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ENTREPRENEUR

Create A Perfect Business Plan Your Roadmap to Success By Carita Strawn

Every business needs a plan. Your business plan will keep you focused and help convince investors to lend you money. But, why do you need a plan in the first place? After all, you have a clear idea in your mind about what you want to achieve. You know the market, you have the necessary skills. So, why do you need a plan? • • • • •

To clarify your ideas with structure and substance To discover and solve problems you may not know you have To get feedback from others As a formal document to prove that you are serious about your business To guide you as your business grows keeping you on track and focused

If you’ve never written a business plan before, it can be a daunting prospect. But these steps will help you create the perfect business plan. 1. The executive summary This is where you describe your company and the product or service that it will sell. This must be brief to catch and hold people’s attention. Describe the goal and mission of your business in just a couple of sentences and try to make it memorable. Treat this section as an ‘elevator pitch’ document – it should be concise and easy to remember. 2. Who are your customers? Do you have a clear idea of the type of people (or businesses) who will buy your product or service? If not, think carefully until you do. This is one of the first questions any investor will ask you about your business plan. Have your answers ready: • • •

Know whether your customers will be consumers or businesses. If they are businesses, who will you target within those companies? Determine whether you’ll have regular clients or one-off buyers. Make sure you’ve actually spoken to some of your potential customers.

3. Evaluate the target audience There’s no room for guessing here. You need to identify the people who will buy from you. Think about the following: • •

• • •

The better you evaluate your target audience, the more comprehensive your business plan will be. 4. What are your opportunities? Successful businesses think big. You might be starting small, but you don’t have to stay that way. So write down the possible opportunities for your business as it grows. For example, perhaps you’re planning to start by selling over the internet. That’s great, but how will you get traffic to your site? How will people find you online? Will you need salespeople? If not, how will you convince people to buy from you? What other opportunities will you have if your business grows as planned? 5. Understand the competition Every business has competition. If you don’t mention yours, investors will think you’re unprofessional – or just plain naive. Be thorough, and list all your existing and potential competitors: • • • •

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Demographics – such as age, gender and social status. Firmographics – this applies when selling to businesses. Firmographics includes size of the company, revenue of the company and services or products of the company. Location – perhaps a specific area, town, or even country. Profession – maybe you’re targeting accountants, police or lawyers, for example. Groups – such as people with shared interests or habits.

Who are your direct competitors – those selling the same products as you? Who are your indirect competitors – those whose market overlaps yours? What will prevent other companies competing with you – what are the barriers to entry? What is your USP (unique selling proposition)? In other words, what’s your point of difference that makes you different from your competitors?


ENTREPRENEUR

That last point is important. You need to explain how your business will differentiate itself from all the others. That might be based on price, service, quality, range or value. Make sure you spell it out. 6. Build a simple financial plan All business plans should contain some financial information. This should include the overall costs of setting up your business. For example: • • • • •

Cost to make or buy products Costs for labor and manufacture, including raw materials Staff costs, especially for service businesses Distribution and marketing costs Fixed and variable overheads

Good accounting software will help you create a draft financial model. Talk to your accountant or bookkeeper for help and advice. 7. Include an outline marketing plan For this section of your business plan, you need to think about the five ‘Ps’: • • • • •

Pricing – how will you price the end product? Positioning – how does your product or service fit into the market? Promotion – what channels will you use to attract and communicate with customers? Profit – how much do you expect to make per item sold? Place – what are your sales outlets?

8. Plan your operations Put your vision to one side for a moment. What are the daily tasks that need to be done when running the business? Include all business processes such as manufacture and packaging. Try to cover all departments too, including sales and customer service. 9. Get the right people This is one of the most important factors. Think about who you want to hire. How will you find people whose skills complement yours? And how will you convince them to work for you? Also think about who you want as your business advisors. You’ll need people you can trust, to guide and mentor you at times when you need it. 10. Simplicity is the key Keep it simple. Complex and long documents won’t be read – either by you or by potential investors. A business plan should be brief, relevant and focused. The core of a good business plan should be just a few pages long. Plan your business around your strengths and also any areas for improvement. This will help you construct a plan that makes the most of your abilities, while still being realistic. Your business plan is a roadmap for your business – but it’s not set in stone. Review it at least once a year and make changes if necessary. Above all, keep getting feedback from your advisors – official and unofficial ones. With their help, you’ll create the perfect business plan that takes you where you want to go. December 2016 - The BBB Connection

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COVER STORY

Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest Celebrating 25 Years of Magic! By Carita Strawn

Yes, it’s true, Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest has been going strong for 25 years. Congratulations Magical Forest on your Silver Anniversary! For those of you who have never experienced Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest, it’s certainly about time to take a peek, don’t you think? This magical wonderland is a sight to behold and an experience not to be missed! 16

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It’s easy to see why we are so proud of Opportunity Village here in Southern Nevada. Since its inception, it has been an organization that has gone above and beyond both in providing a variety of assistance to our disabled citizens and in bringing fun, awareness and a positive impact to our community. Founded in 1954 by a small group of families in an effort to improve the lives of their children with intellectual disabilities, Opportunity Village is now Nevada’s largest private, not-for-profit community habilitation program serving nearly 3,000 people annually. It operates four employment training center campuses and a Thrift Store in Southern Nevada as well as a vehicle donation program. It provides vocational training and places hundreds of adults in jobs throughout the community enabling some of Nevada’s most vulnerable citizens to integrate into the community through wage-paying jobs and providing these individuals an avenue to display and be rewarded for their talent and achievement while gaining a measure of independence.

The Magical Forest is located at Opportunity Village, 6300 W. Oakey Blvd., Las Vegas NV 89146 (between Jones and Torrey Pines) and is open each evening now through January 1, 2017. General admission prices are $11.99 for adults and $9.99 for children (ages 3 – 12). Passport tickets (includes admission and unlimited ride and attractions wristband) are $21.99 for adults and $18.99 for children (ages 3 – 12).

Through the support of our community, Opportunity Village is almost entirely self-funded. Operating for more than 60 years now, and in honor of this milestone Anniversary, Opportunity Village is now creating the foundation on which the next 60 years – and beyond – will be built. To address the mounting demand for services and to meet the future needs of the community, Opportunity Village has committed to build a permanent Employment Resource Center Campus in northwest Las Vegas and two new active residential communities and to expand its current campuses. In order to reach these commitments, it has established the Christopher’s Crossing Capital Campaign which will raise $150 million to accomplish all of the construction and program goals Opportunity Village has set. The Campaign is now in full-force, with two more years to go. Opportunity Village is looking for our support to assist them in continuing to provide the best programs and services to the disabled community. There are many, many ways you can support this amazing organization. Begin by Experiencing the Magic through a trip to the Magical Forest. This is Opportunity Village’s great gift to Las Vegas. Enjoy the activities and the entertainment and complete your holiday shopping list with products and kitchen creations made and sold by OVIPs at the event or through the Opportunity Village website store. Looking for other ways to participate? Donate your time or sign your business up for one of the wide variety of services provided by Opportunity Village and its OVIPs. Volunteer to help at one of their many wonderful events, or at one of their campuses.  You can also shop at the Opportunity Village Thrift Store, donate your vehicle, join the Legacy Society, give a contribution to the Christopher’s Crossing Capital Campaign, buy cookies online, buy boxed lunches for business meetings or provide a cash or in-kind donation. The Southern Nevada community is a community with a big, kind and generous heart and it is shown through the support and success of organizations such as Opportunity Village. We should be very, very proud of these efforts and continue, individually and through our businesses, to give a helping hand to those in our community who are faced with challenges. When we give of ourselves, we receive something that can never be measured by monetary value.

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To purchase advance tickets for the Magical Forest, visit www.magicalforest.com or call (702) 225-9627. For more information on the Magical Forest or Opportunity Village or to give a donation, go to the Opportunity Village website at www.opportunityvillage.org or contact the Opportunity Village Main Campus at (702) 2593741.


SALES SALES&& MARKETING MARKETING

PROFESSIONAL NETWORKING By Joe Lotito

Professional networking is something most business owners need to do and do well. Sometimes, it is “who you know” that gives you that extra edge over your competition. Professional networking isn’t just meeting for cheese and crackers once a week – it is a skill. It is more art than science and there are a few tools of the trade to help you get the most out of networking. With a few skills under your belt, networking will have a significant pay off. It can get your business noticed. It can lead to referrals, valuable business opportunities and increased sales. Unfortunately, many business owners don’t know where to start.

Create a company culture that sees networking as a legitimate tool for gathering information about the market, increasing business contacts and meeting like-minded people.

First, it is important to remember that there’s no one-size-fitsall when it comes to networking. Choose the options that best suit you. And don’t be afraid to mix it up as you become more experienced. Take part in online forums. Join business networks. Attend training days, awards dinners, networking breakfast events and conferences.

3. Do your homework beforehand Prepare for a networking event as you would for any other business meeting. Dress the part. Find out who else is attending the event (if you can). Learn a bit about what they do and what you might have in common to make conversation easier.

Whether you want to wade in and do it all, or simply dip your toe in the water, find out how to get the most out of networking by using these tips:

Consider familiarizing yourself with the general news of the day – just in case you need to make small talk.

1. Aim to build relationships Professional networking is a social activity. It’s about building relationships – so leave the hard sell behind. Instead, be open and get to know people. Ask them about themselves and why they’ve come along to the event. What are they hoping to achieve? What have they enjoyed? What did they make of that certain speaker or presentation topic? Use networking as an opportunity to share ideas and build your knowledge. Discussing a conference topic with someone next to you will expand your understanding of the subject and help you see things from another perspective. 2. Make networking part of your job Prioritize networking by making it part of your role – and the roles of your employees. Add it to job descriptions. Make it part of your firm’s approach to professional development and training. Plan for it by adding specific networking events to your company calendar. Be a guest speaker or consider hosting a networking event of your own. 22

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4. Show off your business Tap into your passion for your business when you’re at professional networking events. Show belief in your product or service and share your story. It’s a good way to dampen your nerves and boost your confidence in intimidating crowds. Your enthusiasm and positivity will help others feel that way about you and your business too. 5. Listen and ask questions Listening and asking questions sounds obvious, but it can be all too easy to jump in and dominate conversation when there’s time pressure. If you feel jittery, remember to take a breath, stand back, and let others talk. It builds rapport and shows you’re interested. Maintain eye contact to show you’re listening and ask questions. Respond positively. Think about and reflect on what people share with you and be authentic. If you want to get the conversation started with people you don’t know, use small talk or chat about something in the news.


6. Speak to as many people as you can – within reason Working the room can be a challenge – so many people, so little time. If you move too ra p idly from person-to-person, it can seem rude and insincere. But if you don’t have a strategy, you may regret not meeting that once-in-a-lifetime contact because you ran out of time. If you want to meet specific people, wait near them for an opportunity to introduce yourself – even if it takes a bit longer than anticipated or seems awkward. Just remember, it’s probably too good an opportunity to waste. Tough it out and make yourself do it. 7. Give out your business card Business cards are a quick, easy way to share your contact information and refer people to your website. Take a handful to every networking event and give them out when the opportunity arises. If you keep them in a bag or briefcase, don’t forget to replenish stocks after each event. Also, remember to collect business cards from the people you meet. 8. Keep a record of the event You’ve been to the event. You’ve made some good contacts and had some interesting conversations – now what? Keep a brief record of who you met, what you talked about and any action that came out of your discussion. Write your notes on their business card or make notes online. You might use your notes immediately if you agreed to do something for a contact in the near future. Alternatively, you may refer back to them later as part of your preparation for the next event.

Taking notes will help you remember names and personal details more accurately. And you’re more likely to follow up possible leads promptly. You may even want to earmark someone whose boss or colleague you want to meet at a later date. Jotting down a quick note will jog your memory when the time comes. 9. Set yourself a goal for the year The more you network, the more it pays off. So why not set yourself a goal for the year? You may want to attend a networking event every month. You may want to get better at follow up. You may just want plenty of opportunity to practice and improve your skills. 10. Look for opportunities to connect with people Professional networking doesn’t just happen at events like conferences and organized events. It can happen anywhere – on the bus, in a restaurant or even on vacation. Talk to people when you’re out and about and be open and friendly. You never know where you might meet your next investor or big client. Networking takes time and energy. So, it makes sense to try and enjoy it as much as possible. That means getting help if you need it. Surround yourself with friends who believe in you and your business, and can keep you going. Start with a small networking group if it’s easier and aim to build up to bigger events and opportunities over time. Join a membership organization that makes networking fun with interesting gettogethers and sought-after guest speakers. In no time you’ll be networking like a pro.

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