Three Fs for Writing a Business Plan
Writing a real business plan comes innately only to a few. And that too after much skill. Those few may have chosen it as a career. Sometimes people in the academe write them for firms to earn a living. While the task is a chore to many for beginners it is a complete riddle. Start-ups find themselves compelled to write one for various reasons. The most common reason among them is to raise funds. People also write such plans for private investors. The aim then to get them to invest money in the firm. Another motive is to raise the stake in the firm. Also, entrepreneurs write them while seeking for new business. Even to sell the firm. Not knowing how to write one can be a nightmare. Here we give you a practical approach. We hope it can serve as a basic guideline.
Writing a real business plan comes innately only to a few. And that too after much skill. Those few may have chosen it as a career. Sometimes people in the academe write them for firms to earn a living. Even to sell the firm. Here we give you a practical approach.
Many people fail in their attempts to sit down and write a business plan. Because they face starting problems. An outline can help in overcoming the problem. Outlining involves jotting down what to write. Bear in mind the purpose of drafting the plan. Write as if you are talking to the target reader. In addition, think about who would be reading it. And draft an outline of what kind of info or data to include in it. Start writing the business plan section by section. This way provides a unified and logical flow to the rest of the content. It then becomes easier to arrange facts. Then start compiling them in a clear manner. Such a framework would appeal to the right audience.
Many people fail in their attempts to sit down and write a business plan. Because they face starting problems. An outline can help in overcoming the problem.
This stage is known as mapping scheme because it involves forming the exact order of sections. Delve deeper and write each area concisely for greater clarity. Planning stage is the muscles and flesh. It makes the content rich. Well, the target reader should find solid evidence of the business plan here. It would also enforce the standing of the plan. A few writing skills are needed here to make the concepts and ideas compelling.
This stage is known as mapping scheme because it involves forming the exact order of sections. Also called planning stage. Planning stage is the muscles and flesh. It makes the content rich. Well, the target reader should find solid evidence of the business plan here.
The draft is still rough at this stage as it needs some final touches. The next step is to edit it from top to bottom. Editing gives coherence and a smooth flow to the arguments expressed in the business plan. People write business plans to make a case. Hence it needs winning power. Repeat the main points throughout the document. For more emphasis furnish it with facts and figures. Make sure to use logic. Reasoning backed by information that was stated earlier in the plan can make arguments clearer. Edit the business plan further by paying attention to the smallest details. Fine-tuning the business plan in a detail oriented manner increases the readability of the document. If possible, let a third person review it for further refinement.
People write business plans to make a case. Hence it needs winning power.
A universally accepted and a regular business plan template is as follows:
- Executive Summary: Executive summary is the most important part of a business plan. Ideally it highlights the strengths of the company. This part briefs the reader the competitive advantage of the business. Briefly summarize why you have the best business idea. It is a snapshot statement of the program of activities as a whole. It touches on the company profile and typically runs from 3 to 4 pages in length.
- Company Overview: It should start by providing a brief history of the group ownership. It then goes on to describe the organization of the enterprise. A timeline as to when the business was founded is equally important. Information such as locations and facilities should also be included. Add the names of the key members of the management team. Profiling their backgrounds is an indicator of a well-thought-out business plan too.
- Industry Analysis: This section requires substantial research. It gives an understanding of the external factors of the playing field and how the company responds to them. Explain what the cyclical changes are, profit opportunities, and how the company fits into the industry.
- Market Analysis: The objective of market analysis is to provide a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the market. Such facts as demographics, segmentation, and market need are highly sought out by savvy investors. Market value, size, and regulation shows the investors that the business is lucrative enough.
- Competitive Analysis: Identify the competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. A distinct advantage of the firm over the competition is a prerequisite for a business plan. The unique competitive strategies will set the company apart from others. Discuss here, if any, any barriers to entry and exit into the market.
- Customer Analysis: This is a critical section that defines the characteristics of the target customer. Usually the characteristics are explained through their buying criteria and how the product typically satisfies their needs. Include also an in-depth analysis of the growth of the customer base, their average revenues, and service delivery model.
- Marketing Agenda: Emphasize the unique selling proposition of the business in this section. Along with that the pricing and positioning strategy and distribution plan should also be included. A marketing plan that outlines the steps taken to retain existing customers or gain new customers will add credibility.
- Strategy and Implementation: Insert in this segment a detailed plan of the marketing strategy and its implementation. It typically articulates how the company’s management intends to reach the products to the market. It includes the sales strategy, personnel hire, promotions and advertisement, distribution outlets, pricing, service delivery, guarantee policies and the like. Emphasis would be on past sales and a sales forecast.
- Organization and Management: Highlight who does what and their added value to the company. It is a simple but effective way to portray an organizational chart with a narrative. This section would reassure the investor that the people onboard are more than names on the organizational diagram.
- Financial Plan: Most investors are visuals. So, set up a spreadsheet with the past sales, sales forecast, and expense budget. It is also a good idea to incorporate a cash flow statement, assets, and liabilities. Some investors may require a breakeven analysis and the cost of doing business. A business planning software can be an invaluable help here.
- Appendix: In general, this section holds the entire supporting documents. All that information that was too large to be included in the main body should go in here. Any figures, statistics, charts, graphs and illustrations that augment the main points in the body must be in this section.
3F plan provides a systematic and practical approach to preparing a business plan. It has been proven to bring success to budding entrepreneurs. Bear in mind to also study the target readers. And finally tweak the plan. Stress those areas that would appeal to them. Good luck!
Title Photo Credit: Helloquence
The Art of Leadership for Women rolled into Vancouver last week featuring 5 speakers with very different styles and messaging with a common thread : the theme of leadership. Here are the highlights.
Dr. Seonaid Charlesworth – Vice President, Executive Assessment & Succession at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge
“Intuitive thinking is good but not good enough. You can improve the accuracy of decisions you make by asking 3 simple questions”.
- What is it that you want? – you have to be clear on this.
- What is the story you are telling yourself – is it real?
- When will you decide? Set a date – most bad decisions are as a result of putting things off.
Danielle Laporte – Author, Motivational Speaker, Blogger and Entrepreneur
“Leadership is lonely – you have to go against the grain”.
- Know what you are devoted to – it could be something really simple!
- Be true to yourself – be yourself.
- Don’t be embarrassed by your passion.
- Say thank you 108 times a day.
- Be radiant with your power.
- Compassion is a strategy.
Diana Nyad – Record Breaking Endurance Athlete
At age 64 Diane swam from Cuba to Florida (110 miles through jelly fish infested water swimming against currents and winds). It was her 5th attempt and something she had dreamed of doing since she was a kid. Her message: Don’t Quit!
“When you achieve your dreams it’s not about what you get but what you become.”
Geena Davis – Academy Award Winning Actress and Founder of the Geena Davis Institute of Women in Media
Film and TV images shape our cultural norms. Women are perceived as less important and less talented in part because of media images. The world is 51% female and yet in the media there are 3 male characters for every one woman. Women can achieve parity but at this rate it’ll take us another 70 years! Geena is on a crusade to change how Hollywood portrays women in order to speed that up. The number of girls taking up archery shot up after Brave and The Hunger Games. Positive and empowering images of women in the media will influence girls to dream bigger and achieve more.
Amy Cuddy – Game Changer – TED Talker – Social Psychologist
How to manage self doubt and anxiety in stressful situations. It’s not about faking knowledge, you need to be present. We become present by becoming powerful. Power leads to presence. When we feel powerful, we expand. When we feel powerless, we shrink. Raise you daughters to take up space to stand up tall and proud (no slouching!). It’s not what you say it’s how you say it.
A recent project of mine involved rating and comparing companies based on their level of customer service. I began with a basic rating scale of 1-5 (with one being bad and five excellent), but then I decided to get a bit more creative. I came up with descriptive names for the levels of service.
Five Levels of Service
- Unacceptable – This may be a kind term for some of the more terrible examples of customer service, but it encompasses any service that is unacceptable for any reason.
- Basic – Minimum standards and commodity.
- Good – This category contains what customers would call “satisfactory” service.
- World Class – Taking a big jump from satisfactory, in the eyes of the customer your company is superior to others in the industry.
- Trademark – At the top of the game. You set the benchmarks for the industry.
You can use this rating system to perform a self-assessment of your business and your personal standing. Consider the following questions and honestly evaluate your situation. If you do not deal with outside customers, think about how you serve your internal customer.
- What level of service does your company provide for your customers or clients? What level of service do you personally provide?
- In terms of the descriptive levels of service, how would you describe yourself?
- Where do other companies in your industry fall in the levels of customer service?
- What about companies outside your industry? Assign them to the levels of service.
- Consider the companies that you have assigned to the “World Class” and “Trademark” levels (inside and outside your industry). What qualities do they have that you could emulate?
- If you are not at the “Trademark” level (and very few are), what steps can you take to move closer to the top? What would you have to do to get all the way there?
Use these questions as a springboard for discussion and goal setting. Remember the following points:
The quest for great service never ends. Even after reaching the “Trademark” level, it is an ongoing process you should always be striving to improve.
The basic tenet of customer service lies in common sense. Though some take a scientific approach with measurements, testing, etc., it boils down to people taking care of people.
Never stop reaching, no matter how high you rate in the “Five Levels of Service.” Continuous training and coaching is needed in the journey to “Trademark” service and beyond.
And one final thought …
“Great service is not the end – the final answer. It is a process that is ongoing, ever changing and is always being adapted to meet the needs of the current situation.”
– Shep Hyken
You’ve heard we are in the midst of a financial crisis. That much is obvious. But, did you know our financial woes pale in comparison to the crisis of trust we have on our hands? That’s right. Our most significant crisis revolves around a lack of trust. When even leaders of the World Economic Forum agree that our biggest crisis is a lack of trust and confidence, you know it must be serious. Sadly, few people really understand the bottom line implications. Not only does it affect credit and government relations, it affects every relationship and every organization. Professor John Whitney of the Columbia Business School found, “Mistrust doubles the cost of doing business.” I think it costs even more. Trust is not just a “soft skill,” it is the fundamental key to all lasting success.
Without trust, leaders lose teams and sales people lose sales. We all lose productivity, retention of good people, reputation, morale and revenue. The lower the trust the more time everything takes, the more everything costs, and the lower the loyalty of everyone involved. However, with greater trust come greater innovation, creativity, impact, freedom, morale, and a bigger bottom line.
All of my Graduate research points to the fact that trust is the unique commonality of the most successful leaders and organizations. Obtaining this level of trust isn’t easy. If you are looking for a quick fix, don’t look to trust. While it may appear to be static, in reality it is more like a forest—a long time growing, but easily burned down with a touch of carelessness. Trust is by nature solid and proven. Without trust no lasting, genuine success exists–just a brittle, fluffy, mirage of the real thing. The good news is that we can build this fundamental key to success. It is worth it! And it is the ONLY way to genuine relational or organizational success. The Trust Edge is the competitive advantage gained by being trusted whether as a mom or dad, a community leader or a consultant, or a business owner or government leader. Following is a synopsis of the eight pillars that build the Trust Edge.
1. Consistency: It’s the little things, done consistently, that make the big difference. In every area of life it is the little things. If I am over weight it is because I have eaten too many calories over time, not because I ate too much yesterday. If I am a good husband I am doing the little things that honor my wife on a daily basis. It is the same in business. The little things done consistently make for leaders being followed, increased sales and retention, and a higher level of trust. Consistency is the way brands are built and character is revealed. Even if we don’t like McDonald’s, we trust them because they deliver the same burger in Cleveland as in Tokyo. Do the little things, consistently.
2. Clarity: People trust the clear and mistrust or distrust the ambiguous. Be clear about your mission, purpose, expectations, and daily activities. When people are clear about the mission they do the little things differently. A clear mission unifies and inspires. When a manager is clear in expectations, she will likely get what she wants. When we are clear about priorities on a daily basis we become productive and effective.
3. Compassion: Think beyond yourself. Never underestimate the power of sincerely caring. It is the reason we trust our mothers over some sales people. We are skeptical if the sales person really has our best interest in mind. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just an old saying, it is a bottom line truth. If followed it builds trust.
4. Character: Do what is right over what is easy. Leaders who built this trust consistently did what needed to be done when it needed to be done whether they felt like doing it or not. It is the work of life to do what is right over what is easy.
5. Contribution: Few things build trust quicker than actual results. Be a contributor who delivers real results!
6. Competency: Staying fresh, relevant and capable builds trust. The humble teachable person keeps learning new and better ways of doing things. They stay current on ideas and trends. According to one study the key competency of new MBA’s is not a specific skill, but rather the ability to learn amidst chaos. Arrogance and a “been-there-done-that” attitude keep people from growing. There is always more to learn, so make a habit of reading, learning, and listening to fresh information.
7. Connection: People want to follow, buy from, and be around friends. People become friends when they build connection. Ask questions. Listen. Life, work, and trust are about relationships. All relationships are best built by establishing genuine connection.
8. Commitment: Stick with it through adversity. Followers trusted General Patton, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Jesus, and George Washington, because they saw commitment. They saw sacrifice for the greater good. Commitment reveals and it builds trust.
Trust does not start with the economy or government. The good news is that YOU can build these pillars and enjoy greater relationships, revenue and results. It starts with individuals becoming trusted. When will we get out of this trust crisis? When we as individuals decide to build the Trust Edge on a daily basis. Keep on being trusted.
Our guest author for this post is David Horsager, MA, CSP, is an award-winning speaker, author, producer, and business strategist who has researched and spoken on the bottom-line impact of trust across four continents. His brand new book titled, The Trust Edge: What Top Leaders Have & 8 Pillars to Build It gives the framework for building trust at work or at home. Get free resources and more at www.DavidHorsager.com and www.TheTrustEdge.com.
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Learning how to become buyer-centric is not that difficult when you are a buyer yourself. How many times as a buyer or customer have your found yourself frustrated when a product or service isn’t working the way you would like?
I recently vented my frustration with Norton Antivirus on Twitter when I had trouble turning off those pesky pop-up notifications. The pop-up notices are especially annoying when you are hosting a webinar. Not only do they distract during the live event, they will show up in the recorded version and play havoc with the viewer experience.
I tried searching “turn off pop-up” in Norton’s search field on their support page. “0” results! Turns out I should have been searching “turn off cookie trace”. Who knew? Are you using the language of your customer or are you relying on techies to create the ultimate support portal? Turns out Norton was listening. That is refreshing! Are you tuned in to social media to find out what your customer’s frustrations are, and better yet, are you responding?