Archive for the Business Plan Category

WHY TOUGH TIMES ARE GOOD TIMES TO START A BUSINESS by Rieva Lesonsky

Posted in Business Plan, General Management, Life Management, Why Tough Times Are Good Times to Start a Business with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2010 by Robert Finkelstein

In addition to the inspirational quotes, the beautiful images, my own personal and business blogs, the recommended reading list, and information on my consulting business, I would like to share some of the writings of various thought leaders.

WHY TOUGH TIMES ARE GOOD TIMES TO START A BUSINESS by Rieva Lesonsky

The weak economy is making jobs harder to find. One option for frustrated job seekers is to stop looking for employment and start working for themselves.

A recession is an excellent time to launch a small business. Larger companies rein in their advertising and expansion plans when the economy slows, making it easier for new companies to get noticed and capture market share.

Newer, small companies also tend to have lower fixed expenses than older, larger ones — and that allows them to underbid their competition. That’s very important during a recession, when customers are particularly price-sensitive.

The trouble is that starting a new business is risky. Sinking all of your savings into a start-up or taking out a small business loan could leave you in a deep financial hole if the business fails.

There’s no way to eliminate all the risk from entrepreneurship, but you can greatly reduce your downside if you keep your business’s expenses to a minimum. Here’s how to launch a business for less than $5,000…

THINK SERVICE

The service sector offers the best opportunities for low-cost business start-ups. Unlike retail or manufacturing businesses, service-sector companies…

Rarely require major up-front outlays of cash for inventory or materials.

Often can be run out of the home, eliminating the need to rent an office, factory or storefront.

Tend to be local, so there’s no need for expensive nationwide marketing campaigns.

Four ways to come up with a low-cost service business idea…

Keep lists of the things that frustrate you and the things that you wish you didn’t have to do for yourself. Consider both your personal life and your previous professional career. Perhaps other people would pay you to help them avoid these annoyances.

Example: Two brothers in Irvine, California, were frustrated that it took them much of their lunch hour to get from the local business district to area restaurants for lunch. They started Restaurants on the Run, a service that delivers restaurant food to office workers at their desks. The company has expanded into multiple cities and now does millions of dollars in business each year.

Find out which service-oriented businesses (and other low-cost businesses) are thriving in big cities. Trends tend to begin in big coastal cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, and only later work their way to the rest of the country. Read the business and lifestyle sections of magazines and newspapers from major coastal cities to find out what new business ideas are thriving there. Consider whether similar businesses would be successful in your region.

Examples: Frozen yogurt franchises and bakeries specializing in high-end cupcakes are among this year’s hot new businesses in large, trendsetting cities. Buying a franchise or opening a bakery would not be cheap, but perhaps you could inexpensively open a street-corner dessert cart selling comparable frozen yogurt treats… or bake premium cupcakes at home and sell them through area stores or restaurants.

Target a growing demographic. Open a business that serves a rapidly expanding demographic, and the odds of success are in your favor. Currently the fastest-growing demographics are seniors and children. (Make sure these national trends apply to your local region before launching your business.)

Examples: Potential service businesses that cater to seniors include transportation services… shopping and grocery delivery services…adult day-care services… and senior “transitional” services, handling the details involved in moving to a nursing home or assisted-living facility. Service businesses catering to the youth market include day care… transportation services… tutoring… college-prep classes… and college-application assistance.

Search for service opportunities related to your professional experience. If your new business is in a field that you already know well, your learning curve will be shorter and your Rolodex will already be full of potential customers and other useful contacts. Make sure that your new business does not violate any non-compete agreements that you might have signed with former employers.

AVOID UNNECESSARY COSTS

Start-up expenses that your business can live without…

Renting an office. Work from your home if at all possible. Meet with potential clients and other business contacts in their offices… at the local coffeehouse… or in the lobby of a hotel.

Buying office furniture and business equipment. Try to make do with the furniture, phones and computers you already own. If you must purchase business furniture or equipment, search for used items. One advantage of starting a business in a recession is that other companies are going out of business and selling off their business furniture and equipment at low prices.

Expensive marketing efforts, such as direct mail and television ads. Their high cost makes them too risky for your start-up.

Helpful: Turn your customers into your marketing team. Tell them you’ll give them a good discount on their next order if they refer another customer to you and it leads to a sale.

FOUR EXPENSES WORTH PAYING

Not all start-up expenses should be avoided. Do try to do the following…

Incorporate your business. A lawyer might charge about $2,000 to help you set up a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or corporation, but it’s money well spent. If your business is not an LLC or a corporation, your personal assets could be at risk in a lawsuit.

Launch a Web site. A Web site does not need to be elaborate, but it must look professional. This is particularly important if your company doesn’t have an office or a long track record. To learn more about how to start a Web site for your business, go to http://www.allbusiness.com and type “Web site” into the search window.

Arrange for health insurance. Obtaining health insurance at a reasonable price can be a major problem for those who are self-employed. Find out if you are eligible for COBRA benefits from your last job or if you can get coverage through your spouse’s health insurance plan. If you are past your 50th birthday, you should be eligible for health insurance through AARP (888-OUR-AARP, http://www.aarp.org). Or find out if a health insurance plan is offered by a trade association that your business makes you eligible to join.

Buy Business Plan Pro. If you don’t have experience writing business plans, this software is the cheapest, easiest way to do so. (Palo Alto Software, $99.95, 800-229-7526, http://www.bplans.com.)

Business plans are like road maps. They help you lay out your route to get from where you are to where you want to be. Good business-plan software prompts you to think about factors such as competition, pricing, staffing and marketing.

– Rieva Lesonsky

If you’d like a complimentary 30-minute business strategy session with me, for more information, please refer to my Behind the Scenes Consulting. If you have questions, please email me at Consulting@RobertFinkelstein.com. I welcome your comments below. Thank you.

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WHY DO WE FAIL? AND HOW DO WE FIX IT?

Posted in Business Plan, Life Management, Why Do We Fail? And How Can We Fix It? with tags , , , , on April 23, 2010 by Robert Finkelstein

Just to mix things up a little, I’ve decided to add some of the writings of various thought leaders. Like the inspirational quotes, the beautiful images, my own personal and business blogs, and the recommended reading list, I trust you’ll like this new addition to Behind the Scenes.

WHY DO WE FAIL? AND HOW DO WE FIX IT?
by Harvey Mackay

As any successful person will honestly admit, I’ve had my share of failures. Since this article is limited to 750 words, I won’t bore you with the details!

But, from every failure, I learn equally valuable lessons. The first lesson I learn is that there was at least one reason I failed. The second lesson I learn is that I can rebound from that failure.

According to Shiv Khera, author of You Can Win, failures most often occur for one of the following seven reasons:

1. Lack of persistence. More people fail not because they lack knowledge or talent, but just because they quit. It is important to remember two words: persistence and resistance. Persist in what must be done, and resist what ought not to be done. We all have had setbacks in life. Failing does not mean we are failures!

2. Lack of conviction. People who lack conviction take the middle of the road. But what happens in the middle of the road? You get run over. People without conviction go along to get along because they lack confidence and courage. They conform in order to be accepted, even when they know that what they are doing is wrong.

3. Rationalizing. Winners may analyze but never rationalize. Losers rationalize and have a book full of excuses to tell you why they could not succeed.

4. Not learning from past mistakes. Some people live and learn, and some only live. Wise people learn from their mistakes. Failure is a teacher, if we have the right attitude. I’ve always said experience is the name we give to our mistakes.

5. Lack of discipline. Anyone who has accomplished anything worthwhile has never done it without discipline. Discipline takes self-control, sacrifice, and avoiding distractions and temptations. It means staying focused.

6. Poor self-esteem. Poor self-esteem is a lack of self-respect and self-worth. People with low self-esteem are constantly trying to find themselves, rather than creating the person they want to be.

7. Fatalistic attitude. A fatalistic attitude prevents people from accepting responsibility for their position in life. They attribute success and failure to luck. They resign themselves to their fate, regardless of their efforts, that whatever has to happen will happen anyway.

The rebound lesson is the more pleasant part of the equation, but it is not without challenges. Here are professor Mackay’s lessons learned from the problems posed above:

1a. Try new approaches. Persistence is important, but repeating the same actions over and over again, hoping that this time you’ll succeed, probably won’t get you any closer to your objective. Look at your previous unsuccessful efforts and decide what to change. Keep making adjustments and midcourse corrections, using your experience as a guide.

2a. Decide what is important to you. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right and doing well. Let your passion show in even mundane tasks. It’s OK to collaborate and cooperate for success, but it’s not OK to compromise your values—ever.

3a. Change your perspective. Don’t think of every unsuccessful attempt as a failure. Few people succeed at everything the first time. Most of us attain our goals only through repeated effort. Do your best to learn everything you can about what happened and why.

4a. Define the problem better. Analyze the situation—what you want to achieve, what your strategy is, why it didn’t work, and so on. Are you really viewing the problem correctly? If you need money, you have more options than increasing revenue. You could also cut expenses. Think about what you’re really trying to do.

5a. Don’t be a perfectionist. You may have an idealized vision of what success will look and feel like. Although that can be motivational, it may not be realistic. Succeeding at one goal won’t eliminate all your problems. Be clear on what will satisfy your objectives, and don’t obsess about superficial details.

6a. Don’t label yourself. You may have failed, but you’re not a failure until you stop trying. Think of yourself as someone still striving toward a goal, and you’ll be better able to maintain your patience and perseverance for the long haul.

7a. Look in the mirror every day and say, “I am in charge.” You may not have control over every phase of your life, but you have more control than you realize. You are responsible for your own happiness and success. As I like to say, “Your attitude determines your altitude!”

Mackay’s Moral: You can turn “down and out” into “up and at ’em.”

– Harvey Mackay

If you’re interested in a business consultation, for more information, please refer to my Behind the Scenes Consulting. If you have questions, please email me at Robert@RobertFinkelstein.com. I welcome your comments below. Thank you.

Planning Your Business Plan (Part 10)

Posted in Business Plan, General Management, Life Management with tags , , , , , , on July 13, 2009 by Robert Finkelstein

BusinessPlanSo now you’re the man with the Plan…or woman, of course. The Plan is really your roadmap. It’s your guided tour of your business, and how successful you believe it will be in the near future, and even more so in the distant.

RoadmapThe “roadmap” does more that just describe what each stage along the way will look like. It’s a very detailed explanation of how you’ll get there. Just like a well-planned out roadtrip, know your route, and highlight the landmarks. In this case, the landmarks need to be your milestones. As I’ve mentioned before, you know your business best. Pick ones that are challenging, but obtainable. Perhaps it’s the number of customers you’ll have, the number of orders, products manufactured, or revenue generated, as you travel along your timeline. You’ll have 100 of this and 1000 of that by then…if not more.

To sum it all up, give your potential investors everything they need to know in order to navigate through your Business Plan. You don’t want them getting lost.

Good luck!

If you have any questions or comments,
please write them below or email me at Robert@RobertFinkelstein.com.

Planning Your Business Plan (Part 9)

Posted in Business Plan, General Management, Life Management with tags , , , , , , on July 11, 2009 by Robert Finkelstein

BusinessPlanUnless you’re reinventing the wheel, which I wouldn’t recommend, you’re going to have competition. Supposedly, one of the most common statements appearing in Business Plans is, “We have no competition.” I’ll give you three guesses who you’re kidding, and the first two don’t count.

CompetitionWhatever your business, you have competition. Don’t deny it, especially not in your Plan. You might appeal to a niche market, but they’re out there. If not today, then in the future. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. There are ideas out there that are original. But keep this in mind, if you’re very successful, competition will pop up. So keep this in mind when writing your Plan – what does the market look like today, and what do you think it will look like in the future. Address the competition and define your competitive advantages. If you don’t, they will.

If you have any questions or comments,
please write them below or email me at Robert@RobertFinkelstein.com.

Planning Your Business Plan (Part 8)

Posted in Business Plan, General Management, Life Management with tags , , , , , , on July 10, 2009 by Robert Finkelstein

BusinessPlanYour I’s are dotted, your T’s are crossed, your facts have been double checked, your assumptions are well supported, you’ve found the delicate balance between vague and detailed…sounds perfect. Can’t fail, right?

I happened to be a very optimistic person, but if there’s one thing that all my experience has taught me over the years, it’s that there’s risk in all business. I hope I didn’t burst any bubbles. I want you to believe in yourself and whatever you’re trying to create…with every cell in your body…but no matter how perfect your Plan is, risk still exists. risk blocksI’m certainly not going to list the millions of things that can have a detrimental effect on your business, but we both know they’re out there. Here’s what I’m getting at: Know the ones that stand the greatest chance of occurring. Your Plan certainly doesn’t need to detail them out. Quite frankly, avoid them as much as you can. BUT…when the day comes to present or pitch your Plan, make sure you’ve done your homework. Have well thought out answers that clearly describe how you’ll minimize or eliminate those risks. Don’t stand there like a deer in headlights, or you and your Plan will be dead in the road.

If you have any questions or comments,
please write them below or email me at Robert@RobertFinkelstein.com.

Planning Your Business Plan (Part 7)

Posted in Business Plan, General Management, Life Management with tags , , , , , , on July 9, 2009 by Robert Finkelstein

BusinessPlanI assume you’re assumptions from Part 6 are nicely woven into your Plan, along with all the necessary facts. Now about those facts….

Einstein said, “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” Well, in your plan they better fit…and they better be facts. If you’re trying to raise money for your business, then I trust you’ve done your homework. Be an expert. Make sure you know what the competition is up to, what the industry trends are, what customers are looking for, what concerns exist for the future, what drives your business…. You gotta know it all…and you gotta back it up with facts. You’ll have your statements, claims, and those wonderful assumptions. Bring on the numbers, data, charts, graphics, statistics, and images. The facts, which have been tied in nicely, represent the glue that holds it together. If the glue isn’t right, the Plan will fall. ElmersglueRemember, you don’t use Elmer’s Glue when building a skyscraper. Your facts have to be accurate (they will be checked!) and they have to be right for your Plan.

Check and double check your figures. Don’t rush. Don’t make mistakes. The stakes might have been a little for the gunslinger Wyatt Earp, who said it best, “Fast in fine, but accuracy is everything.”

If you have any questions or comments,
please write them below or email me at Robert@RobertFinkelstein.com.

Planning Your Business Plan (Part 6)

Posted in Business Plan, General Management, Life Management with tags , , , , , , , on July 8, 2009 by Robert Finkelstein

BusinessPlanWishful thinking, second guessing, fingers crossed, if the stars align just right, and on and on. A Business Plan is loaded with optimism and assumptions. “This business, this one, yup, this time, this one is going to succeed.”

You’ve figured out how to balance vague and detailed. That was very important.

ThinkerWhat about all your assumptions? They need to be highlighted throughout the plan, but substantiated against industry benchmarks that make your assumptions plausible. Think each one through. The Plan won’t be effective if you’ve buried the assumptions among the facts, so no one can tell one from the other. To make the deal, you’ve got to keep it real.

That way…this one, this time…I think so too.

If you have any questions or comments,
please write them below or email me at Robert@RobertFinkelstein.com.