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Business Plan Advice

Making A Business Plan: What 10 Experts Have To Say about Creating A Winning Plan

Top tips from professionals that have seen their fair share of business plans.

Casandra Visser

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Peter-Jones-Dragons-Den

“Thank you, but we don’t believe this plan will work.” The dreaded words no entrepreneur wants to here after pitching their business plan. Many rejections and failures would be avoided if only entrepreneurs had a better grip on how a business plan should be made.

And what better way to understand what investors are looking for than to learn from business plan experts who see 100s of plans every year?

Below are 10 expert tips and lessons you can use to create a stand-out business plan that screams success.


 

Allon-RaizIt’s the ‘business think’ that goes on behind the business plan that enables your business to fly.

Allon Raiz: Founder and CEO of Raizcorp (Africa’s leading business incubator) 

Why this matters:

It’s not enough to simply follow a template to the letter and not have an in-depth understanding of your industry, customers, team and potential challenges. Investors need to know that you have the best possible understanding of the workings behind your business as well as who you are as an entrepreneur.

What you should do about it:

Do your research and stress-test your assumptions to ensure your idea will be both viable and sustainable. Be involved with writing your business plan instead of getting someone to do it for you. Know your way around every part of your business.

Related: Top 10 Business Plan Resources


 

Martin-Feinstein-Enablis-Business Plan AdviceBusiness plans that are all of five pages long, and terrible plans that are 50 pages long. Write it on a “need to know” basis.

Martin Feinstein: Chairman of Enablis (Entrepreneurial Development Network)

Why this matters:

If you think that making a business plan means spending hours on a thick and detailed document, you’re wrong. Ask yourself what the bare necessities are and build on those points but only if it’s truly necessary. Don’t go overboard with the design either. It’s ok to be creative but you’re there to talk business.

What you should do about it:

In business, clarity and focus are both powerful assets. Strive to embed these principles in your plan.  Ask yourself what the investor would gain from the information you want to add to your business plan and if it’s not something that you could rather elaborate on verbally if asked to.


 

Guy-Kawasaki-Business-Plan-AdviceThe executive summary, all one page of it, is the most important part of a business plan. If it isn’t fantastic, eyeball-sucking, and pulse-altering, people won’t read beyond it. You should spend eighty percent of your effort on writing a great executive summary and twenty percent on the rest of the plan.

Guy Kawasaki, Best-selling author, speaker and investor

Why this matters:

Typically investors go directly to your executuve summary, if you fail to capture their attention and interest there, you will have lost them.  Think of ways to pull your reader in immediately. Use strong wording that jumps out at you and keeps you enthralled. There are many ways to achieve this and still come across as professional.

What you should do about it:

Have trusted business-savvy acquaintances read your executive summary and invite honest criticism. If you are looking for funding test your plan out before submitting it. Make an appointment with funding agencies and organisations to pitch and invite feedback – use the input to improve your business plan.

Remind yourself about why you are passionate about your business, what you can bring to your customers and why you’re different. Now convey this powerfully and simplistically. Watch the video at the end of this article to get started.

Related: Business Plan Tools


 

Andre-Deiderichs-Old-Mutual-Business Plan AdviceIt is imperative to assess other business models in your industry. From this you need to extrapolate, devise and fine-tune a practical business model that will work for you. Individualise it with your own personal stamp that will differentiate it from others, while keeping in mind that it needs to be workable and not merely an impressive plan in theory.

–  Andre Diederichs: SMME Specialist at Old Mutual (International Financial Services Group)

Why this matters:

One of the factors that contributes to start-up failure is a founder’s ignorance of the factors that influence their chosen industry. You need to understand how your business will function every day. In other words, how will you make money? Explain how you will reach and acquire customers, cost structures, profit margins and how you will generate revenue. Entering

What you should do about it:

Research how other companies in your sector function. What processes do they follow to get their product to the right customers and what can you learn? You might even find ways that you can innovate and change things up. Here are examples of four basic business models.


 

Peter-Jones-Dragons-Den-Business Plan AdviceMake it clear and concise and include hard facts. Think maximum impact and minimum fluff. Reveal your passion, drive and determination plus a clear snapshot of your business. Know your market, your figures and forecasts and the risks involved. Be aware of competition and be able to provide evidence to support your claims. Get to know your figures inside out.

– Peter Jones: Entrepreneur & Dragons’ Den Pannelist (Reality Business TV Show)

Why this matters:

If you are unable to convey your business idea clearly and conscisely it is unlikely that your target market will understand your message or value proposition.  Strive for simplicity when you convey your ideas in your business plan and be armed with the research to back up your claims and assumptions.

What you should do about it:

Do “the mom test”. Explain your business idea to your mom, if she doesn’t “get it” in 60 seconds go back and rework it until it is clear and easy to grasp.

Have a reason for all your facts and claims. List your sources in the plan to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the road ahead. Here’s a competitor analysis example you can use.

Related: Apps To Help You Write A Business Plan


Nadine-Todd-Business-Plan-AdviceThe financials can enhance or harm your business plan’s chances in the capital-raising process. By doing the research to develop realistic assumptions, based on actual results of your or other companies, the financials can bolster your firm’s chances of winning investors.

Nadine Todd: Editor Entrepreneur Magazine (SA’s top read business publication)

Why this matters:

Figures can seem a bit intimidating but they are very important when you make your business plan. Whether you are bootstrapping or approaching an investor you need to be able to plan, project and prepare for all expenses.

What you should do about it:

Don’t thumbsuck your numbers, investors have a good idea of what’s realistic. Dig deep so that you can answer any questions that are thrown at you. If you are not comfortable with spreadsheets and calculations, rope in the assistance of a professional accountant. More on how to prepare the numbers in your business plan here.


Doug-Richards-School-for-Startups-Business Plan AdviceWriting a business plan isn’t that difficult. There are hundreds of templates around, and hundreds of others have been written that you can examine for reference. Once you’ve written it, you can hire an editor to help you clean it up so its easy to read and makes logical sense.  

– Doug Richards: Founder of School for Start Ups (Entrepreneurial Education Centre)

Why this matters:

There are loads of great templates you can use when creating a business plan. Just be sure to make it your own and specific to your business otherwise it’s not going to be much use to you.

What you should do about it:

Download a business plan template here, customise it and give it someone you trust to read in order to get feedback.

If you are making a plan specifically for funding, approach the funding organisation/s first and request their template – most funders have specific requirements for the contents and layout of the plans access.

Related: Free Business Plan Template Download


Martin-Feinstein-Enablis-Business Plan AdviceThe biggest mistake people make is to oversell – they want to tell the whole story in the first meeting. Don’t. Tell just enough of the story to show that you know what you’re talking about and are going to make it work, with or without the investor. When you’ve pitched enough to intrigue the listener, stop talking and let them think and ask questions. You want to be at an intersection, not going down a one-way street.

Martin Feinstein: Chairman of Enablis (Entrepreneurial Development Network)

Why this matters:

Many entrepreneurs tend to overthink things once they get a meeting with an investor. Let your business plan do the in-depth talking while you give the bullet points in an oral presentation. Effective selling is as much about listening as it is about speaking. Know when to talk, and when to be quiet and listen.

What you should do about it:

Prepare and practice your presentation! Show investors that you’re confident, passionate and knowledgeable but don’t ramble on about irrelevant details.


Andre-Deiderichs-Old-Mutual-Business Plan AdviceYour marketing plan should include a sales strategy, advertising strategy [pamphlets, signage, media advertising, PR etc], promotional strategy etc. Marketing represents a client or customer’s holistic view of your business. It is therefore of paramount importance not to ignore your marketing processes.

Andre Diedrichs: SMME Specialist at Old Mutual (International Financial Services Group)

Why this matters:

Sales means money and money is important to investors so they need to know what your projections are. Marketing is there to assist sales so it’s important to note what your plan is.

What you should do about it:

Give a brief explanation of how you will be pushing your marketing message and why so that potential investors have an understanding of how you will be backing up your sales efforts.


Tim-Berry-Paolo-Alto-Business Plan AdviceSet a schedule to review your business plan and revise it at least once a month. Understand that it becomes obsolete in weeks.

Tim Berry, Founder Paolo Alto Software (The world-leading business plan software company)

Why this matters:

Goals, markets and processes change and your plan should to.

What you should do about it:

Treat your business plan as a ‘living’ part of your company. Here’s how you can monitor your progress using your business plan.

Casandra Visser is a Digital Marketing & Content Strategist and writes for Entrepreneur Media SA.

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Business Plan Advice

Questions To Consider While Testing The Success Rate Of Your Business Plan

Here are four ways to test your plan’s success rate or you may instead take these as questions to validate your business idea’s credibility.

Angela White

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So you’re finally ready to craft your business ideas out of your head and wondering if the plans you have made are worth hitting the success road or not. Well, this is something that stands as a matter of concern for every budding entrepreneur. Also, checking the viability of your business plan is necessary. For this reason, the online evaluations are turning out to be handy.

Creating tests online to assess your business plan has become a norm these days. You may find several testing tools with ready-to-use quizzes/tests to help entrepreneurs in interpreting results for developing a successful business plan. So before you take the plunge and give your business a shoot, here are four ways to test your plan’s success rate or you may instead take these as questions to validate your business idea’s credibility.

Answer these 4 Questions to test your business plan’s success:

1. Did you assess your target audience/market?

A crucial element of a successful business plan is making an appropriate market analysis and identifying your target customers.

  • Whom are you selling your product/service to?
  • What are their demands and requirements?
  • How big is the market you shall step in?
  • What can you do to launch your business in the market?

An open interaction with your target audience in the form of social media polls, surveys, etc., can help you find answers to the above questions. If your business plan includes all of these necessities, then you have successfully crossed the first milestone.

Related: Business Plan Format Guide

2. Have you made a check of your funding?

What do you need to kick-start your business? Idea, passion, and more importantly ‘MONEY.’ Your business plan should help you identify potential funding sources for your start-up. These sources may include spending your savings, taking loans or sometimes a combination of both. Studies by the University of Oregon say that businesses with a proper plan are more likely to get funded. Therefore, consider making an effective business plan to enhance the chances of getting funds.

3. Did you roll your eyes on the competition in the market?

Analysing your competitors and making a note of their strategies is something that will help you nurture your business. This doesn’t mean that you spend all of your time and energy in eyeing the competition. You need to gather all the tricks implemented by successful entrepreneurs and keep an eye on the factors that lead to failed startups. If your business plan structures key points you take from the competitive market around you, then you have bagged the next milestone in this journey.

4. Have you made a marketing strategy?

Would you like your business to stay stagnated? Obviously not! How you market your product/service to reach your target audience must be included in your business plan. If your business plan gives you a clear picture of when and how you will advertise your product through social media, websites, etc., then you ultimately succeed in creating a full-fledged business plan.

The online test maker software these days has made it extremely convenient to create tests judging the success rate of a business plan. According to a recent study, businesses with an adequately devised plan tend to grow 30% faster. Looking at this number, we can precisely estimate the importance of having a full-proof business plan that includes all of the points as mentioned above. So don’t forget to test your plan before you take the huge leap.

Download a free business plan template here.

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Business Plan Advice

Why Your Business Beliefs Are More Important Than Your Business Plan

Your business plan will change. Your business beliefs should lead you to long-term success.

Bedros Keuilian

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Do not spend more time working on your business plan than you do actually working on your business. A business plan is important, and you should take the time to make one. Just know that your beliefs about business will have a much greater impact on your success than what you put on paper.

I know this because I’ve coached dozens of entrepreneurs and business owners from the very beginnings of their businesses. I’ve watched some of them grow their businesses all the way to six-, seven- and even eight-figure earnings, even when their initial idea looked shaky on paper.

I’ve watched others struggle for years before giving up, even though their ideas looked foolproof on paper.

Related: Bankrupt And Dreams In Tatters: How Sheree O’ Brien’s Self-Belief Drove Her To Success

The short explanation here is that what you put on paper for a business plan will never match reality. Never. As soon as you start selling to and working with real people, things change. There’s a certain amount of chaos. However, there is a way to harness that chaos and use it to build your empire, which is what I’m here to show you today.

Innovation is moving faster than ever before

In the next five to 10 years, most of the jobs that exist today will be replaced by AI. For entrepreneurs, that means your business operations will be cheaper and more reliable than ever before. However, it also means that your daily operations will look completely different than what they look like today.

Plus, many of these technologies will have unintended consequences. They’re going to create problems that we’ve never had to deal with before (such as high unemployment).

I don’t say any of that to scare you. In fact, I’m extremely optimistic about the future, and you should be, too. My point is that none of us can afford to get stuck on how we do business today.

If your idea of success is to find the next “hack” or “quick fix,” then you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Those hacks and quick fixes are going to become outdated almost as soon as they appear.

So, here’s what you need to do instead: Become obsessed with the principles of wealth and success, not just the delivery system. Study the entrepreneurs and the businesses you admire most and look for the principles that guided their decisions.

Focus on principles, not quick hacks

principles

The most successful entrepreneurs on the planet are the ones that put in decades of hard work to build their empires. That means that they kept their businesses growing even in times of massive uncertainty, loss and change. How?

It comes back to their business beliefs, which is another way of saying principles. If your business beliefs are solid, you will quickly find a way to create new solutions when the old systems for doing business break down. For a great example of this, look at Ray Dalio. He’s been listed as one of the 100 wealthiest people in the world, and he even wrote a book called Principles.

Related: The Mindset Strategy From The “Rock Star” Coach Can Turn Your Beliefs Into Results

He’s also the founder of the investment firm Bridgewater Associates, which has a fund called the Pure Alpha fund that only lost money three times in the last 20 years. Keep in mind, that includes the 2008 housing crisis, which was the worst economic downturn in recent history. When most people were suffering financial disaster, Dalio and others like him kept their empires growing.

Again, it goes back to beliefs, aka principles. One of Dalio’s core beliefs was that he could design an investment portfolio that would remain safe and keep growing under any economic season. Through years of researching and testing, he created the All Seasons portfolio and accomplished just that. And he accomplished that because he was looking for the principles that would keep his money growing over the long term instead of get-rich-quick tricks and hacks.

Another great example is Google. Google’s mission statement is “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” That’s not a hack or a get-rich-quick scheme.

That’s a guiding belief in what’s possible. It’s a huge idea that serves the needs of people all over the world. That’s what has allowed Google to create billion-dollar solutions and rewrite how much of the world operates today.

Beliefs can make you mentally strong — or weak

Let’s bring this back down to a personal level. If you believe that you have the creativity, focus and discipline to solve any problem that comes up in your business, then that will come true. On the other hand, if you believe there’s no room left for your ideas, or that you’ll never be able to lead other people toward your vision, that will also come true.

With that in mind, let me offer you a set of beliefs that have helped me succeed in business. These are not beliefs I pulled out of thin air. These are beliefs I’ve seen in action with dozens of other successful entrepreneurs.

I’ve tested them out in my own life and found that they each helped my businesses grow faster. I encourage you to read these aloud to yourself until they become habits in your own thinking.

  • Money is attracted to decisiveness, action-taking and speed.
  • I can learn whatever new skills I need to succeed and keep my business on the cutting edge.
  • I can earn the respect and cooperation of anyone whose help I need.

Now, you might be wondering if I’m preaching some kind of woo-woo, “law of attraction” stuff here. I’m not. If you read those beliefs again carefully, you’ll see that they emphasize taking action. They emphasize going above and beyond what most people are willing to do.

The whole point of this is to prime yourself to want to take these actions even when they are uncomfortable. You will do this because you believe that the rewards will come. No, the rewards will not come immediately. Yes, the reality will be a long and difficult road.

Related: The Power of Dominant Thought

That’s precisely why you need deeply held, empowering beliefs to push you forward even when your plan falls apart. Focus on developing your core beliefs, and you will have the power to overcome any challenge on the path to empire.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Business Plan Advice

Top 9 Business Plan Resources

Want to write a business plan but don’t know where to start? Find the top 10 business plan resources here.

Entrepreneur

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A business plan is essential at every stage of your business. By writing a business plan you are giving potential funders a reason to invest in you and you are giving yourself a reference throughout your business journey.

You should be referring to your business plan at regular intervals to make sure that you are still on the right track or to update it in order to grow your business.

Writing a business plan need not be confusing or difficult because of all the available resources on the web. Entrepreneur lists the top nine business plan resources below to help you get started.

1. Entrepreneur Magazine Business Plans

Entrepreneur Magazine SA offers advice on every area of writing a business plan

entrepreneur-magazine-logo

Entrepreneur Magazine being the ultimate “how to” guide for starting and growing a business offers a helping hand to anyone looking to create a business plan.

Related: Apps To Help You Write A Business Plan

This section goes into detail on the format to follow and also offers sample plans for you to use as a template. You can also read through articles offering expert advice and do’s and don’t of business plans.

2. The Right Brain Business Plan

A creative, visual map for success.

right-brain-business-plan-logo

The Right Brain Business Plan offers readers a fun and accessible way to creating their business plan and reaching their financial goals.

This book is ideal for the creative entrepreneur, designer, wellness professional, writer or photographer.

With the use of worksheets and step by step instructions, you will find that the business plan process is easier than you thought.

3. Business Plan Template Download

A visual guide to writing a business plan.

business-plan-template-download

Entrepreneur Magazine has an in-depth business plan template that you can easily download and use as a detailed guideline when writing your business plan.

Related: Business Plan Elements Structure Guide

You can download this template for free and start creating the various sections of your business plan so that in the end you have a detailed business concept that is attractive to potential investors.

4. BPlans

Practical advice from business plan experts.

bplans-logo

BPlans was founded by Tim Berry, a renowned business planning authority, and their website caters to entrepreneurs and business owners who need sample business plans as well as advice for writing a business plan when starting or growing their companies.

This website offers free as well as paid for services for you to choose from depending on your needs.

5. Business Plan Format Guide

Complete guide to business plan contents.

business-plan-format-guide

There are 10 elements or sections that need to be included in a business plan and this article from Entrepreneur Magazine goes into detail on each.

Related: Free Sample Business Plans

Their format guide will ensure that your business plan covers everything that it needs to for your own use as well as to present to potential financiers.

6. Business Model Generation

A useful handbook for building the ideal business model.

business-model-generation-alexander-osterwalder

Alexander Osterwalder’s has created a guide to building a detailed business model that any start-up will find useful.

You can purchase the full book if your decide that you would like further information on his process and thinking around business models.

7. Advice from Business Plan Experts

Top advice from finance institutions and entrepreneurial experts.

allon-raiz

Renowned experts such as Martin Feinstein of Enablis, Allon Raiz of Raizcorp, Keet van Zyl of HBD Venture Capital and Andre Deiderichs of Old Mutual all give their opinions and top tips for writing a business plan by taking into account the do’s and don’t s and what potential investors will be looking out for.

Related: Free Business Plan Template Download

8. MPlans

If you are working on a marketing plan for your company, MPlans can assist.

mplans

Because writing a marketing plan is just as important as your business plan, it’s important to take the time to understand the various elements.

MPlans offers a range of free marketing plans that you can use as a template to create yours. They also have marketing software that you can purchase if you want to create a totally unique plan.

9. Business Plan Expert: Tim Berry

tim-berry

Tim Berry is the owner of Palo Alto Software, a co-founder of Borland International, and a well known expert in business planning.

Entrepreneur Magazine’s website gives you free access to his articles and advice so that you have all the knowledge you need when writing or modifying your business plan.


Related: 21 Free Sample Business Plans

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