December 27, 2009 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
The Business Success Strategies Blog is sponsored by ABC Business Consulting
This is part one of a two part blog on Writing and Developing an Effective Business Plan. CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO! A good Business Plan is the most important (and often overlooked) part of running or starting a business, expanding a business or obtaining finance for a business. If a Business Plan is written properly, starting, expanding or running a business, and / or obtaining finance, is much easier, leaving less room for error and failure. While you cannot predict everything that can happen in a business’ future, a good Business Plan helps you avoid certain pitfalls, overcome obstacles, while anticipating and creating opportunities.
There are different Business Plan Formats for various circumstances. You should always start with a Comprehensive Business Plan to run your particular business venture or project. Once you have completed your Comprehensive Business Plan, you can take certain aspects of that Plan to form other Business Plans for various situations, like a Funding Business Plan for a Bank or Venture Capital Firm.
Formats are important for Business Planning but most important is the Process. The Process is a building block system that is continuous, systematic and comprehensive. It involves the entire Company, produces effective decision making and executes those decisions in a Strategic Plan. A good Business Plan also measures the relationship between Expectations and Performance- it evaluates your Company’s progress or lack thereof. A Business Plan’s goal is to create the future for your company- being proactive versus reactive in relationship to your market niche.
It is said, writing a good Business Plan is more art than science. It is good to have a proven process and format, but you can’t just fill in the blanks on a master planning program or document. It is a matter of asking yourself the right questions within that proven process and format that brings about a successfully written Business Plan (see the Tips Section later on in this article for more details).
A Comprehensive Business Plan has Eight Sections: Executive Summary, Company Overview, Management and Operations, Products and Services, Marketing Plan Strategic and Sales Plan, Financials and Appendix.
Table of Contents
Before discussing each section of the Business Plan, let’s cover one of the most important parts of the Business Plan, the Table of Contents. The Table of Contents should be very detailed, so that the person reading and using the Business Plan can find and access the information needed very easily and quickly. You can write a great Business Plan with all the necessary information in it, but if you can’t easily find or access that information, then the Business Plan ceases to be a useful tool.
The Table of Contents should be organized by each section of the Business Plan and the specific page numbers of each section and sub-section. For instance, in Section One, The Executive Summary, you should be able to find the Management sub-section very easily. It is strongly recommended that a Business Plan be organized as an online document, with the sections and sub-sections hyperlinked to the page where that information resides. This way you can access information very quickly on a computer online versus having to flip through the paper document to find the information.
The Organization of the Business Plan is quite important. The 8 Section Business Plan is in a specific order from which each section builds on the previous section. There is fluid thought and reasoning employed to achieve a Business Plan which reaches its specified purpose (i.e. to run a business, to buy a business, to expand a business, to enter a joint venture, to finance a business, to complete a particular project). Although we discuss the Executive Summary as the first section of a Business Plan, the Executive Summary should be written last. With the exception of the Executive Summary, all the other sections should be written in the order they are listed. Remember that a Business Plan is a Business Document; you are NOT writing prose. It should contain a very precise and concise format and be organized into numbered sections and sub-sections, which contain specific information in short, paragraph form. Business Plans should be written in paper form, computer format and online format. Computer Format means the Table of Contents are hyperlinked so you can easily access certain information quickly and precisely in one click on your computer.
You should have your Business Plan published securely, online (via password access) so that certain key managers or employees can access and manage remotely. Also, you can use an online Business Plan to attract funding for your venture. You can have different versions accessible online for particular purposes. For example, you could have your Marketing Plan accessible remotely so your Sales Manager can update it or refer to it while in the field or on an important sales call. You could have a funding version of your Business Plan accessible online for angel investors or venture capitalists to view your opportunity.
A Business Plan is a dynamic document, as it changes on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. By being able to access it on your company computer network and / or online, the CEO, Executives, Management and Key Employees can update it easily and effectively. For a Business Plan to be successful, it must be intertwined into the fabric of your business. Having the Business Plan organized with Hyperlinks with highly organized sections and uploaded on your company’s computer network and accessible online, allows the Business Plan to become a “living” document which can effectively:
1) Run a business
2) Be readily changed, adapted and updated
3) Be a sales tool
4) Obtain funding
5) React quickly to market changes
6) Give you the ability to make realistic forecasts and projections
7) Seize opportunities and keep your Competitive Advantage.
Organization of your Business Plan is KEY to its effectiveness and utility. It is important to remember that too many Business Plans are written from the perspective of the Business Owner. When writing your plan, remember your audience extends beyond you, the Owner. Don’t neglect your Managers, employees, customers, the marketing aspects and the potential investor elements. This is also why we suggest writing one Comprehensive Plan to run your business and develop other Specific Purpose Plans for different audiences, i.e. a Customer Plan, an Investor Plan, a Lender Plan, a Strategic Management Plan, a Marketing Plan, Supplier Plan and so forth.
Section One: Executive Summary
As stated previously, the Executive Summary should be written last. Why? Because it organizes and summarizes the entire Business Plan. You cannot achieve this effectively until all other sections of the Business Plan are completed. You should develop two types / renditions of the Executive Summary for your Business Plan. A short version which is 2-3 pages and a longer version that is 5-7 pages long. The Executive Summary contains the Company Statement, Visions and Mission, the Purpose of the Business Plan and a short summary of each section of your Business Plan, along with a Financial / Profitability Section.
The Executive Summary (short version) is part of your Business Plan, giving the reader a quick overview of the important facts contained in your Business Plan. The Executive Summary (short and long versions) can also operate as a stand-alone document to be used to generate interest in your business opportunity or venture, i.e. to be sent to a funding source to generate and gauge their initial interest. An Executive Summary can accompany a Deal Overview or Investment Summary to provide more details to a venture capitalist about your particular business opportunity.
Brevity, yet completeness and inclusiveness, is key when writing your Executive Summary. It should be concise yet have adequate detail about your Business Plan. This can be difficult to achieve if you attempt to write it prior to completing all the sections of your Business Plan.
Section Two: Company Overview
The Company section of a Business Plan speaks to all the pertinent details of your particular company. For instance, how it is formed; what your company does; how it is organized; your Vision, Mission and Goal Statements: history of the company; where it is located; how you can be contacted and so forth. This section comes first in the Business Plan as it serves as an introduction to the necessary details and background of your company.
Section 3: Management & Operations
This section builds on the Company Section explaining in detail who will run the company; who founded the company; who the key employees are within the company; how the company will be run; what are the specific qualifications of those who will run the company, work in the company and be responsible for sales, marketing and strategic direction; the specific gaps in Management and talent, providing a plan to fill or overcome those present gaps; and so forth. You can have the greatest business idea or concept but lack the people to execute the plan. Therefore, the Management Section of the Business Plan is the most important element of the plan and often scrutinized as such by finance sources, customers and your Business Plan audience.
The next Blog post will pick up with Section Four of the Business Plan, Products and Services. CLICK HERE TO GO TO PART TWO OF THIS BLOG!
This Business Success Strategies Blog is written by Frank Goley, the ABC Business Consulting Chief Business Consultant, who has over 20 years experience helping companies start, grow, turn-around and succeed.
Visit Business Success Articles for more of Frank’s “how to” business success articles covering topics like Business Planning, Business Management, Financial Management, Growth Strategies and Business Finance.
Check out Frank’s books that are about to come online: The Comprehensive Business Planning Guide and Workbook and The Business Success Guide.
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Posted in Business Planning.
December 22, 2009 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
The Business Success Strategies Blog is Sponsored by ABC Business Consulting
As I discussed in the previous Business Success Strategies Blog, Technology can help a small company, with a limited budget, compete on a global scale. Let’s continue looking at Tech Tools useful in your business.
Note: All of the product quotes are full retail quotes and are subject to change.
A Femtocell acts like a mini cell tower to boost your cell coverage so you can have reliable, strong coverage throughout your office areas. A Femtocell can help in replacing the need for a landline altogether as your cell coverage will be consistent and reliable, without the risk of dropped calls.
How does it work? The Femtocell channels the indoor wireless traffic through a broadband connection, (high speed internet is required). The Femtocell looks like a modem with a small antenna on it.
Where can you get it and how much for the unit?
Verizon Wireless Network Extender: $249
Sprint Airwave: $99.99 plus $4.99 per month
External Hard Drives
Backing up information is vital so you want a reliable external Hard Drive which has a good software management system. Security is also a consideration with a Drive that is external to your computer systems. Some choices:
Seagate Replica: Does an automatic Complete System Back Up – just plug it in and click “OK” and continuous backups are initiated. Completely backs up everything, including your Operating System, Programs and Settings. Costs: $130 for a 250GB, single PC, unit; $180 for 500GB, multiple PC units.
Clickfree Backup Drive: No software to install – just plug it in. Automatically backs up. You can get the optional $60 Transformer Cable to add this same capability to a hard drive you already have. Cost: $90 for 120GB and $220 for 500GB.
Maxtor Black Armor: No access to the Hard Drive without a password. Software sets up automatic back up and syncs data from multiple computers. Cost: $170 for 320GB Unit.
Western Digital – My Book World Edition: Can access your computer files from the web (even if the PCs are off) and back up files remotely (this feature not as user friendly). Stream music to XBox or PlayStation. Cost: $230 for 1TB; $450 for 2TB.
Free Online Fax Service: MyFax
Send and receive faxes via email. Can send up to two faxes per day, of up to 10 pages per fax, for free. Can send MS Word Documents, PDFs and 175 other file formats.
Multi-Function Server: HP Media Smart LX 195
Compact unit, about the size of a toaster. Allows you to access all your documents and photos through an on line portal. Can publish photos directly to Flickr, Picasa or Face book and listen to your music collection while you are on the road. Effective Business Server with 10 free user accounts, automatic backups and 640 GB of storage capacity. Cost: $399
Free VOPI: Ooma
3,000 Domestic free minutes per month and call international for as little as 1.4 cents a minute. There is also a Premium Service for $12.00 per month which offers land to cell transfers, a second line and three way conferencing.
Free Presentation Tools
Some competition for Power Point:
Sliderocket: Template driven online platform which builds great looking slide shows, quickly. Can then publish the Presentation online, embed it in a website or export it to Power Point if you don’t have an Internet connection at the presentation location.
Zoho Show: Very customizable slide show web-based platform. Can import Excel Charts and can export to Power Point if needed. If you post the Presentation online, you can track how many people have viewed it.
Openoffice.org 3 Impress: Has most of Power Point’s features. Can save the slide show as a Power Point document, even on a computer which doesn’t have Power Point installed on it.
Website Hosting Discounts
You can find great savings on Hosting Packages through:
Alternatives to Microsoft Office
If you don’t want to spend $400 on the MS Office Suite, try these:
Note that neither of these have a replacement for MS Outlook. You may want to try Endora.
Professional Looking Biz Cards for $9.95
Try Overnight Prints for reasonable, yet professional looking biz cards. Ask to view samples and sign up for free email offers. They’ll send a 25% discount coupon.
My last three blogs have discussed numerous technical resources to save your company money, while increasing your Productivity and helping you to compete effectively in the market place. Technology is great, but it needs to be evaluated, tested and planned; otherwise, its effectiveness is significantly minimized. A good Business Planning Process should be built around technology so when you implement your Business Plan, the technology is an integral part of your company. Then that technology will be and create substantial Competitive Advantage. Company-wide training, adoptance and integration are key toward effectively leveraging technology.
Have more tech tips for our readers? We invite your Feedback. (you will be sent to our blog comment sign up page)
Upcoming Blogs will focus on Company Leadership, Customer Building Relationships, Employee Relations, Effective Business Plans, Winning Marketing Plans and Strategic Planning for Business Success.
Need more help? Get the ABC Business Success Guide
Date: Dec. 22, 2009
Author: Frank Goley, Chief Business Consultant for ABC Business Consulting
Subject: More Tech Tools to Increase Business Productivity
Posted in Business Productivity.
December 14, 2009 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Business Success Strategies Blog is sponsored by ABC Business Consulting
There are so many great tools out there to make you and your business more productive, profitable and efficient. Small Businesses need to work smart, and Technology is one big area where working tech smart can really payoff.
The possibilities of the World Wide Web, and the Tools available on it and through it, are endless. Let’s concentrate on some that will put extra profits in the bank and help you build a sound Internet Presence.
Ø CMS: Content Management System
You don’t have to know much anymore about web design to put together a sharp, effective, easy to navigate and search, website. CMS makes it much simpler. Some to consider:
ü One-on-One Internet: This is the platform we use to build our websites:
ü Web Yep
ü Word Press
ü Movable Type
Business Success Resource: Go to the ABC How to Article on Cost Effective Online Marketing Strategies to learn more about building and marketing a profitable website.
Blogging is a must as it drives excellent, targeted traffic to your website, while providing valuable resources to your audience / customers. Blogging is also great for keeping in touch with your customers, as well as, gaining new ones through the viral marketing affect blogging can generate. A lot of CMS, like 1-on-1, have blogging platforms already to go to include and integrate into your website. Some Blogging Platforms for Free:
ü Live Journal
ü Word Press: Free & Premium platforms.
Ø Tracking Website Traffic
When you are set up with a Content Based Website and start actively Blogging, your site will start coming up in the search engine rankings. To track the success of your Blog and web pages is important and advantageous, as the results will help you tailor your content and sales pitch to concentrate on the market niche customers who are most interested and relevant to your biz. Some tracking tools:
ü Google Analytics: An excellent, free web tracking tool.
ü Demand base: Let’s you know when companies are viewing your site. The Free real time tracker analyzes your web visitor’s IP addresses and compares that info with Company Data Bases, such as Dun & Bradstreet or LexisNexus, providing you with names of the companies. For an average cost of $1.80 per lead, you can buy a name and contact information for a company. What a great way to follow up with an already “hot” and interested potential customer (and a potentially Large Company / Customer).
Ø Learn to Tweet
Twitter is a micro blog – a blog which can be transmitted and read on a cell phone (as well as any internet connected computer). This is an excellent platform to market your products and services, as well as, keep customers informed of important articles, updates, news, specials, discounts, etc. Twitter by the end of the year is going to launch a directory of biz users. Some Twitter Resources:
ü Twitter Tracking Tools
· Tweet Beep: sends you updates when someone has tweeted about your company.
Tweet Beep & Qwitter helps you learn what is effective and not effective concerning your marketing, products, services, customer service and so forth. These tools also give you the opportunity to converse with dissatisfied customers.
· Bit.ly: can track your Twitter links, for example articles you have written, to see which links are most popular and see information on the Twitter user who clicked the links. Wow, what a great marketing tool to drive viral traffic to your site and gain instant relevancy and interest, which will bring up your website’s search engine results.
ü Auto Posting
Use Betaworks to automatically tweet your readers when you have a new posting to your Blog. Saves time and generates automatic, relevant traffic. Tweet-Later lets you create Tweet posts and sends them on a schedule you set. This gives your Tweet audience a consistent connection to your company, at the times best suited to your audience.
ü Managing Tweets
Co Tweet manages different users in the same Tweet account. You can assign different employees and Tweet functions as needed throughout your company. Also tracks answering Tweets.
Ø Virtual Trade Shows
So, you have a Relevant Content, resource Rich, CMS Website, a good Blog going and increasing your Viral Marketing Presence with Twittering. How about sell your services & products virtually to a large, niche market, without the heavy expense and logistics of a Traditional Trade Show. Also, Virtual Trade Shows help you increase word of mouth advertising in a web viral way.
ü InXpo: your virtual booth links to your Twitter, Linked In, Facebook and You Tube profiles. A great viral marketing generator!
ü Unisfair: supports 16 languages, including Chinese. What a fantastic way to expose your products and services to the world’s biggest market!
ü On 24: Searches attendees’ profiles to suggest relevant exhibitors – a highly targeted, niche marketing platform.
The next blog will focus on more Tech Tools to power up your Business, without high costs, many for free, so you can very effectively compete in the global market and have that big, smart market imprint, without all the overhead and employee costs of a big business. Work smart!
Let us know your Opinion & Experience on these productivity tools and other tools you are using successfully to establish competitive edge.
Date: Dec. 13, 2009
Author: Frank Goley, Chief Business Consultant, ABC Business Consulting
Subject: Web Based Tech Tools to Enhance Business Productivity
Posted in Business Productivity.
December 5, 2009 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
Blog Sponsor: ABC Business Consulting
Now days you don’t need a big company, lots of funding and numerous employees, to make a profitable imprint in the market. The coming together of broadband and software innovation makes virtual productivity software and other online technology the equalizer for many small companies. Build a company around online collaboration and productivity technology and make it an integral part of your company processes, you can operate much more productively, profitably and effectively. You can work from home, manage employees virtually and have high interactivity with your customers with web / video conferencing. This all spells Competitive Advantage to me and it us how I have built my companies for the last decade.
Don’t worry if you aren’t tech savvy, I wasn’t and I have learned by doing. A lot of software is user friendly. Roll up your sleeves and use it, don’t farm it out to high priced consultants. Define your Company’s Operational needs, research available technologies and costs, and build your Business Plan’s Operational Structure around the technology. The technology will aide in producing better products and services, establishing competitive advantage, highly segment profitable markets, manage financial plans and projections, better serve customers, and often be more productive and effective than dedicated employees. Larger companies often struggle with truly integrating productivity software throughout its operations, and as a small, nimble, flexible company, you can very effectively compete in the highly competitive, ever changing, global market place.
There is so much technology can do for a company. In this Blog, I am going to concentrate on collaboration software – collaboration with employees, strategic partners, management and customers. Without this structure in place, other technology won’t be nearly as effective. There’s a ton of marketing technologies that can exponentially grow a company, provided you have an Effective Marketing Strategy. I will be writing an article for our Marketing Section on Online Marketing, so be sure to keep an eye out (sign up for our Company Alerts and we’ll let you know when it’s out).
Let’s take a look at some collaboration tools….
Socialtext and Confluence
Employees can collaborate on documents and track the changes. Costs: Socialtext is $15 / month per user and Confluence is $49 / month for 10 users.
Basecamp and Present.ly
Great for a workforce that communicates via Blackberry or other mobile devices. Costs: Basecamp runs $24 – $149 / month for unlimited users and Present.ly is priced $1 / month per user.
Concept Share and Get Sign Off
Customers can provide feedback on products or services in development. Costs: Concept Share prices at $24 – $99 / month and Get Sign Off costs $29 – $59 / Month.
Phone, email, fax, mail and in person meetings can be cumbersome, costly and time inefficient. Online collaboration tools are productive, real-time tools to run a company, its projects and interact with customers at competitive pricing as compared to infrastructure of Office Space and all the inefficiencies and costs related to typical brick and mortar companies. You will find that not having to schedule in person meetings and conference calls saves tremendous time and money. The ability for Employees, Management Teams and Customers to log in given their schedule needs and collaborate more freely, really pays off for a company’s efficiency, productivity and profitability. In fact, I think you will run a better company, implement projects and campaigns more effectively, and be much more tied in and wired to your customer and market niche needs than doing business the old way.
Reference: Inc. Magazine, June ’09, “Technology: Connecting the Dots: How to choose the Right Collaboration Software for your Company”, by Darren Dahl.
Note: Costs / Prices indicated in this blog may have changed!
Resource: For more Software reviews and articles on managing tech systems go to: www.technology.inc.com
Some more virtual productivity platforms…..
Online Project Management with collaborators and customers. Online Operations tool.
File and Folder sharing tool as an FTP site. Drag and drop folders / files in a desktop folder which are uploaded and stored online. Can show up in collaborators remote computers. Great for sending large files without tying up Email.
Real time, face-to-face web and video conferencing. Can access files and programs from various desktops. Co-visit websites with a live browser, i.e. for a demo.
Host web meetings of up to 1,000 participants. Free conference-call service.
Reference: Entrepreneur Magazine, June ’09, Build your Brand Section, “Come together-Virtually” by John Jantsch.
The age has come where you can have employees, partners, management, executives, collaborators and customers spread all over the world with no brick and mortar infrastructure to support such. Online Collaboration Software provides all the structure you need, provided you plan it accordingly and effectively. Online Operations & Collaboration gives you maximum flexibility and provides a unifying connection company wide. You will find work flows to be highly streamlined, yet effective and most importantly, in real time.
Your interaction and attentiveness to customers will be significantly increased, providing a communication two-way highway. This gives your company a great opportunity to solve problems for customers while getting constant feedback on your products and services. You will be better connected to the real, changing needs of your customers, seeing market trends way in advance of your competitors. Your ability to effectively Niche Market will be greatly enhanced, using these online tools to market test ideas, strategies and processes – all for a fraction of the cost of traditional biz models.
Note: Costs / Prices indicated in this blog may have changed!
The next blog will be on Tech Tools which are cutting edge, yet affordable and useful for achieving Business Success!
We appreciate your Feedback, Comments, insights and experiences!
Date: Dec. 5, 2009
Author: ABC Business Consulting / Chief Business Consultant
Subject: Collaboration Technology – Productivity Software & Platforms
Posted in Business Productivity.