Business Planning: Getting Started

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.”

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

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

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.