Business Posts

5 Reasons to Write a Business Plan

The value of a business plan is gained from writing it, not necessarily what you produce at the end. Whether it’s five pages or twenty-five, here are five good reasons to write a plan for your business.

  1. To set a road map to the future.

    Your business plan provides a map for your business to follow. Thinking through the various sections of the plan and gathering the necessary information will help you:

    • Thoroughly understand your business and market environment. Knowing the marketplace is more than just having a good idea. Have you done anything to prove the concept? Do you really understand who your competitors are and what advantages they have?
    • Chart specific strategies. How will you beat those competitors at the game they are already engaged? What must you do to win and keep a customer? Identify that in your plan so that you can share it with others and see what they think about it.
    • Detail alternative future scenarios. What are the alternative methods to deliver your product or service? How can it be marketed? What would be the most effective way to market based on your potential customers’ needs and buying behaviors?
    • Set objectives and action steps. Establish some short-term and intermediate goals, not just the long-range profitability objective. What must be accomplished and by when? Set small goals to lead up to the ultimate successes, and then identify resources needed to achieve your goals.
    • Manage more effectively. Knowing where you are going means avoiding side trips along the way. Spend time now to get to know your mission so that you can doggedly stay on course!
  2. To support growth and secure funding.

    If you are seeking funding to grow your business, your business plan will be an important tool in your pitch to investors. It will help you:

    • Identify the advantages of investing in your business. What the investor will gain by investing in your business? What makes your business a better investment than some other small business?
    • Create a unique selling proposition. What makes you unique enough that you have a recognizable advantage over your competition? Going through the planning process will help you figure that out. Why will people buy from your business? What will make customers want to buy from you instead of your competitor? How many of those customers are there that will choose you instead of the other guy? A little market research now will guide you in the marketing process later and give you a much better chance for achieving the growth necessary for success.
    • Build clear evidence of downstream profitability. What evidence can you develop in your research that clearly demonstrates your opportunity for success? If you can’t prove it now, you may not be able to achieve it later.
  3. To develop and communicate a course of action.

    No entrepreneur can do everything on his or her own. Even if you’re a solopreneur, your team might include advisors, service providers, or contractors. Whether you have a team of two people or twenty, your business plan will help ensure that everyone is on the same page. It will help you:

    • Align and focus your team. Give everyone on the team the same target and the same path and trajectory to hit the target. Everyone united for a cause means better chances to achieve the goal.
    • Establish milestones for your work. Measurable step by step milestones help you determine if you are track toward your goals. Don’t wait for a year to go by to determine if you are on track. Set achievable milestones in your plan that help you identify your own progress. Investors also want to see progress, and setting milestones allows you to brag about the achievements along the way.
    • Develop collaboration. Sharing a plan in development gives everyone on the team the chance to be engaged in the process and fosters greater participation. The collaboration makes everyone better and a stronger team player. Everyone understands the mission and the business program better if they have engagement in its development. They get the “why” without you having to explain it all the time.
  4. To help manage cash flow.

    Regardless of how you measure profitability, you should define your business’ financial goals. Your business plan will help you:

    • Identify break-even and manage by it. Figure out your basic costs and determine if you can actually make a profit at a price that will sell your product or service. Does it seem plausible, or do you need some more research? The planning process makes you double check your ideas, facts, and figures.
    • Know the numbers. How many sales will you have to make to reach profit? Can you do that in the time period allotted in your plan? What else must happen in terms of costs and expenses, such as salaries, marketing, travel, or delivery? Completing the plan requires you to know your numbers up and down and making sure it passes muster!
    • Set a course for profit and solvency. Fully reviewing the sales process right down to the payment schedule will put you in a position to manage your cash flow and be certain that you won’t become insolvent due to poor planning.
  5. To support a strategic exit.

    It’s important to start your business with the end in mind. Whether you intend to sell your business once it’s profitable or hand it down to your children or grandchildren, your business plan will help you:

    • Focus on creating value. If you go into your business knowing how you plan to get out, you’ll plan and operate in a different manner. Focus on value right from the first business plan.
    • Know what determines a true valuation of your business. Don’t allow yourself to be sucked into overstating the value and then believing it! You won’t get your dream price if you have to sell out.

A business plan is not intended to be a static document. By periodically updating your plan, you'll make sure that you have a clear direction in mind for your company and that you're not getting distracted from your goals by the day-to-day tasks of running your company.

For more information about this and other topics, consider registering for the NaperLaunch Academy workshop series or scheduling a one-on-one appointment with a business librarian or NaperLaunch coach.

Posted: 
Tuesday, August 24, 2021 - 18:00

Content Marketing for Small Businesses

No one wants to be sold to. So how can a small business get the word out to its target audience without turning them off? Two words: content marketing.

Content marketing is a marketing strategy used to attract, engage, and retain an audience by creating and sharing relevant articles, videos, podcasts, and other media. Rather than a sales pitch, you provide your target audience with consistent, valuable information that establishes your company as a trusted source. This approach establishes expertise, promotes brand awareness, and keeps your business top of mind when it's time to buy what you sell.

To get results with content marketing, you must consistently create indispensable content for your target customer. The key is to position your company as the leading expert in an area relevant to your customers and create content that’s different from what everyone else is doing. By creating and sharing content that answers the questions your customer is already asking, you’ll educate your leads and prospects about your company’s offerings, show your audience how your products and services solve their challenges, and create a sense of community around your brand.

Ready to get started? Social Media Examiner recommends the following strategy to help you figure out why you’re doing content marketing, what kind of content makes sense for you, and who your audience is:

  1. Identify your sweet spot. This is the intersection between your audience’s pain points and your skills and expertise. You’ll also want to think about exactly who your target audience is and what delivery method will work best to reach them, whether that’s a blog, podcast, videos, or white papers.
  2. Find your “content tilt.” How will you differentiate your content from what else is out there? You might do this by focusing on an audience no one else is targeting, finding a new platform or delivery method, or positioning your story differently than your competitors.
  3. Choose a platform to focus on. Start with one core platform based on your audience and content type and focus on that platform for the first 9-12 months.
  4. Build an audience. Focus on your base and build a following. Once you’ve created a minimum viable audience, you can consider expanding to an additional platform.

For more information about this and other topics, consider registering for the NaperLaunch Academy workshop series or scheduling a one-on-one appointment with a business librarian or NaperLaunch coach.

Posted: 
Monday, August 16, 2021 - 09:30

Leadership Skills for Solopreneurs

It takes a lot of self-directed leadership to succeed as an entrepreneur. This is especially true if you are a solopreneur. Envisioning what leadership might look like for a solopreneur requires a more expansive view that recognizes the value of skills that might not normally be considered.

For a solopreneur, the most important leadership skills are the also the most important skills for entrepreneurial success. In the NaperLaunch Academy, participants review a list of 12 behaviors that have been proven to be accurate predictors of success and satisfaction as an entrepreneur, based on data gathered by researchers who studied several hundred successful founders and evaluated dozens of behaviors. One way to measure a solopreneur’s leadership skills is by assessing their strength in each of these 12 areas:

  1. Optimism: Successful entrepreneurs have an upbeat, positive outlook.
  2. Emotional resilience: Successful entrepreneurs are stable, hardy, and emotionally resilient; they can handle work stress and pressure.
  3. Self-determination: Successful entrepreneurs believe that work success stems from personal initiative and effort, not luck or fate.
  4. Adaptability: Successful entrepreneurs are flexible, and able to adjust their work style to different conditions and situations.
  5. Goal setting: Successful entrepreneurs regularly set clear business goals and objectives.
  6. Tolerance for financial insecurity: Successful entrepreneurs can tolerate a high degree of uncertainty regarding their future income, contracts, and business.
  7. Social networking: Successful entrepreneurs expand their business and/or social contacts by making connections through individuals.
  8. Self-promotion: Successful entrepreneurs promote themselves and their product or service to other people for business-related purposes.
  9. Autonomy: Successful entrepreneurs exercise independence and autonomy and can make decisions without needing external validation or approval.
  10. Competitiveness: Successful entrepreneurs try to outperform business rivals and others for business-related purposes.
  11. Persistence: Successful entrepreneurs keep working on projects until they are completed and persevere despite setbacks and obstacles.
  12. Work drive: Successful entrepreneurs are willing to work long hours and extend themselves when needed to finish projects and meet deadlines.

Understanding one’s own abilities in these areas requires reflective thought. It may be helpful to invite others who know you extremely well (eg, family, friends, associates, or advisers) to provide a thorough and accurate assessment of your capabilities in each of these areas in order to identify strengths and weaknesses.

Where a strength is identified, you have a good idea of an area of your business’ operations or your decision-making process in which you can rely on your instincts. On the other hand, in areas where weaknesses are uncovered, you should proactively develop strategies to use if you are confronted with decisions or actions that fit into an area where you may not have all the knowledge, experience, or confidence necessary to proceed. This may include pursuing professional development or training, seeking out opportunities to practice particular skills, or identifying advisors or outside service providers.

Keep in mind that no individual entrepreneur is likely to be strong in all these areas. Leading as a solopreneur requires understanding where your strengths lie and when to ask for assistance.

For more information about this and other topics, consider registering for the NaperLaunch Academy workshop series or scheduling a one-on-one appointment with a business librarian or NaperLaunch coach.

Posted: 
Wednesday, July 28, 2021 - 11:45