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Business Plans Made Easy In Four Simple Questions

Set an Effective Plan for your Business to Succeed

Anyone who’s ever been in business before or has a thorough knowledge of how to run a business is likely to tell you that the first step before starting any business is to write out a business plan. The wise will know that this is sound advice and much to the benefit of the entrepreneur or business owner, but what if you don’t know what a business plan is or how to write one? That leaves a lot of inexperienced entrepreneurs using the old “trial and error process” in starting out their first business.

However, there is very little room for failure in small business and many of those trying to build there own business are mainly driven by the principle of increasing their income. You simply cannot afford to loose your investment, but you’re also left confused – and sometimes even petrified – by terms like executive summary and break even analysis.

What’s the point? Just get out that checkbook, hire a qualified staff, and start selling! How hard can it be, right? Unfortunately this attitude can lead to very risky financial decisions that almost always end in bankruptcy or large debt.

Business Plans Don’t Have to Be Difficult

There really isn’t all that much to a business plan once you break it down. The average business plan is made up of a few key components; for example, the executive summary, financial projections, a break even analysis, profit/loss forecasts, market analysis, and a startup analysis; and takes up anywhere from 20 to 40 pages on average.

You’re Not Having a Drink with a Friend: You’re in Business

The major player in failing to plan is the constant feeling of humbleness from your business domain. When you’re sitting around with a friend having a drink and discussing an idea it’s easy to put a plan into play without ever writing it down. With your business it’s simply not that easy. You need to keep your plan on paper.

This makes things more serious. When you take the time to really analyze what you do and become consistent in following-up on that analysis you are in business. So don’t think of your business plan as a one-time startup effort. Once it’s on paper it will not be put away on a shelf or in a drawer collecting dust. You need to reread, rewrite, and rethink your plan throughout the entirety of your business.

Ask yourself the following four questions before even starting your business plan:

1) Do I know what the purpose of my business is?

2) Can I lucidly describe how my business will work to a total stranger?

3) Who is likely to be doing the same kind of business I’m doing?

4) Who is likely to be interested in my business and what I sell?

If you can answer these four simple questions then you already have enough information to start writing your business plan. These questions are basically identifying who you are (as a business), what you do (or what you plan to do), where your market is, and what chance you stand (if any) of competing in this market. This lays out the standard foundation for you to be able to evaluate weather or not the way you plan on conducting your business is going to be a good investment and time-well-spent or your worst financial and psychological nightmare.

Notice here that I used the phrase “the way you plan on conducting your business” and not “the business you plan on conducting”. Any business is feasible given the right circumstances so our objective here is to determine a means to feasibility and not necessarily the feasibility itself (which is likely to be endorsed by a more detailed feasibility report).

Let the Plan Take Its Course

Your business plan is not at all complicated and shouldn’t be viewed as a tedious process or avoided in any way. If you find something in your plan isn’t working then perhaps it’s time for a change. After all that is what the business plan is there for. If you didn’t write your plan down and keep track of changes, how would you know what works and what doesn’t?

Take the time to put your plan down on paper. There are plenty of free resources online and offline to help you put together your business plan. You can ask your local bank for a standard business plan template or get one on the Internet in minutes.

You won’t have to fill out the entire plan right away. Certain parts may take longer than others and it’s not a sequential process. Start with what you know first. Leave the executive summary (or description of your business) for later when you’re clearer about your business identity. Leave things out, or incomplete, if you’re unsure and fill them in later, or go back and make changes, when you have more information. It may not be pretty at first, but it is there to keep you focused. It also provides those people most interested in your business (such as you, your partners, shareholders, or investors) with concise and up-dated information about your business and the direction in which it’s heading.

Copyright © Sherif Ramadan & Business-Geek.com 2007

Discover 10 Steps to a Successful Business Turnaround

In all business turnaround situations there are certain steps that are commonly taken to change the fortunes of a failing business.

The owner of a less than successful business may require professional expert help to arrest the business demise and to create value for the organization. The task of managing the required change may be beyond the owner’s skill set or too much emotional sentiment may exist that may preclude the owner from taking the tough ‘business saving decisions’.

Is there a standard process to be adopted in business turnarounds?

All business situations are different and, therefore, merit different approaches and emphasis on different aspects of the work. However, there are some steps that are generally considered in many successful business turnaround situations and ten of the most relevant are given below:

1. Review and Assess the Present Situation
In a business turnaround it is important to understand fully the starting position. It will be important to gather objective and anecdotal data in order to review the situation and to determine the causes, as well as to comprehend the immediate effects, of the issues impacting the business.

Management accounts, the sales order book, financial arrangements, internal controls, customer service levels, quality and leadership skills are typical areas that will require evaluation and a view taken on.

2. Develop Plans and Business Strategy
After assessing what is required to be changed for the business turnaround to be successful, it will be necessary to develop robust plans and strategy that will achieve success.

Without doubt it will be necessary to comprehensively document the actions to be taken, the timings, the financial impact of those actions and to obtain ‘buy-in’ from the business owner.

The benefits of writing the business plan include that of a reference against which actual results can be measured and an indication to third parties that the proposed business turnaround plan has been carefully evaluated and is a viable proposition that should be supported. This will be an important and relevant form of communication to investors, staff and others who may need to know what the businesses future plans are.


3. Communicate With Key Employees
For the business turnaround to gain momentum it will be necessary to meet with managers and key personnel. The current business affairs should be explained and the consequences of not taking corrective action should be made known. An outline of the proposed actions to be taken should also be communicated and a request for comments should be sought.

Whilst it may not be possible to answer detailed questions it will be important to elicit the concerns of this group and address them as positively as possible.

Members of this group will critical to the success of the business turnaround. They will be charged with taking the planned actions and delivering the results; consequently it will be imperative that the group act as a team and are committed to the future plans.


4. Communicate With Other Employees
It will be necessary at the earliest opportunity to meet with all employees or their union representatives, particularly if job losses are planned.

A prolonged period of uncertainty, fuelled by rumour and counter rumour, will not be beneficial to the business and whilst bad news may not be easy to deliver, the communication of it in a timely sensitive manner is desirable.

The meeting will also be the opportunity to provide an insight into the future business plans and the part the remaining employees will play.

5. Meet the Bank
The bank and other parties with a financial investment in the business should be advised of the business turnaround plans. If possible meetings should be arranged to discuss the plans and to seek assurances of continued, and maybe, more support for the business.

6. Meet Customers
Dependent upon the severity of the situation within the business it may be necessary to reassure key customers of the business turnaround plans and the benefits that will accrue for them.

This action should be considered mandatory if the cause of the business demise has been poor customer service, poor quality product or any other matter not meeting the expected/agreed customer satisfaction levels.

Begging for a second, third or even fourth chance to ‘get things right’ may be embarrassing but remember: no customers – no business. Learn from past mistakes, do not promise what cannot be delivered and ensure internal systems, processes and communication channels are raised to a standard that will seamlessly allow business to be conducted in a timely and efficient manner.


7. Meet Suppliers
If the business has failed to settle payable accounts on time, even the murmur of business turnaround activity taking place may result in suppliers imposing draconian payment terms that may jeopardize the business turnaround recovery plan.

If support for the turnaround plan has been gained from the financial institutions and investors, it will be advisable to actively seek meetings with vendors to outline the plans and to seek their continued support.

Re-establishing trust will be critical. Negotiating new or even the continuation of existing, payment terms from a weak position will be difficult, however, all promises made should be honoured or if failure is imminent inform the vendor in advance of how any debt will be discharged.

8. Conserve Cash
Review and improve if necessary the credit management procedures. If possible negotiate extended payment terms to suppliers; examine thoroughly all unused assets of the business and liquidate if necessary.

Options that may be available include selling unused buildings, renting out spare office space, selling unused plant and office equipment, disposing of excess or redundant stocks, factor sales debt and if unavoidable make excess employees redundant.

In addition the elimination of all unnecessary overhead cost should also be actioned.

9. Implement New/Update Systems and Procedures
A thorough review of existing systems and procedures will be required to meet the goals of the business turnaround plan. Implement change if necessary; it will be noteworthy to recall that a continuation of old practices will almost certainly result in the same old results.

Positive and profitable change may be required and this should be communicated to employees, so that they understand their roles in the new business environment.

10. Monitor, Measure and Take Action
Throughout the business turnaround process, results should be regularly measured against plan and corrective actions taken if required. Key performance indicators (KPI) should be determined that will give a snapshot of the business performance and be available on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

The KPIs should include financial and non-financial measures and reflect the important aspects of the business that will determine success or failure.

Finally it will be desirable to pro-actively communicate the turnaround progress to all interested parties – employees, customers, suppliers as well as the financial institutions.

Provided sound business management principles are employed, results measured and positive trends reported, control of the business should be re-established. However, the business turnaround work should not be considered as a one-off. The experienced gained during the turnaround process should be adopted to avoid a repetition of the earlier mistakes made.

Twelve Causes For Small Business Failures, According To Your Strategic Thinking Business Coach

On a regular basis I meet or am contacted by someone who wants to start his or her own business. Typically the person has specific skills and experience in a specific industry, but lacks business management experience and self-employment experience. The vast majority of them are in fact totally naïve about how business really works.

The failure rate for small business is the subject of much discussion. Frankly speaking, there are many myths and half-truths about small business failure rates due to the absence of solid reliable statistical evidence. In researching the failure rate of small businesses, I went to the SBA (Small Business Administration) Office of Advocacy at http://www.sba.gov/advo and found that two thirds of new employer establishments survive at least 2 years and 44% survive at least 4 years. This is based upon a study of firms started in the 2nd quarter of 1998 and tracked for 16 quarters.

Based upon my research and personal observations as a strategic thinking business coach, here are 12 causes for small business failures.

1. Poor planning – The lack of a strategic business plan to help focus on vision, mission and goals.

2. Inadequate capital – The lack of adequate startup capital that has not included enough money to live for one or two years without income when getting the business started.

3. No prior business experience – The lack of experience running a business or in the industry entered.

4. Ineffective marketing – The lack of a strategic Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Plan.

5. Competition – The lack of understanding of whom the competition is and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

6. Poor customer service – The lack of commitment to first class and reliable service to customers.

7. Poor record keeping and financial controls – The lack of up-to-date, well documented financial and business records.

8. Limited product, services and/or clients. – Small business owners fall prey to clinging to one big client, one product or one service, rather than a variety and diversification, which serves as a risk management too against the ups and downs of business cycles.

9. Opportunistic marketing only – Entrepreneurs often get excited over any new opportunity and start pursuing a new opportunity without using strategic thinking to test the opportunity against the vision, mission and goals of the strategic business plan.

10. Poor time management – Lack of discipline and commitment to do tasks that need to be done on time.

11. Poor quality – Lack of a standard for quality of products and services.

12. Burnout – Owning a business with a significant investment of time, money, energy and emotion results in working long days and not taking time off. And not balancing your business life and your personal life will cause burnout and cause your motivation and creativity to suffer.

In reviewing the above list, did you recognize any of these causes for failure becoming apparent in your business? If you answered YES, you may have activated a warning system indicating a need to determine why your business is not growing and thriving. If you have detected a warning sign of potential failure in your business or organization and want to learn more about what it takes to turn your business around, please contact Glenn Ebersole through his website at http://www.businesscoach4u.com or by email at [email protected].