Writing Your Business Plan – Do You Know Where to Start?

It’s time to get down to business, that is, the business of writing your plan. You know the basics involved, but putting your knowledge on paper can prove slightly daunting. It is a crucial document to your business, one that goes beyond helping you attain funding. It will aid you in achieving your big picture goals for the company. It tells your sales personnel, suppliers, and others about your operations and goals. A good business plan helps you allocate resources properly, handle unforeseen complications, and make the right decisions. Let this plan be the map leading to your success.

The business plan should have clearly outlined sections that deliver information and goals in an organized and informative manner. These individual sections will answer a specific question pertaining to your business. A list of the important sections are as follows:

The Executive Summary

Only a cover sheet and table of contents precede the Executive Summary, otherwise it is the first introduction a investor/lender will have when reading about your company, and the most important part of your document. The Executive Summary is the first section of your business plan, but the last part that you should write. It’s a summary of the rest of your plan, and should amount to no more than a page or two. The Executive Summary is the first thing in your business plan that other people will read so you need to explain the basics of what you intend to do with your proposed business. It offers an overview of your plan regarding the current market trends, features of the product or service, competition issues, financial reports, and management team. When drafting the plan with the intent of showing it to a possible investor, it is wise to include information regarding the amount of funds you are seeking and the ways in which they will be invested. Remember, the Executive Summary may be your one and only opportunity to gain the attention of a prospective investor/lender, so make it interesting and make it sell the rest of the business plan.

Management

The next section is all about you and your people, especially the key managers in your company. In this section of your business plan you will give brief descriptions of your primary managers, including an overview of their backgrounds and functions in your organization, as this is of great interest to potential investors, partners and employees. The section will also detail the qualifications of you and the other principles in the business. Your background, past experience, duties and responsibilities, etc. People want to know who they’re dealing with. You may want to include an organizational chart that graphically depicts individual responsibilities and who reports to whom. Sell yourself and your team as a finely tuned machine that can tackle any problem that might arise in future as this will give greater confidence to a lender or investor.

Product or Service

What are you offering? What makes your business and the service it is providing unique? Ask yourself these questions and then get typing! This section describes your service or product, emphasizing the benefits to potential customers. Focus on the areas where you have a distinct advantage over your competition. Also include your overall plan for positioning, cost, and promotions to possible clients.

Market Analysis

The Market Analysis section should illustrate your knowledge about the particular industry your business is in, its target market, and your competition. Evaluating your industry increases your knowledge of the factors that contribute to your company’s success. Your target market is simply the market (or group of customers) that you want to focus on. Understanding your customers is essential to business success. When analyzing the competition, highlight the key differences between you and your competitors: products (benefits, features, performance and price), positioning, capabilities, and strategy. Make sure you provide credible statistics when writing this section.

Marketing and Sales

Marketing is the process of creating customers, and customers are the lifeblood of your business. In the Marketing and Sales Strategy section the first thing you want to do is define your marketing strategy. There is no single way to approach marketing. Your strategy should be part of an ongoing self-evaluation process and unique to your company. Marketing makes it memorable, and when the right marketing strategy is created, people will automatically think of your product. You want people to be triggered in some sensory way that then leads to an instant image of your product or service, be the “go to guy”. Outline in detail your plans for promoting, placing, and pricing your product. It may be the greatest product on the market, but if no one has heard of it, none of that will matter. Don’t let yourself or your product be tossed into a discount bin just because you weren’t willing to go the extra mile to back up your quality with a creative marketing strategy. Think outside the box!

Operations

The Operating Plan deals with what you need to run your business, from facilities to the necessary equipment and technology for you to be successful. Place a critical eye on your business and rate your efficiency in operations. If your business is based largely on some aspect of its operations- manufacturing, logistics, customer service, etc – readers will want to know about that in more detail. An efficient business is an effective business that produces results.

Financial Plan

Gather all your paperwork and get ready for some number crunching! The Financial Plan section distills your strategies and assumptions into how much they’ll cost and how much money they will make you in the course of your new business. The financials should be developed after you’ve analyzed the market and set clear objectives.

This section will include data from income statements, balance sheets, cash-flow statements, and any other pertinent reports. Highlight the positives in terms of profits and reframe possible negatives as “opportunities” or “challenges”. A challenge is something a solid team can rise to meet, emphasize this to the investor/lender and in your business plan. Consistency is also imperative. If you don’t stick to your assumptions about profit margins, selling prices, materials costs or other key measures throughout this section, it will show up immediately.

For some readers, such as bankers looking for balance sheet assets to collateralize a loan, the financial section may be the most important part of the plan. For others, such as employees looking for a great place to work, it’s the least interesting. But it’s actually of prime importance for everybody, because this section is where you’ll distinguish a business from a mere hobby. If the numbers add up to a reasonable return on your investment, congratulations. Your business has a reasonable chance of succeeding.

As you research and prepare your business plan, you’ll find the weak spots in your business idea that you’ll be able to repair. You will also discover different areas with potential you may not have thought about before-and ways to profit from them. Only by putting together a thorough business plan can you decide whether your great idea is really worth your time and investment in the long run.

How to Know If You Have What it Takes to Be a Home Based Business Owner Answer These 7 Questions

Do you have a home based business or want to start a home based business? Who wouldn’t want to have large amounts of cash pouring in to their bank account from their home office? Who wouldn’t want thousand of loyal customers, to sell products and services to, from the convenience of their home? Who wouldn’t want more time with their family?

This is the joy of having and operating a home based business. There are literally thousands and thousands of people who make money at home and have the quality of life you are looking for. What does it take to be successful at your home based business? Are you the type of person who is ready for a home based business venture? If you are working a job right now and want to transition into having a home based business or if you want to improve your current home base business what does it take?

Answer these 7 questions and grade yourself on how you are doing right now. These questions are about how you can improve your business output. Grade yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being the highest) Be as honest as you can it will help you become more successful with your home based business aspirations. Get your paper and pen and let’s begin.

Do you have a big vision?
I have a big vision that drives and keeps me excited about my home based business. I am very excited all the time about my vision and my business. I have written my big vision on paper where I can see it. I know why I work my home based business and I know who it will benefit when I am as successful and produce my vision. Grade yourself 1 to 10

Do you have a big business community network that you work with?
I understand that my network = my net worth. I have a lot of business colleagues that I work with on a daily basis. We utilize and share information so that we can, find untapped markets, open new territories, bring in new customers over night and generate website traffic and share profits. We do not need the help of a bank loan or line of credit to run our home based business. We utilize joint venture strategies to help us all succeed as entrepreneurs. I don’t feel as if I work alone, I am part of a community of entrepreneurs who work together. Grade yourself 1 to 10

Do you have strong self-command?
I do not let any news or challenges stop me from my home based business goals. No one has command over my feelings but me. I tell myself uplifting inspiring thoughts about my ability to run a business from my home everyday. I focus only on the out come I want for me and my family. I spend part of everyday visualizing my big vision and my end results. I follow through on what I say I am going to do that day. Grade yourself 1-10

Do you have a place you can go to get new customers or clients?
When I need new clients I utilize my business community network and am introduced to someone who has a big data base, full of thousands of customer, who is looking for a new product to market to that data base. We create a joint venture and I provide that new product. I receive new clients as well as splitting the profits between myself and my business colleague. I joint venture twice a month so that I build my home base business quickly. Grade yourself 1 to 10

Are you a possibility thinker?
I do not spend time worrying, complaining or fearing about what to do with my home base business. I take action. I am a solution seeker. When I run up against an unknown problem I will explore options and implement those tools and solutions that will catalyze my home base business dreams. I do not indulge in limited negative thinking. I do not let other use lack, limited or negative thinking around me either. I am open to all possibilities and solutions. Grade yourself 1 to 10

Are you organized with your day?
I make a list of what I need to get done for the next day, the night before. I work a schedule just as I would if I were an employee, whether I work full time or part time at my home based business. I make my hourly schedule of when I will work and I stick to it. I know where all my files, papers and tools I will need are. I work effectively during the hours I set aside to work my home based business. I work at the things that will generate cash for me and my family.

Do you utilize marketing strategies that are low cost and effective?
I run my home based business lean and mean. I do not use my resources to buy unnecessary marketing or advertising products when I can joint venture instead. I keep my costs down and my profits high. I know how to get supper affiliates to sell my product at no cost. I know how to optimize the referral market. I do not pay for leads or buy lists hoping to find clients. Grade yourself 1 to 10

The lowest score is a 7 the highest is a 70. You can see by the score and number where you need to improve your home based business skill sets. If you are starting your home based business or scored in the 7 to 55 range you may want to improve your business by learning about what a joint venture is and how you can explode your home based business sales using that tool.

Here is my last challenge to you. Give this test to your spouse and ask them to grade you without any reprisal from you. Then together you are on the same page and can explode your home base business dreams together. Sometimes just finding better solutions can help your home based business thrive.

Five Reasons You Should Invest In The Stock Market

Are you scared away from reading this article? Don’t be. Everyone (18 and over mind you ) can invest in the stock market, regardless of job, education and location… and its easy! Whether you are a work at home mom, a blogger, entrepreneur, student or what have you, investing in the stock market is as simple as finding a product you use and predicting the company will turn out something newer and better.

I am 18 years old and I hold $1,500 worth of stocks in a brokerage account. I’m sure you are considering all of the bad economic news that is out, and really the height of the crash came in early January. I started my trading account on January 1st, and I have positive gains thus far. If you haven’t put serious thought into buying stocks, now is the time.

Here are five clear-cut reasons you shouldn’t be scared to invest in stocks:

1. The “Big Dogs” Don’t Want You To Its a fact. Plain and simple, the big market players (mutual funds, investment banks, stock advisers, etc.) don’t want you messing around in their rich-man’s game because it is a market that they used to control. Slowly, but steadily, more and more people are owning stocks… and for good reasons! The stock market is the best way to make money ever created, and it is totally open to the public. If you think you are too inexperienced to own stocks, think again! One thing that really benefits small investors is that they don’t move the market. When you trade, nobody is going to see that impact… so you can basically sneak in and out of companies taking profits off the table left and right.

I want to see the age when everyone plays the stock market. I think that it is coming sooner than we expect. Not only is it a fun, gambling experience, owning stock will educate you in the ways businesses work! If an 18 year old student can figure this game out, you can too! ;)

2. The Stock Market Typically Goes Up Don’t always believe the recession-doomsday hype. It is a fact, in fact, that throughout the history of the stock market, the average recession has seen S&P Index returns of +3.14% during the actual recession, and of +28.20% three years forward from the first warning signs of recession. The stock market has the ability to weather a storm, and it seems like the most brutal hit has already been served up…although we could fall a bit further. The point of the matter is that as long as you are investing in the right areas, you should be recession-proofed enough to make money regardless of the macroeconomic conditions at play.

3. It’s Cheap and Affordable to Invest Now!

Over the past decade, tons of discount brokers have been cutting their rates to encourage you to use their services and invest. Equity trading has gotten faster, cheaper and easier than ever in the 21st century! There are services like Zecco.com that offer $0 commission fees, and more reputable and established brokers that charge a meager $7.99/trade. When considering you are probably going to be buying stocks that cost a total of $250-1000 per purchase, the commission fees are a blip on the radar.

These discount brokers (or premium if you are interested) offer fast, reliable services that basically do it all for you. I am with Scottrade currently, and they have programs they give you for free to research stocks, see what experts are saying, and they even track all of your taxable gains for you. It is easier than ever to sign up for an account and deposit as little as $500 to get on your way! Check out my “getting started” post for more information.

4. Potential Upside Outweighs Downside Risk

A lot of my friends at Penn State are hesitant to get into the stock market game. They claim they are “just not ready” or “too scared to make a first move”… I call this a load of garbage. Investing is not about letting it all ride on lucky seven. When you buy a stock, you own a piece of that company, if the stock price goes down, it goes down… but you shouldn’t be losing any more than 20% of your initial investment at any rate. Your money is generally safe in stocks, so stop worrying and focus on the upside!

At this point, I want to bring up my portfolio’s performance in 2008. At first, I was off to a horrendous start with everything trading down on poor news. As of late, everything has just about balanced out and I am actually sitting on a gain! I have stocks like Yamana Gold I have profited more than 26% on in a month, and stocks like NVidia where I am down 15.5%. The point is, you have your winners and your losers. Take the bad with the good and you have a favorable amount of upside compared to downside. If you play your cards right, you will see more money than surfing the internet could ever bring you.

5. It’s Easy and People Want to Help You

I’ve mentioned just how easy it is to get started in the stock market. Stock brokers like TD Ameritrade, Scottrade and Charles Schwaub are practically throwing themselves at your feet. People want to help you nowadays, and it is so easy to get started you won’t believe your eyes. If you don’t know where to invest, turn on CNBC for an hour. Seriously. Jim Cramer? Fast Money? These programs are chock-full of investment ideas that are well researched. It simply becomes your job to look into these stocks a bit more to make sure they are right for you.

The internet can be your best investment friend. I suggest the Motley Fool for reading up on terrific stock opportunities. There are even bloggers looking to help you like the Intelligent Speculator and some guy named the Net Fool.

The Bottom Line: There is NO better way to get high returns on your investment than with the stock market. Whether it is high-growth risky plays you are gunning for, or established conglomerate powerhouses… almost any sound trading should make you money. Consider an initial $100 deposit gaining just 10% (you can do better ;) ) for five years… BAM! That’s about $1,650. What if you added $100 every year to that one grand deposit? SHAZAM! That’s a whopping $2,300. The magic is in the fact that when your stock value increases, you basically own more of that company, nominally speaking. Instead of making money on your $1000, you are making money on your $2,300! The possibilities are endless, and it is easier than ever to get in on the action. -The Net Fool