Small Business Plan Outline

Small Business Plan OutlineAn entrepreneur trying to start their own business needs to begin with a small business plan outline.

The small business plan is a guide that helps business owners stay focused on their goals/objectives and serves as a tool to solicit investors and lending institutions to finance the business.

To write an effective small business plan, you need to complete several steps to ensure that the final plan includes the necessary elements.

Small Business Plan Outline: 6 Steps to Success

1.) Small Business Plan Outline – Setup

Use the outline format of any word processing program to create a small business plan. An outline format makes the plan easier to read and easier to fill in any details you need to add later.

2.) Small Business Plan Outline – Business Description

Describe your business in the first section. Explain the kinds of products or services your business will offer, how you plan to manufacture the product or administer the service and what materials you will need. Include details about the kind of facility you will need and the types of equipment required.

3.) Small Business Plan Outline – Budget

Create a business budget and break it down into three parts: start-up costs, ongoing operating costs and a breakdown of the overhead into sections such as manpower and materials.

Provide as many details as possible in the budget section. Forecast your budget needs for ongoing operating costs for at least three years. Break the budget down by department, including sales, marketing, production and support.

4.) Small Business Plan Outline – Profit Projection

Develop a profit projection that shows the percentage growth you expect for the next three years. Cite reasons for your forecast and give examples of how you intend to grow your company.

5.) Small Business Plan Outline – Sales and Marketing

Present a sales and marketing plan that includes detailed analysis of your competition, how you intend to address the competition and a detailed explanation of how you will bring your product or service to the marketplace.

6.) Small Business Plan Outline – Biographical

Create a biographical section that features information about all executives and partners who will be involved in the company. Include compensation plans, detailed job descriptions for each person and resumes that outline past experience within the industry.

Tip:
Have a business lawyer and accountant review your small business plan outline before you consider it finished.

Schedule a free coaching consultation with Wayne

Resource: U.S. Small Business Administration: Write a Business Plan

How to Buy a Small Business

How to buy a small businessStarting a new business can be a long and drawn out affair for most people, with the fruits of your labor not paying off until the business becomes profitable.

If you buy a small business that already exists, there are many advantages for entrepreneurs who want to avoid the time, effort and expense of starting a new business (either a franchise or an independent unit).

One of the most important factors to consider before you buy a small business is your familiarity with the business you plan to purchase.

The more familiar you are with the type of business you’re interested in buying, the better your chances for success.

Factors to Consider Before You Buy a Small Business

Once you have found the type of business you feel comfortable running, a number of other considerations should be taken into account. These include:

  • ~Has the business you intend to buy been profitable, or are you buying a business in trouble (distress sale)? Find out as many details about the business as you can – as well as the current owner. Why are they looking to exit the business?
  • ~Review the business’ financial records (past 3 years preferably), contracts and leases (if a brick/mortar unit). Tax returns for the last five years should also be reviewed to determine what kind of tax liabilities could be incurred. What is their cash-flow like? Is it a seasonal business? How much of the business is labor cost? What type of Labor are you dealing with? Is there any re-curring business?
  • ~In addition, a thorough review of the business’ bank accounts, sales records, customer lists, payroll benefits and employee pension plans, as well as an employee roster should be taken into account before committing to purchasing the business.

Before You Buy a Small Business, get Professional Assistance

Purchasing an existing business may save a lot of time versus starting a business on your own. Nevertheless, unless you are a business lawyer or an accountant, reviewing all of the documents of an existing business before making an offer could be overwhelming.

Enlisting the services of a competent attorney and CPA/Business Appraisal company could save you considerable time and expense. Depending on the size and nature of the business you plan to buy, other professionals may also be needed to consult.

After doing all the preliminary work, you can then make an offer through a letter of intent, followed by a formal offer of cash or other assets. You should have all your bases covered before you make a formal offer.

To buy a small business takes considerable effort before the sale and after you launch as the new owner. In many ways, treat it like a new business with planning, marketing and customer service taking priority.

Schedule a free coaching consultation with Wayne

Marketing Ideas for Small Business Budgets

No matter what size your business is, you should have a detailed multi-pronged advertising strategy.

Fast and Easy Marketing Ideas for Small Business

Marketing Ideas for Small BusinessWith companies opening and closing each year, a small business must employ the proper advertising techniques which are just as effective as larger companies.

With smaller funds for advertising, small business owners can utilize strategies that make a big impact on profit without making a big impact on a budget.

Coupons

Using coupons can attract new customers as well as retain them. Give new customers an incentive to re-visit your business (online or in person) offering coupons for a percentage off your merchandise or service.

You can ensure repeat business by promptly honoring the coupon and giving occasional discounts to repeat customers. Try offering customers a discount for bringing in new clients for you.

For example, give a 10 percent coupon to anyone who refers a friend. Marketing ideas for small business, such as coupons, must be affordable. So make sure you have the capital to honor each coupon you hand out.

Online Marketing

Online advertising is composed of many outlets: email marketing, business websites and social networking sites, among others.

  • ~Take advantage of all the websites (such as business directories) that allow you to promote your business for free.
  • ~Set up a free blog and write about updates to your business or industry facts.
  • ~Create a page on Facebook or place an ad on Craigslist.

An additional benefit to online advertising is that you can track its effectiveness more easily than most marketing ideas for small business.

For example, it’s much simpler to track how many visits your website gets as opposed to how many people visit your store simply by word-of-mouth.

Marketing ideas for small business on the internet are plentiful. Everybody wants a piece of your budget. Be sure to research what is most effective in your area and how to calculate your return on investment.

And then prioritize overall effectiveness so you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Local Advertising

Local advertising is not just word-of-mouth or putting up fliers/brochures in community centers or HOA’s. Although you can employ those methods, you should also use niche markets to advertise.

Placing ads in neighborhood newspapers and local online sites are usually more affordable than the larger outlets.

Using local media, such as magazines and online newspapers, build a sense of trust and community that is a powerful influencer and effective advertising technique for small businesses.

Free or Inexpensive Marketing Ideas for Small Business

Here are some specific strategies every small business owner should consider:

  • ~Free local listings in search engines and online directories such as Google, Yahoo, Yelp, CitySearch and YellowPages.com.
  • ~Online photo galleries (Houzz.com, Pinterest, Flikr, etc.) and videos for YouTube.
  • ~Hosting free local seminars, workshops or a community event.
  • ~Getting involved in the community – whether it’s charitable donation, volunteering or sponsorship.
  • ~A solid referral program and the consistent pursuit of both online and offline reviews / testimonials.
Schedule a free coaching consultation with Wayne

SaaS – Software as a Service for Small Business

Are you familiar with “SaaS”— Software as a Service?

Saas - Software as a Service for Small Business Owners Put simply: It’s software available from the “cloud” and not off the shelf.

Let’s first agree with the adage that “if you’re not measuring, you’re not managing.”

Then one of your many challenges is finding software to track and report on different areas of the business—marketing, operations, administration—that you can afford.

You may not realize it, but if you’re using antiquated software, it’s costing you more in lost sales and employee productivity and morale than you think you’re saving by not investing in the latest operating system(s).

The Benefits of SaaS

So what again is SaaS and how can it help you? Advertisers fancifully describe it as “cloud computing.” All that means is it’s web-based software … software as a service (usually a subscription) on the web … and it can save you time and money.

Here’s a long-answer comparison between traditional software and SaaS. The traditional variety is mostly sold as a desktop product with an up-front cost, an ongoing license fee and an optional ongoing support package.

Lower Setup and Customization Costs

SaaS providers, on the other hand, generally price applications using a subscription fee, most commonly a monthly or an annual fee. The benefit to you is that the SaaS setup cost is typically lower than the equivalent desktop software.

Other attractive benefits and functional features of SaaS are that providers typically price their applications based on some usage parameters, such as the number of users working the application.

With SaaS software it will be easier for you to log-in to your accounts from remote locations and connect to data.

Additionally, since SaaS products usually have some customization capabilities, you can tailor the software to your business—without spending a lot of money!

An SaaS for your every Small Business Need

There’s more good news! There are a growing number of providers offering reliable and secure cloud products in virtually every area of business management:

  • accounting and finance
  • calendar and scheduling
  • customer relationship management (crm)
  • productivity, sales and marketing
  • project management
  • management information systems

and much more. There’s even software for collaboration and brainstorming. (Check out my brainstorming blog post Problem Solving Strategies.)

How do you find SaaS providers? Easy. My advice is to go to the Google Apps Marketplace and browse for applications that fit your business needs. It is that easy.

I use a number of Saas – Software as a Service in my business. You should, too.

Business Emails: Benefits for Small Business

Business emails are a virtual communication system that have transformed the way companies conduct business.

The Many Benefits of Business Emails

Small Business EmailsEmail helps with the exchange of information, across town or around the globe, is inexpensive and allows business people the flexibility to access their messages from anywhere in the world (webmail or desktop based).

As such, companies benefit from the many advantages that email offers. Too many small business owners have not yet adopted email for business – and are missing out.

Faster Communication

Business emails are a fast way to communicate and share business documents. With email, business people are not held up by delays commonly experienced when sending documents/correspondence in the mail.

Emailing documents is faster than faxing ever was (remember the 90’s). Hitting the send button, businesses can send time-sensitive information to anyone in the world and the recipient gets the message almost instantaneously (in some cases, even password protected).

This type of fast, effective exchange allows people to stay on top of projects, respond to communication requests with customers/vendors more efficiency and be more productive.

More Accessibility

Email eliminates time as an issue. When business people use email they can send and receive information at any hour, day or night, in any timezone.

Since email is Internet-based, advanced communication technology makes it possible for individuals to access email from anywhere in the world, through an Internet connection from their computers, smartphones or tablets. This allows business people who travel for work to stay connected wherever they are.

Advertising

Email offers businesses a cost-effective way to advertise. Email ads reach mass audiences immediately and without the cost of stamps or envelopes.

One advantage of email marketing is that recipients can forward the original ad to their friends and family, carrying the information on through word-of-mouth marketing.

Email marketing is an effective way to make your company a little greener, since you do not have to print out brochures.

Companies like Vertical Response and Constant Contact have made it very easy to reach out and touch customers. I use a system called WrapMail to use my business emails as a way to promote my business and services.

Customer Service

E-Marketing Journal states that business emails offer customers a quick and easy way to provide a company with feedback on products and services.

Customers can even contact company customer service representatives by email (support@companyname.com), and often have their concerns addressed via email.

Business emails provide customers and companies with documentation in writing, which can be useful when certain issues need to be verified.

Schedule a free coaching consultation with Wayne

Business Meeting Etiquette Top Ten

Business Meeting EtiquetteAdherence to proper business meeting etiquette establishes respect among meeting participants, helps the meeting begin and end on time, and fosters an atmosphere of cooperation.

In my opinion – a lack of etiquette and poor planning are two of the main reasons why many business meetings fail.

Teach your employees the business meeting etiquette top ten rules to ensure that your meetings are effective.

Business Meeting Etiquette Top Ten

1.) Arrival

Arrive to the location of the business meeting at least 15 minutes early – ever heard of “Lombardi Time”? This allows you to find a seat and get situated before the meeting starts.

2.) Agenda

The chairperson of the meeting should distribute a meeting agenda to each participant at least one day/week in advance (situational). Participants should call the chairperson to express any concerns about the agenda at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.

The chairperson and concerned participant will then have time to determine if changes need to be made. The agenda should also mention the meeting’s start and ending times.

3.) Be Prepared

Each participant should come to the meeting with all of the materials and data they will need and an understanding of the meeting topic.

4.) Breaks

Meetings should have a break every two hours. Breaks should be 20 minutes long, and meal breaks should be 30-45 minutes long.

5.) Attire

The chairperson should indicate what kind of attire is required for the meeting, either business casual or business formal, and participants should follow that rule.

A representative listing of the attire would be helpful as participants may have differing views on what business casual and business formal is. For example, when listing the meeting as business formal, you can indicate that a button-down shirt and khaki pants are sufficient.

6.) Speaking

Keep the meeting organized by only speaking when you have the floor. Proper business meeting etiquette says that you should only ask questions during the designated question period, and raise your hand to be recognized by the chairperson as having the floor. Do not interrupt someone while they are speaking or asking a question.

7.) Meeting Types

Each part of the Meeting should be described in the Agenda. Is a portion of the Meeting dedicated to “Info Share”? Is there a portion that you reserve for “Creative Discussion” or “Creative Decision Making” It is helpful if all participants understand the meaning of these.

8.) Listen

You may find that many of the questions you have about a topic are answered by the content of the meeting. Listen attentively to the meeting and take notes.

9.) Cell Phones and Laptops

Turn off your cell phone prior to the start of the meeting. If you are expecting an urgent call, then set your phone to vibrate and excuse yourself from the meeting if the call comes in.

Unless laptop computers have been approved for the meeting, turn yours off and lower the screen so that you do not obstruct anyone’s view.

10.) Guests

Do not bring unannounced guests to a meeting. If you have someone you would like to bring, then proper business meeting etiquette says you should contact the chairperson for permission to bring your guest.

Train your team in these no-nonesense basics in business meeting etiquette for efficient and productive meetings.

Schedule a free coaching consultation with Wayne

EDDM: Every Door Direct Mail Consultation

How to use EDDM in your Small Business Marketing

Tanya Kircher of Specialty Mail & Services in Cincinnati, Ohio is an expert on EDDM. She talks with Wayne about the benefits of EDDM and how small business owners can use it to their best advantage.

Online Entrepreneur Radio at Blog Talk Radio with Coachs Chalk Talk Network on BlogTalkRadio

Situational Leadership Basics

Situational Leadership - Wayne Scherger Business Coaching - Atlanta, GAThe Situational Leadership® model is a theory of business leadership that promotes the benefits of combining a range of managerial styles to cater to different people within the same organization.

This is opposed to the more traditional view of the executive manager who may employ the same leadership tactics across an entire organization, more than likely passing directives down through subordinates and other intermediaries.

But by employing the strategies put forth in the Situational Leadership® Model, a manager would potentially have the capabilities to deal with a wide range of people and, thereby, create a more employee-centric and innovative organization through the level of direct contact he or she has with members at all levels.

Further, the leader would be free to place more or less emphasis on a particular task as well as more or less emphasis on relationships with employees – enabling them to focus on the component most needed to get the task accomplished successfully.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The core foundation of the Situational Leadership® Model is the belief that there is no single “best” approach to leadership.

Instead, effective leadership is viewed as task-relevant. Therefore, the most successful leaders are the ones who are able to adapt their leadership styles across a broad range of varying maturity levels readily present within the average organization.

Also factoring into the choice for leadership style are the individual employees’ willingness and ability to take responsibility for the task as well as their applicable education and experience.

Given the wide level of variance in these factors, choices surrounding leadership are highly subjective in regard to the person or work group that is being influenced; as well as the specific job or function that has been assigned – a situation some say lends itself perfectly to the Situational Leadership® Model.

The Four Styles of Situational Leadership®

Though it’s meant to provide extreme adaptability, there are four basic styles when it comes to the Situational Leadership® model, each custom tailored to elicit the highest productivity from each employee or group.

As you’ll see, there is a clear distinction between productivity and employee-development, with the first two styles (telling and selling) focused on accomplishing the task while styles three and four (participating and delegating) are more concerned with the personal development of team members.

  • Telling – Within this style, a leader will specifically instruct subordinates what to do and how to do it. This style is used at length within the law enforcement and military communities as well as on manufacturing assembly lines, providing a means of managing a diverse group of people that span a wide range of experience and maturity levels.
  • Selling – Information and direction will still be provided by the manger in this style of leadership but there’s also more two-way communication with subordinates. Within this role, leaders “sell” their message to get employees on board, persuading them to work toward the common goal.A perfect example of this type of leadership is often found in an internship situation, with the success of this approach dependent upon whether the student or apprentice learner is excited and self-motivated to be on the job.
  • Participating – With participation, leaders can focus more on relationships and less on direction. In doing so, the Situational Leadership® manager works closely with the team and shares decision-making responsibilities.This style is often used by corporate leaders who are attempting to influence a board of directors toward developing a new policy for which there is no proven history or established practice.
  • Delegating – Although the leader will still monitor task- and organizational-progress, he or she will pass much of the responsibility for the execution and completion of the established goals onto the individual subordinates or dedicated work groups.By delegating, the leader is usually less involved with decisions and is therefore able to focus on the work and achievements of subordinates, as seen commonly in the freedom given to tenured professors who are allowed to teach in the manner they believe is most effective while being monitored by a dean or department head.

The Situational Leadership® model was created by professor / authors Dr. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard.

Time Management Techniques for Small Business Owners

Time management techniques for small businessWhen I visit small business owners—mostly service businesses—it’s evident early on why some owners are successful and others struggle.

It’s all about implementing time management techniques.

As an owner, you know just getting through the day many times seems like an insurmountable challenge (my business coaching will help you with that).

But you can’t take your eyes off future critical dates: weekly, bi-weekly, monthly and quarterly reporting and planning periods.

Take Your Control Back with Structured Time Management Techniques

Define a Daily Schedule

No matter what business you’re in, you need to have a defined daily schedule and adhere to it … as best you can. I know. It’s not easy. I’ve been there: You feel like you’re “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”.

Unlike a football quarterback who may let the game come to him, you have to take control of your time and ward off those pesky distractions that can keep you from moving forward and that sack you of energy. This may be one of the hardest time management techniques, but you can do it; you just have to discipline yourself.

Follow a Daily Routine

A routine is not a rut; it’s a groove to guide you and to act as a safety barrier if you feel like your careening off course.

One of my mentors, at the end of each day, plotted his tomorrow. He made regularly scheduled time for production (job-site management, production management), marketing and sales, as well as administrative responsibilities.

On the lighter side he said, “If you’re going to lie awake at night fretting about tomorrow at least your thoughts will be organized.”

You’ll find that each day of the week becomes scheduled and systematized. You’ll be more efficient in how you allocate your time and more productive as a leader. And as an owner, develop a “day in the life of” to train your staff to follow their own routines:

For example, 8 am – 11 am is operations, 11 am – 2 pm is flex time and 2 pm – 5 pm is marketing.

Time management techniques allow you to look ahead, set aside specific times each week—say Wednesday afternoon and Sunday evening—to manage the administration of the business and to make changes to job status reports——as data changes.

Dedicate one day a week—Thursday is a great time—for no meetings. Tackle those tasks that need your full attention without getting yourself tied up in non-essential meetings that are a “time suck.”

Prioritize a To Do List or Schedule

By all means, prioritize your tasks, e.g., A (most important), B and C (of lesser importance).

Too often I see people busy taking care of “C” items and avoiding the overwhelming “A” items. DON’T. You’ll find that sticking to a schedule and tackling the tougher problems first will give you greater satisfaction and propel you through the rest of the day.

Put Time Management Techniques on your To Do List

A WORD TO THE WISE: Use a calendar either online or the ol’ school paper variety to post your meetings and responsibilities. I can tell you from experience, discipline yourself to keep a “to-do list” and to keep to it.

Put time management techniques into place and make them a habit. You’ll sleep better at night.

Strategic Business Plan for the New Year

You and I are small business owners. We are entrepreneurs. Business strategic planning is an important piece of our success. I’d like to share with you a simple strategic business plan I create at the beginning of each year.

My Strategic Business Plan Shopping List

Strategic Business Plan for Small Business Owners and EntrepreneursDuring the holidays I make two shopping lists. One that’s under wraps for family and friends … and another shopping list for my business.

It’s not a “wish” list of stuff I want to buy; though I am an entrepreneur and I always want stuff.

It’s not my New Year’s resolutions, because to be successful, I’d have to fulfill them. And that’s just not a good strategy.

My annual strategic business plan is part “to-do” list, part calendar of events, and part self-help plan.

A few of the to-dos include purchasing a personal cloud storage system that combines the best features of both Internet cloud and network attached storage, and memory cards for my camera. Both are included and budgeted in my annual plan.

The rest of my business shopping list is grouped under four headings: “Big Idea,” “Knowledge,” “Time” and “Hiring.”

What’s your Big Idea?

You may not think my Big Idea is grand and ground-breaking, but for me—and I’m sure for many of you—it’s a commitment to keep up with the rate of change outside of business and to stay a step ahead of my competition.

A strategic business plan should always look to the future.

I’m thinking MOBILE FIRST: I’m investing in a new smartphone and upgrading my tablet. If you want to advance your business, improve your digital presence.

Knowledge: Never Stop Learning

Under Knowledge, I’ve enrolled in several seminars that will improve my business and my leadership skills. Even though I am a Business Coach, I’m always learning and bringing new ideas to my clients.

STRATEGY TIP: Don’t stop learning. Each year, take a training program on leadership. Better yet, start working with a business coach. (Don’t forget: The top golfers in the world, who earn a living playing the game, all have swing coaches.)

Take Time to Step Away and Recharge

For Time, which I know you need more of, I do something different. I step away from the business at least once a quarter to “recharge the batteries.”

I have a two-day, out-of-town golf tournament plotted on next year’s calendar. It’s a getaway for me, a mind cleansing, if you will, and I can promise from experience that when I return, I’ll be re-energized and more effective in my business.

Time away can also be as simple and easy as seeing a movie or frequenting a comedy club to relish a good laugh. For one of my clients, I recommended she join a health club … and use it!

You have to take a break from time to time. Don’t worry. The business will be there when you return. A strategic business plan should emphasize non-business activities so that you can be more effective in your business.

Hiring: Invest in Effective Tools

Last is Hiring. If your goals are to grow and to expand, you’ll need to recruit new people. Good people.

There are many options for generating response through ads and employment agencies. But networking may be a far better option.

Spreading the word through existing business relationships and resources provides first-hand feedback and references you couldn’t get with a pile of resumes.

STRATEGY TIP: Give yourself a gift and sign up for the professional membership in LinkedIn to help your recruiting efforts.

Add “Create Strategic Business Plan” to your To Do List

Include my suggested sections … your “Big Idea”, Knowledge, Time and Hiring. And then add your own. Create your business shopping list to ensure a prosperous New Year, every year.

Schedule a free coaching consultation with Wayne