Why is it Important for Small Businesses to Write a Business Plan

An effective business plan is like a road map that shows small business owners the right direction to achieve their set of goals and objectives. Goals are targets that need to be achieved and objectives will help you in attaining the target. A good business plan will help you in making the right decision for your business.

Business plan is an essential tool for running a small business successfully, irrespective of it’s size and type. A business plan should include complete description of your business, services/products, overall budget, current and projected finances, market analysis, targeted customers, competitors and marketing strategies. Running a business without a business plan is like going on a road without a destination.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of writing a business plan for small businesses.

Saves time and money
A carefully structured business plan helps you invest wisely and also helps you minimize the time to evaluate strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Thereby you can capably run a business without any obligations. An effective business plan will save you a great deal of time and money, by enabling you to identify the potential issues timely that may crop up in course of your business.

Helps in raising money
A well written business plan convinces investors or lenders to put in their money in funding your business. It tells why your business is worth starting or pursuing, your future business plans and goals. If your business plan provides them a glimpse of chance of getting funds and raise more money then investors will attract towards your business and invest in it. In this way, it will help in raising funds for your business operation.

Helps attract investors
Business exposure is a crucial thing while writing business plan. An effective business plan will attract franchise capitalists, lenders or investors. This can only happens when you have a detailed description of your financial need. After all, investors will invest only in profitable businesses. Therefore, you need to write a detailed descriptions about your company background, market analysis, strategies, future plans, target audience, products/services and your competitors.

To expand/grow the business
A well written business plan helps business owners figure out their drawbacks and will work on them and also where the business is vague or undeveloped. By knowing and correcting these issues, they can find a solution and control their finances. A good business plan gives the scope to expand business and also gives an idea whether the business is financially stable enough to expand in the near future.

Works as an effective communication tool
For a business to be successful and profitable – the managers, workers and employers should have a mutual understanding among them. They should be aware of company’s strengths, weaknesses, investors, lenders, customers and competitors. An effective business plan creates a well established communication tool through which you can communicate with your employees to work towards company’s goals and to achieve it successfully.

To see results in long term and short term
An effective business plan gives you a clear picture of your business, whether it will run for a short term or long term. If you suspect that your business will run for a short term, then you can cover up the loopholes and make modifications to make your business thrive in the long run. With this, you can see the results on financial ups and downs and if future financial projections needed in the business.

We hope that you have been well-informed about the importance of writing a business plan for a small business and to execute it for the benefit of your business.
(more…)

Different Types of Business Plans for Small Businesses

Many small business owners are at times confused on whether to develop a business plan or not. Due to lack of capacity and management skills, many small business owners consider business planning to be a process that is useless and time consuming. Without proper planning, they just start the business and realize it later the need to develop a plan to run their business successfully.

Business planning is the building blocks of any business. It is an essential guide for the success of the business irrespective of its size and industry. A business plan is a formally written document that helps business owners achieve what they want, plan how to achieve it and keeps the business on track. The document generally projects for the next 3-5 years and outlines the route, the company intends to take to grow revenues. However, not all business plans work out for businesses. So, choosing the right type of business plan that suits your business needs is a crucial thing.

In this article, we will explain you the types of business plans for small businesses.

Types of business plans for small businesses

The Start-Up Business Plan – the most standard: This is the most standard plan which introduces the business to lenders, investors, and provides them a clear picture of company’s goals, ethics, products/services, market forecasts, strategies, implementation of objectives, management team and financial analysis. It provides financial analysis with spreadsheets describing financial areas including projected sales, profit and loss, balance sheets, cash flow and other tables.

Internal Business Plans: Internal business plans are meant only for the target audience within the business and not meant for lenders or investors. Such plans describe the detailed information about company’s current state, including operational costs, profitability and the upcoming product or project. It may also include financial projections if needed for the project that may become forecasts and budgets.

An Operational Business Plan: It is also a kind of internal plan that consists of information related to business operations like annual deadlines, responsibilities of managerial team, milestones, and important dates and events for the upcoming year.

A Strategic Business Plan: It is also an internal plan that focuses mainly on high level options and provides a detailed guide of a company’s goals and how to attain them by laying out a foundational plan for the entire company. This plan includes elements– business mission, vision statement, information on critical success factors and strategies for achieving goals by implementing the schedule of objectives. This type of plan helps in bringing people to work together towards company’s goals.

The Feasibility Business Plan: It is a pre-startup plan that helps the business owner whether the proposed business is worth pursuing. It includes information such as market analysis, estimation of start-up costs, pricing and expenses and a mission statement or target demographics. If this plan indicates business will succeed then the next step to do is lining for a detailed start up business plan.

A Growth or Expansion Plan: This plan is written either for internal or external purpose and is meant for expansion of business in a particular domain of the business or the product/service. If the business owner wants to expand the business, s/he requires investment for the company growth. This plan includes complete description of the company, management and officers. The plan must furnish all the information on the company and satisfy all the potential investors, otherwise they will not fund your business.

Having understood the types of business plans for small businesses, it is very important to have a business plan for your business that will be based on the needs of your business.
(more…)

How Reading Books Helps Small Business Owners

Reading books is an effective way to learn and grow knowledge. It enables you to overcome challenges in order to succeed. Small business owners should inculcate the habit of reading good books, as reading enables them to make right decision, analyze things, and expands knowledge on various aspects of business. They should, therefore, read books to lead their business in a promising and successful way.

In this article, we will point out how reading books is the most important aspect for small business owners for a successful growth in business.

Leaders are readers

Good readers are leaders of tomorrow. Reading books gives you the potential to move ahead in business. You will learn to lead your business in the right direction. The habit of reading books improves your self-confidence and generates new ideas for your business.

Builds your personality

Reading books helps you build up your knowledge stock, and ultimately helps you do your business more efficiently. Reading books reflects your personality as well. The more you are committed to reading, the more you are likely to have a better personality to face challenges.

Strengthens your ability to communicate

As the owner of a small business, you need to have communication skills. This is because in course of business, you need to deal effectively with clients, vendors, customers, employees and the like. Adopt a habit of reading. Reading broadens your perspective and enables you to understand the issues better, which helps you deal them in a better way.

Helps in building leadership skills

Having leadership qualities is an attribute that will reflect your work and enable you to do even better. Leadership is all about being organized, having a vision for your business and passion to succeed. No person is a born leader. To build your leadership skills you need to broaden your perspective and clarity of thought. You can achieve these by reading good quality books on the subjects.

Helps develop strengths to overcome weaknesses

Reading good books will help you focus on your weaknesses and enables you to win them. As you read good books, you are likely to develop the skill with a focus to improve performance. This improvement plays a psychological boost, and will be less focused on your weaknesses.

Helps you in self-evaluating and self-motivating

Books are a great source to rely on for self-evaluation – they build your ability to set your goals and in self-motivation, which helps you keep your spirit high and overcome difficulties.

Reading good quality books improve your knowledge. Reading books makes you wiser when it comes dealing with challenges. You are likely to be more informed and do not get carried away by the common happenings around you.

Following are some famous quotes on reading books:

  • “A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
  • “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested.” ~ Francis Bacon
  • “The more you read, the more you know
    The more you know, the smarter you grow
    The smarter you grow, the stronger is your voice
    When speaking your mind or making your choice.” ~ Anonymous
  • (more…)

Things to Consider Before Starting a Small Business

Starting a small business takes considerable time and effort. It requires comprehensive planning and ability to execute the same. If you are planning to start a small business, you need to have a complete grasp of various things to ensure its success. If anything goes wrong, it may affect your plan. Following are basic things you need to consider before you start a small business.

Self-evaluation

First, you need to identify your skills, talent, expertise and weaknesses. You need to evaluate your ideas. Examine the issues – Is there a real market for the product or service? Will your income be adequate? Is your product or service competitive with others? Do you have the required expertise? You need to consider with extreme care before you get started.

Do in-depth research

Analyzing the market from the beginning is one of the most important things to consider before starting a business. You need to research thoroughly about your target customers, your competitors and your industry. You also need to identify potential market and understand which products and services are in demand.

Make the plan ready

Have a plan for your start-up small business. It should be properly structured and should focus on the aims and objectives. Depending on the type, you need to describe which products/services you are selling. The plan should also include company description, market analysis, financial and management plan.

Create an initial budget

Creating an effective budget is a challenging task for any business owner. Depending on the size of your business, you need to structure the initial budget that includes start-up costs and weekly or monthly maintenance expenses. While budgeting, you need to know how to manage your financial aspects.

Choose location

Finding an optimal location is crucial. When you are looking for a location, you need to consider a few things such as – whether the site is located near potential customers, how safe the area is, whether it is convenient and accessible to traffic, how long the competitors have been in this area, and how strong they are.

Legal issues

You need to get the relevant licenses and permits beforehand. You should also look into legal matters such as registering your business, taxes and potential legal liabilities. Take professional help in these matters, if required.

Do frugal shopping

Have a small budget; cut down expenses and go for cost effective and durable (not fancy) equipment and furniture. Be frugal and just buy what you require for your business. It will save your money and you will be able to build sound finances later.

Taking into account these things will help your business meet the challenges ahead. (more…)

The Entire World Wants Only One Thing – Good Job Not Some Job

Do you know what the entire world wants? The answer is “a good job”. This is an important discovery by the Gallup World Poll that got revealed in the book ‘The Coming Jobs War’ written by Jim Clifton.

Gallup has done world polling for more than 75 years. According to the Gallup’s findings, there are 7 billion people on Earth, out of which 3 billion people want a good job. Presently, there are only 1.2 billion jobs, so there is a shortfall of 1.8 billion good jobs.

A good job is a job with a paycheck from an employer and involves steady work. Having a good job brings prosperity, peace and human development; it defines your relationship with your city, your country and the entire world around you.

If there are no good jobs it will be the cause of hunger, extremism, reckless environmental trends and the like. Jobs bring prosperity, peace and human development – but long-term unemployment ruins lives, cities and countries.

It was also found that most new jobs are created by start-ups and small and medium-sized businesses. Hence, small businesses should be encouraged to set up businesses, as it is a solution to job creation.

Jim Clifton says, “Leaders of countries and cities should focus on creating good jobs because as jobs go, so does the fate of nations.”

In the book, The Coming Jobs War, Jim Clifton says that good jobs can only be created if big cities, powerful local leaders and great universities focus everything they have on creating good jobs.

  • Local leaders: All prosperous cities have local leaders. They are highly talented, well-known, respected and unelected group of people who can get things done for the good of their city at a faster pace.
  • They typically include philanthropists, retired senators, CEOs of big businesses, successful local businessmen, presidents of universities and hospitals and people from historically prominent families. They have large networks and more access and influence than the local government. They are the ones who care about the city. They guide, advice and encourage new companies that create new jobs.
  • Universities: According to Jim Clifton, Universities are a critical part of creating new companies with inventions and small business models. “Great universities are the origin of most highly successful startups. Universities have, by design, the best ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation.”
  • Universities have a high number of super mentors that include university leaders, chancellors, presidents, deans, venture capitalists, top executives, city leaders and an enlightened influential family member, who can get their connections through universities to create new businesses and job creation.

The three key sources of job creation are: the cities, the local leaders and universities. If all these three essential things focus on empowering the next generation of job creators to creating good jobs, then they are the ones that will win.

What and When You Need to Outsource Your Small Business Tasks

You may be one of the small business owners who think that they can take care of all their business activities. Of course, you can, but it may become difficult for you to focus more on your core business activities. You can outsource few tasks to vendors who can effectively execute and you can also leverage the cost-effectiveness of outsourcing.

Outsourcing certain tasks is like lending a helping hand to perform your business activities effectively. You can get twice the work done in the same amount of time if you can choose a good provider.

What tasks to outsource?
Take some time and carefully think what tasks you want to outsource. Remember, don’t outsource tasks that are the core areas of your business. Core areas should be given more of your time, because they are your strengths.

Consider outsourcing tasks that you are not professionally competent though you might have some knowledge. For example, book-keeping, call answering, social media management, web design and maintenance and other tasks that are specific to your business requirements. By doing this you can reprioritize tasks.

When to outsource tasks?
Small businesses in their initial days require more attention and focus. In such a crucial period if you keep focusing on small tasks like attending calls, book-keeping, etc., you may not be able to concentrate on important tasks. So, if you start outsourcing from the beginning itself it will be advantageous. By doing so, you will get adequate time to manage and operate core business activities.

Moreover, when you start a business, you might not have experienced personnel responsible for the job. But you can easily find an experienced service provider to outsource the task. For example, if you find keeping a track of your accounts difficult, you can outsource it to a book-keeping service provider.

Now that you have decided what and when to outsource your business tasks, the next thing is to find the right service provider. You can take help from your business contacts to find a suitable partner who can handle the workload on critical tasks. You could also look for word of mouth.

Outsourcing conserves time, which you could use for more productive purpose. The need of outsourcing a service varies across businesses. The need depends on the professional competence of the business owner, organization and management skills.

How to Write Effective Content for Your Small Business Website?

Small businesses need to consider having quality content on their websites as it has the potential to naturally attract quality customers to their website. Like large monitoring servicebusinesses, small businesses don’t have the luxury of large finances to implement expensive marketing strategies that bring potential customers. Writing effective content, which is easy as well as affordable, thus, helps them to get the desired results without straining their finances. In this article, we will discuss on how to write effective content for your small business website.

Original and unique content
Create content keeping in mind the expectations and needs of your target customers to make it useful. Such content is likely to attract the attention of users.

Moreover, search engines are solely focused to help users get unique content. They are, therefore, cleaning off content that is not in the interest of users. For example, Google’s Panda algorithm makes sure that content that is not original, plagiarized, not updated, full of errors of any kind is not on their result pages. Thus, only websites having original and unique content get good search engine rankings and ultimately good traffic.

Informative as well as educational
Provide content that is informative and also educative. Make sure that it is specific to your niche so that it attracts those who are looking for that information, in other words, your target audience.

It should address their concerns and help them to make proper decisions. In addition to the regular product descriptions, you can educate your customers by providing some thought leadership, insightful content that shows your authority in your niche. This kind of content builds credibility of your website and your business.

Easy to read and understand
Make sure that the content is simple to read and easy to understand. It enables all the readers – from average to highly educated, to quickly understand the point you want to convey.

Use simple and short sentences instead of long ones. Avoid using complex words and technical terms which make it difficult for average readers to understand. Easy-to-understand content is likely to interest readers and keep them engaged.

Use visual content to convey message easily
It is rightly said – ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. Visual communication has the ability to convey the message easily to the readers. Using various images like graphs, charts, info-graphics, etc., you can furnish clarity on the topic. However, avoid using heavy images and videos as they could affect the page load time which leads to poor user experience.

Small businesses are, in general, cash crunch entities. They cannot allot high budgets for marketing activities. Given the low cost for writing and managing websitesite monitoring content, it is absolutely a useful tool to promote themselves online and to attract potential customers to their website.

They can either create content on their own or can outsource it if they do not have the time and resources to write content. Many reputed and experienced companies offer content writing services that are tailor-made for small businesses, at affordable prices. They have a dedicated team of writers who can write well-researched content as per your requirements.

Protecting Yourself Online with Strong Passwords

The concept of having a password for any system is similar to a key for home. The key for home is essential in order to lock and protect personal belongings from others who are not authenticated or desired to enter home. Today, due to globalization and Internet revolution, a person may have several online properties or accounts that are as important as properties physically existing at home. Those may be e-mails, portal, website subscriptions, network servers, databases, online banking accounts, credit cards, etc. Strong passwords for these helps in having a secure and strong lock just like lock to home.

Most people, who are new to the online world, have lack of knowledge on setting up a strong password for their online accounts. But the increasing cyber crime can easily trace the passwords. And the results can be as terrible as the attack on Microsoft’s Hotmail and other web-based email services. A recent survey on these missing passwords revealed that many of the accounts had easy-to-guess passwords and the most frequently used password among these was “123456”.

Some general methods that attackers use for identifying a victim’s password include:

  • Guessing—The attacker tries to log on using the user’s account repeatedly by guessing probable or expected words and phrases like their children’s names, their birth city, and local sports teams.
  • Online Dictionary Attack—The attacker utilizes an automated program, which consists of a text file of many words. The program frequently tries to log on to the target system by testing a different word present in the text file on each attempt.
  • Offline Dictionary Attack— It is similar to the online dictionary attack, the attacker extracts a copy of the file in which the hashed or encrypted copy of user accounts and passwords are saved and runs an automated program to find out what password is used for each account. This type of attack can be finished very quickly if the attacker gains a copy of the password file.
  • Offline Brute Force Attack—This is a modified form of the dictionary attacks, and designed to discover passwords, which are not present or available in the text file used in those attacks. Even though a brute (very strong) force attack can be tried online, because of network bandwidth and latency they are generally attempted offline utilizing a copy of the target system’s password file. In a brute force attack, the attacker utilizes an automated program, which produces hashes or encrypted values for all possible passwords and analyzes them with the values in the password file.

Microsoft suggests that the use of strong passwords can slow or sometimes break the various attack methods. This shows the importance of having a strong password.

Creating a Strong password:

Passwords are case-sensitive and may be as long as 127 characters. A strong password:

  • Should never consist of user name.
  • Should be minimum of eight characters long.
  • Should compulsorily include both lower case and uppercase alphabets (minimum one from each group is suggested).
  • Should consist of minimum one number (0 to 9).
  • Should consist of at least one symbol. (Eg: *, ^, $, #)

A string, which has all the above characteristics, is known as strong password. A complex password should not be something, which is difficult to remember. Forgetting a strong or complex password, which is difficult to remember, is as harmful as getting attacked by a weak password.

The password created must be easier to remember but difficult for anybody to guess. It can also be a favorite phrase or quotation or mixture of two words. Substitutes for alphabets can also be used to satisfy the above criteria for a strong password. For example ‘a’ in password can be substituted with ‘@’, similarly ‘i’ can be replaced with ‘!’; and ‘o’ with ‘0’ or ‘()’.

It is a good practice if password is changed periodically like monthly or quarterly.