Think Strategically and Attract Investors

After a certain point, every business owner discovers they need to search for investors which means they need to start thinking strategically. That’s well and good, but what does it mean exactly to be a strategic manager?

Though it may sound like a buzzword used by business scholars with nothing else to do except pontificate, being strategic is important to any company that plans on being around for a long time. A strategic leader is someone who is forward thinking and anticipatory of both potential problems and opportunities that can contribute to business success. However, being strategic means much more because it implies using that forward thinking to align the business.

Alignment could arguably be one of the most important aspects of strategic management. Think of it like this: You can find investors, but if the business does not have a quality business plan and aligned operations, products and services, you won’t be able to take advantage of the opportunities to expand. Aligning a business to take advantage of future opportunities means preparing for growth and expansion in a planned manner and establishing the support system to ensure the growth can occur in a profitable manner.

Investors will be on the lookout for strategic leadership in a business. They know that a strategic minded business owner is not just running in circles trying to keep the business afloat today. Strategic leadership involves making careful decisions designed to promote business solidity and growth, understanding the needs of all stakeholders and successfully balancing those needs. Above all, being a strategic leader means thinking like investors so that ‘strategic’ really doesn’t just become a buzzword.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Business Plan for Buying a Business

Business plans are developed for new businesses and when buying an existing business. Sometimes, entrepreneurs want to buy an ongoing business because they believe they can grow a business with new ideas and approaches. When buying a business, it’s still important to write a business plan to ensure that all aspects of the purchase have been considered and future growth is planned. In many cases, the business plan is also used to attract investors like venture capitalists or angel investors.

There are advantages to buying a business and those advantages should be highlighted in the business plan. The first advantage is the fact the company already has a financial record. That can make it much easier to attract investors if there is less risk of business failure. However, if financial projections are made by the current business owner, it will be important to verify they are not inflated. You will want to develop your own sales and expense projections for 5 to 10 years based on plans for business expansion.

Another advantage of buying an existing business results from the knowing the market already exists for the business. Current customers are identified and market proven, making it much easier to identify potential growth areas or new niche markets. Since the basic customer profile is already developed, you can build on it rather than starting from scratch.

It’s also good to enjoy the advantage of having access to insider information. Since you’re buying the business, the current owner is going to be willing to share a lot of information you would have to research if starting a new business. This information can be incorporated in the business plan, making it clear that the plan is based in solid facts and information.

Buying a business can give you a competitive advantage because the name, location, products and services, and customers are already in place. The business plan goals are to develop that competitive advantage to attract investors and to plan growth. It’s always nice to begin from a point of success.

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Know Why Businesses Fail So Yours Does Not!

One of the most common reasons for businesses failing is failure to write a business plan. When an entrepreneur fails to plan, the chances are good that even growth can lead to serious business problems. How can growth lead to problems? It’s not growth per se. It’s when growth is too rapid and the business is unable to meet demand that causes small business failure.

Business growth must be managed. You can accept a half million dollars of customer orders, but if you can’t meet the demand in production or delivery the business will quickly get a bad reputation when unable to deliver goods and services as promised. Growth should be carefully planned so that resources are always available.

The business plan can help company owners and management avoid the most common reasons for business failure. In fact, knowing the reasons and then addressing them one by one in relation to your own business can help you avoid the pitfalls a new business typically faces.

Top of the list of reasons for business failure is lack of experience. The business plan includes a section on business management for a very good reason. Investors will want to know if the management is qualified and experienced. Even if you aren’t looking for an investor, it’s still important to identify the skills and competencies of key personnel. If gap exists, you’ll know it’s necessary to bring other talent onboard.

Lack of capital is another reason for business failure. The financial analysis needs to address money needed now and for planned growth. The keyword is ‘planned’ because unplanned growth can cause inventory, cash and personnel shortages.

That brings us to one of the most important advantages of a business plan. The elements of a business plan are integrated. For example, investing too heavily in assets can lead to a cash shortage which leads to poor customer service and lack of operating funds. Lack of management experience can lead to poor decisions that lead to marketing mistakes. The integrated nature of the business plan is precisely what makes it so valuable as a planning tool. No one starts a business expecting it to fail. Knowing why businesses fail can help you avoid a business failure. Plan to succeed in the business plan.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Preplanning the Business Plan

The Small Business Administration contracted with William B. Garner, a Spiro Professor of Entrepreneurial Leadership at Clemson University and Jianwen Liao, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at the Illinois Institute of Technology to study pre-venture planning and entrepreneurs. Published February 2009 by the SBA Office of Advocacy, the article titled Are Planners Doers? Pre-Venture Planning and the Start-Up Behaviors of Entrepreneurs reports some interesting findings that all entrepreneurs should know.

First, the professors reported that, indeed, “…early formal planners are doers. We believe that challenging prospective entrepreneurs to accomplish a formal business plan early in the venture creation process will likely enable them to engage in additional start-up behavior that could further the process of business creation.” In other words, the business plan is informative and motivating.

The reasons given in the report for the importance of business planning include:

  • Entrepreneur can identify what he or she doesn’t know
  • Early identification of needed resources and when they will be needed
  • Identification of specific problem solving actions
  • Identification of actions needed to attain goals
  • Ability to communicate objectives, purposes and activities to others
  • Assessment of accuracy of business assumptions concerning resources, knowledge level, potential customers and beliefs
  • Reduction in organizational delays
  • Reduction in delays in acquiring plant and equipment, and goods and services
  • Keeps entrepreneurs on track
  • Provides benchmarks

In fact, studies show that even the presence of planning benefits entrepreneurial success. Presence refers to the whether a business plan is completed, while formality refers to a documented business plan. A written formal business plan was found to significantly influence a positive business start.

A lot is written about the benefits of writing a business plan in general terms. It’s good to know that studies of specific companies backs up the generalities. A business plan is a tool for success any way you look at it.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Keeping the Business Plan Focused on Purpose

Business plans are used for many purposes, and that purpose can influence what is emphasized in the plan.  Every business plan has sections that include the executive summary, business description, marketing plan, competitive analysis, development plan, management and operations plan, and financial statements and plan. It’s what goes into each section that must specifically address the purpose of the plan.

Business plans are as important for startup companies as they are for the large corporation ready to expand. Small and medium-sized companies, as well as the corporate giants develop business plans because they provide benchmarks for measuring progress. That’s one of the purposes then for developing a business plan – measuring actual results against strategic goals. Each section will establish periodic goals like number of marketing campaigns to run in a year, sales growth projections and net profit goals.

Another reason for preparing a business plan is to raise money. In that case, you will need to develop a well honed mission, clear objectives and goals and an executive summary that explains the type of business being started, the amount of capital needed and the type of financing. In addition, the marketing and financial plans need to be crafted so that they make sense in terms of the market and competition. This business plan will be used to get the attention of investors so you will want to show that the business will be able to make money or grow sufficiently to service the debt. If the investors will be equity partners, then the business plan will have to indicate how the company will be able to secure the investment and produce the desired rate of return.

A third reason business plans are developed is to attract people who aren’t investors. For example, a business plan can be used as a marketing tool when pursuing new customers representing large buyers. It is also used to attract suppliers or exceptional staff. The sections of the plan these people are most interested in needs to be fully developed. For example, large suppliers want to know you will have the right kind and volume of business and that plans for growth equates to supplier success also. Executive talent will read the business plan to discover information about corporate culture and the growth agenda.

In other words, a business plan is not just for attracting investors. It’s for all businesses at any stage of development and is used for multiple purposes.

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Once Upon a Time: Telling a Story in the Business Plan

If you could start a business plan with “once upon a time”, what would follow? Once upon a time there was a business that offered a value proposition to customers. Or maybe you would write that once upon a time there was a business with a compelling story and investors couldn’t wait to read the details.

A business plan is a business document, but it’s also your chance to tell a story. That story is the tale of your business brand and what you offer in the way of products and services that create marketplace passion and excitement. Unfortunately, many business plans present the minimum amount of detailed information as required, but they lack enthusiasm. When the plan is presented to potential investors, you can bet they will notice this lack of excitement too.

Let’s face it – a business plan has to create a sense of fascination in the products and services. The story you have to tell should echo what customers are saying about the marketplace and their problems and how you will solve those problems. It’s a never ending story about what makes your business idea different and your products or services special. The story characters are the management team and the customers. The plot is all about turning authentic passion for products into a value proposition for consumers. What makes your story unique? Interesting? Fascinating? Remarkable?

A dry business plan that meets minimum requires but doesn’t share the entrepreneur’s motivation for starting or growing the business is doomed to enter the annals of boredom. That’s no way to get investors interested and especially innovative angel investors or venture capitalists looking for exciting new ideas. The story should not be invented or fictional. It must be authentic because it’s your story, your business and your products.

Once upon a time there was a successful business…

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Getting Competitive in the Business Plan Competitive Analysis

Every business has competitors which is why the business plan includes a section that presents a thorough competitive analysis. The analysis considers businesses in the same industry your business will be operating in and evaluates similar products or services. It also looks at the features of the competitor businesses. The goal is to pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors and then position your business in the industry and marketplace.

A common mistake new entrepreneurs make is telling themselves there is no competition. In the excitement of starting a business, they fall prey to the belief that their products or services are so unique there are no other options for consumers to choose among. One point to keep in mind at all times is every business has competition, and you need to know your competition well.

The competitive analysis in the business plan considers a number of factors for multiple businesses. It’s a good idea to analyze at least 5 businesses to ensure your research is thorough. The factors include product and services prices, the quality level and the product lines.

However, the competitive analysis also considers how your competitors market their products and services and the structure of customer services. The more information you know about a competitor’s organizational structure, sales team, type of facilities, management, and culture, the more effectively you can compete. The analysis should also be done from different perspectives based on market segmentation.

Often, the completed competitive analysis developed for a business plan uncovers opportunities for marketing, product and services differentiation, customer service or new distribution channels. So don’t look at the competitive analysis as a tedious research process. Instead, consider it time well spent learning how to succeed. Every business has competitors and should know who they are, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Then your business can do it differently.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Writing a Business Plan with Employee Taxes in Mind

Writing a business plan isn’t just a matter of writing whatever is on your mind.  It’s a carefully crafted document that considers a number of variables. One of the most important variables is a plan for hiring because salaries and wages and benefits expenses can be a substantial amount of total expenses. A couple of ways to minimize payroll expenses and prove you are a savvy business person is to manage the type of employees hired and methods of expense reimbursements to take advantage of tax credits and savings.

The first step is to research the tax credits that are available. For example, the Affordable Care Act offers small businesses hiring low and moderate income workers a health care tax credit for health insurance expenses as long as the business covers at least half of the single coverage for employees. The business plan can reflect this tax credit so you reflect higher profit.

Another way to lower employee related taxes is to institute an accountable plan. An accountable plan is one in which you reimburse employees for certain expenses and those amounts are exempt from FICA and FUTA taxes. This amount can be sizable if your business plan is written for a company that will have employees incurring regular expenses for travel, entertainment, business tools, supplies and so on. The accountable plan described in IRS Publication 463 requires that all reimbursable expenses be business related, of course. The expenses are not taxable to the employees either.

There are a host of tax credits available for hiring particular types of employees. For example, there are tax credits for hiring veterans or Indians. As you develop a business plan, consider ways to minimize taxes through savings and credits. These amounts will flow right to your bottom line, and just as importantly, potential funders will know you are a wise and savvy business person.

More detailed information and useful advice can be found at Created by Mark Favre, it offers expertise and assistance with developing and funding your concept, including a private forum for queries and discussions. If you need access to investors and funding providers, please do check our website.

Though the Looking Glass with Business Plan Financial Statements

Business plans have several sections and way at the end is the financial plan with the income statement, cash flow statement and balance sheet. Don’t let that lull you into a sense of complacency though because the placement of the financial statements is not reflective of the importance. The statements can be thought of as a mirror reflecting the written descriptions that came earlier in the business plan. That means the investor should not find too many surprises in the way of numbers that don’t support or match the marketing strategies, operational plan or competitive analysis.

In other words, the business plan financial statements shouldn’t remind anyone of Alice in Wonderland. She steps through a mirror and finds an alternate world that doesn’t make any sense. The alternate world is upside down, confusing and leaves Alice in a constant state of puzzlement. A funder reading your business plan financial statements shouldn’t wonder how you got from your marketing plan to the cash flow projections or how you made the leap from expansion plans to the liabilities on the balance sheet.

The financial statements need to present an accurate picture of the proposal. If it’s a startup, the projections should be reasonable. If it’s an ongoing business ready for expansion, the financial statements must be historically accurate and prepared according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and projections should once again support the business plan proposal.

You won’t find GAAP in the looking glass alternate world. In the alternate world, business plan preparers make up numbers not supported by the facts, overstate revenues and profits, understate liabilities and make cash flow projections that are clearly pie-in-the-sky. Potential funders recognize financial statements that are overstated, optimistic and unreasonable.

As you prepare the financial statements, just remember this: Don’t be Alice!

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Private Equity Financing for Major Projects

If you are looking for private equity financing for a major acquisition or business expansion project, the best approach is to use a firm that raises this type of financing for businesses. There are many good reasons for making this recommendation, and they are all for the benefit of the business needing an injection of capital.

  • Can identify the private equity financing groups that are most likely to be interested in your expansion plans
  • Shortens the time frame for finding and landing project money
  • Able to streamline the proposal process because have knowledge of what particular investors require before considering a proposal
  • Can assist business through all phases of the request process
  • Saves business time and money by handling many of the time consuming steps required in the search for investment money
  • Understands the entire process from beginning to end

In fact, a professional that specializes in finding financing for major business expansions or projects can also assess the availability of other types of funding including venture capital, business loans, and even angel investors. The process involves much more than just submitting a business plan. You have to balance the timing of the request, marketing efforts, selection of potential funders, negotiation process and the closing of the deal.

Experience Equates to Time Saving Efforts

It’s true that the process of finding funding from any type of investor including private equity, venture capital, angel investors or business loans can be time consuming. It’s a process that cannot be rushed but it can certainly be streamlined. Each phase of the process can be approached methodically and with a well defined strategy which leads to a targeted and thorough proposal.

Many companies have the expertise needed to be successful at producing products or services which is why they are looking for new funding. Yet many of these same companies do not have fund raising experience. The lack of experience can seriously delay the process. There are a number of steps that must be taken and using a professional that understands these steps makes success more likely and more likely to occur sooner.

Every Step of the Way

Following are some of the major phases that must be completed when applying for private equity.

  • Complete accurate valuation of business and business expansion project
  • Identify the potential financing alternatives
  • Prepare time schedule
  • Develop in-depth marketing plan
  • Market the proposal to funders
  • Respond to funder questions
  • Meet with prospective funders
  • Prepare and review financing proposals
  • Negotiate final terms
  • Prepare legal documents
  • Close
  • Identify reporting requirements

When searching for private equity, startup funding or any other type of business funding, businesses will find that using professionals experienced at raising funding can benefit the entire process from beginning to end. If you are like most businesses, once you decide the funding is needed there is no time to waste.