Why did you write this book?
Nearly 50 percent of all new businesses fail within the first five years. A well-thought-out business plan can dramatically turn the odds in your favor. But few entrepreneurs truly understand how to create a successful business plan.
These are tough times—challenging times—when more and more people are going into business for themselves. That means greater competition for getting investors and loans and greater pressure to develop a solid business venture that competes and succeeds over time. With a business plan, you must convince yourself and others that your new venture will succeed. I know what it takes to develop a successful plan.
What is your background that qualifies you to write this book?
During my career, I have been a senior corporate executive, board member for-profit and nonprofit entities, and a SCORE small business mentor who has worked with more than a thousand entrepreneurs. I am an angel investor specializing in early-stage companies. I also conduct small business workshops, headed a large New York Stock Exchange listed IPO, led a going private transaction, and much more. I have a demonstrated commitment and passion to help small businesses.
What differentiates this book from the many competing titles?
While there are many books that promise big results, they lack real-world experience to back up their claims. I’ve helped more than 1,000 entrepreneurs develop their business plans. I was determined to create an easy-to-understand, step-by-step guide to writing a practical business plan. My approach saves time, money, and frustration. This can only be accomplished by someone who has proven experience; I have the right approach and want to share it.
How will an entrepreneur benefit from reading this book?
A successful business plan demands that you consider first things first. Here are six benefits I provide:
Understand what it takes to start a business before you commit time and money.
Discover why you need a business plan (hint: it’s not all about money).
Learn how to determine what type of plan is right for you.
Receive step-by-step guidance for creating each section of your plan.
Get proven strategies for obtaining bank loans and attracting investors.
Spend less time writing your plan and more time setting up your business.
Does every entrepreneur need a business plan?
Yes, but not necessarily in the same format or depth. You need a business plan even if you are starting a self-funded service business that is operated from your home with no other employees. You should always make sure the business is feasible and viable. Make sure it is worth doing financially before you commit energy and resources to it.
Nearly 50 percent of all new businesses fail within the first five years. A well-thought-out business plan can dramatically turn the odds in your favor. But few entrepreneurs understand how to create a successful business plan.
Who is this book written for?
The entrepreneurs who will gain the most value from this book are those who invest the time and energy to think about the questions posed at the beginning of the chapters and fill out the worksheets at the end of the chapters.
Are all business plans produced from the same template?
Absolutely not! Business plans:
Range in size from 2 pages to 30+ pages
Contain all the subjects involved with starting a business or focus on just one like marketing
Focus on the entrepreneur’s need to grasp what is necessary for a successful business or focus on a lender’s/investor’s need to understand the business before providing funding
It takes some thought to figure out what type and style of business plan is appropriate for a specific situation. In some cases, an entrepreneur might want to prepare a shortened business plan—what I call a feasibility plan—to determine if the execution of a business idea is feasible and worthwhile before investing the time to write a full business plan.
How will your book help readers be successful in getting a loan or equity investment?
You must have a solid business plan to get a loan or equity investment. Following the approach I provide in my book will ensure that you identify and address all the factors that are essential to those who will seriously consider investing in your business.
In addition to the business plan, investors and lenders will take a hard look at your personal financial track record, including your credit score, amount of collateral, investment of personal funds, etc. The funder will also determine how this investment opportunity fits with his current “loan book” or investment portfolio.
Will a person reading this book and preparing all the suggested materials be successful in starting their business and being a successful operator?
Starting a business is hard work. Nationally, more than 50 percent of all start-ups fail within the first five years. A realistic and well-thought-out business plan will increase the odds of being successful.
Business Plans contain key subjects, like marketing and finance, which some entrepreneurs do not know much about and in some cases are afraid of. Where can they get help?
Entrepreneurs should surround themselves with mentors and advisors who can help during planning, start-up, and ongoing operations. Entrepreneurs should think through their community and contacts to see who might help. In addition, there are organizations that provide free mentoring. These include SCORE at www.score.org, Small Business Development Centers at www.asbdc-us.org, Women’s Business Centers at http://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/wbc, and the Small Business Administration at www.sba.gov.
What is SCORE about?
SCORE, founded in 1964, is a nonprofit devoted to training and educating entrepreneurs in starting and operating successful companies. SCORE is a volunteer organization, and its more than 11,000 volunteers are located throughout the U.S. in more than 300 chapters. Last year, according to a survey conducted by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, SCORE clients started 37,054 new businesses and created 82,207 new jobs (in addition to their own position). SCORE officially stands for Service Corp of Retired Executives. However, to be relevant to changing entrepreneurial needs, many volunteers today are actively employed; we now just use the acronym since we have invested in this brand name.
What did you gain from writing this book?
It allows me to share my knowledge with entrepreneurs. Counseling entrepreneurs on how to start and grow their businesses—to increase their odds of being successful—is a natural continuation of my SCORE mentoring and angel investing activities. Doing the research for this book also made me a more knowledgeable mentor and investor.
I am not looking for consulting assignments, speaking engagements, or writing business plans for a fee. I am offering information and advice with no hidden agendas.
What are the most common business types you see getting started today?
Business types typically follow the pattern established in a local area. For example, in the DC area where I am located, there are many service businesses, consultancies, IT firms wanting to do business with the government, and internet retail sales of a variety of products. In other areas of the country, the trend is agriculture-related or small manufacturing. In many cases, what has changed compared to five years ago is that business start-ups are smaller and self-funded, since bank loans are more challenging to acquire. Some business types follow the economy, so for example, in the last three years there have been fewer entrepreneurs starting real estate businesses.
What is the biggest challenge a business owner faces when getting started?
Whether it is a start-up or ongoing venture, the biggest challenge is obtaining customers. At start-up you need to know your potential customers and how you will get in front of them. This involves market research, test marketing, articulating a value proposition, and stating your unique selling proposition; in other words, a well-thought-out marketing plan. Testing your passion and resolve for your business idea is a second challenge. Starting a business is hard work and can be lonely. Passion will help you through the difficult times.