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Paolo Alto Software.com


Business Plan Basics
By Palo Alto Software, Inc.

The best way to show bankers, venture capitalists, and angel investors that you are worthy of financial support is to show them a great business plan. Make sure that your plan is clear, focused and realistic. Then show them that you have the tools, talent and team to make it happen. Your business plan is like your calling card, it will get you in the door where you'll have to convince investors and loan officers that you can put your plan into action.

Once you have raised the money to start or expand your business, your plan will serve as a road map for your business. It is not a static document that you write once and put away. You will reference it often, making sure you stay focused and on track, and meet milestones. It will change and develop as your business evolves.

Do I need a business plan?
Not everyone who starts and runs a business begins with a business plan, but it certainly helps to have one. If you are seeking funding from a venture capitalist, you will certainly need a comprehensive business plan that is well thought out and contains sound business reasoning.

If you are approaching a banker for a loan for a start-up business, your loan officer may suggest a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, which will require a business plan. If you have an existing business and are approaching a bank for capital to expand the business, they often will not require a business plan, but they may look more favorably on your application if you have one.

Reasons for writing a business plan include:

  • Support a loan application
  • Raise equity funding
  • Define and fix objectives and programs to achieve those objectives
  • Create regular business review and course correction
  • Define a new business
  • Define agreements between partners
  • Set a value on a business for sale or legal purposes
  • Evaluate a new product line, promotion, or expansion
  • What's in a business plan?
    A business plan should prove that your business will generate enough revenue to cover your expenses and make a satisfactory return for bankers or investors.

    1. Executive Summary--features the highlights of your plan and sells your idea in two pages or less.
    2. Company Summary--a factual description of your company, ownership, and history.
    3. Products (or Services or both)--describes your products and/or services and how they stand out from competitive products and services.
    4. Market Analysis-provides a summary of your typical customers, competitive landscape, market size, and expected market growth.
    5. Strategy and Implementation-describes how you will sell your product, how you will put your plan into action, and establishes milestones.
    6. Management Summary-provides background on the management team, their experiences, and key accomplishments.
    7. Financial Plan-contains key financials including sales, cash flow, and profits.
    What makes a successful business plan?
  • A well thought out idea
  • Clear and concise writing
  • A clear and logical structure
  • Illustrates management's ability to make the business a success
  • Shows profitability
  • How do you write a business plan?
    Sitting down looking at a blank computer screen as you prepare to start your business plan can be daunting. You may want to look at some alternatives that will make the process a bit easier.

    Hire a Professional
    A professional consultant will create the business plan for you, but you still have to be prepared to think through your business and understand the underlying concepts in your business idea. You will have to work closely with the consultant to ensure that he or she develops a good plan that accurately represents your business or business idea. You can find a list of business planning consultants at www.planconsultants.com.

    Buy a Book
    There are many good books on the market that will help you to understand what needs to go into a good business plan. You can read Timothy Berry's "Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning".

    Use Business Planning Software
    A good business planning software package will provide you with an outline for a well-developed, objective-based and professional business plan. Software packages will remove the problem of starting from scratch by structuring your plan for you. The software should ask you the right questions that will pull out the most important underlying concepts within your business idea. Find out more about the leading software package on the market, Business Plan Pro.

    Business planning resources
    Business Plan Pro

    How do you write a business plan?
    Sitting down looking at a blank computer screen as you prepare to start your business plan can be daunting. You may want to look at some alternatives that will make the process a bit easier.

    Hire a Professional
    A professional consultant will create the business plan for you, but you still have to be prepared to think through your business and understand the underlying concepts in your business idea. You will have to work closely with the consultant to ensure that he or she develops a good plan that accurately represents your business or business idea. You can find a list of business planning consultants at www.planconsultants.com.

    Buy a Book
    There are many good books on the market that will help you to understand what needs to go into a good business plan. You can read Timothy Berry's "Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning".

    Business Plan Pro Use Business Planning Software
    A good business planning software package will provide you with an outline for a well-developed, objective-based and professional business plan. Software packages will remove the problem of starting from scratch by structuring your plan for you. The software should ask you the right questions that will pull out the most important underlying concepts within your business idea. Find out more about the leading software package on the market, Business Plan Pro.
    Turning Theory Into Reality
    Nothing stays the same for long anymore, Your personal negotoations skills needs to be kept in step and up-to-date.

    How Is Business Success Achieved?
    It isn't 'rocket science'
    The key components in business today include:-
    Impact, Immediacy, Innovation Integration, Information, Flexibility, Good Financial Management and Sound Business Negotions.

    Ideas to Help Your Business Understand that prospects ultimately judge new products and services providers subjectively and that you likewise must feel comfortable with each prospect.

    Although clients often weigh a number of factors when deciding to whom they will award new business, "chemistry" and rapport ultimately affect each positive (yes, we will do business together) concluded agreement.


    The Ability to Adopting New Approachs is Critical to Success - If you don't get the business, you still have reason to be positive and - helpful to the prospect.
    Yours truly may have been the best solution available but the chemistry between you and your prospect - through no fault of either of you - may simply not have been right.

    On those occasions when the chemistry is not quite right, outstanding professional business conduct will avoid creating an awkward situation that could have a negative impact on future business possibilities and opportunities.

    No one has ever made it really big based on the fear of change or a negative approach.

    Tools and Resources - Business Negotiations:
    * Complete your presentation with enthusiasm.

    * Send a thank-you note anyway.

    * Keep your antennae sharp.

    * Be prepared to leave a bad situation.

    * Hold on to your options.

    Competitive Advantage(s). Business Chemistry is something that works both ways. If you, for your part, are not comfortable with a prospective client, it's probably best to decline any offer of business, painful as it might be.

    Business Planning & Raising Finance Once you have raised the money to start or expand your business, your plan will serve as a road map for your business. It is not a static document that you write once and put away. You will reference it often, making sure you stay focused and on track, and meet milestones. It will change and develop as your business evolves.

    Not everyone who starts and runs a business begins with a business plan, but it certainly helps to have one. If you are seeking funding from a venture capitalist, you will certainly need a comprehensive business plan that is well thought out and contains sound business reasoning.

    Reasons for writing a business plan include:
  • Support a loan application


  • Raise equity funding


  • Define and fix objectives and programs to achieve those objectives


  • Create regular business review and course correction


  • Define a new business


  • Define agreements between partners


  • Set a value on a business for sale or legal purposes


  • Evaluate a new product line, promotion, or expansion


  • The Executive Summary Should Include:
  • Executive Summary--features the highlights of your plan and sells
        your idea in two pages or less.


  • Company Summary--a factual description of your company, ownership,
        and history.


  • Products (or Services or both)--describes your products and/or services
        and how they stand out from competitive products and services.


  • Market Analysis-provides a summary of your typical
        customers, competitive landscape, market size, and expected market growth.
  • Strategy and Implementation-describes how you will sell your product,

        how you will put your plan into action, and establishes milestones.
  • Management Summary-provides background on the management team,

        their experiences, and key accomplishments.
  • Financial Plan-contains key financials including sales, cash flow, and profits.


  • Would you like to receive free Timely Time Management Tips on a regular basis to increase your personal productivity and get more out of every day? Sign up now for our free "TIMELY TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS".
    Just go to: "subscribe". We welcome you to our list!

    Three Steps for Positive Goal Setting - By: Dr. Donald E. Wetmore
    As I conduct my Time Management Seminars all over, my audiences consistently tell me they want more out of life. Almost everyone I speak with has a yearning for improving several aspects of their lives. They have dreams and goals about their future as yet unrealized.

    Many come to the end in life with those visions unrealized, pictures in their minds only. Achieving goals helps us to get the "want to's in our lives. Life ought to be more than just achieving the "have to's". I offer three important tips to help increase the probability of achieving your dreams, getting more of what you want in your life.

    1. Put your goals into writing. There is something powerful about writing out what you want, getting your dream out of your head and on to a piece of paper. It then seems more realizable. It's a stonger affirmation of what you are working towards rather than having a vague, wispy notion floating around in your head.

    2. Quantify your goals. Many do not get what they truly want in their lives because they are too vague about what they want. It is not enough to say, "I want more money" or "I want to be rich". Instead, if you write, "I want $10,000", you now have a clear target to shoot for.

    3. Set a deadline. Did you ever set a New Year's resolution and never achieve it? Most people have. And most people fail to achieve their dreams because they did not include a deadline with their goal. Deadlines move us to action.

    But until you write out your goal, quantify it, and set a deadline so that you break it down to its small steps, it will forever appear to be too big a stretch and therefore unattainable. But every time you follow these three steps and break the goal down, you will always find that you have within your control what it takes to accomplish that next step. And once you begin, you are on your way!

    Get your free copy of "The Top Five Time Management Mistakes" that outlines the five things you must avoid to be a really successful time manager. To get your free copy now, email your request for "mistakes" to:

    WHAT IS BUSINESS PERFROMANCE MEASUREMENT?
    Organizations today operate in an environment of increased competitiveness and change. Successful organizations are those that are effective at change, either through creating new markets or meeting new goals for existing products. Yet many companies are ineffective at change and hampered by poor control of their product development operations.

    Many companies are unable to accurately estimate, control and improve specific product or contract profit margins, product ship dates, or product quality. Companies know that they need to improve, but with inadequate data they often find themselves unable to prioritize problems, leading to excessive improvement initiatives performed in an unfocused manner.

    Companies are left either spending very little money on improvement because they're unsure how to best allocate the money, or are spending a lot of money very ineffectively on numerous improvement efforts going in 20 different directions.

    Performance Measurement can be best understood through considering the definitions of the words "performance" and "measurement" according to the Baldrige Criteria (NIST, 2001):

    Performance refers to output results from processes, products and services that permit evaluation and comparison relative to goals, standards, past results, and other organisations. Performance might be expressed in non-financial and financial terms.

    Measurement refers to numerical information that quantifies input, output, and performance dimensions of processes, products, services, and the overall organisation (outcomes). Performance measures might be simple (derived from one measurement) or composite

    The challenge for organisations today is how to match and align performance measures with business strategy, structures and corporate culture, the type and number of measures to use, the balance between the merits and costs of introducing these measures, and how to deploy the measures so that the results are used and acted upon.

    To address this challenge organisations are advised to devise a performance measurement system that provides a set of rules or guidelines for selecting and deploying performance measures.

    Who uses Performance Measurement?
    All organisations measure performance to some extent. However, there is a large disparity among organisations in terms of which performance measures are used with many primarily focussing on financial measures.

    There has however, been a general move away from financial measurement since the early 1980's. This was accelerated, in the 1990's, by the worldwide acceptance of business excellence models and performance measurement frameworks that addressed all stakeholders' needs.

    Performance measurement is one of the cornerstones of both the Malcolm Baldrige and the EFQM business excellence models. Both models encourage the use of performance measures, but in addition and more importantly, they consider the design of performance measurement systems to ensure that measures are aligned to strategy, and that the system is working effectively in monitoring, communicating, and driving performance.


    A recent report presented by the Performance Measurement Association (PMA) on one of the new performance measurement frameworks, the Balanced Scorecard, demonstrated the popularity of this particular method.

    The PMA presented evidence from Tonge (2000) that 39% of FTSE 100 companies were actively using the scorecard, and from Gartner (2001) that by the end of 2001 between 40% and 60% of Fortune 1000 companies will have attempted to implement the Balanced Scorecard. With the movement away from financially based measurement systems only gaining momentum in the early 1990's this represents a significant change in organisational practices in such a short space of time.

    What are the common challenges associated with the Performance Measurement approach?
    The performance measurement revolution, as it has been described by Neely (1998), has seen a move away from the problems of past measurement systems. Five common features of out-dated performance measurements systems were, according to a 1995 Renaissance Solutions/Harvard Business School/Business Intelligence survey of over 200 organisations (cited by Kaplan and Norton, 1996):

    1) Dominant financial or other backward-looking indicators

    2) Failure to measure all the factors that create value

    3) Little account taken of asset creation and growth

    4) Poor measurement of innovation, learning and change

    5) A concentration on immediate rather than long-term goals

    The focus in performance measurement is now on achieving a balanced framework (Ashton, 1997, and Centre for Tomorrow's company, 1997) that addresses the issues described above. Examples of these new frameworks are Kaplan and Norton's Balanced Scorecard (1996), Skandia's navigator model (Measuring Business Excellence, 1997) and the Performance Prism (Neely and Adams, 2001). Others, such as Bititci et al (1997), and Lascelles (Ashton, 1997), recommend that the results sections of business excellence models should be used to generate a balanced set of performance measures.

    There are a number of challenges that are faced when designing an effective Performance Measurement System, these include the following; 1) How to measure non-financial performance

    2) What measures to choose and why

    3) How to use them - what to do with the results

    4) Who should be responsible for using the results

    5) How, and to whom, to communicate the results

    6) The resources needed to consider the above and design and deploy the      measurement system

    There are other major requirements that an organisation needs to consider before an effective performance measurement system can be designed or installed. Apart from lower level measures that may be vital for the operation of processes, all measures need to be chosen to support the attainment of specific performance or behaviour identified by the organisation's leaders as important or necessary to work towards the organisational goals.

    This being the case, there must be clearly defined goals/objectives and strategies chosen to reach them before measures can be chosen to support their attainment. Similarly the key processes, drivers of performance, and the core competencies required by employees need to be identified before effective performance measurement can be achieved.

    SiteSell @ Centre for Business Excellence
    How can the BPIR help?
    The BPIR can assist in understanding non-financial performance measurement by the clearly categorised structure of the measures database. Business excellence models are used to categorise the measures into the generic business drivers of an organisation. Hundreds of examples of non-financial measures are provided, many include a commentary or synopsis of the reasons why the measure should be used, and describe the relationships between different measures.

    This database of performance measures can potentially save time involved in selecting appropriate measures and offers many performance measure formulae that are commonly used among organisations, this also builds provision for performance benchmarking to be carried out at a later stage when a Performance Measurement System has been successfully deployed.

    To help organisations to learn how to develop and implement an effective performance measurement system/framework, the BPIR provides a list of sources where knowledge of these systems can be gained. These sources may include books, websites, Centres of Excellence, individuals, or even organisations that have successfully adopted performance measurement frameworks.

    What is the track record of Performance Measurement use?
    Performance measurement is fundamental to organisational improvement. The importance of performance measurement has increased with the realisation that to be successful in the long-term requires meeting (and therefore measuring performance against) all stakeholders' needs including customers, consumers, employees, suppliers, local community stakeholders, and shareholders.

    While the importance of performance measurement is difficult to quantify it is evident that in virtually all texts, research, and case studies on organisational improvement, that performance measurement plays a central role. It is worth noting that performance measurement is a requirement for benchmarking and business excellence.

    theBPIR.com - Other links baldrigeplus.com