Tag Archives: business plan

5 Ways to Use Your Business Plan

It takes guts to defy chaos and predict the future of your business, and yet that’s precisely what an entrepreneur does when writing a business plan. Considering it’s a written roadmap that can be used at any point in the future to measure whether the business succeeded or failed, most people will put it off as long as they can. Of course, most people don’t own businesses either. But those who develop business plans quickly come to realize an abundance of benefits.

The most important reason to do a business plan is to gain understanding about, and create a blueprint for starting or growing a business. Once the plan is done it can easily be adapted to communicate with different audiences.

Here are 5 different ways to reconfigure your business plan, from longest to shortest.

1. The Complete Business Plan. Your full business plan will include an executive summary, the narrative and financial components, and a number of supporting documents. By adding well-crafted, personalized cover letters for each contact, you will be able to use your business plan to communicate with potential partners, grant fund managers, bankers and other debt financing agencies.

2. The Investors Business Plan. Right up front, investors will want to know your pitch; what problem your business solves, what value you place on your business, how much money you need, and what are you are offering in return. They will also need to know whether you are seeking debt or equity financing, the expected return on the investment, how you plan to deal with the risks, and what your exit strategy is. Most importantly, investors will want to know all about you, the owner.

3. The Employees Business Plan. The scope of the business plan you present for employees will be guided by your philosophy on how much employees should know about the inner workings of your business. For example, you might use the narrative portion of the business plan plus the sales forecast, but exclude the historical and current financials and supporting documentation. The main benefit of sharing relevant parts of your business plan with employees is to have all members of your team on the same page.

4. The Business Plan Brief. Also known as an executive summary, this 1 to 2 page version can be used to introduce your business to various audiences. It can be added to presentations and proposals, or hung on the office wall to serve as visible reminder of the corporate direction. The brief can include things like the business vision, the mission statement, the strategic and marketing goals, sales, and profit targets. It provides most of the content needed to build a business website or to design flyers, brochures, prospectuses and other marketing materials.

5. The Elevator Pitch. An elevator pitch is a brief introduction to your business. The term is often used in the context of an entrepreneur pitching a business idea to someone during the time it takes for an average elevator ride. It might be as long as thirty seconds or 100 words.

Those who do step up and develop a business plan will usually discover that it’s not quite as formidable as it seems at first. Business planning can be a lot of fun, and whatever else can be said, it’s a remarkable confidence builder and an amazing learning experience for those who go for it.

Running a Business Is Like Riding a Snowboard

A couple years ago I tempted fate by tackling my first snowboarding lesson. I was 51. Though my future was in doubt for the entire incident, I survived. Whether from repeatedly landing on my head or from the hot toddies that followed, I felt compelled to apply the lessons of snowboarding to running a business.

  1. A rider becomes one with the snowboard; an owner gets immersed in the business. Neither business nor snowboard will run smoothly until you learn some skills and tune into the conditions. Until you reach that point you might look like a newborn calf – gangly, uncoordinated and off-balance.
  2. Snowboarding and business are both learned by doing. A bit of theory is nice, but the real thrill comes from getting out there and doing it. No amount of theory compares to a real ride down the mountainside or a day of running your own business.
  3. Fitness and flexibility are important. This seemed quite clear as, from a variety of unflattering positions I observed skilled snowboarders flying over jumps and loving the airtime. Ah yes, I thought, I really should have stuck with the cardio program. It’s also easier to withstand the rigors of business ownership when you’re fit.
  4. Dignity may abandon you at times. Why is it that people love to see skiers and aging snowboarders do face-plants? Furthermore, why is there always a crowd handy to cheer when you blow it and land in a heap? One gains a disturbing sense of humility while skidding to a stop on elbows and tailbone at the feet of the entire T-Bar line up. Make a mistake in business and the crowd will probably laugh – you might too once you get over the pain.
  5. Snowboarding and business are risky. Friends and family get concerned and start reciting horrifying statistics of bruises and injuries. Everybody knows someone who has hurt themselves snowboarding or who has lost everything they own in a bankruptcy. Things don’t always turn out the way you plan. In fact, if you don’t land upside down occasionally, perhaps you aren’t trying hard enough. Your survival depends upon your ability to assess and manage risk.
  6. Snowboarding and business are both manageable. The secret to success is to start by learning the basics, like standing upright and controlling your direction. Until I learned to use the edges of my snowboard, I changed direction by landing on various body parts and by careening off trees and unsuspecting skiers. You bump into some of the nicest people on the hill… and in business.

Whatever else can be said, snowboarding and business ownership will both get you outside your comfort zone and present opportunities to learn.

Ready to hit the slopes of business ownership?  Get started on your business plan today. We’ve got free resources and tools to make your business planning fast, easy and fun.

See you on the slopes!

Tips for Naming Your Business

Naming a business can be thrilling and spooky. It’s exciting because naming a business always gives a feeling of getting closer to bringing your fledgling business into the world. But it can also be stressful because the wrong name can cost you.

Today’s environment is such that, even when you do everything right according to the local authorities, you can still be blindsided by a business owner from a far off jurisdiction.

When a local business owner started her housecleaning business a couple of years ago, she did her research, registered her name with the provincial corporate registry, and started building her business. A few months later she was advised by her lawyer that she should stop using her business name because someone else had the trademark pending for all of Canada.

Now, many months later, she has successfully changed her business name, but the cost has been considerable. She has redone her business cards, brochures, vehicle signage, media advertising, and rebuilt her website at naturallyneat.ca.

This situation is not unique. With that in mind, here are a few tips for naming a business.

  1. Search your name ideas using any of the search engines, such as www.google.com or www.bing.com. Too many hits might mean the name is overused. Be sure to try using different search engines, because they don’t all pull up the same information.
  2. Use the built-in search functions at domain registry websites to determine if the domains are available for your preferred business name. A couple of domain search websites are www.godaddy.com and www.hover.com. The search results will tell you whether your name is available in the .com, .net, .org, .biz or .info versions. If your name idea is already taken, some of the registry sites will also list a number of suggestions that are close or related to your name.
  3. Keep the name as brief as possible. Throughout the life of your business, you and others will write, type, think or speak your business name many times. If you wish to inspire others to repeat your business name, make it easy for them to do so. The worst names are those that are difficult to pronounce, or they are so long that you need an acronym to shorten them. Brief is better.
  4. Search copyrights and trademarks to determine if someone has already secured the name. You can either hire a trademark lawyer to do this or you can do it yourself by visiting the appropriate government agency or website. Use a search engine to search using keywords “trademark” and your location (example, “trademark Canada”) to locate the website.
  5. Ask others for feedback on your business name. How does the name fit the business? What do others think of when they hear the name? Does the name sound right for the image you wish to portray?
  6. Once you have chosen your name, register it in the jurisdiction where you intend to operate the business. For example, in British Columbia you will need to register your business with the Corporate Registry.

A great business name will help you avoid costly court disputes or name change exercises, at the same time drawing the right customers to your business. A little due diligence before settling on a business name can save you loads of trouble later. While there are no guarantees, the steps above should help you narrow your focus and choose that magic and hopefully – unique business name.

Are you ready to start your business plan? Get a free business plan template and get started today.

Forecasting Isn’t the Same as Accounting

There’s no doubt that forecasting or attempting to predict the future in any way, is considered by many to be a mild form of insanity.

Forecasting is one area of business planning that entrepreneurs tend to resist. There are many reasons for this.

  • Beyond spending, many people simply don’t like to deal with money matters.
  • Unless you’ve previously owned a business, the entire business financial arena tends to be a vast, spooky mystery.
  • Those who have weathered a financial black eye in their personal lives are inclined to be apprehensive about tackling the management of business finances.

Many people assume that forecasting is the same as accounting, and that it should be left to highly skilled professionals, such as bankers, accountants and MBA’s. And yet, the process of forecasting is sure to be a healthy learning experience for owners and anyone thinking about starting a business.

To dispel myths and misguided fears about forecasting, it is helpful to clarify what it is… and what it isn’t. One way to do this is to identify the ways that forecasting differs from accounting.

  1. Forecasting is an educated guess at future scenarios, while accounting is a detailed compilation of past transactions.
  2. Forecasting takes place prior to a period of business, while accounting happens after commerce is done.
  3. Forecasting provides an approximate picture of the future, while accounting shows an accurate record of business past.
  4. Forecasting is built upon safe assumptions and conservative estimates, while accounting is built upon precise records and receipts.
  5. Forecasting is usually best done by the small business owner, while accounting should almost always be entrusted to an accountant.

The truth is, most entrepreneurs have no crystal ball skills whatsoever, and most will never be accountants. Any yet, small business owners need to have a certain level of confidence in the future of their enterprises. A rationally constructed forecast can give you the confidence needed to move forward, while arming you with the information necessary to weather upcoming threats.

As surely as the business owner must pay taxes, he or she should take on the responsibility of forecasting. You can hire someone to foretell your future and you can certainly turn your business records over to an accountant for compilation, but at the end of each year it is the business owner who pays for any mistakes made and who reaps the rewards when things go right.

While attempting to predict the future might seem a bit crazy, the real insanity is trying to run a business without the benefits of forecasting.