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Tips for Engaging Participants in Virtual Video Conferences
In today’s digital age, virtual video conferences have become an essential tool for businesses and individuals alike. With the ability to connect with people from all over the world, virtual video conferences offer a convenient and cost-effective way to collaborate, communicate, and conduct meetings. However, keeping participants engaged during these virtual meetings can be a challenge. In this article, we will explore some tips to help you engage participants in virtual video conferences effectively.
Creating an Engaging Agenda
One of the first steps in engaging participants in a virtual video conference is to create an engaging agenda. A well-structured agenda not only keeps the meeting on track but also sets clear expectations for all participants. When creating your agenda, consider including interactive elements such as polls or Q&A sessions to encourage active participation. By incorporating these interactive elements into your agenda, you can keep participants engaged throughout the entire meeting.
Encouraging Active Participation
Active participation is key to keeping participants engaged during a virtual video conference. To encourage active participation, consider using tools such as chat features or breakout rooms. Chat features allow participants to ask questions or contribute ideas without interrupting the flow of the meeting. Breakout rooms provide smaller groups within the larger conference where participants can discuss specific topics or work on collaborative tasks. By giving participants opportunities to actively participate, you create a more engaging and inclusive environment.
Utilizing Visual Aids and Multimedia
Visual aids and multimedia play a crucial role in engaging participants during virtual video conferences. Incorporating slideshows, videos, or other visual elements can help convey information more effectively and keep participants focused on the content being presented. Keep in mind that visual aids should be used sparingly and strategically to enhance your message rather than distract from it. Be sure to test any multimedia materials before your conference begins to avoid technical difficulties that could disrupt engagement.
Facilitating Effective Communication
Effective communication is vital in any virtual video conference. To facilitate effective communication, it is essential to create an environment where participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas. Encourage open dialogue and active listening among participants by asking for input, giving everyone an opportunity to speak, and summarizing key points throughout the meeting. Additionally, be mindful of your speaking pace and tone to ensure clarity and engagement.
In conclusion, engaging participants in virtual video conferences requires careful planning and implementation of various strategies. By creating an engaging agenda, encouraging active participation, utilizing visual aids and multimedia, and facilitating effective communication, you can significantly enhance participant engagement during your virtual meetings. Remember that successful engagement relies on creating a collaborative environment where all participants feel valued and involved.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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How to Conduct an Industry Analysis
8 min. read
Updated October 27, 2023
I bet you agree: You need to know the industry you want to start a business in, and the kind of business you want to start, before you can start it.
Industry analysis is part of good management. That’s not just for the business planning, but rather for business survival, beginning to end. Most of the people who successfully start their own business have already had relevant business experience before they start, most often as employees.
But in this article, I focus on how to consolidate and formalize that industry knowledge into a formal business plan .
Although all business owners need to know their industry, the documented details and explanations are mainly for when you’re writing a business plan you need to show to outsiders, like bank lenders or investors . You’ll need to do some industry analysis so you’re able to explain the general state of your industry, its growth potential, and how your business model fits into the landscape.
And if your business plan is more of an internal strategic roadmap, you should still be very sure—whether you have to prove it to others or not—that you know your market, even if you don’t do a formal industry analysis. Whether you’re a service business, manufacturer, retailer, or something else, you want to know your industry inside and out.
- What to cover in your industry analysis
Whether you write it all out in a formal business plan or not, when you’re doing your industry analysis, you’re looking at the following:
- Industry participants
- Distribution patterns
- Competition and buying patterns
Everything in your industry that happens outside of your business will affect your company. The more you know about your industry, the more advantage and protection you will have.
A complete business plan discusses:
- General industry economics
- Factors in the competition
- And whatever else describes the nature of your business to outsiders
A note on finding industry information
The internet has had an enormous impact on the state of business information. Finding information isn’t really the problem anymore, after the information explosion and the huge growth in the internet beginning in the 1990s and continuing in the 21st century.
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Even 10 or 15 years ago, dealing with information was more a problem of sorting through it all than of finding raw data. That generality is truer every day. There are websites for business analysis, financial statistics, demographics, trade associations, and just about everything you’ll need for a complete business plan.
You should know who else sells in your market. You can’t easily describe a type of business without describing the nature of the participants. There is a huge difference, for example, between an industry like broadband television services, in which there are only a few huge companies in any one country, and one like dry cleaning, in which there are tens of thousands of smaller participants.
This can make a big difference to a business and a business plan. The restaurant industry, for example, is what we call “pulverized,” meaning that it, like the dry cleaning industry, is made up of many small participants. The fast-food business, on the other hand, is composed of a few national brands participating in thousands of branded outlets, many of them franchised .
Economists talk of consolidation in an industry as a time when many small participants tend to disappear and a few large players emerge. In accounting, for example, there are a few large international firms whose names are well-known, and tens of thousands of smaller firms. The automobile business is composed of a few national brands participating in thousands of branded dealerships, and in computer manufacturing, for example, there are a few large international firms whose names are well-known, and thousands of smaller firms.
Products and services can follow many paths between suppliers and users.
Explain how distribution works in your industry:
- Is this an industry in which retailers are supported by regional distributors, as is the case for computer products, magazines, or auto parts?
- Does your industry depend on direct sales to large industrial customers?
- Do manufacturers support their own direct sales forces, or do they work with product representatives?
Some products are almost always sold through retail stores to consumers, and sometimes these are distributed by distribution companies that buy from manufacturers. In other cases, the products are sold directly from manufacturers to stores. Some products are sold directly from the manufacturer to the final consumer through mail campaigns, national advertising, or other promotional means.
In many product categories, there are several alternatives, and distribution choices are strategic.
Amazon made direct delivery a huge competitive advantage, especially in its earlier years. Doordash and competitors chose to be intermediaries between restaurants and customers, and several businesses offer prepackaged meal ingredients delivered with instructions for finishing the preparations in the consumers’ kitchens. Now major grocery chains offer grocery delivery. Red Box made a strategy of DVDs in kiosks. An entire industry of food delivery options gives consumers choices like restaurant meals or fresh meals ingredients being delivered. Many products are distributed through direct business-to-business (B2B) sales and in long-term contracts such as the ones between car manufacturers and their suppliers of parts, materials, and components. In some industries, companies use representatives, agents, or commissioned salespeople.
Technology can change the patterns of distribution in an industry or product category. The internet, for example, changed options for software distribution, books, music, and other products. Cable communication first, and more recently streaming, changed the options for distributing video products and video games. Some kinds of specialty items sell best with late-night infomercials on television, but others end up working on the web instead of television.
Distribution patterns may not be as critical to most service companies, because distribution is normally about physical distribution of specific physical products such as a restaurant, graphic artist, professional services practice, or architect.
For a few services, the distribution may still be relevant. A phone service, cable provider, or an internet provider might describe distribution related to physical infrastructure. Some publishers may prefer to treat their business as a service, rather than a manufacturing company, and in that case distribution may also be relevant.
It is essential to understand the nature of competition in your market. This is still in the general area of describing the industry or type of business.
Explain the general nature of competition in this business, and how the customers seem to choose one provider over another:
- What are the keys to success?
- What buying factors make the most difference—is it price? Product features? Service? Support? Training? Software? Delivery dates?
- Are brand names important?
In the computer business, for example, competition might depend on reputation and trends in one part of the market, and on channels of distribution and advertising in another. In many business-to-business industries, the nature of competition depends on direct selling, because channels are impractical.
Price is vital in products competing with each other on retail shelves, but delivery and reliability might be much more important for materials used by manufacturers in volume, for which a shortage can affect an entire production line.
In the restaurant business, for example, competition might depend on reputation and trends in one part of the market, and on location and parking in another.
In many professional service practices, the nature of competition depends on word of mouth, because advertising is not completely accepted. Is there price competition between accountants, doctors, and lawyers? How powerful are the insurance decisions in medicine, like in or out of network? How do people choose travel agencies or florists for weddings? Why does someone hire one landscape architect over another? Why choose Starbucks, a national brand, over the local coffee house? All of this is the nature of competition.
The key to your specific industry analysis is a collection of decisions and educated guesses you’ll probably have to make for yourself. There are few pat answers. Maybe it’s easy parking, a great location, great reviews on Amazon or Yelp, or recommendations on social media. You can’t necessarily look this up. It’s the kind of educated guessing that makes some businesses more successful than others.
- Main competitors
Do a very complete analysis of your main competitors. Make a list, determining who your main competitors are. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each?
Consider your competitors’:
- Financial position
- Channels of distribution
- Brand awareness
- Business development
- Technology, or other factors that you feel are important
- In what segments of the market do they operate? What seems to be their strategy? How much do they impact your products, and what threats and opportunities do they represent?
Finding competitive information
Competitive research starts with a good web search. Look up competitors’ websites and social media, then search for mentions, reviews, announcements, and even vacancies and job search information. An amazing array of competitive information is posted in plain sight, where anybody can find it.
From, there, for a good review of additional sources of information, I suggest Practical Market Research Resources for Entrepreneurs , also here on Bplans.
A lot of businesses organize competitive analysis into a competitive matrix. The standard competitive matrix shows how different competitors stack up according to significant factors.
Some people also use a SWOT analysis to think about competition in terms of opportunities and threats, the “OT” of SWOT. Opportunities and threats are generally taken as externals, which would include competition, so it’s valuable to run a SWOT analysis on your business to help figure this out.
See why 1.2 million entrepreneurs have written their business plans with LivePlan
Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software , a co-founder of Borland International, and a recognized expert in business planning. He has an MBA from Stanford and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. Today, Tim dedicates most of his time to blogging, teaching and evangelizing for business planning.
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Nature of a Business Plan: Everything You Need to Know
The nature of a business plan discusses what the future of the business is. It should list how you plan to run the company and what you plan to do with it. 3 min read
What Are the Parts of a Business Plan?
Even if you just write on an envelope a few ideas about your business strategy, you've started a business plan. Business plans can be helpful, as they list all the tasks necessary to run a company. Entrepreneurs use them to explain their vision to possible investors. These plans can be used by firms that want to attract important employees, find potential business prospects, handle suppliers, and understand how to better manage their companies.
Items to include are the industry, the business concept, the business structure, what the service or product is, and what your marketing plan is in order for the company to be successful.
The marketplace section will talk about defining and analyzing possible customers. This includes where and who they are, what drives them to buy, and so on. The financial section includes your cash flow and income statement, a balance sheet, and additional financial ratios, including break-even analyses. You may want to invest in an accountant and a spreadsheet software program for this. There are seven main components in a business plan, including:
- Market strategies
- Business description
- Executive summary
- Development and design plan
- Competitive analysis
- Financial factors
- Management and operations plan
How Long Should Your Business Plan Be?
A helpful business plan can be short or long, depending on the reason you're creating it. It can be anything from a scrawl on a piece of paper to a detailed plan that's over 100 pages long. The average business plan runs between 15 and 20 pages, but there's room for variation. If your concept is simple, you might be able to define it with only a few words. If you're talking about a new business or industry, you'll need a much lengthier explanation to describe what your idea is.
What your purpose is will also define how long your business plan is. If you want to get millions of dollars to start a venture that's risky, you'll need to do plenty of convincing and explaining. On the other hand, if you use your plan internally to govern ongoing business, you can easily have a more abbreviated version of the plan.
Why Do Startups Need a Business Plan?
A traditional business plan writer is someone who considers themselves an entrepreneur and is looking for funds to start a new venture. Many successful companies originally started their plan on paper to convince investors they should put up capital to help them get started. There are many books on business planning that are aimed at the owners of startup businesses. This is because they're the least experienced and are likely the most appreciative of any help. However, small startups aren't the only companies that need a business plan.
Why Do Established Firms Need a Business Plan?
Not every business plan is written by an excited entrepreneur who is just starting their company. Many are written for and by companies that are well past the startup phase. For example, WalkerGroup/Designs was considered a well-established designer for large retailers. The founder thought of the idea of licensing and trademarking to apparel makers with the symbols 01-01-00. This was aimed at targeting the approaching millennium. Before the costly and difficult task of trademarking this around the world, the founder had a business plan that included sales forecasts. This was to convince larger retailers that it'd be smart to carry their 01-01-00 products.
Enterprises that are middle-stage might draft plans that help them get funding to grow their company similar to startups. However, they may be after larger amounts and looking for investors who will spend more. These enterprises feel it's necessary to have a written plan to manage their business that's already growing. This plan can be a helpful tool to get across their mission to potential suppliers, customers, and more.
If you need help with the nature of a business plan, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.
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Shareholder Authentication (published 2015)
Table of Contents / Introduction / Universe of Transactions / Nature of Participants in Shareholder Transactions
- Nature of Participants in Shareholder Transactions
- Table of Contents
- Types of Shareholder Transactions
- Means of Transmission of Transaction Requests
- The First Authentication Factor: What You Know
- The Second Authentication Factor: What You Have
- The Third Authentication Factor: What You Are
- Multi-Factor Authentication
- Non-Traditional Authentication Factors
- Mutual Authentication
- Positive and Negative Authentication Factors
- Limitations of Authentication Measures in Common Use
- Limitations of Authentication Measures Generally
- Shareholder Knowledge
- Hardware and Software Tokens
- Behavioral Patterns
- Protection of Authenticated Sessions
- Authentication of Devices
- Authentication of Transactions
- Authentication of Fund Groups (Mutual Authentication)
- Overall Threat Environment
- Risks Associated with Authentication Systems
- Risks Associated with Particular Transactions
- Potential Legal Consequences of Transactional Fraud
- Limiting Potential for Damage from Fraudulent Transactions
- Protection of Online Transaction Systems
- Employee Training and Awareness
- Shareholder Awareness
- Further Reading
Broadly speaking, participants in transactions involving mutual fund shares can be grouped into three categories: (1) shareholders (both retail and institutional), transacting for their own accounts directly with fund groups; (2) shareholders (both retail and institutional), transacting through financial intermediaries (such as banks, broker-dealers, retirement plan recordkeepers, insurance companies, registered investment advisers, fund supermarkets); and (3) financial intermediaries, transacting on behalf of their omnibus clients.
Notwithstanding the growing role of financial intermediaries, a significant number of fund groups (including many that are commonly viewed as relying on the intermediary channel) continue to transact directly, through internal or external transfer agents, with at least some portion of their funds’ shareholders. For these fund groups, implementation of appropriate shareholder authentication measures remains an important risk management issue. Indeed, even fund groups that do not transact directly with their funds’ shareholders should have an interest in authentication issues, as authentication failures by a financial intermediary may have reputational or other adverse impacts on fund groups themselves.
- The “direct channel” of mutual fund distribution may be defined in different ways. Some observers may refer to sales directly to a retail shareholder from a fund group, while others may include sales through fund supermarkets, broker-dealers, wrap accounts, and even defined contribution retirement plans. See LEE GREMILLION, MUTUAL FUND INDUSTRY HANDBOOK: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE FOR INVESTMENT PROFESSIONALS 187-89 (2005). Because this study focuses on the authentication measures taken by the fund groups themselves in interacting with retail shareholders, the narrower definition of “direct” distribution is of greater relevance to this study.
- See, e.g., INVESTMENT COMPANY INSTITUTE & INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS COUNCIL, NAVIGATING INTERMEDIARY RELATIONSHIPS (Sept. 2009), http://www.ici.org/pdf/ppr_09_nav_relationships.pdf ; The Omnibus Revolution: Managing risk across an increasingly complex service model, Deloitte (2012), http://www.investorscoalition.com/sites/default/files/Deloitte%20Report%20on%20Omnibus%20Accounting%203-16-2012.pdf (noting the transformation of mutual fund shareholder servicing by the rise of intermediaries); NICSA Intermediary Discussion Forum, Effective Intermediary Governance: Evolving Best Practices (Sept. 2012), http://www.nicsa.org/downloads/White%20Papers/Effective%20Intermediary%20Governance%20Sept%2025%202012.pdf (noting that many fund groups report that “the preponderance of assets – 80% or 90% or more – are held in omnibus accounts”).
- INVESTMENT COMPANY INSTITUTE & INDEPENDENT DIRECTORS COUNCIL, NAVIGATING INTERMEDIARY RELATIONSHIPS (Sept. 2009), http://www.ici.org/pdf/ppr_09_nav_relationships.pdf .
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What Is a Business Plan?
Understanding business plans, how to write a business plan, common elements of a business plan, how often should a business plan be updated, the bottom line, business plan: what it is, what's included, and how to write one.
Adam Hayes, Ph.D., CFA, is a financial writer with 15+ years Wall Street experience as a derivatives trader. Besides his extensive derivative trading expertise, Adam is an expert in economics and behavioral finance. Adam received his master's in economics from The New School for Social Research and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in sociology. He is a CFA charterholder as well as holding FINRA Series 7, 55 & 63 licenses. He currently researches and teaches economic sociology and the social studies of finance at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
A business plan is a document that details a company's goals and how it intends to achieve them. Business plans can be of benefit to both startups and well-established companies. For startups, a business plan can be essential for winning over potential lenders and investors. Established businesses can find one useful for staying on track and not losing sight of their goals. This article explains what an effective business plan needs to include and how to write one.
- A business plan is a document describing a company's business activities and how it plans to achieve its goals.
- Startup companies use business plans to get off the ground and attract outside investors.
- For established companies, a business plan can help keep the executive team focused on and working toward the company's short- and long-term objectives.
- There is no single format that a business plan must follow, but there are certain key elements that most companies will want to include.
Investopedia / Ryan Oakley
Any new business should have a business plan in place prior to beginning operations. In fact, banks and venture capital firms often want to see a business plan before they'll consider making a loan or providing capital to new businesses.
Even if a business isn't looking to raise additional money, a business plan can help it focus on its goals. A 2017 Harvard Business Review article reported that, "Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical nonplanning entrepreneurs."
Ideally, a business plan should be reviewed and updated periodically to reflect any goals that have been achieved or that may have changed. An established business that has decided to move in a new direction might create an entirely new business plan for itself.
There are numerous benefits to creating (and sticking to) a well-conceived business plan. These include being able to think through ideas before investing too much money in them and highlighting any potential obstacles to success. A company might also share its business plan with trusted outsiders to get their objective feedback. In addition, a business plan can help keep a company's executive team on the same page about strategic action items and priorities.
Business plans, even among competitors in the same industry, are rarely identical. However, they often have some of the same basic elements, as we describe below.
While it's a good idea to provide as much detail as necessary, it's also important that a business plan be concise enough to hold a reader's attention to the end.
While there are any number of templates that you can use to write a business plan, it's best to try to avoid producing a generic-looking one. Let your plan reflect the unique personality of your business.
Many business plans use some combination of the sections below, with varying levels of detail, depending on the company.
The length of a business plan can vary greatly from business to business. Regardless, it's best to fit the basic information into a 15- to 25-page document. Other crucial elements that take up a lot of space—such as applications for patents—can be referenced in the main document and attached as appendices.
These are some of the most common elements in many business plans:
- Executive summary: This section introduces the company and includes its mission statement along with relevant information about the company's leadership, employees, operations, and locations.
- Products and services: Here, the company should describe the products and services it offers or plans to introduce. That might include details on pricing, product lifespan, and unique benefits to the consumer. Other factors that could go into this section include production and manufacturing processes, any relevant patents the company may have, as well as proprietary technology . Information about research and development (R&D) can also be included here.
- Market analysis: A company needs to have a good handle on the current state of its industry and the existing competition. This section should explain where the company fits in, what types of customers it plans to target, and how easy or difficult it may be to take market share from incumbents.
- Marketing strategy: This section can describe how the company plans to attract and keep customers, including any anticipated advertising and marketing campaigns. It should also describe the distribution channel or channels it will use to get its products or services to consumers.
- Financial plans and projections: Established businesses can include financial statements, balance sheets, and other relevant financial information. New businesses can provide financial targets and estimates for the first few years. Your plan might also include any funding requests you're making.
The best business plans aren't generic ones created from easily accessed templates. A company should aim to entice readers with a plan that demonstrates its uniqueness and potential for success.
2 Types of Business Plans
Business plans can take many forms, but they are sometimes divided into two basic categories: traditional and lean startup. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) , the traditional business plan is the more common of the two.
- Traditional business plans : These plans tend to be much longer than lean startup plans and contain considerably more detail. As a result they require more work on the part of the business, but they can also be more persuasive (and reassuring) to potential investors.
- Lean startup business plans : These use an abbreviated structure that highlights key elements. These business plans are short—as short as one page—and provide only the most basic detail. If a company wants to use this kind of plan, it should be prepared to provide more detail if an investor or a lender requests it.
Why Do Business Plans Fail?
A business plan is not a surefire recipe for success. The plan may have been unrealistic in its assumptions and projections to begin with. Markets and the overall economy might change in ways that couldn't have been foreseen. A competitor might introduce a revolutionary new product or service. All of this calls for building some flexibility into your plan, so you can pivot to a new course if needed.
How frequently a business plan needs to be revised will depend on the nature of the business. A well-established business might want to review its plan once a year and make changes if necessary. A new or fast-growing business in a fiercely competitive market might want to revise it more often, such as quarterly.
What Does a Lean Startup Business Plan Include?
The lean startup business plan is an option when a company prefers to give a quick explanation of its business. For example, a brand-new company may feel that it doesn't have a lot of information to provide yet.
Sections can include: a value proposition ; the company's major activities and advantages; resources such as staff, intellectual property, and capital; a list of partnerships; customer segments; and revenue sources.
A business plan can be useful to companies of all kinds. But as a company grows and the world around it changes, so too should its business plan. So don't think of your business plan as carved in granite but as a living document designed to evolve with your business.
Harvard Business Review. " Research: Writing a Business Plan Makes Your Startup More Likely to Succeed ."
U.S. Small Business Administration. " Write Your Business Plan ."
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- Which Type of Organization Is Best For Your Business? 5 of 46
- What Are the Major Types of Businesses in the Private Sector? 6 of 46
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- Capital Funding: Definition, How It Works, and 2 Primary Methods 17 of 46
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Business Development > Starting a Business > Feasibility & Business Plans
Updated July, 2020 File C5-68
Writing a business plan.
Every business needs to have a written business plan, whether creating or expanding a business. Formulating a business plan should be one of the first things done when starting a new business , because the primary goal of most business plans is to raise outside-investor capital. The business plan is the tool to convince others their investment is worthy.
Although a comprehensive and well thought out business plan is important to the success of your business venture, many people drag their feet when it comes to preparing one. The major reason people don’t want to write a business plan is that it is extra work that they don’t find enjoyable. But if you are serious about creating a successful business, you need to be serious about creating a good business plan.
Reasons for Writing a Business Plan
Before you start writing your business determine the purpose of your plan. That means you need to identify why you are writing it and how to prepare it properly. Below are eight reasons for writing a business plan. Identify which ones are relevant in your situation.
1. Putting the pieces together - Determine the purpose of your plan. Until you prepare your business plan, you won’t know if the internal logic of your proposal is consistent. In other words, do the pieces fit together? Writing the business plan will lead you to well-researched and insightful answers ahead of time to identify holes in your project and force you to critically think through various aspects of your plan that you previously had not identified. Building a business plan allows you to proactively determine the most tangible answers to some of the most critical business decisions. Think of the business plan like a substitute teacher, ready to answer questions anytime there’s an absence (because odds-are you won’t make every decision yourself).
2. Creating a blueprint for action - The business plan provides you with a "blueprint" or "action plan" for creating your business or business expansion. The more specific your business plan, the easier it is to implement the plan and build your business. Without a business plan, objectives often become arbitrary, while business planning tends to make benchmarks more intentional and consequential.
Business planning is a 2-stage process. The first stage is creating the plan and the second is implementing the plan. A great business plan is worthless if it is not properly implemented. This is why it is critical that you are intimately involved in writing the business plan. If you are not involved in writing the business plan, how can you implement it?
3. Focusing founders/management team - During this stage of business development, the founders often become weary from the relentless onslaught of issues facing them. The business plan helps to focus their activities and presents issues in an organized manner. It tends to bring structure and organization to a process that may be become chaotic.
Many small businesses employ contractors or freelance professionals, e.g. accounting, marketing, legal assistance, etc. With a business plan in place, the pertinent sections can get to the right support staff, while keeping everyone on the same page. Writing a business plan can go a long way in better understanding the competition and the market by more broadly illuminating consumer trends and preferences, potential disruptions, or other pitfalls that aren’t plainly visible.
4. Obtaining financing - Business plans are often used to obtain financing from venture capitalists and banks. These capital sources will likely need a business plan and many times business plans are the most-effective way of proving business viability. In this sense the business plan is a promotional piece to present and describe your business venture, how you will put it together and why it will be successful. The basic premise is to show that you know what you are doing and why your business will be successful.
Look upon lenders as partners. They can point out shortcomings and deficiencies of the plan. Lender concerns about financing your business should be looked upon as opportunities to strengthen your project and increase its chances of success. However, understand the lenders role in your project. It is not the lender’s responsibility to be the financial manager of your business and make it successful. The lenders purpose is to generate returns for the lending institution while protecting their investment in your business.
Business plans can be used to attract equity investors to your business. A business plan forms the basis of the offering presentation to potential investors. The business plan is the tool you’ll use to convince people that working with you (investing in your company) is a smart choice. Your attorney will use the business plan in the creation of your offering documents.
5. Attracting key managers and employees - An important element of creating a successful business is your ability to attract key managers and employees. These individuals will want to be assured that you know what you are doing and that your business concept is viable. A well designed business plan is essential in this process. If a general manager has already been selected, the business plan should describe why this person is capable of achieving success.
6. Obtaining contracts – Entrepreneurship is a risky business. That risk becomes more manageable once tested against a well-crafted business plan. The success of many businesses is based on their ability to have commitments or contracts in place from users. However, potential users need to be assured that you can actually deliver on the commitment. Once again, a well-designed business plan is essential for these commitments.
7. Creating joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions – Create a company profile, including history of the organization, your product or service offerings, target market and audience, what makes your business unique, etc. These profiles, found best in the first written parts of your plan, can be used to attract customers and talent.
Many rural businesses focus on moving up the supply chain to take advantage of profit opportunities closer to the consumer. To achieve this, it is common for businesses to create relationships with existing business in the supply chain through joint ventures, mergers or acquisitions. One of the purposes of this strategy is to take advantage of skills and experience of these businesses. Once again, a well-designed business plan is essential for creating these relationships.
8. Avoiding the big mistake - About half of small businesses are not around to see their 5th anniversary. While there are many reasons for failure many of the most common are purposefully addressed in business plans: no market need; lack of capital; inadequate managerial team; stiff competition; or pricing.
Research, research, research! Consider spending twice as much time researching, evaluating and thinking as actually spent writing the plan.
How to Write the Plan
Business plans help to run your business, determined viable from the feasibility study! A good plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing. The business plan should be written in plain, easy-to-read language. Use short simple sentences and easy to understand terms. Avoid jargon and terms that are unfamiliar to people outside of your industry.
There is no right or wrong way to writing a business plan. What is important is picking the format where the plan meets your needs. Determine what you want to cover in your business plan and make headings for each of the items. Begin each major section on a new page with the appropriate title (e.g. Marketing Plan). Make sure your business plan covers all of the relevant topics. To help you organize your business plan use Information File C5-69, Create Your Own Business Plan .
Fine tune your business plan. It is extremely rare to achieve the finished version of a plan in the first draft. It may need to be re-written several times. So, review, revise and rewrite.
The purpose of rewriting the plan is to fill in gaps, solidify the logic and make the plan easier to understand by the reader. It is not to add extraneous materials. So if you find the length of the plan expanding greatly after each rewrite, your efforts are probably counterproductive. At some point in time you need to declare the plan finished - for now - remembering that the plan will need to be updated as conditions change.
The business plan is a promotional document. So, in addition to your own purposes, consider the viewpoint of others you are writing the plan for (banker, investor, customer, etc.). The business plan may be used as a sales document. The content and quality of the plan should be representative of your company. Represent your company’s image and convince the reader you understand all aspects of the business.
Be honest. Do not be overly optimistic or try to hide limitations or weaknesses. Be sure to support the goals and the claims you make in the business plan. Include supporting evidence. This includes statistics, studies and other research support.
It is usually a good idea to have someone proofread your business plan who is not involved in the project. He/she can help you identify aspects of your business plan that may need additional clarification and explanation.
A great business plan will always have a strategic and aggressive marketing plan, including marketing objectives like:
- Introducing new products
- Extending or regaining market for existing products
- Entering new territories
- Boosting sales in a particular product, market or price range
- Cross-selling or bundling
- Entering into long-term contracts with desirable clients
- Raising prices
- Refining a product
- Having a content marketing strategy
- Enhancing manufacturing or product delivery
Proofread your plan for the following:
- Poor organization
- Vague statements
- Errors in logic
- Gaps in the plan
- Repetitive statements
- Misspelled words
- Poor grammar
- Incomplete sentences
- Mathematical errors
Questions to Answer in Writing the Plan
There are certain elements that are critical for a business plan. Below are eight questions your business plan should answer. The quality of your business plan will depend on how well you can answer them. You can use these as a “checklist” of the completeness of your plan.
1. Who are we? 2. What do we do? 3. What do we have to offer? 4. Why will someone pay for our product or service? 5. What resources do we have? 6. Why will we be successful? 7. Why would someone participate/invest? 8. How will we measure performance?
Who Should Write the Plan
Involvement in creating the business plan is critical. Although it is common and often preferable to have someone help you write the business plan, the founders are ultimately responsible for creating the ideas and content of the business plan. Stated simply, if you are not intimately involved in writing the business plan, you will not know what it contains. If you don’t know what the business plan contains, how can you implement the plan? If you cannot implement the plan, how can you create a successful business?
So, the primary responsibility for writing the business plan is with you, the founders. You can hire someone (consultant) to help prepare the plan. He/she can challenge and question assumptions and conclusions. But you are responsible for the content of the plan. The role of consultants or professional writers is only to assist you in this important process.
Place one person in charge of preparing the plan. You may divide the responsibility of preparing and/or writing various sections of the plan among the founders, or you may hire a consultant to assist you in preparing the plan. However, one person needs to be responsible for moving the process forward and integrating the various sections.
How Long Should It Be
Focus on the quality of your business plan, not its length. The length of the business plan should be the shortest version needed to adequately cover the topic. The business plan should properly and succinctly tell your story. Does it address the relevant issues? Anything more is not a sign of depth or completeness. Rather, it will dissuade people from reading the plan because of its length. Remember, focus on content - not length.
How is Your Business Unique
Rural agriculture includes many types of businesses. Businesses range from a few producers marketing products directly to local consumers to large-scale integrated processing/manufacturing businesses. So, a business plan is a unique document. The actual content of the business plan will vary depending on the nature and complexity of the business, the stage of development and the type of financing needed. Likewise, the individuals whom you are writing the business plan for can vary substantially.
The plan must fit the needs of the business. For example, the marketing needs of a commodity processing business like ethanol are much different than those of a niche food business. The financial needs of a processing business are much greater than those of a direct marketing business. So the focus on investors and lenders is much greater. In addition, the need for risk management strategies is much greater due to the capital intensive nature of the business and the volatility of commodity markets. Conversely, the management needs of both types of businesses are substantial, although of a different type.
Because your business is unique, the role of developing a strategy to achieve success is important.
1. Where are we now? 2. Where do we want to be? 3. How do we get there?
Although all three questions are relevant, it is essential the business plan answers the question “how do we get there?”.
Who are the Readers of Your Plan
Make your business plan adaptable based upon your audience. Although this is a diverse group, it is a finite one. Strive for versions directed at a particular audience, by including the specific reader’s interest (lender, supplier, etc.).
Most businesses have several types of stakeholders. A stakeholder is someone who has a stake or interest in the outcome of the business. In addition to the business founders, stakeholders include equity investors, bankers, key employees and others. Different stakeholders have different priorities. These priorities need to be balanced in the business plan.
Table 1 shows issues to emphasize or deemphasize depending on whom the plan is written for. For example, bankers are usually looking for cash-flow while investors may be looking for growth. This is not to say that the content and direction of the business plan should be altered. However, it does mean that the focus of the plan may shift.
This means that you may have more than one version of the business plan. This works well, as long as the same story is told - just with different emphasis.
Implementing the Business Plan
Preparing a business plan is only one step in creating a viable business. Writing a great business plan is meaningless unless you properly implement the plan. Many start-up business ventures fail because they do not focus their efforts on properly implementing the plan. Essentially this is a plan for implementing the plan. A portion of the business plan should focus on the steps required to implement the plan. It should include a timeline and milestones for when various aspect of the plan are accomplished.
Extension farm management specialist 712-223-1574 view more from this author, don hofstrand, retired extension value added agriculture specialist view more from this author.
- Financing & Incentives
- Location & Zoning
- Find a license or permit
Parts of a Business Plan
Whether you are starting a pizza shop or a plumbing business, a flower shop or a factory, you need a solid plan. In fact, your Business Plan will be an essential tool throughout the life of your business – from starting out to cashing in. It will help you to start out on the right foot, stay focused, get financing, manage your growth, and more.
Not every Business Plan will be the exactly same, but every Plan should incorporate several key elements.
The Parts of the Plan
Here are the key pieces to a solid Business Plan.
- The title, or heading, of the plan, and very brief description of the business.
- The name of the owner
- The company name and location
- A copyright or confidentiality notice
Table of Contents
- A list of the individual sections and their page numbers, starting with the Title Page and ending with a section for Special Materials (references, etc.).
- A brief, but focused statement (a few sentences or paragraphs) stating why the business will be successful. This is the most important piece of a Business Plan because it brings everything together.
- Identifies specific knowledge about the business and its industry, and the market (or customers) it serves.
- An analysis that identifies and assesses the competition.
Description of the Company
- Information about the nature of the business and the factors that should make it successful .
- Special business skills and talents that provide the business with a competitive advantage, such as a unique ability to satisfy specific customer needs, special methods of delivering a product or service, and so on.
Organization & Management
- The company’s organizational and legal structure, Is it a sole proprietorship? A partnership? A corporation? (See: “ Ownership Structures “)
- Profiles of the ownership and management team: What is their background, experience and responsibilities?
Marketing & Sales
- The company’s process of identifying and creating a customer base. (See: “ Market Research “)
Description of Product or Service
- How they will benefit from the product or service?
- Specific needs or problems that the business can satisfy or solve, focusing especially on areas where the business has the strongest skills or advantages.
- The amount of current and future funding needed to start or expand the business. Includes the time period that each amount will cover, the type of funding for each (i.e., equity, debt), and the proposed or requested repayment terms.
- How the funds will be used: For equipment and materials? Everyday working capital? Paying off debt?
- Explains or projects how the company is expected to perform financially over the next several years. (Sometimes called a “pro-forma projection.”) Because investors and lenders look closely at this projection as a measure of your company’s growth potential, professional input is strongly recommended.
- Credit histories (personal & business)
- Resumes of key personnel and partners
- Letters of reference
- Details of market studies
- Copies of licenses, permits, patents, leases, contracts, etc.
- A list of business consultants, attorneys, accountants, etc.
These are just the basic essentials to creating a Business Plan. Each plan should be tailored to the specific business. (See: Business Plan Assistance )