Friday, November 14, 2008

What do successful entrepreneurs have in common?

Ever womdered what succesfull entrepreneurs have in common and if you share any of these traits with them. Have a look at the following mini test and see how you measure up.

• persistence
• desire for immediate feedback
• inquisitiveness
• strong drive to achieve
• high energy level
• goal oriented behavior
• independent
• demanding
• self-confident
• calculated risk taker
• creative
• innovative
• vision
• commitment
• problem solving skills
• tolerance for ambiguity
• strong integrity
• highly reliable
• personal initiative
• ability to consolidate resources
• strong management and organizational skills
• very competitive
• change agent
• tolerance for failure
• passionate desire to work hard

Now that you have identified a few of the traits, how can you develop the rest?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mini Business Plan

As long-time readers know, I am a believer in the value of
planning. I am convinced that any plan is better than no
plan, and that most small businesses do not spend enough
time deciding where they want to go, or grow.

Sometimes, I am told people "don't know how" to write a
business plan
! And, from a banker's perspective, that
might be true. But these same people know how to plan a
vacation, a celebration or a party. You can do this!

Begin planning for next year by reviewing this year. Start
with what you earned, and how many customers you served.
Examine your data for patterns and ask questions. The data
may be in your accounting program, in your files, or in
your appointment book, but you do have what you need to
begin planning for next year. Use that data!

Next, dream a little. How much money would you like to
make next year? How much do you want to work? Considering
your clients this year, do you want more of the same, or do
you want to make some changes? Simply decide what you want
for next year.

Then, the part that terrifies most of us. Decide how you
will make it happen. Do you need to raise your fees, do
more marketing, or learn new skills? Do you need to hire
an assistant, or up-grade equipment? Do you need a coach
to mentor you?

Planning is a three-part exercise. Start with what you
have, choose some targets for next year, and devise a plan
for getting there. Yes, you'll make mistakes, and of
course nothing will go exactly as you planned. That's
called life. It is NOT an excuse to avoid planning.

A plan will focus your time and energy. Any plan, even
notes on a scrap of paper, will give you a sense of
direction. Before the year gets away from you, write a
plan! A year from now, you'll be glad you did.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Describe your pricing strategy - Investment ready step 4

Your pricing strategy or strategies will say allot about your ability to be competitive within the market. Pricing strategies also have a way of providing insight into your strategic thinking abilities. Many small businesses make the mistake of simply undercutting their competitors, and although this strategy is good in the short term it may backfire when your product cost is higher or not much lower than the selling price. Customers that respond to this strategy will also be the first to leave when new or established competitors respond by also lowering their prices and unless you have the capital backup to fight this type of war, you may be better advised to be competitive in other ways.

Who is your customer and what type of pricing strategy do they respond to. This is the key question you are looking to address.

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Compiling a Bullet Proof Business Plan

Compiling a great business plan. So many business plan consultants today will promise you the earth and deliver disappointment. Just this week we were approached by a distraught entrepreneur who have experienced the frustration of working with a in experienced business school graduate trying his hand at business planning, only to deliver disappointment. So what does it take to compile a hard hitting, Bullet Proof Business Plan that will address all the questions your bank or potential investor may have?

The importance of a well written business plan can be summarised very quickly by looking at how much finance it is that you require. Money talks as they say and nothing talks better to the focus and dedication you need when composing your plan.

Be clear and concise!

The purpose of your business plan should be very clear to you. Are you writing your plan to win funding form a bank r VC? Are you looking to impress a future partner? Are you writing the plan to ensure that you have thought through all tea various areas of you business before you start? The answer to these questions are important as he purpose of the plan will decide the structure, tome and content of your business plan.

Is your business plan is a sales document?

If you are trying to convince annoyer party to take action as a result of your plan then yes, of course it’s a sales document. The key thing here is that although it is a sales document it needs to be based in truth, with well researched forecasts and realistic predictions of sales, your target market and the competition.

A commonly used tool used by people writing sales letters, is the AIDA principle. Grab the reader's Attention, create Interest, provoke Desire in the reader, the desire to act. And lastly move the reader to Action (i.e. to write the cheque!)

A business plan can be compared to a unique finger print of the business. For the informed investor or banker it is very easy to see whether a template or copy of another business plan has been used. If you want to stand out to investors, if you want t be the business who winds the cash or investment then reflect this uniqueness in your plan.

Always focus on your audience. Who will be your audience?

Once again depending on the purpose of the business plan the audience will be different and hence the tone, content and structure of the plan needs to be different.

The Bank Manager

Bank manager have one interest, they want you to pay the money back in time with the interest that you agreed on. So a business plan written for a bank manager needs to reflect stability and the ability to make regular re-payments.


Whether a Venture Capital Firm, individual or business angel investors will always be thinking WIFM. WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? Remember these words and write your plan in such a way that the answer to this question will be positively clear to the investor. Investors are interested in high growth, high returns businesses. If you fall into this category remember that the investor has probably a target of how much money he needs to invest in companies per month. I was fascinated when speaking to a group of investors at a recent conference, when they seem to agree that there are simply just not enough businesses needing high amounts of investment. The problem is often that businesses aim to low, both with their business ideas, growth strategies and required investment.

The Government Agency and Grant providers

Your Local Enterprise agency, Business Link or other department of trade and industry falls into this category. You could be applying for a financial grant or other forms of assistance. The criteria here once again going to be very different and often very broad. These organisations are often either government created or sponsored and hence they will be interested in government related issues such as job creation, education, the possibility of foreign investment and of course tax income in the future. As with the previous two categories you need to address the issues important to your target audience.

Once you are clear on your audience, follow some of the other blogs here at UK Business Planning Blog and write a killer business plan. Alternatively contact us at  and we will support you in the process.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Your competitive advantage - Investment readiness part 3

competitive business plans
By this time your potential investors may already have a good idea of what your product or service is and the level of uniqueness that it offers. This may be a good opportunity to come up with related facts, statistics and research related to the uniqueness of your product. This issue should of course also be addressed in your business plan. Your unique selling point/proposition or USP as its also called tells the investor what sets your business and the products and services of your business aside from the competitors. Why will customers prefer to by your product rather than that of a competitor in other words? This is a great opportunity to show just how unique or good your product or service is. Focus on benefits rather than features of the product. At the end of the day customers are interested in the benefits of a product. What can this product do for me, how will I benefit? What is the difference between a benefit and a feature? Here is an example.
Feature: Intel core Duo Processor
Benefit: I can work with more than one application at the same time with no loss of process speed.
Benefit: I can get more work done in a day.
Benefit: I have more time to spend on that which is most important or enjoyable to me.

Although your investor/client think that features are important, they can associate better with benefits.

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Who is at the helm of your economic future?

If you are anything like me you have by now grown tired of the doom profits in the daily press, advocating how our SA economy is on the verge of a slow-down, or that things are up, or things are going down. The reality is that none of us depends upon any national average! Your economic future, and your bottom line, are primarily up to you!

Many of you as regular readers of this Blog are employees, and some of you think your salary is determined by your boss, or your clients, or the economy. I appreciate your view.

In the long run, however, your personal wealth is more a function of savings and investment than any salary you might earn. Over time, your financial future is determined by your contribution, your skills, your energy, your ability to see and grasp opportunity, and the actions you take. Your company pay scale may play a role, but over the long-haul, you decide where you work, what you do, and how much value you contribute.

I would very much like to urge you to never make the mistake of thinking you work for anyone but yourself. You are the boss. or manager or owner of your own personal services company, and your economic future is in your hands. If you think about it, you are really hiring out your own services the business you own or the company you work for.

One of my clients was recently telling me how has worked for his local minicipality for several years, but felt stuck and unhappy. He decided to invest in property part-time, and since he could only do it part-time, decided he would have to be very efficient. He hired a coach, focused his time, and now earns more from his investments than from his full-time job.

The way your economic future will turn out is simply a reflection of your skills, efforts, commitment and choices, together with your value in the market-place. As many of you have already been planning for 2009, take time to reflect on your income for this year. If you are satisfied that it reflects your abilities, good for you! If not, reflect on what it is that you need to start doing differently from today to make the next year different from the present. If you are not satisfied with the results you are creating, why would these results be different next year or in the next 20 years? More of the same actions in the years to come will simply create more of the same results.