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Business Plan Review: A Tale of Two Small Business Owners

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an established business, or a business that is expanding into a new direction, a business plan is critical for the success of your business.

Illustration: Vectorstock

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Charles Rogers and Scott Brown are both in the start-up phase of launching their small business. Each man understands that he needs to develop a solid business plan in order to secure business funding. The difference between the two men is that Charles decides to use the services of a business coach to help him evaluate his business plan and Scott does not. Because of this crucial decision, Charles is able to focus on what he knows best—his business. Scott spends his valuable time trying to figure out how to make his business plan strong.

A business plan is simply a written statement of the direction and management of one’s company that is used to secure business funding. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an established business, or a business that is expanding into a new direction, a business plan is critical for the success of your business.

According to the Small Business Administration, there are eight core elements to a good business plan. They are: Business Plan Executive Summary, Market Analysis, Company Description, Organization and Management, Marketing and Sales Management, Service or Product Line, Funding Request, and the Financials.

Most business owners don’t have the writing skill, knowledge, or expertise to write a strong business plan on their own. That’s why many business owners choose to have an independent business coach or consultant review their plan before it is submitted to potential lenders and investors. Why? Because you only get one shot with a lender, and if your business plan isn’t solid, it will get rejected out of hand.

How can a small business owner find a good business coach or consultant to help prepare or evaluate their business plan? Here are three suggestions.

1) Find one with business plan experience. Just because someone is a consultant in your field doesn’t mean he or she understands what goes into a good business plan. The coach needs a combination of industry expertise and specific knowledge of what investors want to see. Consider an online business plan review expert.

2) Check references and testimonials. Just as word-of-mouth is valuable in your business, references and testimonials are a good way to ensure that you are working with a professional business coach that is a good fit for your business.

3) Get it in writing. Hiring a business coach to evaluate your business plan is a business deal. Just as you wouldn’t sign a lease without knowing the details, make sure that you understand how much you’ll be paying, what the business coach will provide for that fee, and when the service will be delivered.

Once you’ve found and contracted with a business coach, what can you expect? The answer depends on how much service the business coach is providing you. Some coaches will actually write your business plan for you. Others will review what you’ve written and evaluate it for you. As a general rule, here’s what you can expect your evaluation to contain.

The evaluation will make sure that your business plan:

• Has all of the necessary sections
• Is written in clear, concise language
• Is free of grammatical and mechanical errors
• Has solid financials that will appeal to investors

In addition, the business coach will offer comments, suggestions, opinions, and ideas. If you’ve contracted the coach to actually implement the changes for you, he or she will explain what was done and why.

Once you’ve had your business plan evaluated and have made the necessary changes, is it “good to go?” How will you know when it’s ready to submit to investors? Some small business owners choose to get a second review. Others only go through one round of evaluation. The bottom line is that a business plan is ready when someone with more experience and knowledge has reviewed it and the business owner is satisfied with the end result. It is, after all, your business.

It’s six months later, and the difference between Charles and Scott’s businesses is impressive. Because Charles worked with a business coach and had his initial business plan evaluated, he made the necessary changes so that his plan would appeal to investors. Scott decided to go it alone and “do his best.” Charles secured funding for his small business and is on the verge of turning a profit. Scott’s business plan was turned down by several lenders and he’s had to bootstrap funding through personal loans and credit cards. The small investment of time and money that Charles made having his business plan reviewed has leveraged into much greater success than if he’d tried to do it alone.

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About Parker Powers

Branding + Executive Coach / Ranked Dallas Top 100 CEO / Bootstrapped $25k – $100MM Rev. / Top 20 Revenue Magazine / Inc. 500|5000 Entrepreneur / I help people grow brands, business, and exit / I fight human trafficking – freedom for all.

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Serial Entrepreneur

Parker Powers, is an American serial entrepreneur, recognized leader in personal branding, Top 100 ranked CEO, author, speaker and recognized internet personality.

Parker Powers has bootstrapped multiple companies over the past 20 years, generating over $100MM in revenue online.As a contributing writer for over 25 major publications, and a humanitarian, his ventures have spanned many industries and continents over the years.

Parker is a published and respected business transformation leader followed by publications like Forbes Magazine and quoted and featured in business books, magazines, and online publications.

Through his coaching, advising, consulting, and diverse teamwork within the Blackwell SGP network, he is a known strategic growth partner for many entrepreneurs and companies across the U.S. & Europe.

Inc. 500|5000 Entrepreneur

Branding + Executive Coach

Dallas Top 100 CEO

Bootstrapped $25k to $100MM Revenue Company

Bootstrapped $5k to $10MM Revenue Company

Bootstrapped $600 to $500k Revenue Company

Top 20 Revenue Magazine

Inc. 500|5000 Entrepreneur

Mentor @RealCo Seed Fund

I help people grow brands, businesses, and exit.

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Business

Startup 101 – Should You Start Your Own Business?

Everyone has seen the success of people that have made an online business or home business work for them. What you may not have seen is the sacrifice and hard work that went into making this business dream a reality.

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Photo: Shutterstock

If you think it’s time to start your own business, you should learn more about what it really means. Any person with talent and good intentions can start an online business, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind first.

Once you understand exactly what it means to start your own business, you’ll be empowered to either do it or keep working at your day job. There’s no shame in either choice, and you should understand the risks associated with failing at an attempted business.

Your business, your taxes

Since you’re the owner, operator and president of your new business, you’ll also need to take care of the finances. You don’t have the benefit of an accounting department, so it’s crucial that you learn how to take taxes out for your online business.

Many people suggest setting up a separate bank account for business purposes, taking 30 percent out of every dollar earned. The biggest step in all of this is to NOT TOUCH IT. To get the most out of your tax savings, set up a high interest yielding savings account, so that not only have you set aside the appropriate amount, you may have some money left over as well.

It often means a LOT more work

When you work for someone else, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be able to work your 40 hours, go home and enjoy your weekend. This isn’t really the case when you choose to start your own business. The entire survival of the business depends on the hours of work you put in, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself working 10 hour days and some weekends.

This is especially important to keep in mind when first starting your business. You likely won’t have the freedom to relax at all until you’ve fully gotten your business off the ground.

You’ll need to purchase your own health insurance

One of the benefits of working for a company is that they take care of your health insurance. Health insurance plans are often offered through these companies, so all you have to do is opt in and money will automatically be deducted from your check every pay period.

There are often human resource departments that are available at all times to let you know your options before purchasing a health insurance policy. When you work for yourself, you’re responsible for your own health insurance. You’ll need to do the necessary research to get a plan that works for you, and make sure you’re on top of paying your monthly premiums.

There are a lot of benefits to working for yourself or others – should you start your business today?

If so, hit contact me and let’s see where I can help with your startup.

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Branding

Top Networking Tips: What Sir Richard Branson Did When I Told Him He Was Wrong

To promote your start-up or when looking for investors, you’ll need to get your message out there. Networking is the best way to do that.

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Photo: Parker Powers w/ Sir Richard Branson at his private home - Necker Island

To promote your start-up or when looking for investors, you’ll need to get your message out there. Networking is the best way to do that.

If you want your business to be successful and profitable you need to make sure that you are not doing the things, which could cause your business to fail. To promote your start-up or when looking for investors, you’ll need to get your message out there. Networking is the best way to do that.

Get Out There

You don’t have to be a social butterfly, but you do have to put yourself into the right places. If cocktail parties are out of your comfort zone, look for opportunities that suit your personality. You could volunteer with associations connected to your niche, offer to assist investor groups with tasks or attend lectures put on by financial firms, incubators, etc.

Don’t just attend events with people the same as you, though. Plunge into places where people who know people can connect you with the right people. Also use networking to find team members that will give your start-up the depth it may be missing.

Listen and ask questions as much as you talk about yourself. Come away from networking opportunities more knowledgeable than when you first arrived. Augment your networking with follow-up coffees, email exchanges, and other opportunities as appropriate.

Speak Up

Of course, the purpose of any networking activity is to communicate your message. Practice an elevator speech (a short 60-second introduction about what you do). Your mini-speech isn’t something to spew out to any innocent bystander. Develop relationships with small talk first and sense whether a person might be open to hearing what you have to say.

Politely introduce yourself and give others the floor by letting them talk. If given the chance to discuss more than the weather, jump in with a great but natural opening line, or what is called a hook. A hook is a quick phrase that precedes your elevator speech. It is a sentence that in 20 seconds or less causes a listener’s ears to perk up, and hooks them into wanting to hear more. You could include a question, humor, or simply an opening line that begs more information. After sharing your hook, pause to look for verbal or non-verbal cues that invite you to share more.

When given a cue to proceed, use your elevator speech. Try telling a captivating story the person you’re talking to can connect with. A well rehearsed touching story will be more memorable than a presentation of facts and figures. Don’t make assumptions though. For instance, instead of assuming the person next to you skis and starting with, “You know when you’re skiing and the…” change it to “I like to ski, but a problem I find is…”,

Be Honest

The first time I was invited to Sir Richard Branson’s private island; Necker Island, I got his attention in a much different way than most would probably consider as effective networking. Later that evening, after a day of group discussions on how to use business as a force for good with his Virgin Unite team and a few others; I saw my opportunity and I took it.

It was shortly after Richard and I lost a game of pool against our opponents (thanks to me, because I missed every single shot, he didn’t), I figured I’d take a different kind of shot. I bluntly asked THE Richard Branson, “Can we sit and talk for a minute, so I can explain what it is you’re doing wrong”?

It was obvious to him the question was in regards to Virgin Unite, (Virgin’s philanthropic division, not my horrible pool playing), we had been discussing earlier that day, “Of course”, he quickly responded, “Let’s sit right over there”, while pointing to his large table across the room.

We sat down and I immediately said to him, “You’re Richard Branson, and no one here can or ever will be Richard Branson. Most of us here are serial entrepreneurs, industry leaders, influencers, humanitarians, or celebrities, who have a sphere of influence in our own small part of the world, rather than make everyone conform to a strict platform, let us bring awareness and participation from others out there in our own way. You’ve built this playground, I’m asking you consider just giving all of us a sandbox on your playground, rather than having to create our own.”

While that analogy may not resonate with you, it very much did so to him based on our discussions we had earlier that day on how to build upon and support Virgin Unite initiatives effectively, yet independently. He quickly responded, “Please say what you just said again.”, I instantly repeated. He said, “One moment”, as he reached across the table and grabbed a nearby pen and small pad of paper.

“Okay, go ahead Parker.” In all honesty, as I repeated the analogy to him I jokingly thought to myself, “Holy sh*t, friggin’ Richard Branson is taking friggin’ notes on what I’m saying!” As soon as I could think that, he had apparently already made a decision that would change my life in many ways. He put down the pen and quipped, “Can I just give you my email and you send it to me instead and we go from there?”

My hands began nervously fidgeting with my phone in an effort to get it unlocked. Finally, I did and he had to repeat it several times as I entered the information. I have been back with my wife and business partner Bernadette Powers to Necker Island and Moskito Island to see Richard and Joan, as well as going back soon for a project I cannot mention as it’s not been made public yet. “Always ask” is on one of my mantras, because a no is the worst that can happen.

Richard and I exchange emails from time to time, he has sent business my way, and I get to stay involved with some of the cool stuff he is doing. Two things enabled that to happen, I’m honest with people as a principal, even if they are a Billionaire, second and most importantly, there was a great leader willing to listen to how perhaps he was not getting it right. Whether or not I was right or wrong is irrelevant; to quote Andy Stanley, “Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” No, he never actually hit me as one might guess from the image at the top, it was a fake punch done for a charity function I was putting together.

Be Clear

Just as the story above is, your story, solutions, services, and ideas while relatable, should also be communicated in simple terms. The listener needs to understand and get it, or it’s pointless. Make your story is granular with specific examples about how your product, solution or ideas have been used and by whom. Know what your objectives are and be able to describe what sets you apart.

Remember, an elevator pitch is short, interesting and to the point. Be brief and wait for feedback or prompting before carrying on. Whatever you do, don’t act like a know-it-all. Yes, demonstrating confidence and intelligence is important, but never imply you know more than everyone else. Investors and advisors want to work with someone that is aggressive and hard working, but still very teachable.

Research in advance who the people are you’ll be meeting, if possible. Find out their niche, what they’ve done, and what they’re presently involved in. Don’t hesitate to ask the people you meet for further help or to touch base again. Be savvy though. Make sure you’ve earned the right to ask for help or they may think you just want to use them.

Be a Giver

Always offer to add value where you can to someone with no expectation of anything in return. My philosophy is; build relationships, add value and the money will appear, always value people before profits. This applies to employees, customers, partners, vendors, etc.

You can call it karma, reap what you sow, or whatever, but most breakthroughs, major business, financial or personal growth in my life has almost exclusively been preceded by me being a giver. Whether it’s helping out a fellow entrepreneur, cutting a check to a non-profit, donating my time or rescuing kids in the jungle and giving them a home and education like in the photo above.

Giving and helping people has always been a passion, and it just so happens great things personally, professionally, and profitably do come out of it. If you have a purpose, mission and a vision that includes helping others, you will almost never fail at what you set your mind too.

Build a Solid Team

No man or woman is an island and most good businesses need a balanced team of smart people involved. Hang out with and rally the right people. Networking is a great way to build a team or gather a board of advisors. The right people will help build your reputation and platform as well as guide you in the right direction.

Keep adding to your business-building repertoire over time. Great things may not happen from just one meeting. The same goes for pitching a book to publishers. There are many great books—best sellers even—that were pitched over 20 times before being picked up.

Test Your Product

Learn from each experience and keep building and testing your product. Take your product to the public. Find out who understands or needs your solution, and let them try it. Collect as much hard data on these trials as you can. You might want to video the sessions, do online focus testing or follow-up surveys with the participants.

When you relay these points to investors and advisors, don’t be afraid to tell them what didn’t work and how you’ve needed to tweak things. They don’t necessarily want to hear the entire history or about laboratory test results and what your family and friends think. Get the feedback you need from the people who will be your customers.

UsabilityHub.com happens to be one of my favorites, I have no affiliation, they are just the one I prefer to receive real, and honest feedback on brand names, designs, usability, product offerings, etc, from the public.

Get Your Name Out

Go easy on issuing broad press release blasts. Many people don’t have the time to read pages and pages of analytics delivered to their inbox. Target specific people in a way they’ll know they’ve been chosen. You can also create abbreviated versions of your business plan to streamline the data for the right situation. Online business planning tools that convert your plan into professional documents will help you do this easily.

Getting your message out there, looking for funding and finding targeted clients is a lengthy process. Get off to a good start by building a great team, fine-tuning your message, and choosing good networking opportunities. If you’ve really got something, you’ll be contacted and on your way!

Do you agree? Whether it’s yes or no, please tell me why?

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About Parker

Parker Powers, is an American serial entrepreneur, recognized leader in personal branding, Top 100 ranked CEO, author, speaker and recognized internet personality.

Parker Powers has bootstrapped multiple companies over the past 20 years, generating over $100MM in revenue online.

As a contributing writer for over 25 major publications, and a humanitarian, his ventures have spanned many industries and continents over the years.

Parker is a published and respected business transformation leader followed by publications like Forbes Magazine and quoted and featured in business books, magazines, and online publications.

Through his coaching, advising, consulting, and diverse teamwork within the Blackwell SGP network, he is a known strategic growth partner for many entrepreneurs and companies across the U.S. & Europe.

Inc. 500|5000 Entrepreneur

Branding + Executive Coach

Dallas Top 100 CEO

Bootstrapped $25k to $100MM Revenue Company

Bootstrapped $5k to $10MM Revenue Company

Bootstrapped $600 to $500k Revenue Company

Top 20 Revenue Magazine

Inc. 500|5000 Entrepreneur

Mentor @RealCo Seed Fund

I help people grow brands, businesses, and exit.

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