4 Reasons to Write a Business Plan

28 04 2010

The main reason for writing a Business Plan is not to obtain funding for your business.

Writing a Business Plan forces you to be more concrete and specific. Sure it is difficult and time-consuming. But as soon as you starting writing, you realize there are gaps in your knowledge of your target market, your competitors, your marketing strategies, and your financial projections.

Your Business Plan, will enable you to:

  1. Identify who your target market is.  Can you describe them in detail? What are their hobbies and interests? What is their biggest worry in life? What do they read and watch? Why would they choose your product or service? Knowing your target market gives you clear insight into which of your business features and benefits they would love.
  2. Know who your competitors are.  What are they good at and where are they weak? Can you provide quicker service, or give more for less money, or give better service for more money? As well, with so many businesses now online, you can’t say, “I don’t have any competitors in my town.” You will learn more about running a successful business from your competitors than anyone else.
  3. Describe what marketing strategies you will use.  If you are like most small business startups, you don’t have a lot of funds to allocate to marketing. Social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) are an inexpensive way of getting the word out about your product. Why not offer your product or service as a prize on one of the popular blogs read by your target market. Make sure you look around your local area for business networking groups – they provide a wealth of contacts, information, and support for new businesses.
  4. Chart out your revenue and expenses projections for Years 1, 3, and 5.  As you set monetary goals for your business, put some stretch in so that you are motivated to achieve but not so unrealistic that you soon become discouraged. One of the first things you will discover is that you are not charging enough for your product/service. You will also discover that in order to reach your monetary goals between years 3 and 5, you will need to change, delete, or add to some of your business practices.

Creating a Business Plan is like eating an elephant – easy if you do it one bite at a time. Start today by identifying who your target market is. Then move on to the other three until you have a clear Success Plan for your business.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Your Unlimited Potential
Coaching Small Business Startups


Love, Swing, Hate

26 04 2010

Do you spend most of your time trying to convince people that they should love your product or service? 

My youngest sister April shared with me the advice she received for presenting at seminars: “1/3 of your audience will instantly like you, 1/3 will instantly dislike you, and the last 1/3 haven’t yet made of their minds. Don’t waste your time trying to cater to the 1/3 that dislikes you.”

What is it about human nature that won’t allow us to accept that some people just won’t like us? Rather than spend time and effort trying to coax people into loving our product or service, focus on those who already love us or those who haven’t made up their minds yet.

The advice Dr. Gary Rhoads gives in Boom Start: Super Laws of Successful Entrepreneurs is to focus on the Love Group – your loyal customers. Discover first what your loyal customers love about your product or service and then take that message to the undecided and the uninformed – the Swing Group. Build your energy around comments from the Love Group and then use that energy to sell to the Swing Group. Let the Swing Group see your product through the eyes of your Love Group.

This week discover what your Love Group loves about your product or service. Then share that message the next time you are networking with potential customers.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Your Unlimited Potential
Coaching Small Business Startups

$100 Object Lessons

21 04 2010

Click below if you would rather listen to this article.

Who wants this $100 now?  In Bootstrap Business: A Step-by-Step Business Survival Guide, the authors share a speaker’s $100 object lesson. The speaker held up a $100 bill and asked “Who wants this?” Every hand shot up. He then crumpled the bill and asked again “Who wants it now?” Again every hand shot up. He threw the $100 on the floor and jumped up and down on it. “Who wants it now?” Every hand went up in the air. “You mean after I’ve crumpled it, jumped on it, and literally beat it up, you still want it? Why?”

The response from one of the audience members was “Because its value has not changed!” On the journey to starting and running your business, you may feel that you are being beaten up and you may sometimes fail. But your value will not change. And unlike the $100 bill, your value may even increase. There is so much to learn about yourself from both the enjoyable and the harsh experiences.

The Bootstrap Business authors recommend keeping a journal of critical decisions and how they turned out. Write advice to yourself to follow in similar, future situations.

Who wants this $100?  A few years ago I attended a seminar where the speaker held up a $100 bill and asked, “Who wants this $100?” Hands shot up around the room. He repeated the phrase several times before someone ran up to the front and took the money from him. The speaker then asked, “Why didn’t you come up and take the money?”

Perhaps you would have said, “I don’t want to appear greedy” or “There must be a catch to this” or “Someone else deserves this more than I do” or “It would have to be a lot more money before I’m willing to take the risk of possibly embarrassing myself.”

The lesson to be learned is: Whatever reason you used is the same reason that prevents you from grabbing hold of other good things in your life.

Over this next week, look for opportunities where you can “grab the money” – not literally, but where you accept experiences that will benefit you and your business. Pay attention to how you felt in that moment.

Beverly A. McCrostie, M.Ed.
Your Unlimited Potential
Coaching Small Business Startups

Still Don’t Have a Small Business Idea?

19 04 2010

If you have made up your mind that you would like to start a small business but are still trying to decide just what business it would be, here are two tools you can use.

Entrepreneurial Success Matrix
This tool was created by Fred Carpenter, a Managing Principal of The Glenwood Group. In each box, list your skills, interests, and tasks or your lack of skills, etc.

Entrepreneurial Success Matrix

Ideally, you will want to look at starting a small business where you use the skills, interests, and tasks you are good at and you also enjoy doing them. You will want to avoid starting a business doings things you are not good at and you don’t enjoy.

Hedgehog Concept
Jim Collins in Good to Great uses a similar model to identify the interception of the three circles  where you are doing work you are deeply passionate about, you are well paid for what you do, and you are doing work that you have natural talents for.

Hedgehog Concept

He points out that “If you make a lot of money doing things at which you could never be the best, you’ll only build a successful company, not a great one. Ifr you become the best at something, you’ll never remain on top if you don’t have intrinsic passion for what you are doing. Finally, you can be passionate all you want, but if you can’t be the best at it or it doesn’t make economic sense, then you might have a lot of fun, but you won’t produce great results.”

Whichever tool you use, take a few minutes this week to identify what your ideal small business startup would be. And if you are still looking for a few business ideas, take a look at my previous post Start a Business – Start the Rest of Your Life.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College

Business Startup Tips: 2 More Lists

12 04 2010

In a previous post, I provided two alternatives to the To-Do List in building your buisness: the Stop Doing List and a Loose List. Since then in my daily travels, I have come across two more lists.

The Courtyard Marriott in San Jose, CA, had an Accomplished List, which they indicate is “Much more gratifying than a to-do list, don’t you think?” They are so correct – a list of what I’ve accomplished gives me a greater feeling of achievement than a list of all the things I have yet to do.

But at some point I must have written down my plans to achieve otherwise I would never have got beyond the “thinking about it” point. Perhaps I told a friend my new idea – speaking out loud often solidifies ideas for me, especially when my friends don’t then declare that I’m crazy!

An Accomplished List did get me thinking though. When was the last time that I had created a list of things I have accomplished in the past day, week, or years? I do have a list, of sorts, in a collection of photos and a portfolio. Each item documents my successes in both my personal and my professional lives. I have tangible evidence that I am growing and making a difference in my life and the lives of others.

Are you taking the time to focus on and document your journey to becoming a successful business owner?

The other list was an ordinary Shopping List. What made it unique was that Bryan Johnson used it as a marketing opportunity. The Shopping List pad was sitting at the checkout at our local Maceys grocery store.  At the bottom of the list, he included his picture and contact information. Even if potential clients do not end up using it as their shopping list, they may keep it for later use as a quick notes sheet.

Can you think of a marketing tool you could create that would be unique and helpful to your target market?

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College

How to Trigger Your Creativity

6 04 2010

The results of the Ladies Who Launch survey showed that successful women entrepreneurs were unstoppable when they really wanted something and they were likely to take the leap no matter how much they feared. I love the five exercises they gave to trigger my creativity and to enhance my “launcher talent.”

  1. Jump into something unfamiliar. When was the last time you said “yes” to something that you would normally not attempt?
  2. Be unstoppable. Instead of accepting a “no” to your request, persist (with a smile) until you get the response you need.
  3. Do something that scares you each week, and if you are really going for it, each day. This one may require you to carefully consider what you are most afraid of for your business. Is it talking to strangers about your business, or setting up your new website, or ordering business cards with your picture on them?
  4. Identify an obstacle that is in your way and come up with creative solutions for getting around it, over it, or through it. In your everyday responses to annoyances (a crying child, an upset client) can you think of a different way to handle the situation? My friend Bonnie Taylor Wachowicz created a short story that featured her potential client as the main character. The result: a new client who was convinced that Bonnie would come up creative solutions for her business.
  5. Incorporate at least one creative activity into your life each day. Instead of following to the letter each step in your favorite recipe, try experimenting with other ingredients. Instead of sitting at your desk and working, pick up your laptop and sit outside on your deck or on a park bench.

You may have to look at creativity in a different way. Teresa Amabile, professor at Harvard Business School, states “The desire to do something because you find it deeply satisfying and personally challenging inspires the highest level of creativity, whether it’s in the arts, sciences, or business.”

My challenge to you is to identify the areas in your business that will inspire you to the highest level of your creativity. Trigger your creativity this week by experimenting with one or all of the above five exercises in your personal and your business life.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College

6 Hats for the Wow! Factor

5 04 2010

Red HatHave you got an idea for a business or product that you think will Wow! everyone? Are you worried that you will put a lot of time and money into your idea and it will flop? Dr. Gary Rhoads, co-author of Boom Start: Super Laws of Successful Entrepreneurs, uses a modified version of Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats to test and shape ideas and concepts.

The process is fairly simple: gather together a focus group of 6 – 14 people (typically 10 who you believe are your ideal client). You will need a Group Moderator who has some skills in facilitating group discussion – not a member of the focus group and not you. The Group Moderator should make this a fun experience by throwing out candies, letting them wear the colored hats, encouraging sharing of all ideas, and using each member’s name.

If you can afford it, purchase the six different colored hats for each focus group member and set them out on the table in front of each person. Can’t afford the hats? Then six sheets of colored paper will work just as well.

The Group Moderator leads the focus group through the process by having them put on the colored hats each time and answer the questions in the following order:

White Hat – Facts:
Owner (you) shares only the facts and allows the group to ask questions. After the owner leaves, the Moderator then asks the focus group, “Tell me what you just learned.”

Red Hat – Emotions:
Moderator states, “On a scale of 1 – 10, where 10 is Wow! Fantastic and 1 is Stinko, rate this product.” (Note: you need to have an average of 7.5 to be commercially viable. Less than 7.5 means “not quite yet”. It could also mean that you don’t have the ideal client group. If the idea has a 6.0 average, the idea could be tweaked.)

Black Hat – Negative Judgment:
Moderator asks, “What don’t you like?” Moderator writes down all the comments.

Yellow Hat – Positive Judgment:
Moderator requests, “Think of what would be positive.” Again writes down all the comments.

Green Hat – Alterations & Creativity:
Moderator requests, “Break into groups and bring back how this could be the number 1 product.” Encourages: “You are doing so well; I want you to imagine I was going to send you to Disneyland for the best ideas.”

Blue Hat – Thinking About the Process:
Moderator asks, “What would you summarize for the CEO?” Video tape this feedback. If the focus group has recommended a number of changes, the Moderator could request that they use the scale of 1 – 10 to rate the revised idea.

With the results from the focus group, you can now tweak the idea if it didn’t achieve a score of 7.5 or better, you could try another focus group (hoping to find your ideal client group), or you could abandon the idea and put your time and money into seeking out an idea that has the Wow! Factor.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College