Ok... so you've finally reached that stage in the development of your home business to get started. You've done the research, you have a game plan and you're ready to go except for one small detail... you need money. Whether it comes from a loan or from investors it doesn't matter but you need a good dose of seed money to put all your hard work and planning into action. However, regardless of who hears your money pitch before they give you a dime they will want see your business plan. Business Plan - What Is It? A good way to think of a business plan is that's it's a document that provide answers to the type of questions anyone who may provide financing would like to know about your "home business" . You will not get outside funding without one, because the people giving you the funding will insist on one because it helps them to know that youve thought through what youre proposing to do. A business plan says to them... "Ive considered this from every angle, and heres what Ive come up with". Business Plan - What Does It Include? What is your product or service? This is the first question every business plan should answer. You must explain in the clear, concise language what in the world you plan to produce or what service you plan to provide. You will also want to include why you've chosen this particular product or service. Who are Your Customers? After you've explained your product or service, the next step is to identify who you plan to sell your product or service too and why. The demographics (age, sex, language, country, state or city, income, etc.) You need to clearly identify your customers in order to properly target your advertising, packaging, pricing, et. What Makes You Different? You need to identify the "primary factors" that will make your business different than other businesses you'll be competing with. What niche are you filling that they are not or what do you plan to do to fill a particular void in the market that you've identified? What are Your Expenses? Your start-up expenses include any equipment that you need before you can get up-and-running, while your day-to-day expenses are staff costs and supplies. Following is a Simplified Example of Business Plan This a a simplified and shortened version of a business plan. In the real world... each one of the following sections would be 1 - 2 pages in length. That being said... in most instances it's better to be as brief as possible. Only add information if your potential backers request it. It's a bad idea to go into too much detail in your plan. Youre not trying to explain everything down to the nth detail, just the basics of the business and why they should give you the money you need to launch it. And always focus on profit. Catering Plus Nature of Business: The business will be a home-based catering company, producing luxury food for special occasions such as birthdays and weddings. We will provide a comprehensive catering service, while specializing in high end customized cakes, which have a higher profit margin than other foods. Target Market: Our catering business will be aimed at middle-class customers who desire a top-of-the-line catering but must operate on a budget. Our initial market area will consist of Mytown and the affluent area of Theretown. Key Factors: We will only use commerical grade ingredients purchased from wholesalers and provide top quality design and service. This will allow us to provide food that looks tastes great, while keeping costs as low as possible. Expenses: Beause I will be using my kitchen and making the food myself, there are only two real expenses: The purchase of an industrial grade mixer and then the day-to-day cost of supplies. I've attached a suppliers letter listing prices. Our research has shown that this supplier offers the best value for start-ups. To wrap it up, you should include a breakdown of both projected profit and loss per month (in graph form)for the first year in business. Show one-time and day-to-day expenses versus projected profit to indicate how you will pay-off your loan. Your business plan should show you making enough of a profit each month to live on if it doesnt, then it may be considered unfeasible. Study a Few Real-World Business Plans The best way to get a real a feel for the dos and do nots of a business plans is to find real-world plans that have already been approved and study them. A good place to start is the internet. Once youve studied a few, you will get a better feel for how much work will be involved in putting your business plan together. Remember, until your business exists for real, the business plan is the only tool you have to sell prospective backers on how great your business is going to be.
Copyright 2006 Deborah Torres PatelManagers need to empower their staff to deliver what is expected. Oftentimes understanding peoples personal motivations is the key to turning around an unproductive employee, team or company. Never underestimate the power of sincere face-to-face dialogue as a stepping-stone to positive and consistent work performance.WHAT TO SAYStart your conversation by asking the under-performing person a question like "How do you feel you performed?" It is very important to understand where the person is coming from before highlighting their lack of success.If the underperformer thinks that they are already doing a great job, then you know the person has clearly not understood the goals and what they were expected to accomplish, or they are totally out of sync with what is required.If you ask them, "How do you think you did this year?" And they say, "I think I did very well." Reply with "Okay, if you think you did very well can you explain or just share with me your thoughts on what happened. [Referring to a particular month or a particular project that didn't go well]Listen objectively to the under-performers side of the story and do not make them wrong in any way. Simultaneously make a decision about whether their reasoning is legitimate or not. Then you can openly explain to them why you thought differently.ADDRESSING PERSONAL CHALLENGESWhen people are underperforming at work, there are often personal issues that may be coming in the way. Either they have a personal issue with you, another person in the organization, or with their team.In some cases, they can actually be bringing an outside personal matter into the workplace. This is especially true for people that lack education, life experience, or an emotionally stable home. Often they are just finding life in general overwhelming and difficult to cope with. Unresolved personal issues can definitely come in the way of someone's performance.The other thing from a manager's perspective is the motivation factor. It is wise to try to understand what your staffs personal issues are. You want to understand so that when you do put demands on your staff you are mindful of what they can or cannot handle.You can encourage your staff to forget their outside personal issues while they are at work and actually be able to get away from them by focusing on work. If they still can't let go, you need to sit down and try and help them to come to a decision as to how best tackle their personal challenges.LISTEN WITH CAREMany times people have an idea about how to deal with their issues but they have no one they can trust to talk with. If you make time to listen to your staff, it is virtually impossible for them not to do better simply because they really feel that they are working with someone who cares about them.You can be very successful at turning around underperformers, underperforming departments and even companies by really taking the time to understand peoples personal motivations.To accomplish this, create one-hour time slots for each staff/team member at least once a year to have a sincere conversation and invest the time in helping them to set their short and long term career goals. Its a good idea to do the one-on-one sessions 6 months before their annual appraisal.
Everybody says it. Get a personal introduction and youll fare much better.So, what? I walk up to this guy when hes at lunch and introduce myself, noting that Id like $850,000 for my new business? No, I dont think so.There are, actually, much better ways of getting that personal introduction, such as:1.Via RejectionsYes, rejections do have a rosy side. Every time a lender or investor rejects your business plan, call and ask who they recommend as a good prospect.Then, contact the person/company that is recommended, noting, Jan Snicker at Big Oldie Bank suggested I contact you.Voila! Theres your personal introduction.2.Via ResearchUse your research to identify something common between you and the lender/investor. Perhaps your neighbor went to the same college he did. Perhaps your kids are both into ice hockey.Use that commonality to get your personal approach.For example, you discover that he is a Scout leader, just as you were. So start out, Being a Scout leader taught me the importance of teaching leadership skills to my team.Before you know it, you and he are good buddies.3.Via a Common ContactSomewhere within seven degrees of separation there are people common to both of you, either in your professional lives, or your personal circles.This may take some legwork. You need to hook up with the person who knows the person who knows him. But its well worth it. The gold mine of information you discover along the way, as well as that ever valuable personal introduction, make every moment worth while.Is this imposing on people? Not at all. People like to be asked. They like feeling important. So give them both.Dont be surprised if a journey like this turns up other investors/lenders that you hadnt even thought of.4.Via a Chance EncounterYou suspect that Mr. Gingle will be at the investor forum next week? Well, what the dickens is stopping you? Line up that intro now.If you can manage to be at his table at lunch, youve hit a home run. But any chance encounter will do just fine. All you need is a few minutes to give your investor introduction pitch.Your goal is to have him say that its OK for you to send a business plan to his attention. That, realistically, is all the time he will have at a brief encounter like this.5.Via the Back DoorYour lender/investor has clients. Some have been very successful and earned him a lot of money.If you cannot get to your person, try getting to that particular client. Industry conferences are always a good bet. Local business conferences often work well too.I know one industrious entrepreneur who moved to Menlo Park, California, and hung out in the local pubs known to be frequented by venture capitalists. While that was a bit radical, the approach is right on target.I cannot over-emphasize the importance of conducting research on your potential investment partner. It doesnt matter whether its the bank around the corner or the "venture capital" firm on the other side of the country. Find out everything you can names, biographies, hobbies, speeches, education, career path.Then, when you do get that personal introduction (and its invariably at a time when you least expect it!), you will have the info glue to make the introduction stick.Good luck on your adventure!
Q: Im interested in doing business internationally. I have done some reading on the subject, but there is an awful lot to digest. Have you had any experience in this matter and can you suggest the best way to get started?-- P. Granger.A: Great question, Mr. Granger, though not one Im personally qualified to answer since I have not had direct experience with international sales. So like any good columnist without a clue I can either make up something and hope it sounds semi-intelligent or I can consult someone who really is an expert on international sales and let him answer your question. Since my agreement with The Times prevents me from fabricating anything other than my true age (Im 29), lets go with the latter.I called on Jose Rodriguez, President of RISMED Oncology Systems, a Huntsville company that provides high medical technology to radiotherapy professionals around the globe, to get his input on the subject. Jose is an old friend and client and if anyone can give pointers on doing business internationally, Jose is the man.Jose believes that the decision to do business beyond your own backyard should be based on your success as a local, domestic business first. Unless the business is intended to be one that sells to international customers only, one should not jump into international business until they have devoted the time to develop a good local and domestic business first, Jose recommends.Here are a few other points Jose recommends that you keep in mind when considering an entry into the international business arena.Instill Confidence In Your CustomerRegardless of the type of product or service you sell internationally, you must be ready to provide your international customer with an even higher level of service that you offer your domestic customers. To instill confidence in your international customers you might have to offer such things as around the clock telephone support, extended warranties, and other services that help the customer have confidence in doing business with you. Know The RulesYou must understand all of the rules and regulations that govern international business practices in this country as well as those in your customers country. Understanding the rules will allow you to provide service beyond the expectation of the buyer and operate within the boundaries of the law. Understand The International Shipping ProcessIf goods are being shipped internationally you must have a thorough understanding of shipping modes and regulations. Any difficulties with shipping will always be viewed by the buyer as the sellers responsibility, right or wrong. Understanding the entire shipping process and having policies in place will help avoid shipping problems and keep the customer happy. Work With Experienced CompaniesAlways look for experienced companies to work with, especially when if comes to shipping, insurance, freight forwarders, etc. Such companies are great allies and will help keep everything in order and will also help in solving problems related to their end of the process. Signed and SealedNever conduct business under verbal orders. Always put everything in writing with the required signatures. Doing international business is different than domestic business. Outside the United States signatures and seals are required to seal the deal. Dont worry about offending your customer as this is just part of doing business internationally. Include A Packing ListIf shipping goods, always do a packing list and always number the packages (if 5 packages are being sent, label them 1/5 [1 of 5], 2/5, etc.). If anything is lost, they will know which package is missing and you will have sent a packing list detailing what was in every package, making it easy for the customer, the shipper and the insurance company to solve the problem. Also, always insure your goods for at least 110% of their value. Have A Damage PolicyAlways have a note in your paperwork requiring damage or losses to be reported within 24 hours. Damage reports should be made to the customers local delivery company as well as to the shipping company on your end. Signing OffIf you are selling services abroad, always have the required paperwork so that as the work is finished or as deliveries are made, the customer signs off in agreement with what was delivered. Ensure PaymentDepending on the amount of the sale, always require payment in advance in U.S. currency or payment through a letter of credit to be paid out in U.S. currency. You might also require that the letter of credit be irrevocable and transferable, that it allow for payments of partial shipments, etc. The more flexible the letter of credit, the better, and usually such clauses are yours just for the asking. There are many other considerations you should investigate before starting your international business, but thats a great list to get you started.Thanks for the great advice, Jose. I couldnt have said it better myself.
Copyright 2006 Ed BagleyAlmost everyone who has graduated from high school knows that Benjamin Franklin was a famous American.Most of us have read that Franklin used a lighting rod to prove a theory he had about electricity. Others remember that he was the one who invented the bifocals which many of us wear today. (I just ordered a new pair of trifocals; thanks to Ben, I see better.)But few of us also know these facts and observations about Benjamin Franklin:Franklin was Americas best scientist, inventor, writer, business strategist and diplomat of his time. He was also one of the eras most practical political thinkers!Franklins interest in electricity led him to note the distinction between insulation and conductors, the idea of electrical grounding, and the concepts of capacitors and batteries.Franklin discovered that the big East Coast storms known as northeasters, whose winds come from the northeast, actually move in the opposite direction from their winds, traveling up the coast from the south, thus beginning the science of weather forecasting.Franklin combined both science and mechanical practicality by devising the first urinary catheter used in America.Franklin declined to patent his inventions, freely sharing his findings, as his love of science was born of curiosity.Franklin became the first person in America to manufacture type, because there was no foundry in America for casting type when he opened his print shop.Franklin reprinted an English novel--Pamela--thereby publishing the first novel in America.Franklin created Americas first great humor classic, Poor Richards Almanack (Almanac, in todays usage), which Franklin began publishing in 1732, combining two goals of his doing-well-doing-good philosophy: the making of money and the promotion of virtue. His aphorisms and observations soon became legend.Franklins genius as a 16-year-old writer was obvious when he authored 14 essays anonymously that were published in his brothers newspaper, creating the character Silence Dogood, a widowed woman. Franklins ability to speak convincingly as a woman was remarkable, and his writing style would introduce a new genre of American humor: the wry, homespun mix of folksy tales and pointed observations that would later be perfected by such great American writers and humorists as Mark Twain and Will Rogers.Franklin became America's first gossip columnist.Franklin became the patron saint of self-improvement guides by writing many personal credos that laid out his pragmatic rules for success. Dale Carnegie would follow in his footsteps, as well as hundreds of positive thinking, modern day self-improvement authors.Franklin manufactured the first recorded abortion debate in America, not because he had any strong feelings on the issue, but because he knew it would help sell newspapers.Franklin was the consummate networker, forming a club of young workingmen he dubbed the Junto, which met in a rented room and, by pooling the books of its members, became Americas first subscription library.Franklin created a volunteer fire force (the forerunner of todays volunteer fire department), and established the academy that would later be renamed the University of Pennsylvania.Franklin was appointed to the top post office job in America by the British government. Within a year, he had cut to one day the delivery time of a letter from New York to Philadelphia. (The United States Postal Service manages to get the same letter delivered in an average of three days today!)Franklin retired at age 42, with an assured income over the next 18 years of approximately 650 pounds annually; in his day, a common worker earned 25 pounds a year, so Franklin retired with an annual income 26 times a normal working persons wages! (In todays money, if you were making $50,000 a year in income, Franklin was getting by in retirement on an income of $1.3 million--$1,300,000--annually.)Franklin became Americas greatest diplomat by negotiating the support of France (its money, its recognition and its military support), that led to the success of the American Revolution, and creation of the United States of America as an independent nation.Franklin was instrumental in shaping the three great documents of the American Revolution: the Declaration of Independence, the alliance with France, and the treaty with England.Franklin was the only person to sign all four of Americas founding papers: the Declaration of Independence, the treaty with France, the peace accord with Britain, and the Constitution of the United States.Franklins most important vision was an American national identity based on the virtues and values of its middle class.Franklin came up with the concept of matching grant money, showing how government and private initiative could be woven together for the common good.Franklin was Americas first great publicist. He carefully crafted his own persona, portrayed it in public, and polished it for posterity.Franklin perfected the art of poking fun at himself, recognizing that a bit of wry self-deprecation could make him seem even more endearing.Franklin was the first to note that nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.Franklin was also the first to remind us that a penny saved is a penny earned. Franklin might also have said a penny, invested wisely, could be the start of a small fortune.Benjamin Franklin would have been one of the first people of his time to use computers, and would have been one of the first to start an Internet marketing business. Franklin loved to make money, and he loved the virtues of independence, self-reliance, hard work and innovation, all virtues associated with making a lot of money.Franklin would have been front and center with todays Internet marketers, in constant contact with his fellow entrepreneurs through online forums, e-mail messaging, and hobnobbing at seminars around the country and overseas (Paris was his second home).Was Benjamin Franklin awesome? Absolutely.