Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Executive Summary

A colleague recently passed along a link to me of some 'tools for entrepreneurs' on a website for CID Capital. As CID Capital is a venture capital firm, they frequently review business plans and are very familiar with what to look for to critique whether or not a new venture is likely to be successful. 

One of the tools that I believe is especially helpful is their executive summary outline that they require entrepreneurs to submit so that they can determine if it is something worth further pursuing with them. What is an executive summary? Well, it is a shortened version of the business plan, typically only a couple of pages long. It is a very useful tool for enabling investors, such as venture capitalists, bankers or friends & family, to be able to quickly get their arms about what it is you are trying to do -- and then determine if it is a good fit for them.

Although many business plan courses recommend that you write the executive summary last, after you have completed writing your business, I believe there is some value in starting with the executive summary. It helps you get your thoughts down on paper and forced you to be concise and really think through it all on a bigger level right away. You can also use this executive summary to get some feedback on the idea from people you trust before moving forward.

So, if you are a start-up or even a more mature venture, I strongly encourage you to check out the executive summary outline provided by CID Capital and/or one posted elsewhere. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Steps for Starting a Business

Recently, I've been searching online for potential web resources that outline the steps for starting a business. This would be helpful for someone that wants to start their own business, but isn't sure where exactly to start or what to do. Most people, in my experience, are especially anxious about the paperwork and legality side of a business -- as they usually have the business idea down pretty well.

One of the better "steps" that I found was by, which included the following:

  1. Create a Life Plan
  2. Choosing a Business Modelimage
  3. Create a Business Plan
  4. Select a Business Structure
  5. Create Key Business Assets
  6. Find the Funding
  7. Organize Logistics
  8. Find Great People
  9. Establish the Brand
  10. Market and Sell

I liked these steps because it starts out with creating a life plan, which I firmly believe in. You don't start a business just for the heck of it, it needs to fit into your life strategy. I think it is also pretty realistic in the sequence of starting a business. They offer much more detail after every step -- providing the wanna-be entrepreneur with the guidance he/she needs.

The Small Business Planner put out by the SBA is also pretty good as they focus on what is needed not only to start up the business, but also grow and eventually exit the business. They offer a specific set of steps within each of the four categories below.

  1. Plan your business
  2. Start your business
  3. Manage your business
  4. Getting out

Building on my previous post about looking for local websites when doing market research, a last source for identifying the steps for starting a business should be a local government website -- depending upon whatever state you live in. As a whole, these websites are not (in my opinion) that great for offering an overall sense of what it takes to get your business started, but they are especially useful in providing you with the paperwork and bureaucracy that needs to be taken care of. As an example, the State of Illinois offers a step-by-step process with links embedded to all the necessary government forms.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Information Overload

The good thing about the Internet is that it makes an enormous amount of information available at your fingertips.

The bad thing about the Internet is that it makes an enormous amount of information available at your fingertips. It is like going to Wal-mart to buy toothpaste and feeling a bit overwhelmed at ALL the many different kinds and choices you have -- when all you wanted to buy was just some ordinary toothpaste!

The real question then becomes -- how can you maneuver online to find good and useful information for the purposes of starting your own business? Here are just a few suggestions...

- Trade Association websites: One of the first places to look should nearly always be a trade association website. Most industries have trade associations (i.e. National Restaurant Association) and they can be a wealth of statistics, knowledge and trends -- that can very well impact the development of your business idea. To find your trade association, simply do a google search of the words 'trade association' and whatever industry it is you are entering.

- Find websites 'close to home'. For instance, if you are looking to start a business in the state of Illinois, you might look to the Illinois guide (sponsored by the state government) that includes details specific to that state. Also, check out your local Small Business Development Center or economic development corporation. It is a good place to look for local grant and loan programs that may be of help.

- Entrepreneurship-related magazines: There are many magazines geared to entrepreneurship that have a lot of up-to-date statistics, articles and help by topic that can also be a good starting point. One of my favorites is Entrepreneur Magazine.

- Try the SBA: The U.S. Small Business Administration actually has quite a bit of good, basis information to start with. Check out their small business planner.

- Get some referrals: Pick up the phone or go talk with people to find out what websites they recommend. Word of mouth is usually a great source!

How do you sift through all the information on the web?