Lifelines

We’ve all experienced the feeling of hitting a brick wall.  Those periods in our careers (or lives) when we no longer have the energy to take “it” down brick by brick, we can’t seem to get over “it”, and “it” is just too big to get around. Whatever “it” is seems insurmountable.

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The Business Plan: Conduct A Competitive Analysis

A competitive analysis includes identifying the top competitors in your marketspace, comparing their products and services to yours, and planning how you’ll mitigate those risks.

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The Business Plan: Your Professional Bio

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

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.