The Nuts and Bolts of a Business Plan

Do you need investors? Looking for a loan? Do you want to apply for a grant? Or has the time just come to do a self-analysis of your business? Are you expanding your business? Looking for new markets? Seeking the next level in your business? These are all times that you need a business plan? What are the nuts and bolds of a business plan?

All business plans have more or less the same sections some even have the same content.
However, when they arrive at the investor’s or lender’s table some remain where they are and others pass to the “I’ll read them later” pile or worse still the trash can! So how do you make your business plan readable and memorable for all the best reasons.

Let’s look at what really is at the heart of a business plan. A business plan is a methodology that defines and integrates the activities that are necessary for a business idea to become a company and provides expectations that prove it will be profitable. In other words, it is the hook to get an investor and tell them that your idea is innovative and will be very profitable. Note those two important words: innovative and profitable. No investor will be interested in a company that is not going to be profitable enough to give them their investment back plus a very healthy profit. Now the what could be an interesting word – innovative. For a company to be successful it must have something that is different to all the other companies working in the same market. After all if your company is going to be the same as all the others, they are hardly going to move over and let you take their customers. No, your company needs to have something different that will attract these customers away from what they buy all the time. So innovative in some way, be it products, business model or service.

Lets add another word that your need to prove within your business plan – viable. Your investor or lender wants to see that you company is going to be viable. If you do a Google search about the “Internet Bubble” of circa 1995 you will see that thousands of investors invested and lent to new fangled internet companies that promised to make them millions of dollars in easy profits. Memories are long and now investors look to see that new companies are going to be viable for the for seeable future so that they continue to receive an income stream and have a good chance of getting their loan or investment back.

Your business plan should be a communication tool selling an original idea that serves to attract and convince people that you have the ability to implement the plan by establishing and managing the company.

At the beginning we highlighted other reasons for business planning. In addition to raising funds, your business plan is also the best tool for you to assess the viability of your business.

So that is the NUTS of a business plan, lets look at the BOLTS that hold it together:

Professional: Internally it should be well structured with an index, page numbers, headings and bulleted paragraphs that explain complex matter. Plenty of graphics break up the boredom of too many words. Externally it should be expertly bound and have a colorful and attractive cover page. It stands to reason that full company details and contact information should also be on the front cover.

Tempting. Written in a way that encourages the reader to assess the possibilities of entering the business. Take care of the writing style, be concise but not brief and certainly not so wordy that tiredness beckons. Keep to the point, zwoding extraneous information that does not support your business planning or business model. Avoid jargon and if you must use initials ensure that the first example is spelt out completely with the initials in brackets afterwards.

Dynamic. You have to be creative, but with some restraint. It is best if you tell a story but not one that is found in the fiction section of a library. If the business you propose does not invite big flourishes, save them. It can be counterproductive to distract the reader. Creativity is important as long as you highlight something about the business and is there to keep the attention of the reader. Creativity must only be used to paint a picture of how the business will operate in the future.

Accurate. Clarity is fundamental, but so is accuracy and truthfulness about the current state of your company and its future aims. A little bit of license is offered by the reader but they do expect you to be truthful about your figures, customer numbers and state of the production of your goods.

Ordered. Guide your reader through your business plan and put supporting documentation within the appendix of the report. Although the key information should be in the main sections of the report, in the appendices you can include secondary data, market study results, resumes of professionals and any letters from recommendation or favorable report.

The last big BOLT that will hold your business plan together is CARE. Your business plan is not just something you have to rush through in order to get your funding. It is the description of what your business looks like now and what you want it to look like in the future. Most business plans start at about 20 pages long for a small business setting out in the world to a maximum of 50 pages for a business seeking major funding. Whatever the size of your business plan, and please practice writing complex ideas succinctly, it should be written with care – after all a good business plan is a roadmap to company success!

How Business Succession Planning Can Protect Business Owners

What if something happens to you, and you can no longer manage your business anymore? Who will then take over your business, and will it be managed the way you want?

Establishing a sound business succession plan helps ensure that your business gets handed over more smoothly.

Business succession planning, also known as business continuation planning, is about planning for the continuation of the business after the departure of a business owner. A clearly articulated business succession plan specifies what happens upon events such as the retirement, death or disability of the owner.

A good business succession plans typically include, but not limited to:

·Goal articulation, such as who will be authorized to own and run the business;

The business owner’s retirement planning, disability planning and estate planning;

·Process articulation, such as whom to transfer shares to, and how to do it, and how the transferee is to fund the transfer;

·Analysing if existing life insurance and investments are in place to provide funds to facilitate ownership transfer. If no, how are the gaps to be filled;

·Analysing shareholder agreements; and

·Assessing the business environment and strategy, management capabilities and shortfalls, corporate structure.

Why should business owners consider business succession planning?

·The business can be transferred more smoothly as possible obstacles have been anticipated and addressed

·Income for the business owner through insurance policies, e.g. ongoing income for disabled or critically ill business owner, or income source for family of deceased business owner

·Reduced probability of forced liquidation of the business due to sudden death or permanent disability of business owner

For certain components of a good business succession plan to work, funding is required. Some common ways of funding a succession plan include investments, internal reserves and bank loans.

However, insurance is generally preferred as it is the most effective solution and the least expensive one compared to the other options.

Life and disability insurance on each owner ensure that some financial risk is transferred to an insurance company in the event that one of the owners passes on. The proceeds will be used to buy out the deceased owner’s business share.

Owners may choose their preferred ownership of the insurance policies via any of the two arrangements, “cross-purchase agreement” or “entity-purchase agreement”.

Cross-Purchase Agreement

In a cross-purchase agreement, co-owners will buy and own a policy on each other. When an owner dies, their policy proceeds would be paid out to the surviving owners, who will use the proceeds to buy the departing owner’s business share at a previously agreed-on price.

However, this type of agreement has its limitations. A key one is, in a business with a large number of co-owners (10 or more), it is somewhat impractical for each owner to maintain separate policies on each other. The cost of each policy may differ due to a huge disparity between owners’ age, resulting in inequity.

In this instance, an entity-purchase agreement is often preferred.

Entity-Purchase Agreement

In an entity-purchase agreement, the business itself purchases a single policy on each owner, becoming both the policy owner and beneficiary. When an owner dies, the business will use the policy proceeds to buy the deceased owner’s business share. All costs are absorbed by the business and equity is maintained among the co-owners.

What Happens Without a Business Succession Plan?

Your business may suffer grave consequences without a proper business succession plan in the event of an unexpected death or a permanent disability.

Without a business succession plan in place, these scenarios might happen.

If the business is shared among business owners, then the remaining owners may fight over the shares of the departing business owner or over the percentage of the business.

There could also be a potential dispute between the sellers and buyers of the business. For e.g., the buyer may insist on a lower price against the seller’s higher price.

In the event of the permanent disability or critical illness of the business owner, the operations of the company could be affected as they might not be able to work. This could affect clients’ faith, revenue and morale in the company as well.

The stream of income to the owner’s family will be cut off if the business owner, being the sole breadwinner of the family, unexpectedly passes away.

Don’t let all the business you have built up collapse the moment you are not there. Planning ahead with a proper business succession plan before an unexpected or premature event happens can help secure your business legacy, ensuring that you and your family’s future will be well taken care of.

3 Dangerous Thought Patterns That Can Destroy Your Business

Many people desire to go into business for themselves but few individuals actually do. And those who do, 6 out of 10 of them fail within the first five years. Why are these businesses failing? I’ll expose 3 dangerous thought patterns that can destroy your business and how to overcome them.

#1: Doing What You Want To Do Without A Clear Vision

A lot of people, who go into business for themselves are an expert in his or her craft. Unfortunately, most of them set themselves up for failure because, they start doing what they know to do and ignore the rest. These businesses begin operating according to the wants of the owner as opposed to the needs of the business.

It is this dangerous thought pattern that dooms their business before it even begins, and the reason is simply this:

  • The owner is so focused on doing what they’re an expert at, that they neglect working on what the business needs.
  • They have no vision for where the business is going or strategy for progress.

It is vitally important that you develop a compelling vision, values, purpose and mission for your business that gives you the clarity and fortitude to withstand the ups and downs that any business will inevitably have.

#2: Doing Business From An Employee’s Perspective

In the beginning, you can do whatever your business needs you to do. But, after some time, you find yourself doing not only the work you know how to do, but all of the difficult stuff you don’t know how to do as well. Then, ever so slowly, you realize there’s more work to do than you can possibly get done.

There’s nothing wrong with being an expert in your craft. There’s only something wrong with being an expert crafts-person who owns a business without changing this dangerous thought pattern! Because:

  • As an expert crafts-person turned business-owner, your focus is upside down. You see the world from the bottom up, from an employee’s perspective, rather than from the top down, from an entrepreneur’s perspective.
  • You were so used to working in somebody else’s business that, now, you’re working in your own.
  • But, while you’re working in your own business, there’s something more important that isn’t getting done. And it’s the strategic work, the implementation of systems that will lead your business forward, so you can live the dream you’ve envisioned.

If you want to have a viable business and not work yourself to death with this dangerous thought pattern, you must be able to make growth systematic and predictable. You need to think of a business as a series of systems that will lead to growth.

#3: Having a Tactical View Rather Than a Strategic View
When a business owner is focused on working in their business rather than on it, they become unclear of their priorities and try using every tactic they can get their hands on to bring in the income they desperately need. They impulsively try the latest trend or newest technique hoping it will work.

Well, in business, hope and guessing are not tactics. Having this dangerous thought pattern is not how you operate a successful business! You must have specific objectives or some way to measure whether that tactic is working or not.

You need to use a Vision-Based Framework to help you get the clarity, direction and focus your business needs to go forward. It helps you filter out distractions and use the right tactics that are in alignment with your business’s vision and strategic plan.

This is so important because, what your business is about is more important than what you’re selling.

As long as you have the dangerous thought pattern of viewing your business from a bottom up perspective, you are doomed.

Understanding the difference between what goes on in an expert crafts-person’s mind who owns a business, the mindset of an entrepreneur whose focus is on building and growing a successful business, and the 3 dangerous thought patterns that can destroy your business, is critical to discovering why most businesses don’t thrive and ensuring that yours does.