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Start Here October '18

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S T A R T H E R E 2 0 1 8 M any an entrepreneur has had the need to seek seed money to start a business. If it didn't look like it was going to come from a wealthy rela- tive, then I'll wager a bona fide financial institution was approached. Either the rich uncle or the loan officer will likely ask for two things that are designed to raise their confidence that they are investing in a worthwhile venture. That is, some form of collateral and a comprehensive plan that outlines how the bag of money they are lending will be returned as a slightly larger bag of money in due time. That compre- hensive plan is also known as a business plan. And, at any given time, every good business should have a current one. Preparing or—hopefully, in many of your circumstances—updating a busi- ness plan is an essential step in growing a successful company. While this article's purpose is to try to cover all of the busi- ness plan components and demystify the process, it may not be all you'll need. Don't be afraid to confer with your banker, accountant, a trustworthy business advisor or mentor, business development consul- tant or other free or low-cost resources— such as your local Chamber of Commerce's SCORE program or local Small Business Development Center—for more ideas and different perspectives. Regardless of how many experts with whom you consult, make your business plan yours and yours alone. Consider that there are many variations on recipes for the same gourmet dish, and one size defi- nitely does not always fit all. Remember, you should be creating a living, breathing document—not a complicated work of art for posterity's sake. Begin the Journey Many accomplished business consul- tants believe that each version of a business plan begins and ends with a realistic operat- ing budget and sales forecast. I say "begins and ends" because the old-but-true saying goes, "if you aim at nothing, you will hit it each and every time." It's a shameful fact that most business failures could have been prevented had the owner(s) developed and followed a business plan. Assuming you're already in business, there's little reason to reinvent the wheel here. Locate last year's financial statements that you received from your accountant or small business software program. If you are just starting out, you can hold off complet- ing this step until later or use a sample model from a company similar to yours. Just don't expect a wild guess to be too accurate until after you have a year under your belt. If you have not done so already, express each line item on your Profit and Loss Statement as a percent of gross sales revenue. When you forecast next year's sales, and other budgetary line items that account for cost of goods sold and fixed and variable expenses, you may want to keep those percentages consistent. That should certainly be true if that formula produced a profit at year's end in the past. It's now a great time to take a breather from the number-crunching to describe GO WRITE PAINLESSLY A Business Plan, Vince DiCecco is a business training and development consultant and owner of the Acworth, Georgia-based busi- ness, Your Personal Business Trainer, Inc. He is also a dynamic and sought-after seminar speaker and author—with particular interest in business man- agement/development and marketing subjects. With over 38 years experience in sales, marketing and train- ing, Vince works with many small- to mid- sized businesses that are looking to sharpen their competitive edge, nurture customer loyalty, improve profitability, and strive for sustained growth and market dominance. He may be reached by email at vince@ypbt.com or via his website, www.ypbt.com. By Vince DiCecco 8

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