Category Archives: Starting a Business

Shades of Grey in Business Planning

business-shades-of-greyThe world of business planning is haunted by shades of grey.

The benefits of business planning far outweigh the downsides. It is a healthy process for start-ups. Aside from accessing much needed financing, people gain knowledge and confidence as they research and write their own business plans.

Yet, most business start-ups won’t opt to write a business plan until they’re drop-kicked by someone or something. For a young person, it might be an insistent parent; for others, a banker, investor or gatekeeper. Some need to lose assets or go broke before they get the message. Start-ups are inclined to avoid anything that seems like “extra” work, and there’s no question that business planning entails a bit of work. It’s easy to see how a person might cheerfully bypass the opportunity.

Some of the resistance to business planning is due to the shades of grey.

The first glimmer of grey is found in the term “business plan.” An Internet search reveals that the term is used to describe a bewildering embarrassment of products and processes, from your monthly mobile bundle to grandiose marketing schemes, to diagrams etched into squares of high-grade toilet paper and glossy 100-page tomes. How are start-ups to know which system to choose? Those who seek financing will indiscriminately follow whatever path the lender tells them to. Those not seeking money have a challenge in front of them. It’s complicated… and grey.

The next shade of grey is “who to believe.” Google dumps a daily torrent of business planning articles and opinions into my inbox. There’s no shortage of claims that business planning is a waste of time and energy, apparently a fruitless pastime that entrepreneurs should shun. Many of the articles endeavor to pose alternatives to business planning, though I’ve not been able to see how the alternatives are better or different than business planning. They are only business plans with different logos.

Another shade of grey arises from the silly expectation that business planning will guarantee business success. There are no guarantees of business success. While a business plan will arm a start-up with more accurate knowledge and eliminate false assumptions, it can never make up for one’s inability to sell, a chronic propensity to procrastinate, or a knack for peeing in customer’s corn flakes. Anyone who confuses business planning with conducting commerce is doomed to a wild face-plant once in business.

Adding to the shades of grey is the difficulty in quantifying the benefits of having a business plan. From start-up onward, business owners are engulfed in risk. There are many factors that can take a business down, but absent are the charts and graphs that show definitively that a business plan helps keep a business alive.

The ultimate shade of grey is heaped onto business planning by the televised Dragon processes, where entrepreneurs get 7 minutes in the national limelight to pitch their business cases and field a few targeted questions from seasoned angel investors. Those who walk away with offers make it look quick and easy, right? It takes only a few minutes; why would anyone need a business plan? Lost in the floodlights and glamour is the fact that the entrepreneurs who get offered deals have done their homework, probably in the form of a business plan.

All but the tiniest of businesses are stronger with a business plan. When it comes to flushing out risks and mitigating liabilities, even mired in its shades of grey, I haven’t found anything as effective as a business plan.

Assessing Small Business Feasibility

Although it’s difficult to know in advance, it’s essential to gather enough information to predict your business’ chances of survival; this is the black art of feasibility. You can compare to other businesses, you can devise your action plans, and you can crunch the numbers to create multiple future scenarios.

You can sleuth and slash through the marketplace maze, start your business, then discover afterward that the business simply isn’t feasible. A business’s appearance of feasibility is no guarantee that it will succeed. This is not reassuring to those faced with feasibility analysis, but start-ups are still far better off assessing feasibility than not.

A feasibility study precedes the business plan. It’s not uncommon to conduct feasibility studies for several different businesses before deciding to move on to the business planning stage.

The information you gather for your feasibility study will be useful should you decide to proceed with a business plan. Some feasibility studies can be quick and inexpensive; others can take months, or even years, and cost thousands of dollars. It’s ok to use round numbers and approximations – be sure to err on the high side for your expenses and estimate sales much lower than you expect they might be.

It’s natural to feel as though you’re guessing as you start to determine feasibility. Continue researching and learning until you are confident in your numbers and assumptions.

It takes an alert mind, a healthy dosage of curiosity, and a clear idea of what you need to research in order to determine feasibility. Although we tend to think of money as a main consideration when assessing feasibility, there are a number of other factors that might influence your decision.

Here are a few questions small business start-ups might ask when attempting to determine whether a business idea is feasible.

  • Is this a life-style choice for you?
  • Do you have other choices?
  • Do you love the kind of work you will be doing?
  • Does your health factor into your decision?
  • Will you be able to employ other family members?
  • Is it a life-long fire that will burn until you quench it?
  • Will it enable you to locate in an area you wish to live in?
  • Are there less risky opportunities?
  • How comfortable are you with the level of risk?
  • Can you afford to lose the investment?
  • Will you miss out of other opportunities?

Entrepreneurs have much to consider before deciding to start a business. A feasibility analysis will help you learn about your business and provide you with enough information to make the right decision.

How to Write a Business Plan: Six Webinars to Guide You

Only Six days left to access your $100 Early-Bird Discount for the Business Planning Online Workshop!

Ready to start a small business? Wondering how to write a business plan?

This is a terrific opportunity to access six webinars that will help you master business planning, market research skills,  and 3-year financial projections, so you can write a business plan for any small business and launch with confidence. These six webinars (plus business planning worksheets, a business plan example and template, and resources and checklists) will guide you step by step through the process of writing a business plan.

Here is a quick breakdown of the 2-week workshop (remember it all happens online so you can join from anywhere!)

Webinar 1-3. September 24-28, 2012 (self-directed, you get unlimited access to the videos so you can watch at times that fit your schedule)

Live Phone Call. October 1, 2012 (If you’re not able to make the call time, you’ll have access to the recording afterwards)

Webinar 4-6. October 1-5, 2012 (self-directed, you get unlimited access to the videos so you can watch at times that fit your schedule)

Live Phone Call and Wrap Up. October 9, 2012 (If you’re not able to make the call time, you’ll have access to the recording afterwards)

Here’s a look at the Six webinars that will help you write your business plan and get your business off to a successful start!

  1. Jumpstart Your Business Plan
  2. Business Plan or Bust!
  3. Research Business Ideas Without Going Crazy
  4. Tell Your Story – Make Your Case
  5. Take the Fear Out of Forecasting
  6. Present Your Business Plan To Different Audiences

Continue reading How to Write a Business Plan: Six Webinars to Guide You

A Self Employment Checklist

Entrepreneurship has always been a key driver for job creation in our marketplace, and small businesses will continue to generate the lion’s share of new jobs in the future.

When it comes to job creation, there’s no playground quite as exciting or readily available for new entrants than the world of self-employment. While stepping into business is not for the weak or weary, it holds great promise for anyone with skills to market and a modicum of get-up-and-go.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you consider joining the ranks of the self-employed. Continue reading A Self Employment Checklist