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.
For More Information
Go to the Opportunity Finance Network. Get cracking on your business plan today!
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.
Posted in Business Finance and tagged business finance, business funding plan, business plan, Community Development Financial Institutions, CreateJobsforUSA.org, Opportunity Finance Network, Starbucks.
March 19, 2012 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
A Funding Business Plan has a lot riding on it. Namely the effective funding of a business. Over the years of developing business plans, I have learned a few things along the way that make business plans more conducive to funders. Here is a top 10 checklist to consider when writing your business plan:
1) Good Business Model – This is where I see a lot of funding business plans fall down. A lot of these funding type plans I see are just a sales document with a lot of flash and unbelievable hype. For a business plan to be successful in raising funds it needs to prove that there is a sound business model in place that is well considered, which when implemented, will result in a successful business enterprise.
2) Good Operational Model – Not only do you need a solid business model in place, but you need to show how you can effectively operate and manage the business. Funders do not fund business plans, they fund people- namely the management behind a company. Without sound experience and management, deals don’t get funded.
3) Good Research – This is another biggie. There needs to be real thought and research behind the business plan. You need to prove in the funding business plan that there is data supporting your position and business model. Research not only provides you good market intelligence as a business owner, but it gives you a foundation to your planning.
4) Sound / Realistic Assumptions – This is a big area of oversight that I see most business plan writers making. A business plan to be believable needs to have sound assumptions behind the making of the plan, and most importantly, those assumptions need to be explained and detailed in the business plan for the funder. Detailed assumptions gives the funder real insight into what a business plan actually means. Assumptions give insight into whether the Financials are just plain guesses and hype, or if their development actually had some sound thought, research, and reasoning behind them.
5) Well Organized and Easy to Follow – A funder needs to effortless find the right information quickly and easily. Plans that don’t do this will get sent to the circular file cabinet faster than you can say 1-2-3! Your plan should be organized into multiple sections that are well marked and easily indexed in the Table of Contents. A funder should be able to quickly scan a business plan in a couple minutes and gain interest. If it takes longer, then interest is lost, and it goes to the bottom of the pile. Funders are busy, professional people. Treat them with respect and courtesy- send them a well organized plan.
6) Not too Much Fluff / Plan Has Substance – All too often I see business plans that are all hype, have a bunch of graphs and charts, nice looking photos but…it is all hogwash- there is absolutely no substance. First and foremost a plan must have substance. It must have a solid business model in place. You can build the nice looking stuff around the substance, not the other way around. A bunch of flash alone will not get a deal funded. A hollow plan equates to a hollow management team. Remember, funders invest in people, not plans.
7) Plan is Aesthetically Pleasing – If a business plan is sloppy, unorganized, hard to follow- it is just plain messy with bunches of grammatical mistakes…well, then kiss your chances at funding success away. A messy plan in the mind of a funder is a messy business- something which they run from. Once the substance of a plan is completed, take the time to make it look nice. Doesn’t need to be the Mona Lisa but take a little pride in its appearance and readability.
8. Plan Forms a Picture in the Reader’s Mind – A picture is worth a thousand words, especially for a business plan. If a business plan is all words, then it can be difficult for the funder to really visualize the business, products, services, markets, etc. This is where pictures, graphics, charts, graphs, and the like really come into play. Use media to help the business plan reader form an image in their mind- help the reader see the business vision toward success. If the reader can visualize a successful business, then you will get funded. Video and demonstration presentations can also be great ways to help close a business plan’s introduction.
9) Good Executive Summary – The success of a business plan starts here. Write the summary last and key on the important areas of the plan. If in 30 seconds the executive summary doesn’t convince the reader this is a viable deal, then re-write it. Send drafts to your business mentors and associates- get their feedback. I can often tell if a business plan is poor when looking over the executive summary. A great executive summary only comes from a solid business plan, not the other way around.
10) Believable Financials – A business plan needs to make a case for the financial projections and past performance (if applicable). If a business plan is properly developed with a sound business model, operational model, market analysis, and marketing plan, then you have the basis and data and assumptions in place to form financials that you can sell to a funder. So many plans come across my desk that fail in this area. They are just blind guesses and hopes and dreams- just a bunch of hype behind them. Get the right foundation for the plan, then the financials will be believable. Sell the financials with good, well-documented and supported assumptions.
11) Bonus: Write the Plan for the Audience – Each business plan presented to a funder must be written for that particular funder. Whether the funder is a bank, an investor, venture capital firm, a grant funding institution, or a joint venture partner…the style and content and emphasis of the plan needs to be customized for the reader. Banks are interested in collateral, Cash Flow, and your ability to service debt. Investors want to see a solid ROI that is backed up with a great business model and sophisticated financials. All funders want to see a strong management team. Joint Venture partners want to see transparency, and what you can bring to the table to make the partnership a two way street. Customize each and every plan to the requirements and expectations of the particular funder. It will pay off to take this extra step instead of using a generic plan for all funders.
So, whether you are writing the plan yourself as the business owner, or have hired someone to help you with the business plan development, keep in mind these top 10 funding plan tips and mistakes. They can make the difference between success and failure. In this present lending and funding environment, you need all the help you can get. Do it right.
Business Planning Resource: You can find more business planning tips and a detailed business planning process and workbook in my Business Plan Book.
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Posted in Business Finance, Business Planning.
March 6, 2012 by Frank Goley, Business Consultant
A Business Plan is really nothing more than a piece of paper. Its importance is not the document itself, or even the words on the paper. The real importance is the business planning process behind the physical plan. The payoff and true advantage of a business plan is what you learned through the planning process that helps you run a more successful business.
A Business Plan is NOT a Funding Plan
When you need funding, you need a business plan. Fine…but the distinction is: You need the business plan way before you need the funding. Operating a business without a business plan is like throwing darts blind folded. It is like driving without MapQuest or a GPS. It is a frustrating, time consuming, and money wasting activity.
The real definition of a business plan is NOT a funding document. Instead, it is a roadmap to business success. Yes, a business plan is highly recommended to obtain funding, but the funding plan itself is not a real business plan. It is a sales document trying to convince someone to fund your business. A funding plan is often much more successful if a real, planned business plan is developed first and foremost, with an aim at running a successful business. Then, developing a funding plan is just a packaging and formality thing.
Yes, many clients come to us just wanting the Funding Plan, but they are selling themselves short. Either way, even if we develop just a Funding Plan, our process demands some thinking by our clients about certain critical aspects of the business and what works and doesn’t work among them. The strictly Funding Plans we see out on the market are just glitter, lacking the real substance necessary for someone to make an educated decision on funding a business.
A Business Plan Takes A lot of Work & Needs a Solid Process
For a business planning process to be successful and useful, then it takes a lot of work. It takes real commitment from the business to design and develop a process that will be beneficial. This is why consultants exist- to help businesses design these planning systems so that the business benefits substantially from the business plan.
Planning can be very comprehensive, or be designed to focus on critical areas. Either way, it is important to not get bogged down in the business planning process (need to keep it moving). It is also important that it is a priority within a company. So many times business owners come to me and promise it will be a priority, when in reality it never becomes one, selling the process short.
A Real Business Plan is Not a Document
What you say Frank? Of course a business plan is a document! Let me ask you this: What happens to that document? Answer: it sits on a shelf and gets dusty, only to be dusted off every so often (maybe yearly) to be “updated”.
A Business Plan is the intelligence a company gains during and after a good business planning process is implemented within company operations, and it is used on a continual basis, checking goals and progress, and most importantly, the lack thereof (and the resulting fixes). It is the systems and strategies a business develops and implements to be successful- that is the REAL business plan. Forget the end resulting document. Focus on the process: Is it sound? What did you learn? How can you implement and track what you learned?
You Don’t Need a Highly Formalized Plan
The only reason why I like to see a business have a formal business plan (i.e. a document) is to prove and showcase that a successful planning process was designed, developed, implemented and tracked. Also, a business plan is a very effective communication tool within and outside a company- both from the perspective of the planning process and someone actually reading the plan. Yep, I said it: Someone can actually read a business plan and benefit.
Don’t get so caught up in the planning that it takes months and months and months, taking you too far away from running or starting your business. It doesn’t need to be a 100 page document (although I have developed many this size). To be useful for you internally, it may just need to be 20 pages. To be useful externally, it may only need to be 10 pages. However, it is the work behind those 10 or 20 pages which really defines the utility and success of a business plan. If the planning process was just a short cut to “produce” a plan, then the document will be flimsy and not beneficial. I will be 10 or 20 pages of BS.
Integrate Your Business Plan into Your Company
This is the number one reason why I say a business plan is not a document. It is the processes that you actually install and implement from within your company that make the business plan. It is the structure and systems of the company. It is what makes the company run well and be constantly looking for more successful ways of conducting business. It is literally the life blood of a successful enterprise. A document cannot do this for you.
Make Planning a Priority
When you initially develop your plan and when you implement and track and rework your plan, make it a real priority- a daily and weekly priority. So many times business owners think that business planning is worthless and too time demanding. They see it as taking away time from running their business, thereby reducing profits (and missing opportunities). They really don’t grasp the real substance and potential of a business plan.
The reason a business plan may be too time demanding is really because the business owner never considered certain issues and areas of their business. Or, they may lack knowledge and experience in an area. They think that by working hard, they are doing all they can do to have a successful business. This is a huge fallacy and a even bigger mistake! Just spending an hour or two a day in initially developing a business plan (and then implementing and tracking it on a weekly basis), can mean substantial increase in profits, identification of real problem areas, and seizing upon opportunities way in advance.
Don’t be swayed by those gurus, experts, consultants and entrepreneurs out there saying you don’t need a business plan. They are just trying to find clients and make press. Granted, as I said previously in this post, you don’t need some behemoth of a plan, and you don’t necessarily need a highly formalized plan. But you do need a plan. A plan backed by a sound process, a planning process with end goals and dates for completion, and a most importantly, a system to implement and track the developed business plan strategies. By making the planning a daily to weekly to monthly priority, it not only gets done, but it makes sure the business is running on all cylinders and that you are considering potential problems before they become real, expensive problems.
My business plan highlights consist of:
- Daily Marketing & Market Research: Done first thing every morning so I stay ahead of my competition and always have my pick of clients who are calling me (and not vice versa).
- Weekly Cash Flow Analysis: At all times I am managing my cash flow because I know from experience that this simple (and easy) exercise makes me more and more money, along with preventing severe headaches in the future. I always have a running cash flow budget. I couldn’t run and PLAN a successful business without it. Don’t be intimidated by Cash Flow analysis and management- it is an easy to learn and use system, even though it may appear highly technical and complicated.
- Consistent Communication with Mentors: I love surrounding myself with those who have more experience and knowledge than I. I ask them questions all the time about strategies, opportunities and problems. Mentors also ensure I serve my clients to the best of my ability. One business consultant does not know everything. Reaching out to an established network of business experts is so important for me as a consultant.
- And so on and so forth…It is an Active Plan.
Plan Today for Success Tomorrow
Get actively planning today to succeed tomorrow. It is just that simple. It takes commitment. Do you have what it takes, or are you too “busy” running your company? (I think if you answer “yes” to this question, then your company is running you and not the other way around)
Business Planning & Business Success Resources
Need some business success tools? Check out the Business Success Guide.
Posted in Business Planning.