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Chris LoCurto

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March 31, 2014

Business Plan Budget and Action Plan

March 31, 2014 | By | 4 Comments">4 Comments

We’ve been in a series on business plans and have covered Why You Should Write A Business PlanBusiness Plan Mission And VisionBusiness Plan Goals and Selling Strategies and Business Plan: Open Door Phase. Today’s blog on budgeting and creating an action plan is the final post of the series.

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Business Plan Budget

“Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish.” ~ Luke 14:28

A business plan isn’t complete unless you have a solid understanding of how much it’s going to cost to run the business. All too often I see entrepreneurs set out to build a business on a great idea, with no clue if they can pull it off financially. This usually leads to a great deal of stress, loss of money, strain on relationships, etc.

While I’m usually the first person to celebrate with you about your great idea (High I and D personality style), I’m also going to be the first to push you to process through every possible income and expense of your new venture. Desperate doesn’t sell!

Here are some things to think about adding to your business plan budget:

  • Products, production costs and unit costs
  • Salaries, commissions, subcontractor fees
  • Advertising, marketing, sales expenses
  • Legal and professional fees for getting the business started
  • Office supplies to get up and running
  • Rent and utilities of any needed business space
  • Travel expenses

These are just some of the things that people don’t think to budget when starting a business or project. For a more detailed process, check out my podcast and blog on budgeting called Budget Correctly or Fail! It’ll give you a really good idea of HOW to budget correctly for your business.

Action Plan

The final step of the business plan is to create an Action Plan. Once we have all of the previous details (see additional posts mentioned above) and a budget, we need to know what it looks like to deliver the product or provide the service. In other words, when we’ve completed all of the previous steps:

  • What will the first 90 – 180 days of business look like?
  • How are we accomplishing the goals we set?
  • What are the KRA’s of those involved?
  • What are the performance indicators?
  • What do we change if we’re not hitting our performance indicators?

Having an action plan that answers these questions proves the business has thought through each element and is ready to rock.

I also like to have a section at the end of each business plan to keep track of what we learned while implementing the plan. Considering answering follow-up questions like this after the first 90 days:

  • What surprised us?
  • What were we not prepared for?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What did we not think through?
  • Where did we under or over budget income, expenses, time, etc.?
  • What else have we learned?

This will not only help adjust the plan as we go, but it’s a phenomenal way to see how we process information and ask the questions. Did we do a good job thinking through everything?

Lastly, what does phase two of this process look like, if there is one, which I highly recommend. What does the roll out of a second product or service look like (knowing it won’t launch for quite awhile).

Processing through all of this information will help you to make key decisions about going forward with your business or project.

Question: What areas of a business plan would you add?

Chris LoCurto

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March 24, 2014

Business Plan: Open Door Phase

March 24, 2014 | By | 5 Comments">5 Comments

For weeks now, we’ve been outlining a business plan according to CLo; all the things I utilize when it comes to putting together a business plan.

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I’ve posted on the why and how, mission and vision, funding, strategies and next steps. Today, we’re looking at what it takes to get to the “open door phase.” When I say that, I mean what it takes to literally open the doors, be ready for business and start selling your products or services.

I have seen too many entrepreneurs create a decent business plan only to have no way or no one execute it. The question I always ask is, “What work needs to be done and who’s going to do it?”

Here’s a list of possible needs to get the business off of the ground:

  • Sales – This is always going to be my number one focus. I don’t care if you have a warehouse full of product, until you have a sale, you don’t exist. Who is going to sell your product or service? Usually it’s you in the beginning, but figure this out. If it’s someone else, will they be paid a base salary, draw against commission, or straight commission while they fill a pipeline?
  • Website – It’s imperative to have a website. It’s more important than business cards, or even a phone number in many situations. Are you going to tackle the website on your own, or hire someone to build the site? Either way, what are the costs involved? How much time will it take?
  • SEO – While the term SEO is quickly fading away, the concept of search engine optimization is still very real. Once you have your site up, how will you make sure people find you? I’ve been using SmarterSearches.com for awhile now and consult with Courtney Herda monthly.
  • Administration – No matter how you look at it, you will have admin needs. This is never my first hire as a start-up because it’s a fixed expense, but if it allows you to sell and bring in the cash-ola, then it might be the best move. Start with a virtual assistant for 5 hours a week and see how much extra time you have to sell or work on other areas of the business when the admin responsibilities are off your plate.
  • Accounting – I’m a firm believer that YOU should start the accounting yourself. Entrepreneurs who don’t do (and understand) the accounting FAIL! Get a grasp on it, keep it up to date, and when it’s time, maybe farm the bookkeeping side of it out. But ALWAYS have an accountability process that checks the work of who ever is doing your books. That may be you going through the bank statement each month until you have someone else you can trust. Freshbooks is a great free resource to get started with.

Check out my 5 Free Resources post for additional tools to get organized and build your business. These are just a few things you need to be prepared to put into place before launching a business, or even a project.

  • How much will it cost?
  • How many hours will it take?
  • Do I have part-time or full-time team members?
  • Am I subcontracting instead of hiring? (Personal favorite in the beginning.)
  • Am I wearing multiple hats and do I have time to?
  • How many hats are my team members wearing in the beginning?

People don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan. Having this info early will give you a greater chance of succeeding. And who knows, it might even show you that you don’t have the available resources to pull it off, so you can’t.

Question: What areas of work do you feel are necessary to cover in a business plan?

Chris LoCurto

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March 18, 2014

Business Plans [Podcast]

March 18, 2014 | By | 4 Comments">4 Comments

I’ve been writing a series of posts on business plans – why you need one, how to write one, the importance of mission and vision, etc.  I wanted to talk about it on the podcast because it’s a topic that comes up all the time.

Subscribe to the podcast:          iTunes  Stitcher Radio  SoundCloud

If you’re starting a new business, creating a new division in your company or launching a new product, you need to know the ins and outs and be able to explain every detail of the new venture. Many entrepreneurs write a business plan for an investor, which I don’t recommend. Instead, I think a business plan should exist to answer questions like:

  • What are the start-up costs?
  • What’s the viability of the product, service or company?
  • Define the product, services, customers and competition.
  • What’s the vision? Where are we going and what does it look like when we get there?
  • What’s the mission? When, why and how are we going to accomplish the mission?
  • What are the goals? Goal setting isn’t dreaming. Goal setting is the actual plan and steps to accomplish the vision.
  • What’s the selling strategy? What are we selling and who are we selling to?
  • What’s the marketing platform? Who’s the right customer? Do we understand the customer? What kind of market research has been done?
  • Who’s doing the work? Are you utilizing sub-contractors or hiring employees?
  • What is your budget? Do you have a sample profit and loss for the next 90 days, 6 months, and year?

These are all important questions you must answer and understand. Once that information is outlined and in place, then you can move forward. If you would like help with the process or anything else when it comes to operating your business, check out the Work With Me tab and go to the Coaching page. We can schedule a time to get together over Skype or in person if you’re in the Nashville area.

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Question: Where do you get stuck when it comes to creating a business plan?

Chris LoCurto

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March 17, 2014

Business Plan Goals and Selling Strategies

March 17, 2014 | By | 4 Comments">4 Comments

Business plans don’t have to be insanely difficult to understand, or use more paper than a Grisham Novel. But they can’t be done on a cocktail napkin either.

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That’s why we’re spending some time outlining what I like to see in a business plan. So far we’ve covered Why You Should Write A Business Plan and Business Plan Mission And Vision, and now we’re on to Goals and Selling Strategies.

GOALS

In the post Goals? In June? Crazy Talk! I discussed in-depth how to set goals. For a refresher, let me explain goal setting. Most people write down a list of items they would like to accomplish in a specific year and call them goals.

To me, those aren’t goals, those are dreams. Dreams without vision and goals just don’t work. Vision is what the dream looks like when it’s complete. Goals are every step needed to take to accomplish the vision. In other words, you need to list out EVERY step needed to make the journey a success.

For a business plan, I don’t need every step but I sure want to see a 30,000 foot view set of goals that I know I can drill down on. Enough so, I am able to see we’ve thought through the process enough that there shouldn’t be any surprises.

SELLING STRATEGIES

Along with goals, we have to actually have a plan to sell our product.

  • What are we selling – The most important part in selling strategies is to clearly define what it is you’re selling. If it can’t be explained quickly and without difficulty, you might rethink your desire to go into this business.
  • Who is the RIGHT customer – It is absolutely unrealistic to think that every person is your customer. Unless you sell toilet paper, in which case you’ve got a pretty good chance. Spend time doing “market research” to find out who buys the product you’re wanting to sell. Some examples of Market research are – Interviews, Surveys, Questionnaires, and Focus Groups.
  • Build a platform – If you’ve been in business for a while, you may already have a great platform. If not, the best way is get as much momentum possible with as little investment possible. Focus on building a tribe through social media where people who are sold out for your product, share it with their circles. This is assuming you have a great product. A fantastic resource is Michael Hyatt’s book Platform.
  • What is our marketing – If you have money to spend, then it might be a great idea to focus on some low cost marketing. Perhaps Google Adwords and paid advertising, Facebook for Business, Twitter for Business, Pinterest for Business, etc. Be sure to use Google Analytics to see where your traffic is coming from. A fantastic resource that I HIGHLY recommend for SEO is Smarter Searches.

With goals and selling strategies you are on your way to a successful business plan. Yes it takes time and research, but it’s considerably less time than running in circles without a plan.

Question: What selling strategies do you use for your products? 

For those ready for coaching, we’ve had a couple of slots open up. Click here to take advantage!

Chris LoCurto

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March 3, 2014

Business Plan Mission And Vision

Without a mission and a vision, you’re just another product on a shelf! Last week we talked about Why You Should Write A Business Plan.

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This week we continue the series and discuss mission and vision. Now, I can tell you that I’ve had everyone and their brother argue with me on the definitions of mission and vision.

For the sake of this post, mission is what God is telling you that you’re supposed to do, and vision is where you’re going. If you don’t agree with that, it’s ok. You can be wrong, I don’t mind.

When it comes to writing a business plan, I believe it is imperative for you know what it is you’re supposed to do. If you’re a believer, then you should be spending countless hours in prayer asking for God to show you exactly what it is that He wants His business to do.

Notice that I said HIS business. You see, you have to make a choice. Is it YOUR business, or HIS? If it’s yours, do whatever you want. If it’s His, you might want to follow His lead and make your mission about what He’s telling you. If you’re not a believer, then follow your heart to the best of your ability and make sure it’s about helping people. You can’t go wrong there.

Career coach Dan Miller says your mission should be about:

  • Your Skills and Abilities
  • Personality Traits
  • Dreams and Passions

Write out exactly what your top qualities are in each of these areas, and then work hard at forming a sentence with those exact words. Try making it no more than 12 – 14 words so it’s easily memorable.

Work to craft that into a viable Mission Statement that represents you well (keeping in mind its not chiseled in stone). A mission statement is viable as long as that’s what God is telling you to do.

When it comes to vision, you have to realize a couple things:

  1. Vision is where you are headed. It’s not a dream, it’s not a goal, it’s the destination you’re moving toward until you have a new destination.
  2. Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” I have done a word study on perish to find that it means to be set out in a dessert with no food, no water, and no possible way back to civilization. You literally just wither away and die. I think we can all claim a former job where we felt that way. If you don’t have a vision, YOU, YOUR COMPANY, AND YOUR TEAM ARE PERISHING!!

Therefore, it is vital to have a vision that you share repeatedly. To discover your vision, write down where you are right now as a company. Then, write down where you are headed. Finally, write down how you will get there.

With this, formulate your vision according to where you are going. This gives you and your team something to aim at.

Adding these to your business plan will help you to see that you have more than just an idea. It’ll show that you have a direction and a future.

Question: How important is mission and vision to YOUR success?

By the way, we’ve had a couple coaching spots open up for next week. If you’re interested click here.

Chris LoCurto

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February 24, 2014

Why You Should Write A Business Plan

February 24, 2014 | By | 18 Comments">18 Comments

Last week, we kicked off a content series around starting a new business with the How To Fund A Business video. Many of you have asked about how to write a business plan so today we start with the WHY.

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While some businesses make it without a business plan, I’ve seen a TON of businesses close their doors because they never had a plan to begin with.

You’ve heard the old saying, “Few people plan to fail, but many fail to plan.” So have a plan!

For me, there are three main reasons to write a business plan. Ok, there’s a fourth, but you’ll see my response below.

Definition  Start by defining a few things:

  • Product or Service – What in the world is it that you’re planning on doing? You have to be able to completely define what the product or service is, what it does, how it’s used, etc. If the customer can’t understand it, they surely won’t buy it.
  • Customers – You would be shocked at the number of highly profitable corporations that have launched products that nobody wanted. Hello, New Coke circa 1985. Everyone has an idea that is their baby. The problem is, not everyone thinks it’s cute. Do a lot of market research to find out if people even want to purchase your baby…uhhh, product.
  • Competition – It’s not enough to have a great product idea, you have to know if anyone else had the great idea too. Is your idea going to catch fire more than what’s out there? If you run up against someone who already has a foothold, you might find your incredible idea struggling to get any attention. Anyone remember Betamax?

Viability – By definition, viability is having the ability to live and grow normally. Can the product or service you have grow because of demand, or will it just be a flash in the pan?

Way too many times I see people want to launch a product because of the “perfect storm” moment, only to realize by the time it gets to market, the storm has changed direction.

You have to be able to forecast your Product Life Cycle to the best of your ability. This can be both stunning, and comforting at the same time.

Startup costs – It doesn’t matter how great your product idea is if you have no clue how much it will cost to get it to a sellable model. It’s vital for you to think through every possible cost on the front side, before going into production. It’s hilarious how the standard of building a house is to give the customer a budget, and then go 30% over. Everyone in the construction community understands that but the customer.

I’ve coached a few entrepreneurs who started building their business before counting the cost, only to come to a screeching halt due to a lack of funds. It happens a lot in the restaurant world.

Financing  Oh heck no. I’m not going to give you financing as a reason why to write a business plan. If you have to borrow or get venture capital, then start your business plan with, “This will most likely cause me a great deal of pain, stress, pain, anxiety, and PAIN!”

So, those are just a few reasons WHY you need to write a business plan. Understanding these aspects in the beginning could be the difference between moving forward or not, as well as succeeding or not.

Question: How valuable is the WHY when starting a business?