January 18, 2013 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
If you are looking to hire a business plan consultant or a business plan writer, then beware, most of the time, you get what you pay for…
What do I mean? Well, unfortunately the business planning market is plagued by business plan writers who charge $100-$500 to do a business plan. In order to make any money at all on the plan, they would only spend say 5-10 hours developing a business plan. Others may charge $1,000 and probably spend no more than 20 hours if you are lucky in plan development. Of course a high volume of business plans can make up for the low price point, but with high volume business planning companies, it is a cookie cutter operation, where they are using preformatted and often, sample plans, and then doing only minor changes to the cookie cutter plan. What you get is a business plan that is unoriginal and chances are, been seen by tons of readers and funders over time (major red flag).
Don’t Be Fooled By MBA’s Charging Nominal Fees
Don’t be fooled by those starving MBAs who are doing business plans for $500. They are a dime a dozen unfortunately in this recession economy. They went back to school and got an MBA, now they think they can write a plan. Because they have student loans to pay and are probably unemployed, they offer the deal of a lifetime for a $400-$600 plan, but guess what, the plans they produce stink! They do not have the requisite experience it takes to know how to properly develop a business plan, nor do they have the resources (and a professional planning team) that it takes to create a plan that is going to be useful and effective. Beware of MBA writers in Craig’s List™ and all over the forums and classified ads on the internet. If they are charging less than $1,000 and have little real world experience in business planning, then run away fast. You will waste your valuable time and money, and sadly, your business plan’s objectives will not be met.
Note: There are many good business planners who work on their own (without aide of a team) and produce good, solid plans. These planners are not the subject and focus of my remarks in this blog post. Most of these planners charge fees in the range of $3,000 to $5,000+, indicating their level of expertise.
The Average Fee for a Professional Business Plan is $4,100
So, how do you sort through the business planning industry with price ranges of $100 to $10,000, to find a capable business plan writer or business plan consultant? Well, first understand that you get what you pay for. According to a 2011 survey, the average cost for a professionally developed business plan runs $4,100. Those offering to do plans in the $100-$1,000 should be a red flag indicator. They are simply unprofessional writers pulling together a shoddy, and probably unoriginal plan in short order.
Business Plan Writer or Business Plan Consultant?
If you want a real professional to develop a business plan for you that will actually be effective for you, then you need an experienced Business Plan Consultant, not a business plan writer. And most experienced business plan consultants will bill around $4,000 – $5,000 for a comprehensive plan. For larger, more complex projects, which may also require onsite expertise, expect to pay more.
Really what you need is a business planning team:
1) Business Plan Consultant: Develops the business planning process and gets the business plan information and research completed. Sets up the business, strategic, operational and financial models.
2) Business Plan Writer: From the business plan package developed by the business plan consultant, a Professional business plan writer will organize and write the plan so that it is captivating, reads well, and is easy to navigate.
3) Business Plan Designer: Once the business plan writer is finished with polishing and organizing the plan, a graphic designer makes the plan look very professional with a stunning design. I prefer a magazine type style and image. Professionally designed plans increase and improve utility, comprehension, readership and interest immensely.
Look for a Seamless Team of Business Plan Consultants, Writers and Designers
Unfortunately many planning firms are just writers or just consultants. And most do not have design staff. If you are going to do something, in my opinion, do it right. So to best serve our clients, I have business plan consultants with ample business experience and MBA education; I have professional business plan writers; and I have experienced graphic designers. The consultants, writers and designers work as a seamless team under one umbrella to produce best-in-class business plans for our clients. I do not know of many firms that have all these capabilities in-house (if they do offer all three skillsets, most outsource to other firms on an ad hoc, a la carte basis, which creates a disjointed plan and can create confidentiality issues).
Business Plan Service Pricing
So, understanding what the professional business plan consulting and writing market offers, we price our highest level, comprehensive business plan, at $3,900, which is just below the previously mentioned average professional plan cost of $4,100. As some clients have budgetary constraints or really don’t need a comprehensive plan, we also offer 3 other levels of business plans ranging in price from $1,700 to $3,100.
Market and Industry Research are Key
Make sure when a business planning firm quotes your business plan price that it includes complete Market and Industry Research. All business plans need good, comprehensive market/industry research to lay a realistic foundation for the business plan’s assertions. All 4 levels of our business plans include full research from many different sources. Often, small one or two person business planning companies do not have the resources to have access to the necessary research sources as the larger, professional firms like us do.
For a comprehensive business plan, we often develop market and industry research that totals hundreds of pages and then pick the most important 40-60 pages of research to key on for the business plan. Good business planning firms have a research team that only concentrates on developing research for their plans. Most business plan writers who are on their own do not have access to this expertise.
Work with a Senior Business Plan Consultant
Find out who you are going to work with on your plan. Are you going to work with a senior business plan consultant with years of planning experience, or will you be relegated to a project manager that has little planning expertise? Insist on working one-on-one with the senior consultant(s).
At ABC Business Consulting, we are structured such that I work one-on-one with all clients during business plan development. I am assisted by a team of over a dozen business plan consultants who are tasked to develop certain aspects of the plan with my oversight. I am the one with over 20 years’ experience, so I should be overseeing all plan development. Then I can leverage my time and availability (access) by using my MBA business consultant team to help duplicate myself, enabling us to develop as many plans simultaneously as we need to without giving up any disadvantage to a single client. We are a rare business planning firm as we can do volume and quality work at the same time.
Determine the Strength and Effectiveness of the Business Planning Process
Find out exactly what the business planning process entails. This will quickly tell you if you have a real business plan pro or not. Most inexperienced and poor planners, use fill-in-the-blank templates or cookie cutter question formats, which they do little review of, and then automatically synch with their word processing program to quickly (and automatically) construct a cookie cutter, unoriginal, ineffective plan.
A good business plan process is developed from many years planning and business experience, and it is a process that engages the client thoroughly, as business plan development without high touch client contact is no development at all. Beware of those writers that have a couple hour conference call, fill out a generic information form, and then auto generate a plan for you.
At our business planning firm I customize the planning process on a per client basis, as business plan requirements are different for each client. I then have a written and verbal process that ensures I have close contact with the client while supporting the planning effort with MBA business plan consultants, professional plan writers, financial modeling experts, funding experts, research experts, and professional plan designers. A sophisticated, yet simple process is necessary for successful business plan development. The business plan process is the single most important factor in developing an effective business plan. So be sure to interview your prospective business planning firm (or person) to ensure they have a quality and proven business planning process.
Make a Checklist
So before you start interviewing business plan consultants, business plan writers, and business planning firms, make a checklist of things to ask and look for. Compare all the firms’ capabilities first, before looking at pricing. Then understanding their capability and experience, determine if it adequately matches their pricing level? And, is the pricing flat fee or contingent? If it is a contingent fee, get a firm understanding of the upper price levels for your project. I personally like flat fee as the client knows exactly what to expect.
If you have questions about business planning, feel free to call me at 757-345-0968. My name is Frank, and I answer all calls. No, we don’t have secretaries answering the phone and giving people the run around. A real business plan consultant with over 20 years’ experience answers my phone. Myself! J
Good luck in your search for a business planning firm! Hope this post helps!
December 18, 2012 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
With the latest Google search algorithm updates over the past year or so, the efficacy of search engine optimization and SEO services as a strategy has been rightfully called into question. Many companies’ websites have gone through a significant adjustment in the Google search engine rankings due to these Google algo changes, losing significant revenue and traffic streams.
So the question begs…Is SEO Dead? Short answer: absolutely not. In fact, now SEO is back to its purest form. Let me explain.
Good SEO is About Relevant Content
You will see in my many posts about Internet Strategies when I discuss search engine optimization, I typically bring up quality and relevant content as the key SEO driver. These latest Google changes have the goal to realign SEO back to its intended purpose: providing web searchers quality search results that have relevant content to their particular search. Side Note:Now, whether Google is actually achieving this (quality search results), is another thing (and another separate conversation). Hopefully over time search relevancy will improve as Google dictates that pure white hat SEO is the only way to go.
SEO Companies Got Lazy
Unfortunately over the past several years, the emphasis for SEO companies has been less about quality content and more about back linking because Google’s search algo rewarded backlinks as a significant factor in ranking, particularly in competitive spaces. So SEO service companies gave a lot more emphasis to developing back links than to the core of SEO, which is content. Now clients of those SEO firms are stuck with poorly ranking websites and having to pay loads of money to try to recover their rankings.
Proper Search Engine Optimization
Onsite SEO Management
Google is now putting lots of weight toward on-page SEO factors. Those who have been adding quality content to their website steadily over time and not back linking the heck out of them (off site back linking) are the ones winning the ranking battle now. Also sites that have a solid interlinking structure and good navigation tied with quality and relevant content are particularly strong in the search results. This is the cornerstone of what proper search engine optimization is about. Spending time working on on-page SEO factors tied with quality content is well rewarded. Need to be cautious of over optimization. Do not overdo it.
Offsite SEO Strategies
So what can you do off-page / offsite wise to increase your rankings? Well, don’t waste your time back linking. Some limited back linking from some quality websites, directories and social sites are ok, but if you have all of that already, don’t do anymore. You will just get driven into the black hole of non-ranking websites even more by trying to back link your rankings back.
Good offsite SEO is just like good onsite SEO. That is, create websites that have quality content that rank on their own merits, solely based on their content value, their relevancy to search, their site structure, and on-page SEO factors. Then have a NO FOLLOW link that directs the web visitor to your main website, landing page, blog, etc.
We have been extremely successful with our SEO service that creates quality content websites which have excellent structure and on page SEO, along with good GEO targeting. Google loves combining keyword search with geo targets, as that makes for better quality search results. Then doing things like linking these separate websites together in a one way fashion to create more authority among them certainly helps to rank for those super competitive keyword phrases.
Also, widen your keyword research and include longer tail keywords along with your “money”, shorter type keywords (more exact match type keywords). Include related type keywords as well and also include branding of your company name and website URL. Google is looking for well-rounded SEO, not SEO that is going aggressively after all exact match keywords. Put some variance into your keywords and go for keywords that don’t get as many searches but return better conversions.
For instance, with our SEO services we research hundreds of keyword terms so that our clients can monetize not just the competitive terms (which actually can bring in less conversions, lower CTR and less profits), but also the keyword terms that are related and lengthy. The longer a keyword term, the more targeted, the hotter and more relevant the prospect, the better closing ratios, the better profitability on a per click basis. Go after the low hanging fruit…
Be Careful when Considering an SEO Services Firm
When you are considering hiring an SEO company, please take the time to learn how they perform their SEO both on your website and offsite. If the SEO company won’t share their SEO philosophy and techniques with you, then beware. Look for transparent SEO companies and analyze exactly what they propose doing for you. If quality SEO practices of on-page SEO and quality content are not being employed, walk away.
Look for SEO firms that aren’t lazy; that will take the time to really do the research and deploy a lengthy, consistent, transparent, accountable SEO strategy for you. Good SEO takes hours and hours of technical work. For that reason we perform all our SEO services on a 12 month basis because that is what it takes for SEO to be really successful, and most importantly, sustainable. Anyone can get quick results but will the rankings hold and improve over time? It is nothing for us to work hundreds of hours on any particular SEO project. Find an SEO firm that takes the time to do right.
So, now the question begs: Is SEO worth the investment of time and money? Answer: Absolutely!
You will find that web visitors who find you via the general (organic) search results are much better customers than those clicking on Pay Per Click ads. Why? Because the serious prospects look to the general search results because they are the most relevant and credible. The organic search results are the most trusted, hence, quality prospects come from that search more often than the sponsored results.
The more visibility and rankings you can obtain in the top 10 of Google, the better your results. So look for ways to appear multiple times in the search results, whether that be via websites, videos, images, social networks, etc. The more visibility, the more clicks. Look to combine your PPC campaigns with your SEO strategies. This will significantly lower your PPC costs, increase the profitability of your PPC campaigns, and improve cross platform branding. Imagine having 6 positions in the top 10 of Google general results, plus a PPC ad that is very cheap to show, all in one search? Powerful! And Profitable!
December 4, 2012 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Well, it is that time of year again. Time for our business plan writing and consulting service year-end discount sale. You can save upwards of 30% on our business plan service. Why do we have the business planning service sale in December? Well, this is the very best time to have a business plan developed or updated. Here’s why…
Lenders and Investors Want to Fund This Time of Year
Some banks and investors are looking to lend out remaining funds before year end and stand great advantage to do so, but at the very least many, if not all, are looking for sound loans and investments for the beginning of the New Year to start off right. Getting a business plan in front of a lender or investor in December is key to getting that finance at year end or at beginning of the coming year. Timing is everything in business funding, and the timing for funding is the best in December and January. Take advantage of it!
Business Planning 101 – Plan for Business Success in 2013 in December 2012
The time to plan a successful upcoming year is now in December. Now is time to do your updated market and industry research. Now is the time to compare your actual financials to your projected financials and figure out the discrepancies. Now is the time to update your strategic plan to realize new threats and opportunities on the horizon. Now is the time to take a careful look at your competitors and realize what your competitive edge will be moving forward. Now is the time to review compensations plans and policies. Now is the time to review profit sharing. Are you retaining and training great people in your company?
Get your planning done in December so you hit the ground running in January. This will give you a refreshed feeling in your business from the top down, resulting in new vigor and better results. Lay a success path to follow that considers all the obstacles and challenges faced in this seemingly double dip recession. Great research, brain storming and planning will bring forth the strategies to win even in this poor and faltering economy.
Hire an Experienced Business Plan Consultant and Business Plan Writer
An experienced business plan consultant is an invaluable team member for company success. A good business planning consultant can customize the right business planning process for the need, whether you require a funding business plan (i.e. investor business plan, venture capital business plan, bank business plan, SBA business plan, grant business plan, etc.); a business success plan to successfully run and grow a company; a joint venture business plan; or project specific business plan.
With the business plan framework in place, a great business plan writer is very advantageous in writing a business plan that attracts and keeps that audience, whether it is for funders, partners, or internal use. Consulting and writing are two specific and distinct skills, so make sure as much energy and focus is spent on the writing of the business plan as the business plan development. A business plan writer ensures the plan is well organized and presented for best use. The business planning writer polishes the plan into a professional piece.
Spend Time on Business Plan Design
If you are presenting the business plan to investors, venture capitalists, bankers, shareholders, partners, the board, what have you, it is important to have a professional document that is well designed and instantly grabs and keeps the attention of the intended audience. Business plan designers ensure your plan’s appearance matches its substance. Great business plan design helps the audience to really visualize what the plan is selling; otherwise, it is just a document with a bunch of words.
Think of ways where business plan design can enhance the effectiveness of the business plan. Designing in a Flash Flip Book style presentation is a great way to help visualization to intensify clarity of business plan purpose. Adapting the business plan to video and/or web platforms is an awesome way to bring three dimensions to products, concepts and opportunities. Where design meets technology can bring exponentially better results to a business plan presentation.
Don’t Forget the Other Pieces
Be sure you have a great Executive Summary and a Business Plan Presentation (investor deck, bank presentation, partner presentation, etc.). You need great tools that adeptly summarize and present your business plan succinctly and precisely so you can get to the next step, whether that is business funding, gaining a new joint venture partnership, or getting approval from the board.
Update The Plan Consistently
A business plan is outdated the day it is finished. So be sure to consistently update the plan as you move forward and measure results. Quarterly (consistent) business planning meetings are very helpful and a great way to keep things on track and make critical adjustments to meet your business plan objectives, whether the plan is intended for funding or business success.
Lastly: Implement, Implement, Implement
A business plan is just that, a plan. If you fail to implement the plan, it is of no value or use to you. Use the plan as a tool and integrate it into your company operations. It is a tool that gives clear strategic direction and identifies problems before they become costly. Weave your business plan into the fabric of your company. A useful business plan is a living, breathing tool. Use it!
If you are seeking funding for your business and considering a professional to build your business plan, then I would recommend both a business plan writer and business plan consultant. I would also add a business plan designer to the mix as well.
If you are building a business plan to use primarily for the success and growth of your company (not a specific purpose funding business plan), then you most definitely need an experienced business plan consultant. A writer in this situation won’t cut it.
What is the difference between a business plan writer and business consultant?
Business Plan Writer
A business plan writer is a professional writer that makes a business plan read better. The writer ensures the business plan is grammatically correct and pulls in and engages the reader (audience). The business plan writer also organizes the business plan so it presents well, making the plan easy to follow and simple to find information quickly.
Typically a writer will not “consult” with you heavily. A writer’s job is to write. So for a writer to do a good job on a business plan, the writer needs good information and guidance. If the writer is not assisted by a capable business plan consultant, who works with the client to develop a viable business plan, then the writer will most probably produce a “limited” and ineffective plan.
If you hire a business plan writer solely (without the support of business planning consultants), typically the writer will have a conference call with you to get the gist of your business plan purpose, and then writes the business plan. The result is typically an over-simplified and generic business plan that doesn’t relate much to the business, and doesn’t really address whether the business model and opportunity are viable.
Business Plan Consultant
A business plan consultant spends most of the time developing the business plan through close communication and consultation with the client. An experienced and effective business plan consultant has a proven and time tested business planning process that helps the client to work closely with the consultant. The result of a successful business planning process is determination whether the business model is viable, and if not, what needs to be changed and adjusted so that it can be viable. The planning process also kicks out the key information for a successful business plan, as well as, provides insightful research to support the plan’s assertions and strategies.
A business consultant DEVELOPS a business plan through a proven process, while a business plan writer, WRITES the business plan from information that is made available. There is a big distinction here: the difference between developing and writing a plan. For an effective business plan, first business plan development is necessary, to be followed by business plan writing (and then designing).
A business plan consultant is experienced in business, finance, financials, marketing, strategic and business modeling– all those things that make up a good business plan. A writer is experienced in writing, language use, organization, grammar and syntax. One is experienced based (consultant), one is more academic based (writer).
Number One (most important): They have experienced business plan consultants who work from a customized and successful business planning process. Ensure the consultants are MBA level in education and have ample business experience.
Number Two: They have good business plan writers to make the plan more professional and readable.
Number Three: They have a good business plan designer. A professionally designed funding business plan can make the difference in getting noticed or going to the bottom of the pile.
Number Four: Confirm that all three (business plan consultant, writer and designer) work well together (good project management), and they are all in-house. Using separate freelancers for each of the business planning functions (developing, writing, designing) results in a disjointed and ineffective business plan.
Number Five: Check out their sample business plans. Do they pull together the necessary capabilities and synergies of a business plan consultant, writer and designer? Or are they just “stock plans” with little substance and flair?
I have been developing, writing and designing business plans for a long time (20 plus years). One thing I know for sure in today’s lending market and private equity market…If you do not have a good team consulting, writing and designing your funding business plan, then you will be hard pressed to secure the finance your company needs to be successful.
Ok, so you have spent a lot of time perfecting your business plan and financial projections. You have what you think is a good investor or venture capital pitch deck (presentation). Now, don’t ruin your chances at obtaining capital by poorly executing your pitch.
Here are 20 top tips in delivering a solid pitch:
1. Be Genuine - Be yourself. If you are perceived as fake or trite, forget your chances.
2. I am the Next Google, Amazon, or Facebook - Let’s face it. Be honest with yourself. You are not going to be the next Google, Amazon or Facebook. Be real. Be realistic. Leave the hype at home and by all means, keep it out of your business plan!
3. Talk - Don’t read. Don’t have notes. Definitely don’t read off of the presentation slides. Just talk and be natural. If you know your stuff, it will come easy. If you can’t just talk about your opportunity then you need to get a better pitch. Don’t ramble, do a lot of practice, and have a framework to work off of. Just talk and be real. Be flexible. Your presentation may be interrupted at any time. Be able to go with the flow and adapt.
4. Pictures and Graphs - Don’t just write out your pitch and put it on slides. Your presentation slides are for pictures and graphs and charts (which you need to explain). The slides should better explain your product, value, model and market.
5. Demo Your Product or Service - Investors want to see the product or service in action. Demo it! Talking about an “idea” is the kiss of death.
6. Too Technical - Don’t be too technical in your presentation. Not all investors may understand what you are saying. Keep it simple and in layman’s terms. If they want sophistication, they will ask you pointed questions.
7. Realistic Assumptions - Prove how your business plan comes from highly realistic and well researched and considered assumptions and market info. Reviewing your underlying assumptions gives you credibility and believability. Two critical hurdles.
8. Short and Succinct - Don’t go long, and definitely use less time than allocated. If they like your pitch, they will ask questions, and then your timeline is irrelevant since you got them talking!
9. Believe in Yourself and the Opportunity - If you do not believe in yourself, and most importantly, in your opportunity, then investors will see right through you and in 30 seconds they will make up their minds you are a waste of time. If you don’t believe your pitch, don’t give it.
10. Don’t be Boring - Investors and venture capitalists listen to pitches and review business plans all day long. Brighten up their day with enthusiasm and an interesting pitch, and most importantly, an interesting opportunity.
11. KISS - Keep it simple. Trying to fully explain your business plan is a mistake. Talk about your team’s experience, why your model works, why your projections are realistic, and your underlying assumptions. If they want more detail, they will ask, so be prepared.
12. Know Your Plan - Far too many times a pitch presenter doesn’t know the company business plan inside and out. And this presenter often passes the buck when asked a questions he or she can’t answer. Huge mistake. Know your assumptions, know your model, know your financials, know where the valuation came from, know your market, know your research– know your plan inside and out!
13. Tell them the Bad - If everything is all peaches and crème, and you are the perfect business person with the perfect business with the perfect opportunity, then you might as well stay at home. Investors want to hear where you are weak, what your gaps are. Why? Because they make your strategies more believable. They know you know your shortcomings and look to see how you address them. A business plan or presentation without weaknesses and threats have no credibility, and certainly the strengths and opportunities will not be the slightest believable without them.
14. Be Natural - Don’t be rigid or appear overly nervous. If you are natural, it shows confidence, not cockiness. It shows preparedness. It shows you know your stuff and can back it up.
15. Practice Makes Perfect - If you don’t practice the pitch from start to finish a million zillion times in front of an audience, then you are not ready. Find some experienced business people and investors to critique your pitch and re-work it until you are confident in it, then practice it over and over.
16. Stay Away from Common Pitch Words and Terms - Don’t use catchy, by the minute, phrases to impress. They don’t impress- in fact, they show your inexperience. Watch out for buzzwords. Come on, be real!
17. Tell a Story - Talk about you, how you got here, what you have learned…who your product or service is for…A storyline can be easily followed and makes sense. Get investors believing in you by being interested in your story and your journey. It is the journey and what you learned that is most important to investors and VC – not your great product, service, opportunity.
18. Remember Your Best Asset - Your best asset is not your product (or service)! Don’t sell your product as much as you sell yourself. Start with you, your experience, your team’s experience, then work in your offering and opportunity into your story. Investors invest in people, not the product!
19. Talk about the Competition - Identifying you have strong competition is a winning strategy. Saying you have no or little competition will lead to a no success pitch. Identify your main competitors, and address how you will capably compete with them and how you are unique in comparison with them.
20. Don’t Sell the Opportunity, Sell Yourself - This goes back to item 18 because it is just that important. Don’t give some flashy sales pitch with enormous markets and numbers and no substance and viable assumptions and research and experience to back it up. Sell yourself and your team and why you are capable. This will be the only sales you will need. The rest are facts, aren’t they? If they don’t believe in you, they will never believe you (or your opportunity).
Beware of Business Plan Writers and Flashy, No Substance, Plans
A well developed business plan that comes from a good business planning process will produce the best pitches. Hiring some business plan writer to throw together a flashy business plan after a two hour phone conference is a waste of your time and money. If you want someone outside your company to help with your plan find an experienced business plan consultant that will take the time to help you develop a viable model, strategy and plan that is grounded in good research and solid assumptions.
Carefully examine the experience, process, support and team the business planning firm brings to the table. And be certain you are committed to the agreed upon business planning process. If you do not give of yourself and your team’s time, then the consulting firm will have no where to start and build a viable plan. Be committed!
April 30, 2012 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
So many times do I see businesses concentrating on profit margins, without a good understanding of their cash flow. Problem with that? Well, you can be profitable, yet run out of cash and go out of business.
Whether through my consulting, coaching or planning work with companies, it is not uncommon for me to quickly spot cash flow issues. Cash Flow is probably the most important variable a business (of any type and size) should keep its eye on and manage aggressively.
Don’t Be Financially Ignorant
All too often, I see company executives, business owners and entrepreneurs who ignore, or simply don’t understand cash flow. For that matter, many leave the financials to their accountants to their peril. Now, don’t get me wrong. A good accountant is a necessity for a business, but the owner and executives of a business must have a good understanding how financials work, and how to manage their cash flow.
Moreover, I see executives and business owners who are intimidated by financials. They simply throw up their hands and say it is too complicated for them to learn and manage. Is cash flow complicated? Yes, it can be. But the concept of cash flow and cash budgets is quite simple. Cash flowing in and cash flowing out over a specific time period. That is it. Simple really, when you think about it.
Why is Cash Flow so Critical?
Well, to run and grow a business, you need cash. You need cash to seize opportunities. You need cash to pay employees. Too often, businesses have an over reliance on getting finance to help them with the cash crunch instead of properly managing their cash flow. Too often cash is looked at from the Profit and Loss standpoint of business finance and interest rates, instead of active cash flow management.
A business should know their cash flow situation on a weekly basis. Not monthly, not quarterly- weekly. And optimally daily cash flow management is highly advantageous and worthwhile. If you focus on cash flow management, you are forced as a business owner to plan. Planning a business is the ticket to success. Guessing at business and thinking cash flow will take care of itself, or having an overreliance on using business finance to overcome cash flow shortages, is the kiss of death for a business. And if you are lucky, and it isn’t the kiss of death, you are bleeding cash, extremely vulnerable, and could be a much more successful and profitable company.
Where to Start?
Put together a cash flow budget that shows where the cash is going (historical) and where the cash will go (future – projected). Then plug in your big events that you need to plan for, such as a big opportunity on the horizon to increase business. Wouldn’t it be great to have some cash to increase your business instead of going to the bank or an investor at a premium with interest and terms attached? Wouldn’t it be nice to be your own bank? Wouldn’t it be nice to put yourself in the position of renting the bank’s money, instead of the opposite? All of this is possible with good cash flow management.
Get a cash flow or money management software program. Your bookkeeper, CPA, or business consultant can recommend a good one for your business type, and they can give you the proper training to set up the software and use the software. The software will do all hard work for you and alert you as to cash flow issues before they become real problems, and be a tremendous help when you plan and manage your cash flow.
Quit Playing Roulette and Gambling with Your Business
Stop operating your business day to day, month by month. If you plan your business and manage your cash flow, then you start looking 6 months to a year and farther down the road, becoming a highly profitable, successful, and most importantly, proactive company. Stop reacting as a business owner and take real control of your business and future success. Get managing your cash flow today! You will be rewarded many times over and your stress level will decrease exponentially. Or don’t, and just be like the majority of businesses out there. Getting ready to go out of business at any minute of any day…
Disclaimer: ABC Business Consulting does not endorse any company’s products or services mentioned in this blog post.
April 16, 2012 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
What is the best business besides a strong customer referral? It is when qualified prospects call you. It is inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is the most superior form of marketing, it can quickly grow business, and it is a refreshing approach to generating profitable new business.
You can try ads in magazines or TV advertisements, but they can quickly get very expensive and the ROI is often questionable.
What is your alternative? Internet marketing. But isn’t that expensive as well with a questionable ROI? Not if you do it right! Internet marketing can quickly generate an enormous amount of qualified prospects calling you to discuss your products and services. Here’s how to do it…
Search engine optimization is the key to getting found on the internet in the general search results. The key to SEO is good, relevant content. If the content is good, then others will notice and soon the search engines will follow. What is important is to make sure you are optimizing your content for the right keywords and getting your content noticed by the right people. I find that the best customers use the general search results. Ranking well in the general results gives you instant relevancy and credibility- two things any discerning customer wants and requires.
Optimized PPC Campaign
Pay Per Click can be very expensive and a big waste of money if not done correctly. We do PPC a little differently. We have the PPC campaign part and parcel to the SEO campaign and strategy. What does this do? It lowers the cost significantly and increases the ROI significantly. Having your SEO and PPC strategies working together in a seamless and cohesive comprehensive strategy will make sure the right internet visitors are clicking on your ads in the search engines.
Find a Good Internet Consultant
You can certainly do all the SEO and PPC I mentioned in this blog post, but it is a lot of work and a big learning curve if you have little experience in these areas. Learning curves can get expensive. Internet Marketing Consultants can minimize the learning curve, develop and test campaigns, and then optimize for best returns.
An experienced internet consultant can help you construct a successful inbound marketing campaign which will significantly reduce your advertising budget and exponentially increase your return on marketing dollars invested. You need to find a business consultant that can capture the strategic direction of your company, help you figure out what product and service offerings will work best, can tweak your website design and development, can develop great web content, can develop an excellent SEO and PPC campaign, and manage the two in a cohesive strategy. It takes years of business experience to bring this type of solution to the table and do it well- look for a business consultant that has been around a while, has a track record, and doesn’t take short cuts (i.e. skips white hat SEO methods).
This is Just the Beginning
Good SEO and PPC is just the beginning to a great inbound marketing campaign. Newsletters, Social Networks, Viral Marketing, Video Marketing, etc are all great avenues to expand the potential of your inbound marketing campaign. There is really no limit in what you can do, and you will find that inbound marketing customers are the most qualified customers you will find. And, they call you! What could be better than that?
What Kind of Results Can You Expect?
If an internet marketing campaign is done right, it is based upon results and high ROI. Don’t take my word for it…Here is an example of what one of my customers said about the results they experienced as a result of my SEO and PPC work…
“I have been working with Frank Goley of ABC Business Consulting for several months now. The results and benefits have been exceptional. We have been able to significantly grow our business through the business plan implementation, consulting recommendations, and web marketing strategies that Frank has worked closely with me in developing and implementing. Also, the opportunity to consult with Frank at anytime about any business issue or opportunity has been great- he has been a great asset to our business planning and decision making. As a result of Frank’s advice, our newly developed website, and the ongoing internet marketing and SEO campaign, we have seen great results, including: our energy monitor product sales have doubled, our solar system business is on track for a banner year with a three-fold increase, our targeted website visitors have increased 1,500%, and our Bounce Rate is an incredibly low 5%!” — Randy Velker, Owner, Simple Energy Works, www.SimpleEnergyWorks.com
Find a good internet consultant, the results will be worth it…
The one word answer to question in this post title is: YES. Yes, sample business plans do hurt business plan development. I can spot business plans that started with a sample plan from a mile away. They are generic, offer no substance, and have no viable business or operational model. They simply are not believable.
Why are There a Preponderance of Sample Business Plans Out There in the Market?
The simple answer to this: people are lazy (and don’t want to take the time to develop a plan from scratch), or a lot of business owners simply have no clue where to start on their business plan. The market demands sample business plans and business plan software companies provide lots of them as a result. Business Plan Pro founder, Tim Berry, admits that sample plans are more a detriment than utility, but they offer over 500 sample plans because that is what the market wants and how they can stay competitive.
Why is a Sample Business Plan Detrimental?
A sample business plan is not helpful for a myriad of reasons, but namely because a business plan isn’t the same for any two businesses. They may both be in the same type of business or industry but no two businesses are alike. For this principal reason, sample plans fail to be substitute plans. Also, the assumptions made in the sample plan should be fully investigated. They may be faulty, are outdated, or simply don’t fit with your niche or strategic direction.
How are Sample Business Plans Helpful?
A sample business plan can be helpful for business owners who want to see how a similar type of business did theirs to spawn ideas and to help determine what the format of the plan could be. But the sample plan should only be a spark, a catalyst; otherwise, if it is used as a framework and foundation for the business plan, then it will be a weak plan destined to fail for certain.
Sample Plans are also helpful if you are considering the services of a business plan consultant or business plan writer. A sample plan will show their level of analysis and expertise in developing plans. It answers questions like: Does it have a sound business and operations model? Does it read well? Is it aesthetically pleasing? Is it well organized and easy to follow? Does it have good market and industry research? Are the financials based upon sound and believable assumptions, which are supported and broken down throughout the plan?
Example of a Sample Business Plan
The below Flash presentation is our Level IV Sample Business Plan. In this instance, a sample business plan presentation can be worth a thousand words, can’t it? (click on it to expand it)
Beware of Stock Plans
If you do hire a business plan company to develop and write your business plan, be certain they don’t use stock or sample plans. Many of them do and that is the reason they can charge so little for their plans (there are others that charge a lot and just use sample plans too- buyer beware). They just take a sample plan and make a few changes and produce your plan. Problem is these stock plans lack any good foundation; they lack the customization needed for an effective business plan; and the plans have no viable operational / business model so they are not believable.
Moreover, they are hollow plans with no substance- they may look good with lots of neat looking graphs and charts and pictures, but the substance behind it is severely lacking- they have no backbone. Make sure the business plan consulting company starts and develops your plan from scratch; otherwise, it isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. Ensure the business plan consultants have a proven and viable business planning process that will produce an effective business plan.
March 27, 2012 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
The business lending market has certainly gotten more difficult post-recession. Lenders want to see ample collateral, a good Business Plan, solid management team, excellent financials, etc. This is why business plan consultants and writers are in more demand in this tough economy. Businesses are realizing that they need a solid plan to present to funders, whether a bank, investor or venture capitalist.
So how do you find business finance in this challenging finance climate? Well, there are a lot of ways, SBA being one, investors being another, grants if industry specific need- there are a ton of business finance alternatives that I have blogged about previously (click on: Business Finance). In this post, I will relate a funding source that I read about in Entrepreneur Magazine, which I think holds a lot of promise.
Starbucks and CreateJobsforUSA.org to the Rescue
Starbucks has hooked up with CreateJobsforUSA.org to support a unique business lending program. Every $5 donated at a Starbucks location will support $35 in small business lending. Starbucks is partnered up with the Opportunity Finance Network, which is hooked up with 180 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI). These CDFIs specialize in lending to disadvantaged and low income individuals and underserved communities in the US. This program launched in November 2011 with an initial donation of $5M from Starbucks. The leveraging is substantial: for every $3,000 donated, $21,000 is given out in loans.
Who Can Apply?
Anyone can apply for this financing which makes it viable for a lot of different types of businesses. Be sure to make a good impression by developing your business plan through SCORE, SBA, SBDC, or with a professional company that offers business plan services.
Preference Given to Businesses Who Create Jobs
One surefire way to secure this finance is to show in your Funding Business Plan that this loan will result in “x” jobs. If you can show you will be providing jobs in hard hit economic areas, then you will certainly garner attention.
What Makes These Loans Different?
Well, have you been able to really talk to your banker about your business situation and needs lately? Does he come by your business and chat with you? Heck no…not in this big bank dominated bad economy…A CDFI will take the time to actually speak and counsel you- helping you every step of the way to have a successful business enterprise. Nice change of pace, huh?
Loan Program Details
Term: Five plus years.
Amount: Average is $200-$300K. Microloans of $5-$10K available. Some 7 figure loans given.
Interest Rate: 5%-7%. Short term micro’s will be higher.
Collateral: Required but you can cross collateralize a lot of different types of assets.
Disclaimer: ABC Business Consulting is not offering any form of business finance, and this is for information purposes only. Any terms mentioned is for informational purposes and not intended or construed to be a loan offer.
Reference: “Brewing Up U.S. Jobs” by Michelle Goodman, Entrepreneur Magazine, January 2012.
Frank Goley interview about Business Success in a Post-Recession Economy
Business Success Books
"The ABC Business Consulting Group has created a great master list and guide to creating a full business plan. The guide includes not only section headings for a business plan, but they have also created a great series of guiding questions around each one of these subsections. My recommendation is spend the US$20 and download a copy and keep as a planning companion." -- Mark Robotham,
Growth Management Consulting Ltd
“Not only is the frontend of my website great, but I am even more amazed with the backend WordPress customization and CMS. Frank’s web developer customized the WordPress platform into an easy to use tool for me to manage content, add content, send newsletters, and so much more. Frank installed a WP plugin that helps make Search Engine Optimization a snap for me in the future as I create more content, and added another plugin to help the overall performance of the website. It isn’t just the plugins that were installed, but more importantly, how Frank’s web developer customized the plugins and the WP platform for my particular need and use. Really fantastic!”
– Randy Velker, Owner, Simple Energy Works
"I am extremely impressed with the vast amount of knowledge and resources available through Frank Goley and the team at ABC Business Consulting. In particular, the web site information available regarding business turnaround strategies is exceptional and clearly identifies the challenges facing those experiencing a distress situation. This is an excellent resource!" –Vincent J. Palombo, Assistant Professor of Management,
“I'm working on a thesis concerning strategies about Business Turnaround, and I find your E-Books to be very helpful, especially "Small Business Recession Tactics" and "Saving a Business in Trouble". I would appreciate if you gave me your permission to make a reference on these E-Books for my thesis work. Thank you very much for your help!” -- Margarita Economidou,
Open University of Cyprus.
“Frank Goley's presentation on strategic business planning was very informative and will be of great help to our firm as we work through a new business plan.” -- Ryan Martin, Director of Business Development,
"At the beginning I thought I knew everything about developing a business plan for small and medium size businesses, but when I found ABC Business Consulting to help me prepare this plan, it was a totally different learning experience for me, as this firm showed me that it required a professional staff like ABC Business Consulting to put this plan together with me. I have learned a lot by exchanging ideas and information with ABC and developing my business skills.
I thank Frank from ABC Business Consulting for all his help, advice and finally his patience with me as they are very quick in response and completed my Business Plan in time. Well done and great job! I highly recommend ABC Business Consulting and their services." -- Ali Al-Jazairi, Yas Marine (Business Plan Level IV Client)
"Working with Frank Goley made me realize all the missing gaps that existed in my mind about the business I wanted to create. He is very thorough, knowledgeable, patient and understanding. If you want to create a final product that covers all of your bases and does not leave out any detail, you must work with Frank. Most people writing business plans have all the information in their minds, but don't have a way to get it out. Frank uses a methodical approach to gathering information from you to complete the plan." -- Level 4 Business Plan Customer
“Frank Goley is knowledgeable and dependable. When working on a project he sees everything through to the end and makes sure that the customer is happy with the results. Frank provides each customer and vendor with a personal level of support.” -- Dave Wallace, IAS Corp / Build My Product
"I was very pleased with my business plan. Frank Goley was there for me every step of the process and willing to help me with anything. Besides being very patient with me, they were also very quick to respond. ABC Business Consulting made my idea come to life. I will definitely do business with them again." -- Anthony Alvarez, Restaurateur
“After spending some time on the ABC Business Consulting website, I immediately was impressed with the vast array of information and resources that is available, especially the wide range of E-Books which Frank Goley makes available for FREE. Frank is a professional consultant who I highly recommend.” -- Arthur Rego, President, AER Enterprises (Bermuda)
"Thanks Frank for sharing SOLID & USEFUL content. I learned stuff from your site!" -- John Milton Fogg, Author,
The Greatest Networker
“Frank Goley with ABC Business Consulting has done a fantastic job in creating a stunning website for my company, Simple Energy Works. Not only is the design inviting, but I am really excited about the sales process strategy and design integrated into the website, which with finesse calls website visitors to take action. This is something that my previous website failed to do well. Frank’s website designers also really did a bang up job in designing my social media properties and created a website within a Facebook Fanpage that is just incredible!”
– Randy Velker, Owner, Simple Energy Works
“Frank, I reviewed the information you provided regarding business turnarounds. I was impressed by the level of detail and the elements that dealt with the leadership qualities of the business turnaround consultant and team. I have reviewed a great deal of literature on the topic and have interviewed a number of turnaround experts. Few have addressed the level of detail that you have provided and none have addressed the requisite qualities of the turnaround team. Thanks again for providing this information!” -- Dan Anderson, MBA, CBA, Director,
Small Business Development Center
, Helena, MT
"Over the past few months I have hired Frank Goley to write many articles and blog posts for my company and have been more than satisfied with his work. Frank is a fast study, always delivers the project on time and very easy to work with. If you need a top writer for any topic, I highly recommend Frank Goley for the job.” -- Vince Martinez, Partner FYI Media Services, CEO 123
“Frank, I reviewed the information you provided regarding business turnarounds. I was impressed by the level of detail and the elements that dealt with the leadership qualities of the business turnaround consultant and team. I have reviewed a great deal of literature on the topic and have interviewed a number of turnaround experts. Few have addressed the level of detail that you have provided and none have addressed the requisite qualities of the turnaround team. Thanks again for providing this information!” -- Dan Anderson, MBA, CBA, Director,
Small Business Development Center, Helena, MT
"I own a premiere event planning and marketing company based in New York City. I've had the pleasure to work with Frank Goley on many projects that I have for my many businesses. He is fast, reliable and very good at what he does. Because I own several companies and websites, I always need excellent content, articles, sales letters, etc. I’ve worked with a ton of writers over the years, but Frank is by far the best!!! I definitely recommend Frank to any business." -- Mario Stewart, President,
"Most small business owners can appreciate the value of business planning. The missing piece is an easy to use, comprehensive approach to the process. Frank Goley's Comprehensive Business Planning Guide and Workbook supplies the missing piece by providing a clear explanation of the all the components of an effective business plan. Plus, his Business Planning Guide and Workbook includes a plug in format for your business data. For those business owners dedicated to more profit, Frank Goley's Comprehensive Business Planning Guide and Workbook is a perfect fit." -- Don Osborne,
The Profit Puzzle
"Thank you very much for all of your hard work. We are very pleased with the final result of the Marketing Plan that was prepared for us. Frank Goley with ABC Business Consulting was extremely prompt to answer all of our questions even after business hours. Now that is customer service! Again I want to say thank you for a job well done, and you can use us as a reference for any future clients. We will definitely look to utilize ABC Business Consulting services in the future as we build our company. Thanks!" -- Doug Walker, EMT-P, President,
"After locating Frank Goley on LinkedIn, I recruited Frank to speak at
SMPS Virginia's 2011 Planning Workshop. Frank was one of the most popular speakers/experts (out of eight total speakers). Clearly a leader in his field, Frank's professionalism and expertise was matched with a great presentation style. I would definitely recommend Frank to present to your organization!" -- Tracey Gould, Board Member/Vice President/President-Elect for
Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) (Virginia) and Director of Marketing,
"Thank you Frank Goley for sharing such an interesting article on Real Time Search and Social Media Convergence with links to search engine optimization tactics and suggesting strategies and techniques to support our business’s marketing goals." -- Christiane Lavanoux, I Game Attitude LLC co-Founder and co-President / Certified Life Coach
“How do you align your resources, your team, your partners, and your vision for success if you don’t have a common goal or a roadmap to reach it? Of course you have a business plan, but odds are it died a long time ago, relegated to a dusty drawer. If your business plan is not a living, breathing, and valued document; the daunting task of aligning your business is made all the more difficult by the vast array of conflicting agendas in your organization. Frank Goley brings a simple and straightforward approach to building and maintaining an active business plan - that roadmap for success- upon which your organization can align its efforts. He is an engaging speaker / presenter / consultant who has also written an excellent guide which can help any organization navigate the process of ...
"As a result of Frank’s advice, our newly developed website, and the ongoing internet marketing and SEO campaign, we have seen great results, including: our energy monitor product sales have doubled, our solar system business is on track for a banner year with a three-fold increase, our targeted website visitors have increased 1,500%, and our Bounce Rate is an incredibly low 5%! If you want someone to maximize your company’s profitability and increase sales, Frank is the guy to call." – Randy Velker, Owner, Simple Energy Works
"I have been working with Frank Goley of ABC Business Consulting for several months now. The results and benefits have been exceptional. We have been able to significantly grow our business through the business plan implementation, consulting recommendations, and web marketing strategies that Frank has worked closely with me in developing and implementing. Also, the opportunity to consult with Frank at anytime about any business issue or opportunity has been great- he has been a great asset to our business planning and decision making." – Randy Velker, Owner, Simple Energy Works
"Hello Frank, It is always a pleasure to read your articles. Your expertise is obvious and makes the work seem so easy, yet I agree with you mastering all these techniques takes a lot of time and experience building. This is why your services are so valuable. Thank you for sharing such solid and helpful content. Today we also want to thank you for your awesome presence by our side. Today you are our featured person on our page. Happy New Year Frank, we wish you continued abundance in all its forms! To your continued fabulous success." -- Christiane Lavanoux and Mary Margaret White-Levilain, Life Coaches
"We really needed help with our business plan writing. We actually did not think Frank Goley was going to have time to respond to our request but he did. Although our business plan was in its initial draft version, Frank was honest to point out that the business plan needed a lot of work. At a high level, Frank suggested the following to be considered:
Follow the SBA guidelines
Strong marketing research and analysis
We certainly appreciate Frank for contributing his time and effort to help us with the most important stage of our business formation – writing the business plan. Thanks again for all the help." -- BB
“Not only did Frank work closely with me to development these strategies, but he has also implemented these strategies into real world solutions which reflect the strategic direction of my company. The comprehensive planning, consulting and implementation approach ABC Business Consulting offers is quite unique in the marketplace, and I have found it incredibly useful in defining the direction my company needs to take to be successful in this economy and beyond. Thanks Frank for all the help and advice. I look forward to a long term and successful relationship with ABC Business Consulting.” – Randy Velker, Owner, Simple Energy Works
"One of the keys to succeeding in the art of social media placement is good copy. Good copy is a combination of affordability, creativity, and timeliness. Frank Goley delivers all three without fanfare or fuss." -- Allan Matthews, Owner,
FYI Media Services
"I read this blog post, and I really appreciate this content: Business Trade Credit and Debt Finance. Thanks for useful information." -- John
"Hello Frank, Thank you for reminding us of how essential credibility is and how an intelligent use of Testimonials can do wonders in promoting our business. The more visible we become through multiple marketing pipelines that we implement on an ongoing basis, the more business we will generate." -- To your continued success, Christiane Lavanoux, I Game Attitude LLC co-Founder and co-President / Certified Life Coach
"We started with an idea that we felt would better the citizens of the surrounding communities. So we began to get acquainted with the local entrepreneurs, to find out how they started, and how their vision and dream became the success that it is today. Everyone’s success story started out the same way, they had an excellent business plan. So we started working on our business plan, and after months of trying to develop it, we knew we were in over our head. We turned to the internet and spoke with company after company about developing our business plan with the same outcome: a lot of money! ABC Business Consulting not only offered reasonable pricing, but also Frank took the time to examine and explain every aspect of our up and coming business to make sure we understood what we were ...
“I am trying to grow my solar energy and energy efficiency company in a recession. It’s a challenge! I decided I needed a comprehensive approach and assistance from an experienced consultant. I searched on the internet for “business consultant” and found Frank Goley of ABC Business Consulting. After a few discussions with Frank on what I needed and what I was looking for, he presented to me a comprehensive business success solution that included:”
Development and implementation of a Business Plan, Marketing Plan and Strategic Plan
Business Success Analysis & Recommendations
Intensive Onsite Business Consulting
Design and Development of a new Website to include a custom WordPress Content Management System
Search Engine Optimization
Internet Marketing Solutions
– Randy Velker ...
"I just wanted to express my appreciation for the business plan review service. It has helped tremendously in revising and making the plan attractive to potential investors and helped to eliminate the fatal flaws that could stop it dead in its tracks. The service was very quick and efficient. An absolute must for every entrepreneur or anyone looking for that extra help with a business plan. I eagerly look forward to doing further business in the future and making full use of more of the services offered!" -- Chris Johnson, Saskatchewan, Canada
“ABC Business Consulting is now implemented the off page search engine optimization and internet marketing strategy, and I look forward to the increased business this website is bound to create for me. Even in the few short days since my new website went live, I am already getting great rankings where I had none before. My website is going to be a marketing machine, even in this recession! Thanks for going the extra mile and doing the “little things” that really add up to great value and results!” – Randy Velker, Owner, Simple Energy Works
“Frank, thank you for a very good program and presentation. The Evansville Executive Forum enjoyed your talk, and it provoked a lot of conversation about their use or none use of business plans. Again, thank you. -- Jack Barner,
University of Evansville, Vice President for Institutional Advancement
“Moreover, Frank re-worked and developed new content for the website, then optimized the content for the search engines. In as little as a few days, my website has already starting ranking as a result of Frank’s content and search engine optimization work on the website. Frank also came up with the idea to have a Solar Case Studies section on the website, which proves out how solar energy systems make a lot of financial sense, and it adeptly showcases our expertise in designing and installing solar systems.”
– Randy Velker, Owner, Simple Energy Works
"I would like to thank you Mr. Goley for making the extra effort with my business plan. The world of business is cut throat and the slightest misstep by an inexperienced entrepreneur can lead to a good idea becoming a waste of time and energy. Mr. Goley has the expertise and knowledge that allows for your great idea to become a great business. He told me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted, as well as, pointing me in the right direction for my future business endeavors." -- Foster Fox, Entrepreneur
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Written by a 20+ year veteran in business planning. This guide includes pivotal
business planning tips and costly mistakes to avoid. Includes a step by step
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for any purpose, including funding business plans, investor plans, vc plans,
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success strategies and solutions. Topic areas include: business planning, marketing,
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The Business Success Guide has over 30 in-depth sections on the important knowledge
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