busniess plan

Business Plans: The Key to Business Success: Advice on Structuring and Composing an Effective Business Plan

A business plan is one of the most important keys essential to business success. As a navigational tool, it can steer entrepreneurs towards growth and profitability

Constructing a good business plan could mean the difference between attracting the right investment for your business idea and establishing a comprehensive guide of what your business would like to achieve with regards to successful growth and profitability; and ending up another statistic with the number of companies that fail before they are even able to spread their fledgling wings.

A Navigational Tool

A business plan is not just a tool to attract investors but is the company’s first strategic planner that will enable the entrepreneur to conduct detailed analysis of financial and organisational assumptions; and by doing so can discover fatal flaws or contradictions that may hamper business success. As the company grows, the business plan must be updated and realigned according to the strategic direction the company would like to take.

Essential Key Elements of a Plan

Initially, writing a business plan may seem daunting and most entrepreneurs reluctantly embark on the task. If the task seems too overwhelming, easily downloadable templates and organisations that offer advice on writing business plans are in service; Professional experts are now offering their services to write business plans for reluctant entrepreneurs. Despite all the different and varying formats, business plans must include the following essential key elements:

  1. An Executive Summary
  2. The Management and Organizational Structure
  3. The Service or Product Offering
  4. The Marketing Plan
  5. The Prospective Financials
  6. The Forecasting Schedule

No part of the business plan is less important or should be less thoroughly researched than another. It remains a solid design of the companies planning and goals, and should be meticulously constructed to the last detail.

Mistakes to Avoid

Despite it being the most important document a new entrepreneur will ever write, most new entrepreneurs fail to understand that their business plan is an extension of the company. A poorly constructed plan will present a negative image to possible investors. Some likely errors that new entrepreneurs should avoid are:

  1. The presentation of a handwritten business plan with poor vocabulary, spelling and grammatical errors
  2. The omission of pertinent information regarding certain facets of your business, due to poor knowledge or lack of facts
  3. Inundating the business plan with industry jargon; on the assumption that the investor is an expert in the chosen industry of business
  4. Basing financial projections on costs and revenue on personal bias rather than on industry knowledge and research
  5. Failing to record progression timelines, negative facts and prospective competitors in order to present a rosy view of your company’s proposed success

A business plan has no timeframe, no set defined number of pages and is not rigidly fixed to today’s industrial conditions; but is a fluid document that will evolve with the company and provide a very valuable point of strategic reference for future growth and profitability.

Monitor Review Sites for Customer Feedback

Monitor Review Sites for Customer Feedback: Consumer Review Websites Offer Insight Into Business Reputation

Online reputation management is critical to success in B2C e-commerce. Consumer review websites give the public easy access to customer complaints and the best reviews.

With a click of the mouse, internet surfers can view pages of customer feedback on any product or service company, simply by visiting one of the myriad of consumer review sites available. According to planning, development and marketing company iCrossing’s report, “How America Searches: Online Retail,” 88% of consumers perform internet research before they buy a product online.

E-commerce companies must diligently monitor and improve their online reputation by staying abreast of the customer complaints and reviews published on consumer review sites. Some of these services offer companies the option to respond to customer feedback. E-commerce company representatives can do damage control or express thanks to customers by replying to feedback promptly and accurately. The following five popular consumer review sites are a great place to start when running an online reputation management campaign:

MeasuredUp.com- Multimedia Customer Feedback and Easy Navigation

After purchasing a product online, customers visit MeasuredUp to leave written or videotaped reviews and complaints about the company. Consumers indicate their level of overall satisfaction with either a smiling or frowning emoticon. Customers are required to create an account before they may post reviews.

Companies are able to respond publicly to any customer complaints or reviews. In addition to addressing complaints, be sure to thank customers for the best reviews. Surfers seeking information on a specific company will see that the company cared enough to engage in public conversation and show gratitude to previous customers.

Blagger.comSearchable Customer Complaints

Blagger users rate companies on a scale of one to five, graphically displayed with thumbs-up or thumbs-down icons. The site encourages both positive and negative reviews. E-commerce companies can easily search from the top of the homepage to see if their business is listed among the 3,000+ companies consumers have reported on to date . Companies are not able to respond customer complaints.

ConsumerReview.com- For Companies Selling Product Online

Perhaps the most advanced of the consumer review services, ConsumerReview.com allows surfers to seek out specific products and filter searches by price, brand, design and more. They can then choose a product to see ratings on a scale of one to five. Each listing links to several e-commerce storefronts selling the product, giving the consumer the option to price shop and compare shipping policies.

Customers are asked to leave an overall rating as well as a value rating. They also leave a written review with sections for a summary, strengths, and weaknesses. Companies cannot respond to feedback, but get a valuable, detailed overview of their customer’s experience.

Epinions.com- Consumer Reviewer Transparency and Accountability

Epinions.com allows consumers to search for products in a broad range of categories including cars, electronics, books and more. Users must create an account to leave a consumer review and are therefore accountable for their ratings and comments. Reviewers are ranked according to their level of activity, giving credibility to the process. Consumer complaints and the best reviews include a list of pros, cons, and the bottom line or overall opinion of the product.

Sutori.com- Interactivity and Open Communication

This service describes itself as “the voice of today’s customer.” Consumers are encouraged to share their “stories” and rally the community to build consensus. Customer complaints can include photos. Consumers can select a final comment to sum up their experience, ranging from, “I’m in love” to “Livid with rage.” Companies can post a response, listed directly below the consumer review, above any other user comments.

Monitoring Online Reputation with Consumer Review Sites

Given the ever-increasing number of consumer review services, it’s almost a full-time job to scan sites for new reviews and customer complaints. Many of the websites offer a newsfeed service, alerting subscribers when specific keywords or company names appear on the site; use this service to negate the need to search for new listings. Google also offers news alerts, while Technorati scans blogs for keywords or terms.

Year of the Entrepreneur: Launch a Candle Manufacturing Company as a Family Business Venture

Candle-making like many functional crafts can be a low cost or no cost start-up business venture that is also a fun business idea as a small family run enterprise. Candle making is said to have originated independently in many countries. As early as 3000 B.C., archaeological finds the east African people of kmt (Egypt) making beeswax candles.

Candles can be created and promoted as natural or can be customized for individuals as gift items or for birthdays. In addition to the aroma-therapy (scent) options, national holidays and religious and heritage festivities offer an array of marketing opportunities: Judaica, Christmas/Easter, Kwanzaa, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, etc.).

The Candle Craftsman

Designate a space for candle-making. Candle making takes up a small amount of space compared to the potential for profit. If you have a back room, a garage, an unused walk-in closet, kitchen-area, pantry room, cottage house, a basement or a shed then you have enough space for making candles.

The candle craftsman melts down wax in pots and has the option of adding colors and scents to be reshaped into imaginative molds and shapes. Large box shaped or small floating candles or votives can be customized as family unique expressions.

When sales begin to come in consider securing vendor sources or core vendors for wax, dyes, scents, and molds. Readily available candle wax in the U.S. includes soy and paraffin bases. There are others, such as beeswax or gel, depending on local resources. As to adding scents, many candle supply dealers have pre-formulated aromatherapy waxes. Adding fragrance to wax creations may be a regulated market activity. Check local and federal laws for applicable rules and regulations.

Financing the Candle Business

The candle business can be created with no financial investment if the list of tools (wax, molds, wicks, and pans) is currently in the possession of the new candle-maker or can be secured by donations from family and friends.

If all the tools cannot be secured without costs, the largest expense will be specialty molds as some of them can run as high as $20 each. Remember, molds can sometimes be found among existing resources, e.g., kitchenware items such as miniature banking pans and small containers from pre-packaged goods, especially glass packaging.

Local, National, and Global Candle Making Sales

In today’s conservation-conscious global economy green is the new black. Candle-making can truly be marketed as a functional craft that is an alternative use to electricity-based light sources in the lives of high-energy consuming populations.

It is a word-of-mouth, reputation-based business. Initial candle orders can be obtained from individual sells through gift shops or art and craft or expo shows. Orders can also be obtained through wholesaling the candles to local shops and franchise outlets. In considering accepting new orders, remember to maintain family production projects to manageable levels.

This type of family business can become a micro-multinational through online sales that tap into global markets. This can be done by purchasing, developing, and marketing an on-line candle business website with payment purchasing options, security, and web-management oversight and updates.

Additional online sales can be obtained by joining trading venues for domestic sales and international import/export sales. On-line trading communities include eBay (pay required) and Craigslist (no pay required). A growing list of on-line bartering and trading communities are also developing, such as Caretotrade.com.

Disclaimer: Check local and federal laws for applicable safety and trade rules and regulations regarding candle-making and interstate and import/export sales. This article is for informational purposes only and creates no attorney-client relationship. It should not be used as a substitute for tax or legal advice.

Stress Reduction for the Entrepreneur

Stress relief is as important for the entrepreneur as it is for the man or woman who works a typical nine-to-five job. Many entrepreneurs enjoy their work and spend several hours devoted to their business. But when the economy sours and profits slow down, it’s sometimes difficult to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive.

To keep the entrepreneurial fires alive the entrepreneur applies a few rules that help alleviate daily stress before it leads to emotional breakdown and burnout. The following seven concepts come from Brabble chief executive officer and founder Patrick Mackaronis, who finds stress at every corner running an up-and-coming social network.

A Regular Time Out

The man and woman with ambition have the habit of working long hours. But being locked in the office for those hours can lead to high levels of stress. To cope they take regular time outs throughout the work day. That often means simple activities like stretching unused muscles, taking a brief walk around the block or calling the spouse or a friend. Anything that lasts ten to fifteen minutes can help charge tired batteries and clear the mind so the thinking process can be rejuvenated.

A Break form the Routine

Many famous people throughout history took time to lie down on the couch and take a brief nap. Thomas Edison took regular naps. Winston Churchill often spent his mornings working in bed. While getting eight hours of rest every night is important, it has been shown that those who rest frequently during the day retain more energy and work longer hours without fatigue.

A Review of Priorities

The reason why some businessmen and women burn themselves out is because they lose sight of their reasons for being in business. Daily problems tend to draw attention away from the important tasks and on to trivialities. Many entrepreneurs get busy but don’t accomplish anything meaningful. When that happens they stop to refocus attention on the important areas. That includes their loved ones and children.

Authority Delegation

Unfortunately, this isn’t the strength of many entrepreneurs. They are independent people who see the need to get things done a certain way. While this is an asset when starting out a new business venture, it becomes a severe handicap when the business starts to grow. Menial tasks are better left to someone else who can handle them. If hiring a full time employee isn’t in the cards, temporary help will release the time the entrepreneur can spend to focus his/her attention on more important tasks.

A Cool Head

Most people don’t get ahead in life because they react to problems, but don’t actually solve them. They lose themselves in negative emotions that keep them from finding lasting solutions to their problems. Entrepreneurs are just as fallible to this phenomenon. Keeping a cool head means looking at the problem from different perspectives. There is always a solution to every problem but getting lost in worry and fear does little to resolve the issues. Success can’t come to the entrepreneur who worries constantly.

A Backup Plan

Every successful businessman and woman has the day mapped out. They have a planner and a schedule. But sometimes events throw off the best plans. Rather than resort to panic, the effective entrepreneur has a backup plan that still steers him/her in the right direction. A backup plan is one way to steer clear of stress.

Acceptance of the Inevitable:

Life throws many curves. Sometimes, no matter what happens, the business just doesn’t become a viable or profitable enterprise. If bankruptcy is imminent, the entrepreneur accepts it and doesn’t berate himself for his failure. Many entrepreneurs have found themselves in the depths of despair, only to rise again in a new venture that proved successful.

The rules of entrepreneurial stress relief is just the same as the rules for running a household or working for a job. Common sense, a cool head and living in the present can help anyone in business for themselves avoid the stresses that lead many to mental breakdown.

Patrick Mackaronis is the CEO and Founder of social network Brabble. He can best be reached on Brabble, or on Twitter at @patty__mack.