|Strategic Planning Information|
What Every Service Provider Ought To Know About Writing A Business Plan
It's easy to lose sight of what needs to be communicated to prospective investors when writing the various sections of a business plan. Successful business owners/entrepreneurs use each section of their business plan to work up interest, to present arguments and, most important, to build trust and confidence.
How To Earn The Trust Of Skeptical Investors?
Usually some sort of upfront investment precedes starting or expanding a business, whether it be time, energy or cash. If you plan to raise cash from investors, you must get prospective investors comfortable with putting their money into your hands.
To start you must understand that investors simply want to select the best investments, period. This means choosing businesses that earn a high enough rate of return on investment to offset the risk of the investment. That said, deciding what is a good opportunity is an investor's number one challenge.
That's why investors thrive on information. Good information - good decisions, bad information - bad decisions. But, investors are often asked to invest funds with little reliable information. This, combined with the difficulty of deciphering the information they do get about various investment alternatives, leaves them fearful of getting into an awful deal and skeptical of the deals being presented.
To get comfortable with an investment, prospective investors want to see results and evidence. They want to be educated about the investment opportunity and the investment options available to them. But, they won't accept this education at face value; they want to see the evidence that supports it. Even for niche businesses.
Investors use this education to expand their research and use the evidence they gather to develop their expectations. In the end, investors merely want the opportunity that they select to match the expectations they have developed.
When investors object to an investment the objection is usually of the "Educate me?" type. Tell me your story, show me your numbers, and then prove it. Prospective investors want information that they can validate, options and risks that they can see, and to be educated about your specific business. They want to hear why you and your team are the ones that can produce the projected results.
If your business plan "educates" prospective investors on these issues, you'll win their trust. When that happens, its time to?
Build Investor Confidence - Show Why Customers Will Award Their Business To You Rather Than Other Service Providers?
Investors invest money in businesses based on expected cash flows. To create cash flow, you must first win business. That's why it is important for your business plan to show investors why customers will award their business to you at a price that allows investors to earn an acceptable return on their investment.
When potential investors begin evaluating a service business plan, they are likely to be skeptical of your ability to consistently win business. In their minds your prospects need someone to do something for them. Something that your customers either don't know how to do, don't want to do, or don't have to do.
Service provider business plans must convince potential investors of two things. First, that the customer's pain of not having this "something" done or the pleasure of having this "something" done is so great that it compels the prospect to act. Second, that the customer is willing to pay to have this "something" done.
Potential investors in service type businesses expect that your customers are feeling confused about which service provider is the best at providing the solution you offer. They may also perceive your market as saturated with so much information?some of it true and some of it not so true?that customers are finding it difficult to decipher the information they have about each solution.
As a result, investors in service type businesses often picture skeptical customers with fresh memories of negative service experiences. Moreover, they suspect that your potential customer's biggest fear is getting awful service.
To overcome this, your business plan must show investors how you plan to successfully educate prospects about your solution and convince them that you can deliver the expected results. It must present the evidence you'll use to convince customers that you will do the job right, do it right the first time, and won't fix what doesn't need to be fixed. It has to explain how you will educate the prospect about the service and the options available to them in a way that they will understand and trust.
Your plan must convince investors that you can win over prospective customers who are likely recovering from a negative experience in your market space?customers who have been promised the ultimate solution only to be disappointed. It must provide details about how the principles and techniques chosen to market your service enable customers to view you as honest. It has to help investors see how the chosen delivery method for your service ensures customer satisfaction.
The business plan must also convince investors that customers can verify the service results you promise and that prospects can easily compare the results to other alternatives. This proves to investors that prospects can determine the superiority of your service and it shows them how you differentiate your services from other service providers.
Points For Service Providers To Address In A Business Plan
In summary, if you're a service provider trying to attract investors, these are the points you must address in your business plan:
When you address these points in a business plan with verifiable evidence to back them, potential investors will have to conclude that they would be foolish to invest in any other service provider but you.
Mike Elia is a chief financial officer and an advisor to venture capitalists and leverage buyout specialists. His business plan ebook "Business Plan Secrets Revealed" shows how to make your business the most appealing investment choice to venture capitalists, bankers, and other business investors. For his free business plan guide click here.
Have You Identified the Enemy?
One of the most powerful driving forces in human nature is competition. The desire to overcome something or some company, the need to win, the cause, can in many cases be more important than the day-to-day work of the company.
Don?t Just Talk About the Weather, Use It to Advantage
A well known, national chain of restaurants discovered that certain weather patterns substantially impacts their business. They have studied it and found that more people go out to eat dinner when there is a series of beautiful days. So they measure the weather quality at their stores across the country. Managers report the weather quality daily. A weather predicting system is then employed to determine the quality of subsequent days. When the model predicts a higher customer count they reduce or eliminate sale items and include higher priced or higher margin specials on the changing daily menu. While they can't control the weather, they know that their customers respond to it. Knowing that, they work to take advantage of factors that can predict changes in business activity.
Documenting the Exit Strategy in Your Business Plan
All investors greatly desire and are motivated by a clear picture of a company's exit strategy, or the timing and method through which they can "cash in" on their investment. This picture best comes into focus when the key valuation and liquidity drivers of the company are clearly delineated. An excellent method to accomplish this is through descriptions of comparable firms that have had successful liquidity events, either through acquisition, merger, of initial public offerings (IPOs).
Making a Decision to Outsource: Strategic Constraints
Many companies are reluctant to dive into outsourcing ocean because of various reasons of strategic nature. As far as strategic goals are touched upon, managers are concerned with the following issues:
Succession Planning for Business - 10 Key Points You Must Know
By cranking up others development to meet your business needs, big or small, not just for right now, but for the future, you will find payoffs, big-time. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Consolidation in the Software Industry is Hardly New: Obsess About It or Risk Losing it All
Some analysts credit [Larry] Ellison with anticipating the consolidation in the enterprise software industry and leading the charge. Ellison 'called a major shift in an entire market, which was impressive.'(1)
How to Write a Business Plan Market Analysis
Writing a business plan is an essential part of the initial strategic planning of any company. One thing, which seems to hang up most entrepreneurs, is figuring out what kind of data and information goes into the Market Analysis section. So often entrepreneurs will attempt to bluff or BS their way thru it. Often you find those with MBA write meticulous Market Analysis sections and although they may have little if any true entrepreneurial skills going into a new business, their business plans are sure to impress. But you need not be an MBA to write a proper Market Analysis section in your business plan for your next business.
Art of Succession Planning
Succession planning, like any business acumen, is both an art and a science. That is to say, there are many proven strategies that can and must be followed so that successful transition can occur.
How To Leverage Your Current Ideas And Products Into Multiple Revenue Streams
Diversify - to make diverse, give variety, to balance, to divide securities in different industries, to produce variety, to engage in varied operations.
Insurance Requirements in Franchised Companies
Franchised companies often require what some believe to be excessive insurance requirements. This is because so often if a franchise is sued for any reason that the Lawyers go after the big money of the franchisors and name them in the lawsuit. It is amazing that a lawyer can write garbage in a lawsuit and file it in court and if you do not hire another lawyer to fight them, you could lose your entire life's work and company. But our legal system as most entrepreneurs agree is a complete joke and more closely represents the extortion tactics of the mob than any legitimate sense of fairness or truth. This is why franchisors must require huge limits of liability insurance and additional insured certificates as part of the franchise agreement.
Be Like Bill - Think!
Twice a year, Bill Gates goes to a remote island hide-a-way for a week at a time. No, he's not going for a fishing vacation; instead of rods, reels, and lures he takes market analyses, position reports, engineering reports, and opportunity papers. In solitude he reads and thinks and reads some more, writing notes in the margins then composing questions, thoughts, and his own positions that will impact the future of Microsoft and the entire technology industry for years to come.
Regroup - How To Do It And Why It Works
Regroup?is this a new management trend? Not a chance! Regroup is simply an opportunity to end one month's business cycle, recap the performance of your company and outline a plan of success for the new upcoming month. Why does it work? Because it allows each person on your team to assess their performance from the previous month, and make any necessary adjustments for the new month. Here's how it works:
TQM Total Quality Management, the book
Every decade we seem to come up with a buzz-word to describe the things we should be doing right all the time. Forever we have heard our parents or grandparents use little phrases to get our attention. "If it is worth doing, it is worth doing right? Or "Never enough time to do it right, but always making time to do it over." Quick quotes like these and there must be a hundreds of different ones which all lead to the same thing. In the 1980's and early 1990's it was TQM or Total Quality Management. Deming and Peters harped on this like there was no tomorrow. Then later on we had the Six Sigma by GE and the Jack Welsh crowd of executives and remember the ISO 9000 series of quality and perfection. Now then let's get back to; TQM Total Quality Management, the book. If you have not read it, then you should because you can buy it at any garage sale for $1.00 or at a used book store for $4-5 dollars. Amazon has tons of used ones for sale as well. Make sure you buy the right book, as there must be 100 or more books on that subject:
How to Develop a Successful Board of Advisors (...and Why You Should!)
In today's rapidly changing and highly competitive markets, many privately held companies are creating outside advisory boards to give owners and CEOs fresh, knowledgeable advice. Even for small businesses, setting up an advisory board can give you a significant advantage over competitors that are relying solely on internal talent. An experienced and well-connected board of advisors can help your business grow and prosper in ways you've never imagined. What is a Board of Advisors? An advisory board is an outside group that is informally organized to provide business owners and corporate leaders with support, advice and assistance. While formal boards of directors have legally defined responsibilities and fiduciary duties, advisory boards have no formal power or binding legal authority. They serve at the pleasure of the business owner or CEO. Benefits of an Advisory Board There are several advantages that companies with advisory boards have over their competition. A board offers your business: An unbiased outside perspective. Increased corporate accountability and discipline. Enhanced CEO and management effectiveness. Greater credibility with investors, vendors and customers. Help in avoiding costly mistakes. Rounding out skills and expertise lacking in current management team. A sounding board for evaluating new business ideas and opportunities. Enhanced community and public relations. Improved marketing results and effectiveness. Strategic planning assistance and input. Centers of influence for networking introductions. Crisis and transition leadership in the event of the death or resignation of the CEO. Help anticipating market changes and trends. Steps to Creating an Effective Board of Advisors: Analyze the strength and weaknesses of your current management team. Look for critical areas of expertise and knowledge that your company could use help with such as marketing, legal, finance, eCommerce, and research and development or information technology. If your company is planning on going public within the next few years, seek out advisors who have successfully taken companies down that path. Set clear, written goals and objectives for your board of advisors. Getting maximum value from a board of advisors begins with clear objectives and goals. Board members must know why they have been asked to serve and what is expected of them. Before establishing the board, the CEO and senior managers should sit down and ask some of the following questions: 1. What are the main areas we need advice and guidance in? 2. What specifically do we need the board members to do for us? 3. Who are a few potential candidates for board membership? 4. How do we avoid giving away too much control to outsiders? 5. What will be the powers and limitations of the board? 6. What will setting up the board cost initially? Annually? Will it be worth the cost? Determine the size and structure of your board. Advisory boards range in size from two members to over thirty. The right size depends on many factors, such as your company's size, complexity, stage of development and individual skills needed. My experience and research has found that for most small to mid-sized, growing companies or start-ups, a 5 to 7 member advisory board is an ideal size. Smaller firms can start with just one or two members and add new members as they grow. Recruiting Candidates Determining whom you invite to join your board is one of the most critical decisions in setting up a board of advisors. Often a business owner's first instinct is to ask friends, family members or professional advisors to sit on their board. This is usually a mistake. Unless your friend or family member is a recognized authority in an area of expertise lacking by your management team or a highly successful entrepreneur, they are probably not the wisest choice. Another reason to avoid asking family or friends to join your board is lack of objectivity. Often advice from a friend, family member or management insider is sugar coated to protect relationships. An outside advisor can give you a much more objective and honest assessment of the situation. Using professional advisors such as your lawyer, banker or accountant as board members has it's own pitfalls. These advisors are already working for you and may not be as objective as you need, due to having an interest in generating future business from your company. Some critical action steps for recruiting a dynamite board of advisors are: Develop a candidate profile. After you have determined the areas of expertise your company is in need of, create a profile of candidates that successfully fit these needs. Take care to address knowledge and skills that your company will need to meet projected growth and future challenges. Seek out experts. Search online and offline for experts and proven leaders that meet your candidate profiles. Contact them and begin discussions about possible board membership. Ask for recommendations. Solicit recommendations from the experts you speak with that cannot serve on your board, of collogues of theirs that they feel would be a good fit for your needs. Begin networking with your attorney, accountant and other professional advisors. Once you have successfully recruited an advisor, he or she can often lead you to another good candidate. Find your candidates motivation. Most of your candidates are not going to be motivated by money alone. In fact, if money is their primary reason for joining your board, they may not be what you are looking for. The most effective board members are motivated by the challenge and intellectual stimulation of building successful companies. They serve because they are already high achievers and enjoy the challenge. Have variety in your board. Try to include experts and successful entrepreneurs from several different disciplines. Often board members who are successful marketers, CEOs and business owners from different industries can bring a fresh perspective to your business. These individuals can often help you incorporate best practices from other industries, into your own industry, creating revolutionary changes and opportunities. Look for a proven track record. Find the leaders in their field. The best board candidates are successful CEOs, business owners, professionals, university professors and consultants who have achieved success in their own businesses and careers. Clearly communicate your goals and objectives. Invest time in talking to and meeting with potential members. Communicate to them what your goals and objectives are. Let them know that you are not looking for "yes men" and that you want advisors who will challenge you and hold you accountable for your businesses growth. Board Compensation Board members expect and deserve to be compensated for their time, efforts and advice. Typical advisory board compensation includes a stipend from $5,000 to $25,000 per member, per year. Some companies pay their board members per meeting, with payment ranging from $500 to $3,000 per meeting, with a monthly retainer of $500 to $2,500. Companies should also cover transportation, meals and lodging for members when attending meetings. Most successful boards also give or require members to buy stock or some form of equity in the company. This gives the board members equity participation and a vested interest in the growth of the company. Pitfalls to Avoid Some potential problem areas to avoid when setting up or working with your advisory board are: Members missing meetings. Because board members are usually running successful businesses of their own, they may not always be available for every meeting. However, board members should be made aware that attendance of board meetings is important and expected. If a member is chronically absent, the value of their membership on the board should be reviewed. Insecurity of senior managers. Some company insiders may feel intimidated or threatened by the involvement of outsiders. The CEO or owner must make every effort to communicate to his staff the benefits and importance of having a board of advisors. Incompatible personalities. This is a challenging situation, because most members of your board will be strong willed, achiever types, who have gotten where they are by taking charge. Many will have strong convictions about their opinions and may find it hard to defer the leadership of the meetings to the CEO. You must determine when a member's personality is "too strong" and becoming disruptive. Excessive number of board members. Because of their strong personalities, if you have too many members on your board, the more assertive members often dominate the debates, depriving you of the contributions the quieter members may have made. Lack of CEO communication. Withholding company information or not regularly communicating with the members of your board of advisors destroys trust and effectiveness. Regular communication between meetings is essential to maintaining an effective board. Inadequate compensation. As I mentioned, you do not want compensation to be the determining factor in a candidates membership on your advisory board, however successful individuals of the caliber you seek expect to be fairly compensated for their time and knowledge. Keys to Board Effectiveness If you build it, use it. Owners and CEOs who invest the time and money in creating a board should be committed to soliciting and using its advice on important issues and decisions. Value their input, even when they disagree with what you want to do. Sometimes a board is at it's most valuable when it recommends against a course of action the CEO wants to take. If you recruit a good board, often they have already been down the path you are on, and their experience (and past failures) can help you to avoid costly mistakes. Communicate with your advisors. Keep the members of your board informed about what is happening in your company and industry. Counsel with individual members on the phone at least monthly and send them information well in advance of your meetings, to help them prepare and keep the meetings productive. Hold regular meetings. Most boards meet once per quarter. However, boards should meet more often during times of rapid growth or if company needs merit additional oversight and guidance. Have an objective for each meeting. Your board members are busy people and their time is valuable. Make the most out of your meetings with them, by having a clear agenda and objectives for each meeting. Make sure to cover the most important items of business first, in case the discussions take longer than planned or some members have to leave early. Annual assessment of board performance. Periodically assessing the board's effectiveness is a critical factor in ensuring a good return on investment. Each year the board should set performance goals and define their criteria for success. At the end of the year the CEO and the board should assess it's performance, compared to its goals and criteria for success. Over 80 percent of all private companies are operating without a board of advisors or board of directors. Odds are your competitors do not have one. Because of this, developing a board of advisors can give your company a distinct advantage over your competition. This is particularly true for start-ups and family run businesses. There is tremendous value in receiving objective, knowledgeable advice from a board of advisors who share in the financial and equity growth of your business. I encourage you to begin recruiting your advisory board today!
Writing Your Business Plan is Actually Storytelling
Storytelling and writing a business plan actually go hand in hand. The same ingredients used in telling a story are also used in writing a business plan. Let's use the Executive Summary as an example.
Business Process Methodologies
I've either been involved with or held a process-related role since 1994. It started in the government with TQM (Total Quality Management). Then before I left the government, I worked with ERWin and some process standard model -- I've forgotten its official name. We had pages and pages of flows that were not easy to follow.
5 Strategies That Will Boost Your Business Productivity Today! - Part 2
Growing your own small business can be one of the most exciting journeys you could ever embark upon!
The 7 Critical Steps to Formulating Your Annual Strategic Business Plan
Businesses tend to avoid doing their annual business plan thinking that it is an arduous task that does not accomplish much. Formulating your annual plan is, however, critical to your business success and if done correctly should be quick, easy and generate bottom line results.
3 Undercover Ways to Make Big Profits from Your Competition
You have heard that there is extra money on the table marketing products related to yours. You have also heard that your direct competitors product is off the table. How unfortunate. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to profit from the hard work, expertise and quality of your competitions product?
The Chasm of Change---- Restructuring ----- The Goliath
Richard L. Daft one of the country's recognized academic leadership experts raises the question, "What kind of people can lead an organization through major change?" A Turn-A-Round restructuring qualifies as major change and requires transformational leadership. Daft points out that this type of leader is characterized by the ability to bring about change through innovation and creativity. This type of leader motivates people to not only follow their lead but to believe in the vision of corporate transformation, the need for revitalization, to sign on for the new vision and to help institutionalize a new organizational process." Daft points to four principles in discussions about leading an organization through major change. These four principles are the foundation of the restructuring Turn-A-Round process.
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