writing a business plan

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Writing a business plan financial advisor assistant resume sample

Writing a business plan

Lending naturally involves risk, and a great business plan can help lenders understand and quantity that risk, increasing your chances for approval. Potential partners and investors. Where friends and family are concerned, sharing your business plan may not be necessary although it certainly could help. Other investors--including angel investors or venture capitalists--generally require a business plan in order to evaluate your business.

Skilled employees. When you need to attract talent, you need something to show prospective employees since you're still in the startup phase. Early on, your business is more of an idea than a reality, so your business plan can help prospective employees understand your goals--and, more important, their place in helping you achieve those goals.

Potential joint ventures. Joint ventures are like partnerships between two companies. A joint venture is a formal agreement to share the work--and share the revenue and profit. As a new company, you will likely be an unknown quantity in your market. Setting up a joint venture with an established partner could make all the difference in getting your business off the ground.

But above all, your business plan should convince you that it makes sense to move forward. Maybe the market isn't as large as you thought. Maybe, after evaluating the competition, you realize your plan to be the low-cost provider isn't feasible since the profit margins will be too low to cover your costs. Or you might realize the fundamental idea for your business is sound, but how you implement that idea should change.

Maybe establishing a storefront for your operation isn't as cost-effective as taking your products directly to customers--not only will your operating costs be lower, but you can charge a premium since you provide additional customer convenience. Think of it this way.

Successful businesses do not remain static. They learn from mistakes, and adapt and react to changes: changes in the economy, the marketplace, their customers, their products and services, etc. Successful businesses identify opportunities and challenges and react accordingly. Creating a business plan lets you spot opportunities and challenges without risk.

Use your plan to dip your toe in the business water. It's the perfect way to review and revise your ideas and concepts before you ever spend a penny. Many people see writing a business plan as a "necessary evil" required to attract financing or investors. Instead, see your plan as a no-cost way to explore the viability of your potential business and avoid costly mistakes. The Executive Summary is a brief outline of the company's purpose and goals. While it can be tough to fit on one or two pages, a good Summary includes:.

I know that seems like a lot, and that's why it's so important you get it right. The Executive Summary is often the make-or-break section of your business plan. A great business solves customer problems.

If your Summary cannot clearly describe, in one or two pages, how your business will solve a particular problem and make a profit, then it's very possible the opportunity does not exist--or your plan to take advantage of a genuine opportunity is not well developed. So think of it as a snapshot of your business plan. Don't try to "hype" your business--focus on helping a busy reader get a great feel for what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and how you will succeed.

Since a business plan should above all help you start and grow your business, your Executive Summary should first and foremost help you do the following. Think of it as a written elevator pitch with more detail, of course. Your Summary describes the highlights of your plan, includes only the most critical points, and leaves out less important issues and factors.

As you develop your Summary, you will naturally focus on the issues that contribute most to potential success. If your concept is too fuzzy, too broad, or too complicated, go back and start again. Most great businesses can be described in several sentences, not several pages. Your business plan walks the reader through your plan. What ranks high in terms of importance? Product development? Acquiring the right location? Creating strategic partnerships? Once your Summary is complete, you can use it as an outline for the rest of your plan.

Simply flesh out the highlights with more detail. Then work to accomplish your secondary objective by focusing on your readers. Even though you may be creating a business plan solely for your own purposes, at some point you may decide to seek financing or to bring on other investors, so make sure your Summary meets their needs as well. Work hard to set the stage for the rest of the plan. Let your excitement for your idea and your business shine through. In short, make readers want to turn the page and keep reading.

Just make sure your sizzle meets your steak by providing clear, factual descriptions. Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will offer road and mountain bike rentals in a strategic location directly adjacent to an entrance to the George Washington National Forest. Our primary strategy is to develop Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals as the most convenient and cost-effective rental alternative for the thousands of visitors who flock to the area each year. Once underway, we will expand our scope and take advantage of high-margin new equipment sales and leverage our existing labor force to sell and service those products.

Within three years we intend to create the area's premier destination for cycling enthusiasts. Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will be located at Mountain Drive, a location providing extremely high visibility as well as direct entry and exit from a primary national park access road. The owner of the company, Marty Cycle, has over 20 years experience in the bicycle business, having served as a product manager for Acme Cycles as well as the general manager of Epic Cycling.

Because of his extensive industry contacts, initial equipment inventory will be purchased at significant discounts from OEM suppliers as well by sourcing excess inventory from shops around the country. Because of the somewhat seasonal nature of the business, part-time employees will be hired to handle spikes in demand. Those employees will be attracted through competitive wages as well as discounts products and services.

While the outdoor tourism industry as a whole is flat, the park expects its number of visitors to grow over the next few years. The market potential inherent in those visitors is substantial. According to third-party research data, approximately 30 percent of all cyclists would rather rent than transport their own bicycles, especially those who are visiting the area for reasons other than cycling.

The cycling shops located in Harrisonburg, VA, are direct and established competitors. Our two primary competitive advantages will be location and lower costs. Our location is also a key disadvantage where non-park rentals are concerned. We will overcome that issue by establishing a satellite location in Harrisonburg for enthusiasts who wish to rent bicycles to use in town or on other local trails. We will also use online tools to better engage customers, allowing them to reserve and pay online as well as create individual profiles regarding sizes, preferences, and special needs.

Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals expects to earn a modest profit by year two based on projected sales. Our projections are based on the following key assumptions:. Direct cost of sales is projected to average 60 percent of gross sales, including 50 percent for the purchase of equipment and 10 percent for the purchase of ancillary items. Keep in mind this is just a made-up example of how your Summary might read.

Also keep in mind this example focused on the rental business, so a description of products was not included. They'll show up later. If your business will manufacture or sell products, or provide a variety of services, then be sure to include a Products and Services section in your Summary. In this case the products and services are obvious, so including a specific section would be redundant. Bottom line: Provide some sizzle in your Executive Summary, but make sure you show a reasonable look at the steak, too.

Providing an overview of your business can be tricky, especially when you're still in the planning stages. If you already own an existing business, summarizing your current operation should be relatively easy; it can be a lot harder to explain what you plan to become. Think about what products and services you will provide, how you will provide those items, what you need to have in order to provide those items, exactly who will provide those items, and most important, whom you will provide those items to.

Consider our bicycle rental business example. It's serves retail customers. It has an online component, but the core of the business is based on face-to-face transactions for bike rentals and support. So you'll need a physical location, bikes, racks and tools and supporting equipment, and other brick-and-mortar related items. You'll need employees with a very particular set of skills to serve those customers, and you'll need an operating plan to guide your everyday activities.

In our example, defining the above is fairly simple. You know what you will provide to meet your customer's needs. You will of course need a certain quantity of bikes to service demand, but you will not need a number of different types of bikes. You need a retail location, furnished to meet the demands of your business. You need semi-skilled employees capable of sizing, customizing, and repairing bikes.

In other businesses and industries, answering the above questions can be more difficult. If you open a restaurant, what you plan to serve will in some ways determine your labor needs, the location you choose, the equipment you need to purchase. And, most important, it will help define your customer. Changing any one element may change other elements; if you cannot afford to purchase expensive kitchen equipment, you may need to adapt your menu accordingly. If you hope to attract an upscale clientele, you may need to invest more in purchasing a prime location and creating an appealing ambience.

Once you work through this list you will probably end up with a lot more detail than is necessary for your business plan. That is not a problem: Start summarizing the main points. For example, your Business Overview and Objectives section could start something like this:.

Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals is a new retail venture that will be located at Mountain Drive, directly adjacent to an extremely popular cycling destination. Our initial goal is to become the premier provider for bicycle rentals. We will then leverage our customer base and position in the market to offer new equipment sales as well as comprehensive maintenance and service, custom equipment fittings, and expert trail advice.

You could certainly include more detail in each section; this is simply a quick guide. And if you plan to develop a product or service, you should thoroughly describe the development process as well as the end result. The key is to describe what you will do for your customers--if you can't, you won't have any customers.

In the Products and Services section of your business plan, you will clearly describe--yep--the products and services your business will provide. Keep in mind that highly detailed or technical descriptions are not necessary and definitely not recommended. Use simple terms and avoid industry buzzwords. On the other hand, describing how the company's products and services will differ from the competition is critical.

So is describing why your products and services are needed if no market currently exists. For example, before there was Federal Express, overnight delivery was a niche business served by small companies. FedEx had to define the opportunity for a new, large-scale service and justify why customers needed--and would actually use --that service. Patents, copyrights, and trademarks you own or have applied for should also be listed in this section.

Depending on the nature of your business, your Products and Services section could be very long or relatively short. If your business is product-focused, you will want to spend more time describing those products. If you plan to sell a commodity item and the key to your success lies in, say, competitive pricing, you probably don't need to provide significant product detail.

Or if you plan to sell a commodity readily available in a variety of outlets, the key to your business may not be the commodity itself but your ability to market in a more cost-effective way than your competition. But if you're creating a new product or service , make sure you thoroughly explain the nature of the product, its uses, and its value, etc. In the cycling rental business example we've been using, products and services could be a relatively simple section to complete or it could be fairly involved.

It depends on the nature of the products the company plans to rent to customers. If Blue Mountain Cycling Rentals plans to market itself as a provider of high-end bikes, describing those bikes--and the sources for those bikes--is important, since "high-end cycling rentals" is intended to be a market differentiation. If the company plans to be the low-cost provider, then describing specific brands of equipment is probably not necessary.

Also, keep in mind that if a supplier runs out of capacity--or goes out of business altogether--you may not have a sufficient supply to meet your demand. Plan to set up multiple vendor or supplier relationships, and describe those relationships fully.

Remember, the primary goal of your business plan is to convince you that the business is viable--and to create a road map for you to follow. The Products and Services section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:. Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will provide a comprehensive line of bicycles and cycling equipment for all ages and levels of ability. Since the typical customer seeks medium-quality equipment and excellent services at competitive prices, we will focus on providing brands like Trek bikes, Shimano footwear, and Giro helmets.

These manufacturers have a widespread reputation as mid- to high-level quality, unlike equipment typically found in the rental market. Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals will have clear advantages over its primary competitors, the bike shops located in Harrisonburg, VA:. Expansion will allow us to move product offerings into new equipment sales. We will also explore maintenance and fitting services, leveraging our existing maintenance staff to provide value-added services at a premium price.

When you draft your Products and Services section, think of your reader as a person who knows little to nothing about your business. Be clear and to the point. Think of it this way: The Products and Services section answers the "what" question for your business. Make sure you fully understand the "what" factor; you may run the business, but your products and services are its lifeblood.

Market research is critical to business success. A good business plan analyzes and evaluates customer demographics, purchasing habits, buying cycles, and willingness to adopt new products and services. The process starts with understanding your market and the opportunities inherent in that market. And that means you'll need to do a little research. Before you start a business you must be sure there is a viable market for what you plan to offer.

That process requires asking, and more importantly answering, a number of questions. The more thoroughly you answer the following questions, the better you will understand your market. Start by evaluating the market at a relatively high level, answering some high-level questions about your market and your industry:. Fortunately, you've already done some of the legwork.

You've already defined and mapped out your products and services. The Market Opportunities section provides a sense-check of that analysis, which is particularly important since choosing the right products and services is such a critical factor in business success. But your analysis should go further: Great products are great, but there still must be a market for those products. Ferraris are awesome, but you're unlikely to sell many where I live. So let's dig deeper and quantify your market.

Your goal is to thoroughly understand the characteristics and purchasing ability of potential customers in your market. A little Googling can yield a tremendous amount of data. The key is to understand the market in general terms and then to dig deeper to understand whether there are specific segments within that market--the segments you plan to target--that can become customers and support the growth of your business. Also keep in mind that if you plan to sell products online the global marketplace is incredibly crowded and competitive.

Any business can sell a product online and ship that product around the world. On the other hand, if you live in an area with 50, people and there's only one bicycle shop, you may be able to enter that market and attract a major portion of bicycle customers in your area. After you complete your research you may feel a little overwhelmed. While data is good, and more data is great, sifting through and making sense of too much data can be daunting. For the purposes of your business plan, narrow your focus and focus on answering these main questions:.

The Market Opportunities section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:. While we expect sales to rise, for the purposes of performing a conservative analysis we have projected a zero growth rate for the next three years. In those states 2,, people visited a national forest last year. Our target market includes customers visiting the Shenandoah National Forest; last year , people visited the area during spring, summer, and fall months.

Over time, however, we do expect equipment rentals and sales to increase as the popularity of cycling continues to rise. In particular we forecast a spike in demand in since the national road racing championships will be held in Richmond, VA. According to the latest studies, recreation spending in our target market has grown by 14 percent per year for the past three years. In addition, we anticipate greater than industry-norm growth rates for cycling in the area due to the increase in popularity of cycling events like the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo.

Out target market has one basic need: The availability to source bicycle rentals at a competitive price. Our only other competition are the bike shops in Harrisonburg, VA, and our location will give us a competitive advantage over those and other companies who try to serve our market. For example, you might decide to provide information about Market Segments. In our case, the cycling rental business does not require much segmentation. Rentals are typically not broken down into segments like "inexpensive," "midrange," and "high-end.

Although you'll notice in our Products and Services section, we decided to provide "high-end" rentals. But say you decide to open a clothing store. You could focus on high fashion, or children's clothes, or outdoor wear, or casual--you could segment the market in a number of ways.

If that's the case, provide detail on segmentation that supports your plan. Providing great products and services is wonderful, but customers must actually know those products and services exist. That's why marketing plans and strategies are critical to business success. Duh, right? But keep in mind marketing is not just advertising.

Marketing--whether advertising, public relations, promotional literature, etc. Like any other investment you would make, money spent on marketing must generate a return. Otherwise why make the investment? While that return could simply be greater cash flow, good marketing plans result in higher sales and profits.

So don't simply plan to spend money on a variety of advertising efforts. Do your homework and create a smart marketing program. The Sales and Marketing section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:. While customers in the counties surrounding the George Washington National Forest make up 35 percent of our potential customer base, much of our market travels from outside that geographic area.

We will not be the low-cost provider for our target market. Our goal is to provide mid- to high-end equipment. However, we will create web-based loyalty programs to incent customers to set up online profiles and reserve and renew equipment rentals online, and provide discounts for those who do. Over time we will be able to market specifically to those customers. Just as in the Market Opportunity section, you may want to include a few more categories.

For example, if your business involves a commission-compensated sales force, describe your Sales Programs and incentives. If you distribute products to other companies or suppliers and those distribution efforts will impact your overall marketing plans, lay out your Distribution Strategy. The key is to show you understand your market and you understand how you will reach your market. Marketing and promotions must result in customers--your goal is to thoroughly describe how you will acquire and keep your customers.

Also keep in mind you may want to include examples of marketing materials you have already prepared, like website descriptions, print ads, web-based advertising programs, etc. While you don't need to include samples, taking the time to create actual marketing materials might help you better understand and communicate your marketing plans and objectives. Make sure your Sales and Marketing section answers the "How will I reach my customers?

The Competitive Analysis section of your business plan is devoted to analyzing your competition--both your current competition and potential competitors who might enter your market. Every business has competition. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competition--or potential competition--is critical to making sure your business survives and grows.

While you don't need to hire a private detective, you do need to thoroughly assess your competition on a regular basis even if you plan to run only a small business. In fact, small businesses can be especially vulnerable to competition, especially when new companies enter a marketplace.

Competitive analysis can be incredibly complicated and time-consuming, but it doesn't have to be. Here is a simple process you can follow to identify, analyze, and determine the strengths and weaknesses of your competition. First, develop a basic profile of each of your current competition.

For example, if you plan to open an office supply store, you may have three competing stores in your market. Online retailers will also provide competition, but thoroughly analyzing those companies will be less valuable unless you also decide you want to sell office supplies online. Although it's also possible that they--or, say, Amazon--are your real competition.

Only you can determine that. To make the process easier, stick to analyzing companies you will directly compete with. If you plan to set up an accounting firm, you will compete with other accounting firms in your area. If you plan to open a clothing store, you will compete with other clothing retailers in your area. Again, if you run a clothing store, you also compete with online retailers, but there is relatively little you can do about that type of competition other than to work hard to distinguish yourself in other ways: great service, friendly salespeople, convenient hours, truly understanding your customers, etc.

Once you identify your main competitors, answer these questions about each one. And be objective. It's easy to identify weaknesses in your competition, but less easy and a lot less fun to recognize how they may be able to outperform you:. While these questions may seem like a lot of work to answer, in reality the process should be fairly easy. You should already have a feel for the competition's strengths and weaknesses--if you know your market and your industry.

Keep in mind competitive analysis does more than help you understand your competition. Competitive analysis can also help you identify changes you should make to your business strategies. Learn from competitor strengths, take advantage of competitor's weaknesses, and apply the same analysis to your own business plan.

It can be tough to predict when and where new competitors may pop up. For starters, regularly search for news on your industry, your products, your services, and your target market. But there are other ways to predict when competition may follow you into a market. Other people may see the same opportunity you see. Think about your business and your industry, and if the following conditions exist, you may face competition does the road:.

In general terms, if serving your market seems easy you can safely assume competitors will enter your market. A good business plan anticipates and accounts for new competitors. The Competitive Analysis section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:. Our nearest and only competition is the bike shops in Harrisonburg, VA.

Our next closest competitor is located over miles away. The in-town bike shops will be strong competitors. They are established businesses with excellent reputations. On the other hand, they offer inferior-quality equipment and their location is significantly less convenient.

We do not plan to sell bicycles for at least the first two years of operation. However, sellers of new equipment do indirectly compete with our business since a customer who buys equipment no longer needs to rent equipment. Later, when we add new equipment sales to our operation, we will face competition from online retailers. We will compete with new equipment retailers through personalized service and targeted marketing to our existing customer base, especially through online initiatives.

And so on While your business plan is primarily intended to convince you that your business makes sense, keep in mind most investors look closely at your competitive analysis. A common mistake made by entrepreneurs is assuming they will simply "do it better" than any competition.

Experienced businesspeople know you will face stiff competition: showing you understand your competition, understand your strengths and weaknesses relative to that competition, and that you understand you will have to adapt and change based on that competition is critical. And, even if you do not ever plan to seek financing or bring in investors, you absolutely must know your competition. The next step in creating your business plan is to develop an Operations Plan that will serve your customers, keep your operating costs in line, and ensure profitability.

Your ops plan should detail strategies for managing, staffing, manufacturing, fulfillment, inventory--all the stuff involved in operating your business on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, most entrepreneurs have a better handle on their operations plan than on any other aspect of their business. After all, while it may not seem natural to analyze your market or your competition, most budding entrepreneurs tend to spend a lot of time thinking about how they will run their businesses.

Operations plans should be highly specific to your industry, your market sector, and your customers. Instead of providing an example like I've done with other sections, use the following to determine the key areas your plan should address:. You should think through and create a detailed plan for each category, but you won't need to share the results with the people who read your business plan.

Think of Operations as the "implementation" section of your business plan. What do you need to do? How will you get it done? Then create an overview of that plan to make sure your milestones and timeline make sense. Many investors and lenders feel the quality and experience of the management team is one of the most important factors used to evaluate the potential of a new business. But putting work into the Management Team section will not only benefit people who may read your plan.

It will also help you evaluate the skills, experiences, and resources your management team will need. Addressing your company's needs during implementation will make a major impact on your chances for success. The Management Team section for our cycling rental business could start something like this:.

Joe has over 20 years experience in the cycling business. He served for 10 years as a product manager for Acme Bikes. After that he was the operations manager of Single Track Cycles, a full-service bike shop located in Bend, Oregon. A complete resume for Mr. Rouleur can be found in the Appendix. Mary was the U.

Mountain Biking National Champion. She worked in product development for High Tec frames, creating custom frames and frame modifications for professional cyclists. She also has extensive customer service and sales experience, having worked for four years as the online manager of Pro Parts Unlimited, an online retailer of high-end cycling equipment and accessories.

For example, if you manufacture a product or provide a service and will hire a key skilled employee, describe that employee's credentials. Otherwise, include staffing plans in the Operations section. One key note: Don't be tempted to add a "name" to your management team in hopes of attracting investors. Celebrity management team members may attract the attention of your readers, but experienced lenders and investors will immediately ask what role that person will actually play in the running of the business--and in most cases those individuals won't play any meaningful role.

If you don't have a lot of experience--but are willing to work hard to overcome that lack of experience--don't be tempted to include people in your plan who will not actually work in the business. If you can't survive without help, that's okay. In fact, that's expected; no one does anything worthwhile on their own. Just make plans to get help from the right people. Finally, when you create your Management section, focus on credentials but pay extra attention to what each person actually will do.

Experience and reputation are great, but action is everything. Financial projections and estimates help entrepreneurs, lenders, and investors or lenders objectively evaluate a company's potential for success.

If a business seeks outside funding, providing comprehensive financial reports and analysis is critical. But most important, financial projections tell you whether your business has a chance of being viable--and if not let you know you have more work to do. It's easy to find examples of all of the above. Even the most basic accounting software packages include templates and samples. You can also find templates in Excel and Google Docs. A quick search like "google docs profit and loss statement" yields plenty of examples.

Or you can work with an accountant to create the necessary financial projections and documents. Certainly feel free to do so, but first play around with the reports yourself. While you don't need to be an accountant to run a business, you do need to understand your numbers, and the best way to understand your numbers is usually to actually work with your numbers. But ultimately the tools you use to develop your numbers are not as important as whether those numbers are as accurate as possible--and whether those numbers help you decide whether to take the next step and put your business plan into action.

Then Financial Analysis can help you answer the most important business question: "Can we make a profit? Some business plans include less essential but potentially important information in an Appendix section. You may decide to include, as backup or additional information:.

You must present and justify ongoing and changing resource requirements, marketing decisions, financial projections, production demands, and personnel needs in logical and convincing fashion. Because they struggle so hard to assemble, organize, describe, and document so much, it is not surprising that managers sometimes overlook the fundamentals. We have found that the most important one is the accurate reflection of the viewpoints of three constituencies. The market, including both existing and prospective clients, customers, and users of the planned product or service.

Too many business plans are written solely from the viewpoint of the third constituency—the producer. They describe the underlying technology or creativity of the proposed product or service in glowing terms and at great length. They neglect the constituencies that give the venture its financial viability—the market and the investor. Take the case of five executives seeking financing to establish their own engineering consulting firm.

But the executives did not determine which of the proposed dozen services their potential clients really needed and which would be most profitable. By neglecting to examine these issues closely, they ignored the possibility that the marketplace might want some services not among the dozen listed. Moreover, they failed to indicate the price of new shares or the percentage available to investors. Because they had not convincingly demonstrated why potential customers would buy the services or how investors would make an adequate return or when and how they could cash out , their business plan lacked the credibility necessary for raising the investment funds needed.

We have had experience in both evaluating business plans and organizing and observing presentations and investor responses at sessions of the MIT Enterprise Forum. We believe that business plans must deal convincingly with marketing and investor considerations. This reading identifies and evaluates those considerations and explains how business plans can be written to satisfy them. Organized under the auspices of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Alumni Association in , the MIT Enterprise Forum offers businesses at a critical stage of development an opportunity to obtain counsel from a panel of experts on steps to take to achieve their goals.

In monthly evening sessions the forum evaluates the business plans of companies accepted for presentation during to minute segments in which no holds are barred. The format allows each presenter 20 minutes to summarize a business plan orally.

Each panelist reviews the written business plan in advance of the sessions. Then each of four panelists—who are venture capitalists, bankers, marketing specialists, successful entrepreneurs, MIT professors, or other experts—spends five to ten minutes assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the plan and the enterprise and suggesting improvements. In some cases, the panelists suggest a completely new direction. In others, they advise more effective implementation of existing policies.

Their comments range over the spectrum of business issues. Sessions are open to the public and usually draw about people, most of them financiers, business executives, accountants, lawyers, consultants, and others with special interest in emerging companies. Presenters have the opportunity to respond to the evaluations and suggestions offered. They also receive written evaluations of the oral presentation from audience members. These monthly sessions are held primarily for companies that have advanced beyond the start-up stage.

They tend to be from one to ten years old and in need of expansion capital. Investors want to put their money into market-driven rather than technology-driven or service-driven companies. You can make a convincing case for the existence of a good market by demonstrating user benefit, identifying marketplace interest, and documenting market claims. He concluded with some financial projections looking five years down the road. The venture capitalist quickly reversed his original opinion.

He said he would back a company in almost any industry if it could prove such an important user benefit—and emphasize it in its sales approach. The venture capitalist knew that instruments, machinery, and services that pay for themselves in less than one year are mandatory purchases for many potential customers. If this payback period is less than two years, it is a probable purchase; beyond three years, they do not back the product.

The MIT panel advised the entrepreneur to recast his business plan so that it emphasized the short payback period and played down the self-serving discussion about product innovation. The executive took the advice and rewrote the plan in easily understandable terms. His company is doing very well and has made the transition from a technology-driven to a market-driven company.

How can start-up businesses—some of which may have only a prototype product or an idea for a service—appropriately gauge market reaction? One executive of a smaller company had put together a prototype of a device that enables personal computers to handle telephone messages. He needed to demonstrate that customers would buy the product, but the company had exhausted its cash resources and was thus unable to build and sell the item in quantity.

The executives wondered how to get around the problem. The MIT panel offered two possible responses. First, the founders might allow a few customers to use the prototype and obtain written evaluations of the product and the extent of their interest when it became available. Second, the founders might offer the product to a few potential customers at a substantial price discount if they paid part of the cost—say one-third—up front so that the company could build it.

The company could not only find out whether potential buyers existed but also demonstrate the product to potential investors in real-life installations. In the same way, an entrepreneur might offer a proposed new service at a discount to initial customers as a prototype if the customers agreed to serve as references in marketing the service to others.

You can obtain letters from users even if the product is only in prototype form. You can install it experimentally with a potential user to whom you will sell it at or below cost in return for information on its benefits and an agreement to talk to sales prospects or investors. In an appendix to the business plan or in a separate volume, you can include letters attesting to the value of the product from experimental customers.

Having established a market interest, you must use carefully analyzed data to support your assertions about the market and the growth rate of sales and profits. Even if the company makes such claims based on fact—as borne out, for example, by evidence of customer interest—they can quickly crumble if the company does not carefully gather and analyze supporting data. An entrepreneur wanted to sell a service to small businesses.

The panel pointed out that anywhere from 11 million to 14 million of such so-called small businesses were really sole proprietorships or part-time businesses. Similarly, in a business plan relating to the sale of certain equipment to apple growers, you must have U. Department of Agriculture statistics to discover the number of growers who could use the equipment.

If your equipment is useful only to growers with 50 acres or more, then you need to determine how many growers have farms of that size, that is, how many are minor producers with only an acre or two of apple trees.

A realistic business plan needs to specify the number of potential customers, the size of their businesses, and which size is most appropriate to the offered products or services. Sometimes bigger is not better. Such marketing research should also show the nature of the industry. Few industries are more conservative than banking and public utilities. The number of potential customers is relatively small, and industry acceptance of new products or services is painfully slow, no matter how good the products and services have proven to be.

Even so, most of the customers are well known and while they may act slowly, they have the buying power that makes the wait worthwhile. At the other end of the industrial spectrum are extremely fast-growing and fast-changing operations such as franchised weight-loss clinics and computer software companies. Here the problem is reversed. While some companies have achieved multi-million-dollar sales in just a few years, they are vulnerable to declines of similar proportions from competitors.

These companies must innovate constantly so that potential competitors will be discouraged from entering the marketplace. You must convincingly project the rate of acceptance for the product or service—and the rate at which it is likely to be sold.

From this marketing research data, you can begin assembling a credible sales plan and projecting your plant and staff needs. The marketing issues are tied to the satisfaction of investors. Once executives make a convincing case for their market penetration, they can make the financial projections that help determine whether investors will be interested in evaluating the venture and how much they will commit and at what price.

Most of us know that for new and growing private companies, investors may be professional venture capitalists and wealthy individuals. For corporate ventures, they are the corporation itself. When a company offers shares to the public, individuals of all means become investors along with various institutions.

But one part of the investor constituency is often overlooked in the planning process—the founders of new and growing enterprises. By deciding to start and manage a business, they are committed to years of hard work and personal sacrifice.

They must try to stand back and evaluate their own businesses in order to decide whether the opportunity for reward some years down the road truly justifies the risk early on. When an entrepreneur looks at an idea objectively rather than through rose-colored glasses, the decision whether to invest may change. One entrepreneur who believed in the promise of his scientific-instruments company faced difficult marketing problems because the product was highly specialized and had, at best, few customers.

The panelists concluded that the entrepreneur would earn only as much financial return as he would have had holding a job during the next three to seven years. On the downside, he might wind up with much less in exchange for larger headaches. When he viewed the project in such dispassionate terms, the entrepreneur finally agreed and gave it up.

Entrepreneurs frequently do not understand why investors have a short attention span. Many who see their ventures in terms of a lifetime commitment expect that anyone else who gets involved will feel the same. When investors evaluate a business plan, they consider not only whether to get in but also how and when to get out. Because small, fast-growing companies have little cash available for dividends, the main way investors can profit is from the sale of their holdings, either when the company goes public or is sold to another business.

Venture capital firms usually wish to liquidate their investments in small companies in three to seven years so as to pay gains while they generate funds for investment in new ventures. The professional investor wants to cash out with a large capital appreciation.

Investors want to know that entrepreneurs have thought about how to comply with this desire. Do they expect to go public, sell the company, or buy the investors out in three to seven years? Business plans often do not show when and how investors may liquidate their holdings. Five-year forecasts of profitability help lay the groundwork for negotiating the amount investors will receive in return for their money.

Investors see such financial forecasts as yardsticks against which to judge future performance. Too often, entrepreneurs go to extremes with their numbers. While a few industries such as computer software average such high profits, the scientific instruments business is so competitive, panelists noted, that expecting such margins is unrealistic. In fact, the managers had grossly—and carelessly—understated some important costs. The panelists advised them to take their financial estimates back to the drawing board and before approaching investors to consult financial professionals.

Some entrepreneurs think that the financials are the business plan. They may cover the plan with a smog of numbers. Investors are wary even when financial projections are solidly based on realistic marketing data because fledgling companies nearly always fail to achieve their rosy profit forecasts. All investors wish to reduce their risk. In evaluating the risk of a new and growing venture, they assess the status of the product and the management team. The farther along an enterprise is in each area, the lower the risk.

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A business plan is more than a document.

Top creative essay proofreading websites usa Because once you know the details of your business inside and out, you will be better prepared to write your executive summary. More and more, prospects are using social media to learn about companies and to find out how responsive they are. This will give you a professional business plan written by an MBA in five business days, that you can access and update through LivePlan. Highlighting your new business's strengths will encourage your reader to continue reading your plan. Blue Mountain Cycle Rentals expects to earn a modest profit by year two based on projected sales. Top Videos. Your Summary describes the highlights of your plan, includes only the most critical points, and leaves out less important issues and factors.
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