Writing Your Business Plan (Traditional or Online Business)

How To Write A Business Plan

In my previous article, I talked about how you can plan your business startup. I defined a business plan as a written description of the future of your business. This is a document that indicates what you intend to do and how you intend to do it. I further explained that if all you have is a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you have written a plan, or at least the beginning of a plan. I also said that a business plan consists of a narrative and several financial worksheets.

I mentioned that the ‘writing of a business plan’ as one of the pivotal steps involved in setting up a successful business. By now you should understand the need for writing a business plan. Writing a business plan, for a traditional brick and mortar business, will probably take a lot of time. It may take up to 100 hours or even more. For obvious reasons, a new business needs to carry out a lot of research before a business plan can even be developed.

For an online business, a detailed and in depth business plan is usually not necessary unless you are trying to combine your online business with a traditional business. For most online business startups, the detail involved with planning a traditional business is not required. However, it would still be beneficial to you if most of the topics were still covered, even if only briefly. Having a written plan in front of you will help you to focus on important aspects of the business.

You may not have thought much about your competition or outsourcing some of your work, but things like that will impact your ability to make a profit. And you will find this especially so in the beginning phases of your business. Even you are just opening a lemonade stand in the front yard, you will still need to know what Susie is selling her lemonade for on the next street over!

So, although a detailed business plan may not be required for an online business, I am going to include it here so you can at least look at and consider each section and determine yourself if it applies to your business.

Here I shall be discussing the basic steps involved in writing a business plan:

1. Executive Summary: The first step involved in writing a business plan is the executive summary. Here, include everything that you would cover in a five minute interview.

Explain the fundamentals of the proposed business: What will your product be? Who will your customers be? Who are the owners? What do you think the future holds for your business and your industry?

Make it enthusiastic, professional, complete, and concise.

If you are applying for a loan, state clearly how much you need and be precise in how you are going to use it. Also include detail about how the money will make your business more profitable, thereby ensuring repayment of the loan.

2. Business Description: After the executive summary, you need to write a short description of the business you are going into. You need to give a general description of the industry your business belongs to. You will write about your company’s mission statement, goals and objectives, business philosophy, as well as its legal form of ownership (sole proprietor, corporation, LLC, etc.).

Describe your most important company strengths and core competencies. What factors will make the company succeed? What do you think your major competitive strengths will be? What background, experience, skills, and strengths do you personally bring to this new venture?

3. Marketing Analysis/Strategy: The next thing to write (after the general description) should be your marketing strategy. For new or existing businesses, market analysis is an important basis for the marketing plan and will help justify the sales forecast. Existing businesses will rely heavily on past performance as an indicator of the future. New businesses have a greater challenge – they will rely more on market research using libraries, trade associations, government statistics, surveys, competitor observations, etc. In all cases, make sure your market analysis is relevant to establishing the viability of your new business and the reasonableness of the sales forecast.

4. Location: Writing down the location of your business is very important. Locations with greater customer traffic usually cost more to buy or rent, but they require less spending for advertising to attract customers. This is especially true of retail businesses where traffic count and accessibility are critical.

If an online business, you need to go into detail how you will attract customers to your website. General statements like “I will use Face Book ads and email marketing” will contribute almost nothing to helping your cause unless you have detailed statistical analysis of tests you have conducted or of another similar business you have been associated with. If you do not have any data upon which you reference your estimates, it could show lack of proper thought to the remainder of your business plan.

5. Competitive Analysis: Business by nature is competitive, and few businesses are completely new. If there are no competitors, be careful; there may be no market for your products. Expand your concept of competition. If you plan to open the first roller skating rink in town, your competition will include movie theaters, malls, bowling alleys, etc.

6. Management and Operations: Because management problems are the leading cause of business failures, it is important to discuss management qualifications and structure. Resumes of the Principals should be included in supporting data. If your business will have few employees and rely heavily on outside professionals, list these key people and their qualifications. If you are seeking financing, include personal financial statements for all of the principals in the supporting data section.

7. Personnel: The success of any company depends on their ability to recruit, train and retain quality employees. The amount of emphasis in your plan for this section will depend on the number and type of employees required.

8. Projected Financial Statements: These statements are usually helpful, but not necessary. You will develop and describe your strategies for the business throughout your Business Plan. In the financial section, you will need to estimate the financial impact of those strategies by developing projected Income Statements, Balance Sheets, and Cash Flow Statements.

It is usually recommended that these projected statements be on a monthly basis for at least the first twelve months or until the business is projected to be profitable and stable. Activity displayed beyond the monthly detail may be in summary form (such as quarterly or annually). The forecast period for most business plans is two to four years.

9. Summary Section: This section is where you will be able to attach or explain any detail not applicable to the previous sections. This section should be used to provide the financial statements of the Principle’s involved in the business and any other data you think an investor would be interested in seeing.

The main thing to remember in this section is not to provide new data, but to explain in detail data that has already been provided and to provide the support for that data.

When you sit down to compile all of the elements of your business plan, make sure you have each section able to stand on its own merits. This means you should not reference other sections sending the reader (your potential investor) back and forth between sections.

Do not try to write your business plan in one sitting. As I mentioned in the beginning, for a traditional brick and mortar business, it could take in excess of 100 hours to compile all of the information needed into a comprehensive but yet understandable document. For online businesses, probably not that long. But your final product should be well thought out, well documented and easily understandable.

On my website, http://www.bobthibodeau.com, I am helping those who

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Laser Engraving Business – Is It Right for You?

A laser engraving business is a very profitable business you can start from your home. Have you ever thought of it? If you are looking for a way of pulling out of formal employment, laser engraving offers a great opportunity for you to venture into business. If you are so creative, laser engraving business is right for you. Even if you are not naturally a creative person, the laser will enable you to develop your creativeness.

What’s laser engraving?

Laser engraving is simply the marking and cutting of materials using a laser system. A laser system works like a printer. A laser is a raw beam or heat energy directed to a specific area where an engraving is performed. It takes seconds for a laser beam to create a permanent engraving on any material.

There are many companies that manufacture laser engraving machines worldwide. But the best laser systems I have known are made in the USA. That’s where the laser engraving technology started and spread in the rest of the world. If you need a laser engraving system that won’t frustrate you, I recommend buying one from the pioneers of this technology.

What do you need to venture into a laser engraving business?

To start a laser engraving business, you need the following:

1. Business plan.

A business plan is a great way of defining your business and identifying your goals. You should prepare a business plan. Success in any business requires good planning. It helps you to raise money. It also provides you with milestones to gauge your success. It should be the first step in your laser engraving business venture.

2. Laser engraving system.

To venture into an engraving business, you must buy a laser engraving system. Laser systems are costly. Good laser engraving machines range from $8,000 up to over $45,000, depending on the size and energy. That’s not little money at all. It could be a lifetime investment to most people. So you should invest in a system that won’t let you down. The good thing is that it’s a one-time investment. Good laser systems last long.

3. A computer.

You need a good computer in your laser engraving business. You may use a desktop or a laptop. Any Windows 2000 upwards, XP or Vista operating system is recommended.

4. Graphic software.

A designing software program is a must-have in your engraving business. Laser engraving systems are designed to run on most Windows-based graphic software programs like CorelDraw, Adobe and AutoCad. But CorelDraw is what most people use in laser engraving.The laser systems come with drivers that print images from any of these programs.

5. Creativity.

People who flourish most in a laser engraving business are those who are creative, sales-oriented and think outside the box. As an engraver, you must always be on the lookout for offering new products and services. The laser system is a versatile machine. With it, you can only be limited by your imagination.

There are numerous products you can produce and put on the market. To do this effectively, perfecting your designing skill in the software program you are using is important.

6. Marketing.

There is no business that can prosper without effective marketing. You have to do a lot of marketing for your engraving business. Visual advertising is so important. People need to see your engraving and cutting examples to really appreciate them.

You have to determine your signature samples, which you can mass produce and send to prospects. They should exhibit the great engraving and cutting capabilities of your laser engraving equipment. You may also customize them as necessary.

Create strong personal relationships to establish a firm foundation for your laser engraving business. Networking is a very good cost-effective marketing technique. Spread the word about your business through networking.

You may also use trade shows to exhibit your products

and services to your prospects. It’s good to target different types of trade shows with specific related products.

Creating a website for your engraving business is a great way to get customers. By establishing your business online, you expand your client base from your immediate geographical area to the rest of the world.

Using the word of mouth is so effective. It’s cost free. It’s easy. Everyone is capable of trying it out. Do it together with flyers and business cards. I like this marketing technique. It’s good to pick the contacts like a telephone number and email address of the people you talk to for business. You may ask them to send to them a newsletter which may eventually turn them into real customers.

What engraving business opportunities can you tap?

There are a number of laser engraving business opportunities. They include among others electronics engraving, marble and stone etching, wood engraving and cutting, logo engraving, medical part marking, photo engraving and barcode engraving. There are also other opportunities. They include laptop customization, signage, wedding memorabilia, corporate giveaways, glass etching, nameplates, toys and games, laser cut cards and invitations, photo frames and albums, wooden models, jewelry and much more.

Engraving services are needed in various industries, markets or occupations. You can explore the following fields to get customers for your products:

– Clothing designers

– Automobile dealers

– Carpenters

– Churches and other religious organizations

– Hospitals

– Home builders

– Jewelers

– Gift shops

– Manufacturing plants

– Restaurants

– Non-profit organizations

– Zoos

– Libraries

– Recreational centres

– Event centres like stadiums

– Schools of all levels

– Interior designers

– Private businesses

– Architectural design firms

– Individuals… and much more

What materials can you use in your business? Ideally, the laser system can etch and cut on numerous materials. The commonest ones are acrylic, wood, rubber, stone, glass, paper, fabric, ceramic, plastic, marble, tile, press-board, slate, granite and leather. You can explore it’s capability to laser engrave on many other materials around you.

Why should you start an engraving business?

1. Profitability.

It is very profitable. An engraved product costs more than twice the cost of its raw material. Products and services engraved on a laser system are on high demand. Most people pay back the money invested in the laser machine within a year.

2. Creative freedom.

A laser engraving business allows the freedom you will rarely find in any other business. You can create what you want. You are only limited by your imagination. Virtually, anything you can imagine and design can be turned into a real object with a laser system.

3. Flexibility.

You may choose to work part-time while maintaining your full-time job. You can also work the hours you want. If you have a full-time job, this is the time to save money. Invest it in a laser engraving business. You will be able to slowly grow your business right from your home. Finally, it becomes a full-time job

4. Low running costs.

Although laser systems cost much money, running an engraving business does not require high running costs like in other businesses. The laser machine can last a long time without making any repairs. And by the time it gets old, you will have made a lot of money.

5. Small manufacturing plant.

There are many people with laser systems. But very few of them know that it’s a small manufacturing plant. Most people limit themselves to engraving traditional items. These are items like plaques, awards, signage and photo frames. But the laser system can do much more than that. Just explore into its other capabilities. You will live to wonder throughout your life.

Conclusion

Starting a laser engraving business is very profitable. To effectively benefit from it, it’s advisable to invest in a very good laser system. Buy a system with a higher wattage. Speed and working area matter a lot in a laser engraving business. Have a plan to clearly understand your start-up costs, business line and profitability.

What laser system would you recommend for starting a profitable laser engraving business?

Charles Kiyimba is a businessman and a passionate blog

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