowledge: Basic Business Bookkeeping and Record Keeping

Example 2: A Divorce Recovery Course, Community, & Coaching

Specialized Knowledge: Grief Coaching, Personal Change Coaching, Course Preparation, Writing, Public Speaking

General Knowledge: Basic Business Bookkeeping and Record Keeping, Online, Document Creation and Management Software, Online Marketing and Content Delivery

Example 3: A Consulting Practice:

Specialized Knowledge: Industry or Business Practice Experience, Project and Client Management, Change Management, Writing, Board Level Presentation Skills

General Knowledge: Basic Business Bookkeeping and Record Keeping, Business Software Applications, Basic Computer Skills

Example 4: A Financial Management Book and Course

Specialized Knowledge: Budgeting, Time Management, Personal Organizational Skills, Writing Skills, Coarse Preparation, Writing, Public Speaking

General Knowledge: Basic Business Bookkeeping and Record Keeping, Document Creation and Management Software, Spreadsheet Creation and Manipulation

WHY I’M QUALIFIED TO LAUNCH AND OPERATE THIS BUSINESS

There’s a reason you chose THIS business. You may have been working for a company doing this type of work. This might be this logical outcome of a long-time hobby. It might be you found a unique method or technique for solving a problem. Perhaps you developed a product or service that is needed in the marketplace.

Make a list of the jobs and positions you’ve held, events you’ve participated in, places you’ve volunteered, then match what you did that provides you the background necessary to be successful in this business.

Inventorying the specialized knowledge and general knowledge you have and comparing it to what you’ll need will help you identify your qualifications for launching and operating this type of business. It will also help you identify what qualifications you currently don’t have.

Just a note at this point: If you’re starting a business that requires specialized knowledge you don’t have or if you have no experience your prospective new business industry take the time to learn the skill or work in the industry.

EXAMPLES OF MY ACHIEVEMENTS THAT RELATE TO THIS BUSINESS:

Go back and review each of the jobs you’ve held.   What did you improve or achieve while you were there that made the business better? Articulate results you or a team you were on that are pertinent to something you’ll be doing in your new business.

Thinking through this reminds you of your achievements and gives you the confidence necessary to take the next step in launching your business.

WHY I’LL BE SUCCESSFUL LAUNCHING AND OPERATING THIS BUSINESS:

Just as important as specialized and general knowledge, pertinent experience, and achievements in a particular business area is your ability to deliver on the commitments you make and your character.

Examples might include service in any capacity, working while you were going to school, earning a college degree, helping to take care of siblings or parents, going to night school, helping a charity, belonging to an organization.

You may also have examples of what you learned by making a mistake. Take accountability and demonstrate what you’ve achieved since then. You don’t have to describe it.

Example 1: Diligence:   I learned to manage my time during the four years I worked full-time attending college to earn my bachelor’s degree in business.

Example 2: Fundraising, Marketing and Networking:  I organized an event to raise funds against domestic violence that included a “pass the purse” silent auction that collected enough to launch a 501(c)(3).

Example 3: Time Management: After repeated warnings for being a few minutes late, I lost a job and learned to be on-time and now ensure I’m always five minutes early.

PREPARE YOUR PROFESSIONAL BIO

With your information gathered, weave all the information together and write your story. The tough part is it only be between one and two pages.

When you’ve finished share it with someone you trust, get their feedback, and make edits. As with every part of your business plan you’ll continue to update and personalize it depending upon the audience and where your business is in its lifecycle.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  She’s currently developing a course and the $1,000 Start-Up Workbook to help entrepreneurs launch low cost business start-ups.

Business Planning: Getting Started

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WHY WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN?

Your business plan is the tool that forces you to think through every aspect of your new business.

It’s also a communication tool that you can use to show:

  • Bankers – if you plan to take out a loan.
  • Potential investors and venture capitalists – if you want to attract outside funding.
  • Building owners – if you intend to rent space.
  • Suppliers – if you intend to produce custom products.
  • Potential customers, particularly if you’re interested in becoming a supplier to their business.

It should be a living document first prepared prior to opening your business that’s used as a tool to help you focus, organize your thoughts, and make certain you’ve thought through every aspect of the business before you launch.

It should be updated anytime there’s a change in the business and at least annually.  The process of reviewing and updating your business plan on an annual basis is an exercise as effective as hiring a business consultant.  It causes you to review the goals you set the previous year and either celebrate your success or analyze why you didn’t meet your goals.

COMPONENTS OF A TRADITIONAL BUSINESS PLAN

  • Executive Summary: A one-page summary of everything contained in your business plan.  (Since it is a summary, it’s not unusual to write it last.)
  • Product or Service: This section describes the product or service you’ll be offering.
  • Professional Bios: When you start your business it may only contain your bio; however, as your business grows and you add people, you’ll also include bios of the management team.
  • Competitive Analysis: This is an analysis of the top competitors in the market, a comparison of their products and services to yours, and how you will mitigate the risks to your business.
  • Marketing: This is the business marketing plan, how you plan to let the world know about your business, and how you plan to obtain customers and clients.
  • Operations: This includes how you will go about setting up the business and how it will be operated.
  • Financial Information: This includes the start-up costs, recurring costs, cost to produce the product or deliver the service, and projected sales volume.

 WHERE TO START:

Most of us intuitively know we need a business plan and have a fairly good idea of the components that need to be included but we haven’t yet written one because we don’t know where to start.

I’ve found the best place to start is by describing the product or service you want to offer and for whom.

EXAMPLE 1:   A Virtual Florist and Gift Basket service that operates only during the holidays.  For each holiday where flowers and/or flower arrangements are traditional gifts (Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas), I plan to design and produce a limited set of arrangements and gift baskets that will be shown in a brochure.  Prior to the holiday I’ll take the brochure around to my friends and local businesses and take orders.  I’ll purchase only what I need for the orders I take and deliver the products on the designated day.

EXAMPLE 2:  A Divorce Recovery Course:  Although there are books and support groups on Divorce Recovery, everyone recovers at a different rate, people are often reticent to seek help in their community, and much of the work needs to take place individually.  This online course offers virtual support with a coach for support.

EXAMPLE 3:  A Low-Cost Business Start-Up Course:  An online course that walks prospective entrepreneurs through every step required for a business start-up and the skills they need to master to be successful.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.

Changing Our Financial Paradigm

In my parents’ time and in my early career we went to work and every Friday we received a paycheck.  We knew how much was going to be in that check and could plan our spending based upon that.

For many of us, the paradigm of a regular paycheck is no longer the case, if indeed it ever was.  Business owners, management consultants, hairdressers, real estate agents, wait staff, housekeepers, and bartenders, just to name a few, don’t receive a regular paycheck.

To be financially solvent and move toward financial success requires a paradigm shift in the way those of us in those professions think about and manage our spending.

Tony X. Lee’s just released book, The Bartender’s Guide to Financial Freedom, available on Amazon.com, addresses the associated issues by taking the reader through an easy to follow ten-step process.

Tony, a long-term bartender with a wide following, whose bar rescue successes in the Dallas/Fort Worth area are legendary, shares the lessons he learned first-hand, the tough way.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Fernandina Beach, Florida and Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.

… “and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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Last week I had a meltdown.  I’d been working on a project I thought would take two or three weeks.  Six weeks into the project not one, but two issues, both outside of my control, surfaced.

One’s been lingering for a couple of weeks and has been exasperated by the weather.  The second is one that could cause a further delay, expense, and effort on my part.  It was that second one that pushed me over the edge.

Fortunately, it was the end of an incredibly long day, so I had the chance to distance myself from the situation and gain perspective.  The next morning, I thought it through.

  1. I’ve moved these issues as far along as I can. There are other companies responsible for the next steps.  My only recourse is to ensure they’re aware of and accept responsibility for each issue, get a commitment, then stay in contact with them.
  2. There are a lot of other activities requiring my attention and effort.
  3. Stewing over this issue is a non-value add activity.

Once I got to #3, I had a blinding flash of the obvious when the last phrase of the Serenity Prayer, “and the wisdom to know the difference.” came to mind.  I started the day by contacting each company, then got back to those other activities that I could complete.

Even though I didn’t yell, curse, or cry, I’m still embarrassed about that meltdown.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.

Admiring Our Problems

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I’m heartbroken for the Jacksonville community who is living through the aftermath of yet another school shooting.  I’m also saddened and frustrated we haven’t put our differences aside to address the complex social issues that led to, not only this shooting, but the dozens of other issues our nation and our world are facing.

As a management consultant I’ve learned the first step in solving any problem is developing an understanding of the cause of that problem; however, our level of verbal discourse is so deafening we can’t hear each other.

Perhaps it’s time we quieted our voices and got started.

I don’t think any of us can pretend to understand how to address all the social issues causing our problem, but I was reminded yesterday I have the personal responsibility to do what I can to be part of the solution.

I been admiring our problems long enough.

I’m going to take the hour I’ve been spending every night sitting in my Lazy Boy, yelling at the television, shut my big mouth, and do something productive to work toward a positive solution to one of the issues I can address.

Even if my efforts only lay the groundwork for those who come after me, some of my greatest heroes never got to witness the effect their efforts.  Susan B. Anthony, for example, died before women ever got the right to vote.

I need to get busy.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.

Own Your Own Power

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I was first introduced to the concept of “owning my own power” after complaining to a friend about a professional colleague.  My friend wisely asked me how I had addressed the issue with my colleague.  I found it tough to admit that I hadn’t.

He paused and said, “Own your own power and quit acting like a victim.  Go talk with your colleague, explain the issue, and tell him what you need from him.”

Words to live by.  How many hours had I’d wasted before I was hit with this blinding flash of the obvious?  How ridiculous was it to be irritated because someone else hadn’t done what I thought they should, or, had done something I didn’t think they should have, yet not addressed the issue?

Even with that knowledge, sometimes it takes a sleepless night or two before I’m ready to admit that I’m upset with someone over an issue I have yet to address.

I’ve also learned that when I’ve stewed about a situation I have to be particularly careful to leave my emotions out of the dialogue when I address it.

Over time we each develop a method for doing this.  My current method involves writing the person a letter (not an EMAIL!)   Particularly when it’s an emotionally charged issue I pour out my emotions in the first draft.  Then I save the letter and go do something else.

After I’ve had time to clear my head, I edit the content to tone it down.  I continue “edit, go do something else” cycles until the picture in my mind of the person’s response is one that will resolve the problem.

At that point I typically go see the person or pick up the phone and call them.

I’m stewing about a situation now and just finished the second draft of the letter…. This one’s going to take a couple more rounds of introspection to acknowledge the part I played in causing the situation.  Clearly, I’m still a work in progress.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.

Procrastination

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During the Super Bowl, probably about halftime, I was on my way home after running some errands. I had the radio on and was listening to an interview with Tim Urban about procrastination.  Tim, a blogger whose blog, Wait but Why, explores procrastination.  He described his early theory that procrastinator’s brains were different than non-procrastinators.

He tested this theory by arranging MRIs of his brain and a friend’s, who he believed was not a procrastinator. He described the results in a hilarious TED Talk, illustrated with pictures that looked to have been drawn by a fourth grader.  Both brains have a Rational Decision Maker who is depicted with a steering wheel one would see on a ship; however, the procrastinator’s brain also has an Instant Gratification Monkey.  Every time a procrastinator starts to do something that’s necessary to keep his ship on course, the Instant Gratification Monkey takes over, grabs the steering wheel and replaces it with an activity that’s fun and completely non- productive.

When a deadline approaches, the third character living in the procrastinator’s brain, the Panic Monster, takes over and scares the Instant Gratification Monkey back up into his tree so the Rational Decision Maker can take over long enough for the activity to be completed, typically at an irrational pace.

He went to explain that after the TED talk he received thousands of EMAILs from people saying they had the same problem and how frustrated they were that they couldn’t control the Monkey.    EMAILS came from doctors, engineers, and lots of PhD students, people who’d had great accomplishments that made him realize there are two types of things we procrastinate about; those that have deadline and those that don’t’ but we’re all procrastinating about something. 

We all have a Rational Decision Maker, an Instant Gratification Monkey, and a Panic Monster in one form or another.  The problem is, unfortunately, activities that have no deadline don’t wake up our Panic Monster.  So, any career that involves some effort to get started doesn’t wake up the Panic Monster, because there is no deadline.   Activities such as taking care of your health, exercising, or tending to your relationships can go undone.

In other words, the activities that, when neglected, cause us no end of regrets, grief and unhappiness and can make us feels like spectators in our own lives.

He ended his TED talk with a graphic showing a life calendar comprised of a box for each week of a ninety-year old life.  He observed that we’ve all used up some of our boxes and maybe we each need to take a hard look at what we are procrastinating about.

I know I do.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.

Learnings from the Management Consultant: FOCUS!

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Recently I was in the middle of a conversation and realized while the person was talking I was thinking about something I really needed to get done and watching the clock as the minutes ticked away.  Every few minutes I had to tune back into the conversation.

The person I was talking with had a genuine need to talk with me and had made it a point to schedule and be available for the call.  I was genuinely interested in what he had to say, it was urgent and important to both of us, yet I found it difficult to FOCUS on what he was saying.

In thinking about how I can improve my focus I thought about how I might be able to apply some of the meeting behaviors I’ve talked about with clients and how I can apply them to one on one meetings, whether they’re in person or on the phone.

  1. Establish the logistics of the call. The call came in an hour before I thought it would because I hadn’t confirmed the time zone and who would place the call.  I’d made the assumption about the time zone and that I’d be placing the call.  Because I had both wrong, I was doing something else when the call came in and wasn’t focused.
  2. Start the call agreeing on the topics and duration of the call. The conversation would have been so much more effective if I would have said, “George, I have a meeting I have to leave for in an hour.  I have these three topics to discuss that should take no more than 10 minutes each.  What are your topics and how long do you want to allocate to each?
  3. Get rid of distractions. Both of us had a series of distractions during the call.  I had the phone on speaker to allow me to continue getting ready to leave for my next meeting in case our call went overtime.  Had I just sat still and focused on the call I could have insured we covered all of the topics in the hour available.
  4. Summarize what was accomplished and the next steps. We talked about a series of steps we would each take, yet 24 hours later, the information I was expecting hasn’t arrived. It would have taken me two minutes to summarize our commitments and I could have easily sent a follow-up EMAIL to confirm my understanding.

Fortunately, I’ll have many opportunities to improve my FOCUS.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.

Recovering from a Professional Error

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My first business was launched when I received a coveted shoe shine kit for my tenth birthday. In bed that night I rehearsed my sales pitch until I could say it without fear. The next morning, I lost no time loading my shoe shine kit into my wagon and visiting every home in my neighborhood collecting shoes to be shined until my wagon was full.

Back at home I got to work. With newspaper spread out on my bedroom floor I carefully spread the polish over each pair, then buffed them to a glossy shine. When I’d finished I carefully placed each pair back in my wagon and set off to deliver them and collect 25 cents a pair.

There was just one small hitch … I hadn’t kept track of where I got each pair. When my dad came home that night he walked with me through the neighborhood and waited patiently while I knocked on each door and explained my dilemma. By the time it was dark my wagon was empty and all the shoes had been delivered.

That was enough to put an end to my business. I was embarrassed and humiliated. At ten I hadn’t yet developed enough wisdom to learn from that mistake and label the darn shoes the next time. I just gave up. I hid my shoe shine kit at the back of my closet and didn’t shine a pair of shoes again until I joined the Army.

Over time; however, I learned more from that failure and those that followed than most of the successes I’ve had in my career.

  • Admit My Error: On reflection, my father and none of those people were angry with me. Once I explained my mistake and asked for help resolving the problem every one of them tried to help me. I’ve learned this is true of most of the mistakes I’ve made. Taking accountability is empowering and most people respect an honest apology when coupled with an honest effort to correct the issue.
  • Don’t Give Up: I’d like to say this was the only time I ever gave up, but it wasn’t. It took many years before I learned to honestly assess if there was something I can do or had done differently and then took the necessary action, either to correct the error or prevent it from happening again.
  • Define Success and the Required Steps to Get There: I finally learned from a wise colleague to ask myself and anyone else involved, “What does it looks like when it’s done?”  This ensures I have a clear picture of what success looks like, what it’s going to take to get there, and if it’s a joint effort, everyone is aligned.
  • Strive for Continuous Improvement: At the end of every job or project I take the time to reflect on what and how I can do better. This can sometimes be painful, but taking the time for it helps me reduce the probability I’ll make the same mistake again.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups. Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released soon.

Is 2018 the Year You’ll FINALLY Start Your Own Business?

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Now that the new year is firmly on its way the resolutions we made a week ago have started to be tested.  This can be particularly true if those resolutions are those we’ve made year after year and failed to keep.

If one of those resolutions was to start your own business, you’re in good company, as 25% of the U.S. population is interested in becoming entrepreneurs.

The top ten reasons I hear when I ask someone why he or she wants to start a business are:

  • My current profession doesn’t pay enough.
  • My current job prevents me from spending enough time with my family.
  • I plan to work after retirement.
  • I don’t have enough saved to retire.
  • I’ve always wanted to start my own business.
  • I’ve always wanted to (fill in the blank) __________.
  • I want to be in the driver’s seat and in control of my destiny.
  • I hate my job.
  • I’m unemployed.
  • I have children, or parents, or a spouse who need me to care for them.

Whatever YOUR reason, the why needs to be important enough to you to cause you to take action.

Is this the year that you’ll finally take that step?

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant based in Fernandina Beach, FL and Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.