Plans for Your Business Venture

Whatever the health and condition of your business venture, it will benefit from planning. Business planning of all types provides a road-map that guides the leadership team to successfully achieve business goals.

I’ve taught business plan writing for more than 10 years and I’ve also developed a one-day business plan writing workshop. As I see it, the process of business planning gives company leaders opportunities to see the big picture and remove “magical thinking” from the process. Business planning first reveals if the proposed goals are potentially viable and second, requires that we devise strategies that will make them a reality.

What your team wants to achieve will shape the plan that is written. For example, if the mission is to launch a start-up that will require significant outside investment, then the plan will include detailed financial projections. Additionally, marketing strategies that delve into customer acquisition, the competitive landscape, the logistics of the product or service launch, messaging and sales distribution, along with operational aspects such as manufacturing, staffing and quality control, must be thoroughly detailed.

Solopreneur consultants will focus heavily on marketing, in particular defining the target clients and client acquisition; providing services for which there is adequate demand; and appropriate pricing. Financial planning will focus on allocating the budget to support promotional strategies and marketing campaigns.

Whether the plan will be used to launch a big venture and attract outside investment money or open a boutique-style consulting service, include the following elements:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Present the business mission statement here. Include as well the date the business was formed; the leadership team and other key management personnel; the credentials or experience that make you and the leadership team uniquely qualified to launch and successfully run the venture; the business legal structure (LLC, Sole Proprietor, or Corporation); the products and services; one or two key competitive advantages; a concise overview of sales projections; and the amount of capital needed if recruiting investors or obtaining bank financing is a goal.

BUSINESS DESCRIPTION

It’s traditional to present a brief description of your industry and its outlook, nationally and regionally. Give the details of your products and services and briefly discuss how they’ll be used by target customers. Identify whether the venture is B2B, B2C, or B2G. If the organization holds a patent, review the competitive advantages that it will convey. Have there been any technological advances that will help or hinder the enterprise? Divulge the details here.

MARKETING

This element is a big tent that encompasses sales, product or service distribution, competitors, advertising, social media, PR, networking, branding, customer acquisition and pricing. Plans written for a small organization will spotlight the role of marketing because for Solopreneurs, success hinges on identifying and reaching paying clients, as well as pricing the services advantageously.

FINANCE

Whether you’re wealthy enough to self-finance or the venture is small and not especially demanding of capital investment, the leadership team nevertheless needs to know with a reasonable degree of certainty how much money will be required to achieve important goals.

The plan might be written to support financing for the acquisition of new office space, additional staffing, or manufacturing equipment. Bank loans typically require a business plan to demonstrate how the investment money would be used and how the organization will generate funds for loan repayment.

If the goal is to attract investors, they’ll need to be convinced by the projected sales revenue figures (as will the bank), so they’ll know when their investment will be repaid and when to expect profits if they are made co-owners of the business. A break-even analysis, projected income statement, projected cash-flow statement and projected balance sheet are required by those who will need significant money.

OPERATIONS

How will day-to-day business processes function? Tell it here, along with providing the organizational chart, the business location, the method of producing that which you sell (if you are, for example, a freelance book editor or graphic designer, you produce the service yourself), your usual sub-contractors (if you are a special events organizer, who are your preferred caterer, florist and limo service?) and quality control methods. This element is about logistics.

The Cybercrimals

The mindset of an individual who would want to attack the computers and networks owned by others is, without question, criminal. The act of intruding upon another confidential personal or business information requires a pre-meditated and calculated act. Its purpose is to inflict financial or personal harm on others by stealing money, denying the use of their information or to gain illegal access to proprietary plans. The cybercriminal is totally cynical and strives to remain in the shadows.

People who attack the information assets of others are on the prowl for system weaknesses to exploit. The prime targets are unsuspecting individuals or businesses that are vulnerable to the attack modes chosen by cybercriminals. They are deceitful and seek the cloak of anonymity.

The true nature of someone who would access, use and exploit your private information is a mixed bag. His or her character is between that of a person who would enjoy searching through your personal items and an employee who would embezzle money from a corporation.

The focus of crackers and hackers is to use their specialized knowledge to encroach upon the private lives of people and organizations. Electronic thieves seek to take advantage of people who are without information needed to fight back and block them. Cyber criminals are true low-life.

Digital bandits are sociopaths who ply their trade without regard to the harmful effects they have on others and truly lack remorse. What’s particularly unsettling about felonious computer whizzes is that they are usually very intelligent. They are without a conscience and enjoy stealing and hurting others.

Computer crooks can be ranked on a scale from “less skilled” to “expert”. Anyone can download basic cracking software from the Internet. The real pros, however, study their targets over time in stealth mode. The highly skilled cracker plans and analyzes the victim to get the maximum effect.

Preying upon unsuspecting users is among the most disturbing behaviors of the PC and mainframe pirates. Most computer users are unaware of how many threats and vulnerabilities that they face when they power-up their computer or go online. Lawless computer users thrive on the ignorance of others.

So how do you fight those who would breach your personal data with the purpose of stealing or hurting you in a variety of different ways? Presume that the bad guys are trying to break into your system. Use your knowledge and security best practices to block them.

You should:

1. Develop a security mindset
2. Assess your risks
3. Use complex passwords and phrases for your system(s)
4. Identify and eliminate common vulnerabilities
5. Routinely update software patches and fixes
6. Probe and test electronic systems
7. Use appropriate security-related hardware and software (e.g. anti-virus software, firewalls)
8. Lock your computer screen when you leave your work area
9. Encrypt and back up all of your data
10. Practice good cyber hygiene (e.g. avoid clicking on email links and attachments)
11. Avoid maintaining a persistent Internet connection

You can defend against those who would try to harm you using digital technology and the Internet. Obstruct the pathways that are followed by lawless information thieves.