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How to Write a Winning Business Plan

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Creating a business plan that attracts investors and lenders takes time, research, and dedication. You can use a small business plan template to guide you through the process, but it takes much more than filling in the blanks to build a winning business plan. 

A great business plan doesn’t just follow the right format; it also persuades the reader that you’ve completed all the groundwork and have cultivated a foundation for success. It gets investors excited about what you have to offer and incentivizes them to help you succeed. 

But of course, writing a great business plan is easier said than done. If you’re a small business owner, chances are you’ve never written a business plan and are unsure of where to begin or where to end. But no matter what your level of expertise is, with the right steps, you can create a winning business plan that helps you secure much-needed funding. Here’s what you need to know:

Let Templates Teach the Basics

You can learn a lot from online business plan templates. These templates provide you with the structure you need to create an easy-to-follow business plan. Lenders and investors are accustomed to reading business plans that follow the rules. For instance, this is the standard Table of Content for a business plan: 

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Company Details
  3. Market Analysis
  4. Customer Analysis
  5. Competitor Analysis
  6. Marketing Plan
  7. Operations & Logistics Plan
  8. Management Team
  9. Financial Plan
  10. Appendix

Although it’s important to customize your plan, it’s equally as important to abide by business plan protocols that investors are familiar with. If you deviate from the norm, your business plan could prove difficult to read or compartmentalize. Use existing templates as a resource to keep your business plan on track.

Get Your Numbers Right

The financial section of your business is instrumental in your ability to secure funding. No matter how solid your business plan is, you need the numbers to back it up. Your financials justify every other section of your business plan and if there are any glaring mistakes or miscalculations, you could easily come across as unorganized, unprepared, or ill-informed. Sloppy calculations have the potential to discredit all the hard work you’ve put into your business plan. 

Your financial section should include your income statement, cash flow statement, and balance statement. Not to be confused with accounting, your financial plan should be based on forecasting—using data to determine what your numbers will look like in the future. 

To create a credible financial forecast, be realistic. While investors would love to see a financial graph whose lines skyrocket to the top of the page, it can also be seen as a red flag. Be realistic about your numbers. And although accounting isn’t the same as financial analysis or projection, you should involve your accountant, bookkeeper, or other financial professional to assist you with this section. 

Highlight Your Marketing Strategy

The old adage—“if you build it, they will come”—doesn’t apply in the world of small business. The marketing strategy section of your business plan details exactly how you plan to get in front of your target market and generate sales. The goal of this section is to provide your readers with a high-level overview of the tactics and strategies you’ll use to achieve your goals. 

Your marketing plan should include a list of your products and/or services, the promotions you’ll use to build brand awareness, the price point of your products, and how you’ll distribute your products. 

This is an area where you should be as specific as possible. For instance, if you’re partnering with an award-winning advertising agency, mention this. If you’re collaborating with an established brand, include this. Any methods you plan to use in your marketing efforts should be mentioned here. This could include paid advertising, influencer marketing, social media, and more. 

Hire a Business Plan Service or Freelancer

As previously mentioned, you might not be the best at writing business plans. Perhaps your writing skills aren’t good or you struggle to distance yourself from the passion you feel towards your business. 

That’s where a business plan writer or editor comes in handy. If you want someone to write your business in its entirety, it’s best to hire a specialized firm or professional independent business plan writer. Always review testimonials and reviews before you agree to work with anyone. 

If you feel confident about the business plan you’ve written, you can hire a freelancer to help you edit it and identify any areas for improvement. Alternatively, you can also outsource specific portions of your business plan, like your finance or market research section. 

Peer Review

After you’ve taken the time to have your business plan edited and screened for accuracy, consider putting your plan in front of a fresh pair of friendly eyes. This could be a trusted friend, family member, or colleague. Chances are they won’t be professionals, but they can help you understand whether your message can be understood in simple terms. 

If you’ve ever written something and read it over and over again, only to find that someone else has spotted mistakes, you know the feeling. Or if you’ve ever had an idea that you thought was the greatest idea in the world until someone explained why it wouldn’t work, you know exactly how important it is to share your work. 

After your reader goes through your plan, ask them the following questions: 

  • What does my business do?
  • How will my business make money?
  • How is my business different from competitors? 
  • What strategies are in place to reach my target market?
  • Who is my ideal customer?

Pay attention to how your peers answer these questions. If they’re confused or if they provide inaccurate answers, you might want to revisit the appropriate sections and make some adjustments. 

Right for You

Ultimately, your business plan is designed to help you raise money to grow your business. But don’t forget—your business plan is also for you. Even if you never use your business plan to get a loan or land an investor meeting, this well-documented manifesto can help guide you for years to come. Your business plan will help you stay on track, provide accountability to you and other members of your management team, and act as a reference point for financials and milestones. When your business plan is finally complete, you’ll feel much more confident about the future of your business.

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10 Software Tools to Keep Your New Business Documentation Organized

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When it comes to documenting SOPs, training materials and other important internal business processes, what’s one tool or software (not your own) that you would recommend new business owners use, and why?

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.

1. Google Docs

Stay simple and use Google Docs. With direct edits and commenting features, it’s easier than ever to constantly improve upon your living documents. That way, your SOPs can continue to evolve along with your business.

Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep Mattress

2. Loom

You can use Loom, or a similar screen-recording software, to record short videos for your team and create sections within the platform to optimize your SOPs and onboard new hires. Video information is easier to retain for most and is also easier to look up again and parse out. Certain processes are timeless and can also be used if someone needs to take over a process in an emergency.

Matthew Capala, Alphametic

3. GitBook

Although Google Docs is an elegant and convenient resource, I think GitBook might be the next best thing. It’s far more functional than a simple Google Doc, since it allows you to structure your SOP more like a wiki page or a full website instead of a handful of files in a folder.

Bryce Welker, Testing.org

IT documentation

4. JobRouter

JobRouter is one tool that I love using for documentation purposes. It helps you manage your documents from creation, editing, approval, release and distribution. It also integrates beautifully with Microsoft Word for ease of use.

Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

5. Process Street

When documenting SOPs, Process Street is a great option. It’s a user-friendly process management software that allows you to create, track and schedule workflows. It also lets you create checklists, collaborate with your team, capture data and more so you have full control over your processes.

Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

6. Trainual

Trainual is a software that helps business teams run internal processes faster, better and smoother. A pain businesses face is maintaining performance as teams are assembled, grow, mature and are refreshed. The onboarding process is one process that plays a significant role in growing and refreshing teams but, if botched, organizational performance suffers. Trainual focuses on that onboarding.

Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS

7. Trello

While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for distributing official materials, an excellent system for organizing, commenting on and discussing internal documents among multiple teams is Trello. Trello allows you to share, sort and comment on documents in an easy-to-manage system. With their team functions, you can also ensure only those who need the materials will have unrestricted access.

Salvador Ordorica, The Spanish Group LLC

IT project management

8. systemHUB

One tool that I love using for any documentation purpose is systemHUB. It lets you integrate your existing project management software and continue working on it. You can replicate the existing documents or start from scratch as per your requirement. You can also share it with your team and do a lot more.

Josh Kohlbach, Wholesale Suite

9. ETQ

The most important thing about document control software is retrieving what you need when you need it. I like ETQ because it streamlines the entire process from document creation through retrieval and training. ETQ lets you set up permissions for employees to access the information they need and automation to notify employees of upcoming/pending training.

Matthew Podolsky, Florida Law Advisers, P.A.

10. Your Own Internal Wiki

Create your own internal wiki. There are many plug-and-play WordPress templates that are easy to use and pre-built to act as an internal wiki. Allocate a login to each employee, categorize content and use hashtags to make your SOPs and other processes easily searchable.

Chase Williams, Market My Market

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How Startup Studios are Bringing New Ideas to the Startup Space

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By Startup Studio Insider

Even as businesses have struggled through COVID-19, investors have been eagerly bringing capital to startups with the hope that new and fresh businesses will catch on and become the latest and greatest success. This influx of capital is primarily due to the exponential growth of new investment models that have exploded into the mainstream in the last five years. It is these new funding models that are helping connect entrepreneurs with investors who fit their wants and needs.

This new phenomenon of the ‘perfectly matching’ entrepreneur is a beautiful symbiosis capable of helping startups avoid risk, increase efficiency, and continue business development in a forward trend.

In this explosion of entrepreneur-startup matching, startup studios have developed almost a cult following. As many entrepreneurs have strong ideas, but lack the experience, finances, or team to bring them to fruition, studios provide a sort of safety net, capable of helping entrepreneurs deal with business and operational aspects, leaving them the time necessary to focus on ideas. With this initial investment, the special teams behind startup studios are mobilizing to mitigate risk for new businesses and help entrepreneurs focus on what matters most.

Startup studios are a critical competent of the startup and entrepreneurial space due to their capabilities to usher new ideas and practices into the industry. As this model continues to change the startup space as we know it, take a look at the list below to learn more about how a startup studio can single-handedly turn any entrepreneurial project into a juggernaut.

A Concrete and Singular Vision

Startup studios are built to do one thing and one thing well: build companies from the ground up. As this is the core initiative of these studios, they are better equipped than any other organization to take an entrepreneur from initial idea stages all the way to launch and beyond.

Because of this singular focus, startup studios are in the business of churning out these business over and over again. What this means is that they have not only repeated the process many times, but also standardized it down to a science. They’ve experienced every step of the process, and can often forewarn against roadblocks or concerns inexperienced entrepreneurs would plow headlong into.

Complete Operational Guidance

With the repetition behind the core of startup studios, they have a layer of shared resources which allow for a more rapid development and faster growth process than many other incubators or accelerators. From strategy playbooks to cross-collaborative teams, processes, and backing, these resources have allowed companies to take their development to the next levels.

Additionally, startup studios are invested in the process of developing a product beyond its launch. As such, many studios have developed programs to share resources and guidance beyond the launches from the startup studio and into the spaces beyond them.

Startup team doing planning

Oversight on Strategy

As startup studios are deeply entrenched in the day-to-day operations of their projects from the very start, especially when compared to incubators and venture capital firms, they are more capable of providing strategic oversight than other investment styles.

By utilizing a repeated process, as well as the experience of the entire team, these studios are capable of developing plans from the start, and imparting wisdom and experience onto younger entrepreneurs. This strategic guidance has been cited by many who’ve gone through the startup studio ecosystem as one of the most essential tools they’ve taken away from their experiences.

While the startup studio model is not for everyone, it is a true partnership that provides more than just financial backing. A studio is a great model for entrepreneurs who thrive off of teamwork and collaboration, and who may be looking to deepen their experience and learnings. While they can require flexibility and trust in their studio’s guidance, they are often a critical tool in pushing startups to the next level.

As the old adage goes, if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. If you want to truly take your idea to the next level, consider developing it under the help and guidance of a startup studio. For more on startup studios, be sure to check out Startup Studio Insider, the newest journal providing daily insights into the startup studio space.

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5 Mistakes Business Owners Make When They Open a New Dental Clinic

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Starting a dental clinic is a daunting task, especially for young, budding entrepreneurs. The medical equipment can be pricey, putting the owner at great financial risk. Because of that, planning is a crucial step of the process that can save you a lot of money and stress down the line. Luckily, even if you don’t have experience running a business, you can learn most of these things.

photo credit: Tima Miroshnichenko / Pexels

With that in mind, here are the five mistakes business owners make when they open a new dental clinic:

1. Hiring Too Quickly

Due to high expenditures, business owners tend to rush the initial processes when opening a clinic. Hiring the right staff is crucial for your success, but unfortunately, some entrepreneurs make a decision for all the wrong reasons.

As a way of cutting expenses, lots of owners will hire young professionals straight out of school. Sometimes, they will put them on probation even if they have experience. When the time comes to hire them as full-time employees, they might not have enough loyalty to stay with your organization.

Having enough experience is crucial for dentists, but you also need to consider if this person is the right fit. Business owners neglect long-term plans and team suitability for short-term financial goals. Hiring a reputable professional is usually a better idea as it will bring stability to your team.

2. Not Creating a Beautiful Website

Word-of-mouth marketing was always crucial for companies, and it is especially important for small businesses such as dentistry. Unfortunately, getting those first clients is always a choir.

Many owners neglect the power of promotion, thinking that it’s enough to have a good service. However, unless you’re able to attract those initial patients, you will never be able to scale the business.

Having a great website is important as it sets up the basis for search engine optimization. Down the line, it will help you reach more people through Google. But it also works as a digital business card. Like your clinic, the website needs to be clean and to instill confidence in potential patients.

3. Ignoring Search Engine Optimization

Performing search engine optimization or SEO is a time-consuming job. However, small local companies can achieve great results in just a few months.

According to several professionals that conduct dental SEO by Dental Marketing Guy, local search engine optimization is an ideal way of promoting dental services to your local community. When a person looks for medical experts in their home city, your clinic should appear at the top of Google search pages. By investing some money in this promotional activity, you can get thousands of new clients in a short time.

Among others, search engine optimization is great for branding. Unlike other digital marketing activities, such as pay-per-click, the SEO results will remain even when you stop paying for the service.

Dental assistant working on a laptop

4. Not Having a Stellar Customer Service Plan in Place

We can argue that customer service is more important for dental clinics than most other businesses. This is because lots of patients are anxious before treatments and exams. Like with any other medical procedure, a person wants to be certain they’re in good hands.

Most patients are willing to pay extra for premium dental services. However, if you have poor customer service, it can dissuade them from giving you a chance. Even if they visit your clinic once, they might not return.

Retaining a patient is especially important in dentistry. Like with some other services, a patient is willing to travel long distances to perform an exam at the same clinic. Once a person chooses a dentist, they will likely return to the same person for most of their lives. And the lifetime value of one patient can be high.

5. Not preparing for the unexpected

Similar to other businesses, dental practices are subject to inherent business risks. For example, an equipment malfunction can set you back for months. In some situations, it might take weeks before you can get back to business. Losing a staff member can also be a major problem.

Although you cannot avert some potential issues, you need to have a contingency plan. First off, a business owner needs to have a healthy cash flow to cover any unexpected expenditures. Having debt is normal for dental offices, but you need to reduce liabilities as soon as possible.

One way to protect yourself is by getting insurance. Certain policies can cover dental practice overhead and provide you with income when you go on a hiatus.

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