Tag Archives: researching your business

Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Business Plan

The most important reason to write a business plan is create a roadmap for the entrepreneur or business owner. A business plan can also be a valuable tool for communicating your business idea to others, for example, to secure financing or attract investors.

Whatever your reasons, any business plan will be stronger by following these basic guidelines.

  1. Anticipate the questions readers will have and answer them in your business plan. They’ll want to know about you, your business, and your industry. They’ll be interested in your financial and employment history. They’ll need to know that you understand your customer, and that you know how to makes sales and serve customers.
  2. Forecast sales a bit lower than you think they will be. Smart business planners will intentionally err on the conservative side, showing viability with as few sales as possible.
  3. Estimate expenses a little higher than you believe they might be. The brutal truth is that contingencies or expense buffers are all too often necessary and get spent once the business is in play.
  4. Remove some of the guesswork from your sales projections by gathering items such as signed contracts, letters of intent or some other form of written confirmation that customers are willing to buy your products or services from your business.
  5. Provide a complete set of clear and realistic financial forecasts, and make sure you know them well enough to discuss them intelligently with your banker or investor. Demonstrate your understanding of how money flows in and out of your business, and convey your knowledge with sales projections, a cash flow forecast, and pro forma income statements and balance sheets.
  6. Be frugal. In your business plan, show readers that you make wise buying decisions and that you are sourcing the best products and materials. If you can get by with an older truck, don’t ask for financing for that shiny new one.
  7. Be realistic and factual throughout your business plan. Nothing undermines your credibility quicker than inaccuracies. Where it makes sense to do so, state where the information comes from.
  8. Communicate various ways that you know your business, including, understanding your customers, having a savvy approach to pricing, and knowing how to make the operation work efficiently.
  9. Your business plan needs to communicate your knowledge of the industry you will operate in. What types of goods are sold? Who are your competitors? What competitive advantage will motivate customers to buy from you?
  10. Somewhere in your plan you’ll want to talk about your qualifications, and share information about any business-relevant assets such as your educational background or work experience.

Everything you do to create a business plan will increase or decrease your confidence in the business idea. As your confidence increases you move toward launching the business; if it decreases, you have more work to do.

For most small business or micro-business ventures, the business plan doesn’t need to convince anyone that you’ll be wealthy or retire early. It has only to demonstrate viability, that is, to show that the business will provide you with enough of a salary to pay your monthly living expenses, and hopefully earn a bit of profit as well.

Ready to write your business plan? Get started with our free business plan template or become a member of the Oasis today!

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.

Don’t Waste Another Dollar on Business Planning

If you’re starting or growing a small business and throwing a lot of money into business planning, you might want to read this before spending another dollar.

Talk to almost anyone in the business development or lending arena, and they will tell you flat out that you need a business plan.

True enough. You need a plan.

What’s less well touted is that almost all of the benefits of business planning accrue from researching and writing the plan yourself.

So, let’s cut to the chase. Individuals setting out to start small or micro-businesses are far better off to take up the mouse and keyboard themselves than to outsource the development of a business plan. Anyone can write you a story, but nobody can read your mind or predict whether or not you’ll succeed in business.

And guess what – you stand to lose everything if the plan doesn’t work out.

Of course, you also stand to gain everything if your business gains traction and succeeds.

So, here’s the rub. If a consultant could create a business plan that is guaranteed to succeed, why would he do it for you for pennies? Why wouldn’t he simply start the business himself? Here’s why – because 99.9% of the work is not in the planning; it is in the implementation of the business plan. And only you can assess whether or not you are able and willing to take on the work and make the business succeed.

Anyone who knows a few words can write a story. Anyone with those skills, a hint of imagination, and a bit of business knowhow can write a fairly convincing business story. But is that person in business? And specifically, unless that person is buried in your business up to the neck, the business plan isn’t going to be worth the pdf it’s written on. And if that person is in the business already, he isn’t going to help you in to the market place just to compete with him.

So, where do great business plans come from? They arise from the mind of the entrepreneur putting assets on the line, tempered with a few hours of research to validate any assumptions. That’s it. The only business plans that are worth a pinch of muskrat muck are those that are brought about through the blood, sweat and tears of the person who’ll be paying the taxes once the business is rolling.

So, suck it up and research and write your own business plan. If you have a roadmap to follow, it’s not such a bad thing – fact is, you might even enjoy the planning process once you get past the initial fear. After all, in planning a business, you are mapping out the next leg of your personal journey. You are laying the groundwork for an optimistic future, possibly improving your financial status and getting into a lifestyle you want.

What could possibly be more enticing than that?