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So you have a unique idea, the passion and perseverance to bring it to market, and the willingness to take the risk. Now what?
Being an entrepreneur in some ways is like being a student: you have to do your homework. In the business setting, that means creating a business planA document that details everything about the business from the product position in the marketplace to the financial information for the next three years.: a road map of the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your business. A business plan is a document that details everything about the business from the product position in the marketplace to the financial information for the next three years. But a business plan is not simply like a term paper—a project that’s completed and then put on the shelf. A business plan is a dynamic document and should serve four purposes:
Every business or organization is different, but a business plan is a common method of planning the launch and management of the business.SCORE, “Business Plan for a Startup Business,” http://www.score.org/resources/business-plan-startup-business (accessed September 29, 2009). While there is no single business plan format, the elements of a business plan are standard. The following business plan outline serves as a guide to developing a business plan. Keep in mind that the order in which you write your business plan should not necessarily follow the order in which you present your plan.
Business Plan Template
A complete template with detailed descriptions for each section is available at the SCORE Web site.
Once you have identified your breakthrough idea (think iPod as the standard for a breakthrough idea), conducted your research, and written your business plan, it’s time to put everything to use. Whether you plan to fund the business yourself or find an investor to provide some capital (money), you will need your business plan to secure resources from your bank, insurance company, lawyer, attorney, and other support areas. Your business plan is the universal document for discussions with each of these people. In fact, you should first present your business plan to family, friends, and mentors to get some feedback before you take it out “on the road.”
When it comes to investorsPeople or firms who are willing to invest financial support based on the potential for the success of the business., people who are willing to invest financial support based on the potential for the success of your business, there are several different types. Here is a summary of the types of investors:
A complete summary of types of investors is available at http://www.businessplanmaster.com/small-business-loan-sources.html.
The Best Partner Is No Partner
Investors aren’t for everyone. Bob Parsons, founder and CEO of GoDaddy.com, the world’s largest domain-name registrar, founded his company with his own money and runs it his way. “Nobody’s going to do things like I do,” says Parsons. Everything to support his business is done in-house from the computer software and award-winning customer service to the radio and video recording studios where Parsons records his frequent video blogs and hosts his weekly radio show.Wilson Harrell, “The Way I Work: Bob Parsons, Go Daddy,” Inc., January 1, 2009, http://www.inc.com/magazine/20090101/the-way-i-work-bob-parsons-go-daddy.html (accessed September 19, 2009).
Watch Bob’s video blog titled “5 Things I Wish I Learned in Business School.”
When you present your business plan to anyone—a banker, a lawyer, an accountant, you are asking her to make a commitment to support your business idea. While the contents and details of your business plan are critical to gaining support, you are selling more than your business idea—you are selling yourself. How you communicate your vision and supporting details in a clear, concise, and confident manner can make the difference between getting financial or other support or walking away empty handed.
All the concepts that you have learned in the Selling U section of each chapter apply when you are selling your business plan. Thinking about yourself and your business idea as a brand is where it all starts. Remember from Chapter 1 "The Power to Get What You Want in Life" that a brand is unique, consistent, and relevant and has an emotional connection with its customers. Your personal brand and your business brand need to accomplish the same goal. Fast Company magazine identifies personal marketing as one of the first steps for Gen Y entrepreneurs to start their own business: “One of the most important requirements of entrepreneurship is the ability to sell yourself and your ideas.”Lindsey Pollak, “Gen Y Entrepreneurs: Here Are the First Steps to Starting Your Own Business,” Fast Company, March 15, 2009, http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/lindsey-pollak/next-generation-career-advice/are-you-gen-y-considering-entrepreneurship-first-s (accessed September 28, 2009).
Evolution of a Business Plan(click to see video)
Listen to David Fox, founder and CEO of Brave Spirits, discuss the role and evolution of his company’s business plan.
Just as you use your résumé to tell “stories” about your three brand positioning points for your personal brand, your business plan pitch should be equally concise and powerful. Although you have worked for hours (probably months, if not years) on your business plan, your presentation or pitch should focus on the key points and demonstrate not only that it is a potentially profitable business idea (or nonprofit organization that can achieve its goals) but also that you are the right person to make the concept come alive.
Fast Company magazine suggests Gen Yers start marketing themselves as a brand even before they start their business. Here are some things you can do now: