Author Archives: Andrew Blaine

When the “Honeymoon” is over – Why the Plan is so Important

In this blog I want to explain how having a comprehensive business plan can help business owners once the glitter has worn off and the business has become a reality, complete with all is beauty and ugliness, dimples and warts, trials and rewards.

Too many people start out without a plan and, when times get tough (as it with certainty will), many of these people simply get going, leaving their dreams, efforts and money strewn on the floor or, more likely, in the hands of false friends whose only wish was to separate them from their money, and damn the dreams.

With a business plan which truly reflects your dream and how you originally planned to bring it into the light, you have a map on which you can:

  • Ensure your dream and purpose reflect your initial criteria in the business world of “noise” and interference;
  • Measure your purpose against actuality and identify where you have misjudged your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats;
  • Adjust your plan, purpose and dream to ensure you are best equipped to face each new situation and before the situation rips them from your control and forces you to follow, rather than lead, your business into the night and through those dark times; and
  • Choose the best way forward through the dark times of struggle and threat back into the light of growth and success.

Your business plan must be the tool guiding you to stay on the high road. There will be times when you doubt yourself, your business, your co-workers, and your future. In those dark times it is always easier if you have an emotional anchor on which you can rely for guidance and support. This anchor should be your business plan.

I recommend that you keep your business plan handy at all times. At least quarterly (or more regularly when times are tough) you should compare the projections you made in the original plan with the real situation. By doing this you will be able to:

  • Anticipate problems and challenges and prepare to address and avoid/resolve them; and
  • Adjust your projections in line with the changes that have occurred in reality.

One example to show where this form of management was successful occurred some years ago in South Africa, where a large company decided to enter the glass bottle business. Their initial planning determined a need for three refractories producing bottles to be built on three different sites around the country and the most appropriate time frame was that each would be separated by a period of three years.

In reality, the market off take was double their projected size . Within 18 months of commissioning the first refractory was operating at 100% of capacity and the demand remained very strong. The nett result was that the overall plan had to be accelerated, with commensurate increase in pressure on cash flow and management capabilities. Eventually the project was condensed form 9 t 5 years, by which time all three operations were commissioned and operating successfully.

Fortunately it was possible for the company to meet these challenges. By being aware of the situation the necessary funding was secured to meet the additional cash flow demand. Without this early warning and with some astute and courageous mangement a potential disaster from an overloaded cash flow demand was avoided and the opportunity successfully idetntified and developed.

For this reason I strongly recommend that a formal, written business plan should be part of all management tool kits and it should always be available and used to measure progress in business life.

Have fun, do good and contribute to your society as best you can. Always remember that you reap from what you have sown.

 

 

Finding Your Path

Todays topic could be, equally well, entitled “The Way Forward” but, in many cases, that can only be planned once the start point has been defined and identified and, sometimes, this is the most difficult point of all. We need to consolidate before we move forward.

The process of Finding Your Path goes through the following steps:

  1. Determining where you are right now (CONSOLIDATION);
  2. Finding what you WANT to do in the next phase. In other words, defining the next life step you would choose (REVIEWING);
  3. Identifying what it is that you are most likely to succeed in doing (ASSESSING);
  4. Bridging the gap between 1 and 2 above (DECIDING); and
  5. Choosing which option defined in 3 above most suits you at this stage in your life (PLANNING).

It is important to understand that life will not allow any of us a smooth and trouble-free path. It may seem that some people are blessed with such a life but, in reality, they simply are better at hiding their concerns than the rest of us. Everybody who did not start out in the Garden of Eden will experience trials and tribulations, highs and lows, triumphs and disasters and it this simple fact that makes life so very interesting.

Let us start on our journey by finding out what you want to do:

CONSOLIDATION

This step involves consolidating by appreciating what has been achieved and what has not been completed and remains outstanding. This can be achieved through completing the following steps:

  1. Compiling a “bucket list” is the first task you need to complete on this journey. If this process means nothing to you source a copy of the film by the same name and enjoy some escape time during which you will learn and enjoy;
  2. Once you have your bucket list you need to do some self-assessment with the aim of understanding how your past efforts  and the lessons you have learned have equipped you to take the next step. If this process is done correctly, then  your next phase in life will become clear and well defined. Once this has been realised, you can then set about preparing yourself to move on;
  3. This preparation will show you what you need to learn, what tools you will need and what skills will be necessary so that you can successfully complete the next phase you have chosen.
  4. The first three steps will allow you  to identify what you wish to achieve and what you will need to achieve it.
  5. The final step is planning how you will realise this next goal.

When you have finished to consolidation process you should:

  1. Know where you have come from and where you are at present; and
  2. Know what you need to sort out, learn or obtain before you can commence on the next phase of your journey through life;

You will notice there is no time limit to this process, because making a timetable limits the enjoyment to be derived from undergoing the process.

REVIEWING

In this step  you should undertake a programme which leads you to define what you are capable of completing successfully and what you are not yet capable, or confident,  of completing.

As we go through life our abilities and experience grow and change,  and this leads to changing priorities, desires, goals and needs. It is important that we re-examine these aspects of our personality whenever we reach the end of a life phase. If we do then our journey has a greater chance of progressing successfully – if we dont the opposite happens.

To achieve this level of understanding it is important that you match your likes, abilities, strengths and needs with your planned goals and objectives. Evaluating who/what you are and what makes you happy, excited, passionate and determined will lead you to the revelation of your way forward and to identify and define your next step. ths speed at which you manage this process depends on you and how much you look forward to your further development. There will  come a time in your life when you feel you want, or need, to slwo down. My hope for you is that this stage only hasppens when you have realised most of your younger dreams and aspirations.

DECIDING

Once you have consolidated and reviewed, you should then feel confident in deciding which route you now wish to follow and what goal you now wish to achieve.

In reality this situation involves the assessment of a number of competing options and your task is to choose the option that matches most closely your amibtions, abilities and desires.  If you have done the consolidation and review processes properly, the step is not difficult. It will, however, display any weakness in your preceing processes. This is not a problem because the end is seldom realised  without revision and re-evaluation. To really satisfy youself, this review and amendment process will lead to the most appropriate result.

PLANNING

Once you have completed the first three steps you will know:

  • Where you have come from;
  • Where you are in your life journey;
  •  Where you want to go on the next phase; and
  • What you wish to achieve during this journey.

The objective of this step is to work out HOW you will realise your already defined goals during this phase of your life journey.

We have developed a programme which will guide you through this process. Every time you reach the end of a life phase, the process needs to be completed and our programme will be there to guide and assist you throiugh the process.If you are intereste, just contact us and we will help you out. It should be great fun and most exciting.

In the last 10 years, in South Africa,  Nissan produced an advertising jingle which is, in this instance, most appropriate : “Life’s a Journey – enjoy the ride”. We hope you follow this advice.

 

Governance – What is it?

Do you remember when you first thought about a business idea? The process probably followed this developmental path:

  • You thought about the idea itself and how it would work in reality;
  • Then you thought about how you would conduct business, and what you would have to do to get the business running; and
  • thirdly, you considered whether you can do the whole shebang of getting your idea up and running as a buainess all by yourself and, if not, then who would you try to get to work with you.

Governance covers the second point above – it is a set of rules that determines how we conduct our business in our chosen marketplace. It operates at every level of business, from international trading activities between states and multi-national businesses, down to the internal workings of the smallest, one-person micro-business. It is both written and verbal in nature, but should be written and regularly modified as the business evolves. In so doing we ensure that it remains constant and relevant to the real life situation.

Governance is applied to business so that everybody realises they are operating on a level and equal market “playground”. The greatest benefit we derive from Governance is the knowledge that our business activities are subject to both scrutiny and oversight, which limits our exposure to being the subject of confidence tricksters, and we know what is expected of us in our chosen marketplace.

Firstly there is Externally Applied Governance which is made up of rules imposed on business by other entities (normally organs of state). These include:

  • Governmental.   Government of a country should, ideally, create a marketplace, in which business can start, grow and develop. Many governments  want to “fiddle” with this model, but the inevitable result of this “fiddling” is a negative reaction and reduction in business success. However, in creating the marketplace, Government must draw up a set of rules that define the basic philosophy that will operate in that marketplace. These rules are essential for the health of the marketplace, and form Governmental Governance.
  • Societal .   Every society has a set of rules that control behaviour in that society. As there are almost as many types of society as there are peoples, there are an equal number of rule sets. These rule sets are Societal Governance and, together with Governmental Governance for the basis on which External Corporate Governance of a marketplace is determined.

The purpose of this form of Governance is to ensure that the State realises its portion of our income that it then uses to grow the marketplace for the benefit of all society. The societal governance is there to ensure that business in the marketplace operates in line with the morals and philosophical beliefs of the society that created that marketplace.

Secondly there is Internally Applied Governance. This form of governance  we traders impose on both ourselves and those who work with us on our business. The prupose of this form of Governance is to ensure that the business operates according to philosophical and moral principles which are important to the business owners and, further, that there is a set of rules by which those people working with and for us are made aware of what we want and need from our businesses rather than what they think we want and need. Governance at this level originates from:

  • The Owner/Originator/Shareholders.   This group of people (which can be an individual) has their own needs and demands from their business. Also they need to determine the extent to which they are prepared to delegate their authority, and how they will control the use of this delegated authority, in the business.  This is normally covered by the conditions included in the Founding Documents or Articles of Association of the business.
  • The Directorate or Board of Directors. This group is selected by those who own the business. They operate “at the pleasure of” the owners. Their function is to oversee and guide the establishment and development of the business entity and, in an attempt to enhance business operation, lay down and delegate their authority to the Management of the  business. The Board of Directors determine how the  business will operate and sets goals and targets to be realised by the business. However, they will not determine the day-to-day management and implementation of their own decisions – this is done by management. Again, the appropriate manual in wihch the Directors manage and control their business is the Operations Manual.
  • Business Management.  This group is selected, generally by the Board of Directors,  to oversee the implementation and management of the policy decisions made by the Owners and delegated to the Board of Directors, who then further delegate them to the Management of the business.  This delegation is normally managed by the compilation and implementation of Standard Operating Procedures, which form part of the Operations Manual, and is regularly supplemented by both verbal and written notices down the chain.

Now we know what Governance is and where it applies, the next question should be “Why governance, what is in it for me? Watch this space!

 

 

Researching your Business Opportunity

After actioning parts 1 and 2 of “What to Look for in Choosing a Business Planning Consultant” you will, by now, have found your planning consultant. It is important that this person explains to us how business operates, both generally, and specifically in our own marketplace.  Once that has been completed, we need to explain our idea and its application in the real World. To do this we must understand everything about our idea and its application. This means that we need to understand how to go about researching our new business opportunity. I have written a book (page type not e-type!!!) which covers the process in detail but, in short, we need to take the following route when identifying whether our idea is simply an impossible dream or a potential business opportunity.

Step 1.   Evaluate our idea

When evaluating our own idea, it is essential that we are as objective as possible. The more subjective we become the greater the risk  will be that we over value our own input and potential. Conservatism MUST be our watchword at all times. To evaluate our idea we need answers to the following:

  • Consider the market in which the business will operate – are they ready for it?
  • Is now the right time to start such a business?
  • Is the necessary infrastructure available and in place?
  • What support services are neeeded and are they available right now?
  • How long will the idea remain relevant? Can we make sufficient from it to make the effort worthwhile?
  • How does the idea blend with our own vision of where we want to be in 5/10/15/20 years time?
  • Do we really want to undertake this as a way to spend our life over the next period? Can we REALLY commit to the project?
  • How will we manage the process of transforming our idea into reality, and what help wil we need?
  • How does our idea help or improve the life of those for whom it will be attractive?
  • How does our idea improve the life of our society at large?
  • What other pre-conditions are necessary for our idea to be a success?
  • What factors would seriously harm of impede the success of our idea once transformed into a live business?

All these questions must be considered and, eventually, answered. The information examined out there is in plain sight and waiting for us to find and collect it. Once collected we can then interpret it and make it part of our plan. However, it first must be found.

Step 2:  Choose our Management Team. As people we all have both expertise and limitations.  It is very likely that we are going to need help from other people as co-workers, partners, advisors, customers, suppliers and/or financiers. To make our business grow, we will probably need to work with other people. This means that we must address the following questions:

  • Our initial job description will change and we will need to manage these people as well as doing the actual job. Do we want this?
  • Where are our strengths and what are our weaknesses? How will we manage our weaknesses to ensure our success?
  • Are there other people we know who we would trust to assist, guide and check us so that we produce our best and stay on the right track?
  • Where will we find the expert knowledge we need to make our opportunity a truly potential business?
  • How will we manage our management team to ensure that we all remain on the same page ?
  • What will we do if one of our management team decides they want out?
  • Will we employ or offer equity to members of our management team?
  • If equity, how much and how will it be valued?

With these answers we can then explain  to others our idea, its place in life and who and how we plan to bring it to reality.

The above will set us on to the best road to the transformation of our ida into a business venture. In the next post, I will address the challenge of financial projection.

 

The Operations Manual

Before we start our new business, we sit and think, ponder and plan, scratch and scheme, until we can visualise exactly what we want to do, where we want to get to in our busness and, in the end, how we are going to get there. Is that a fair summary of what you have  been doing?  Well keep at it and dont stop. “Time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted” goes the old soldiers mantra, and it also applies to business.

Eventually, after a considerable time preparing and planning our business, there is nothing more to do but get on the road to business success. We set off. Normally, we do this by giving up all other activities and concentrating completely on our new baby – and yes you men out there, that is what it becomes. It is at this stage that YOU NEED TO START YOUR OPERATIONS MANUAL.

“Why????” I can hear you shout, “I know what is going on and really dont have the time to spend on this non-essential”. Well here are some good reasons:

  • The sooner you start, the more effective and relevant will your manual be;
  • Although you are doing everything, it is certain that, in time, you will expand to the stage that you cannot take on all the work you could. If you want to continue expanding you need to employ assistance. Then you need to ensure that your new assistants do as you want them to do, not what they think you want them to do.
  • The existence and use of an Operations Manual will add up to 30% to the value of your business when you have reachede your desired goal.
  • Your training time and personal involvement in training and bringing new staff members on board will be minimised; and
  • Your business will run properly, even when you are on holiday!!!

How do you start?

  1. Buy a diary, preferably a “page-a-day” type, and put it on your desk;
  2. At the end of each day, enter into your diary each challenge you faced and conquered that day, what it involved and how you conquered it;
  3. At the end of each month extract challenges and solutions and copy them into a different file under section headings, making sure you continually update and replace old solutions with new.
  4. AS your business gorws, make each department head do the same thing. Each quarter hold a meeting and update the overall Operatrions Manual so that everybody knows how to solve every challenge.

You now have an Operations Manual for your business.

I would suggest that you use the following Manual Sections as it will cover every aspect of your business:

  • Governance and Management;
  • New Product (Service) Development;
  • Marketing and Sales Policies;
  • Operations Policies;
  • Customer Care;
  • Human Resources;
  • Stock Management;
  • Money Management;
  • IT Policies.

Some of these may not fit into your specific business,  but they should cover most businesses.

So now you know where to start so, even if your business has already been going for some time, you can set about creating your Operations Manual immediately. Once it is in place you will find that you can take that month holiday without having to always be on the other end of a telephone. Have fun and enjoy working ON your business.

 

The BPSS Programme Options

When we are approached to compile a business plan, we remind the client that we are compiling their business plan, not our business plan for their business. This means that both BPSS and the client need to contribute to the final plan. Thus we have three options that we offer our clients.

Option 1The Whole Shemozzle

In this option, BPSS:

  • guides the client through the process of estabishing the business, establishing the clients wishes and vision for the business, their likes and dislikes,  and as much relevant information as possible;
  • prepares a set of financial projections, based on information gained from the client which is supplemented by our own research and knowledge of the industry and business. These projections are then discussed with the client to ensure both parties are talking the same language;
  • Writes the written plan, which supports the financial projections and presents the wishes and input from the client as we understand it;
  • Discusses the plan with the client and revises it to meet the clients needs;
  • Sources potential funders for the business, which could support and assist the cient in establishing and developing their business;
  • Acts as advisor to the client when the client presents the plan to potential funders, ensuring that the funder understands the financial projections and the vision ancd intent of the client.

Once the funding is sourced, it is our hope that we can continues to guide the client through the risky initial three year period of life of the business.

Option 2 – The Plan

In this option we follow the same process as in Option 1, excluding the relationship with the client after handing over the final plan. This option best suits clients with their own financial advisor or source of funding.

Option 3 – the Helping Hand

In this option the majority of the work rests on the shoulders of the client, and BPSS acts as an advisor the whole way through.

  • After the initial interview and explanation between BPSS and the client, the client is given a questionnaire to complete;
  • On completion, the questionnaire is discussed by both parties and refined. thereafter, financial projections are drawn up by BPSS and the resulting figures passed to the clien with a template on which the business plan is to be compiled;
  • The client compiles the plan and sneds a copy to BPSS for reading and moderation/comment. The moderated plan is returned to the client and the client then finalises the plan and proceeds to seek financing.
  • BPSS remains available to offer guidance and advice, if needed.

Each of these options is offered to every client and we also offer to assist on an hourly basis to those who are further along the road to establishing their own business empire.

Enjoy your planning, it can bring so much pleasure and self assurance, even when money is in very short supply. If you need our help or advice contact us. Our desire is to assist as many budding millionaires as possible in this wonderful world of ours. Go out there and do it!

 

What to Look for in a Business Planning Consultant – Part 2

In part 1 we looked at the qualities/attributes we should be able to identify in a good Business Blanning Consultant. In summary, I expect them to listen to me, consider my situation, offer advice that will lead me to a clearer understanding of what, exactly, I am trying to achieve and want to do, then, finally, put together MY plan, which will probably be supplemented by their own knowledge, experience and research.

In this part, I think  it may help to describe the process I follow when interacting with a client. While my approach is not definitive, I find that, through  following the complete process, both of us (my client and I) are aware of what is happening and constantly confirming that the path we are following is in accordance with the mental picture (vision) the client has chosen.

The process I follow is as summarised below:

Step 1.  I discuss the business opportunity with the client, so that both of us have approximately the same understanding of the vision. Then Itry to establish “why”. The purpose almost inevitably is “to make money” but the reason the client has chosen this option is of greater importance and value to both of us as the “making of money has been found to be insufficient to ensure long term success of a  business enterprise.

Step 2.  I then commit my understanding of the situation and needs of my client to writing, in the form of a proposal. Here I can confirm my understanding  of the situation and the needs of the client, detail the cost and how I expect payment,and identify the research that I need to complete before the plan is compiled. The client gets to appreciate my understanding of the situation and correct aspects on which we differ and also where we agree, and is also in a position to plan payments so that our relationship starts out on a firm footing.

Step 3.  Once the proposal is accepted, a meeting takes place between the client and I at which the following matters are discussed. This discussion results in both of us being “on the same page” when the plan is compiled and limits the potential for misunderstanding:

Point 1.  The Evolution of Business. A business starts out with the owner doing everything and, over time,  develops into a multi-facetted conglomerate. I feel the client needs to understand the steps which must be completed on this journey and the specialisation that takes place in the evolution.

Point 2. The Small Business Owners “Hats”. Every business owner wears seven “hats” as part of their responsibility. These are the different personalities adopted by the business owner to make sure their business succeeds. They are The Technician, the Manager, The Visionary, The Accountant, The Marketer, The Leader and,finally, The Steward.

Point 3. The Planning Philosophy. In my opinion, a business without customers is an oxymoron. Thus, the core requirement for success is the presence of satisfied customers. Any business plan must be founded on the principle that ” the Customer is King”. For success, the plan needs to address this aspect before any other requirement is considered.

Point 4.   The “Buying” Decision. Here the process of buying is considered in depth through the medium of a Flow Chart. Then the structure of the business plan is super-imposed on the flow chart. From this basis the total business entity can be examined in detail and a meaningful and effective plan results.

Once these points are addressed, the client is then presented with a questionnaire to complete, based on the philosophy described above. This questionnaire becomes the skeleton of the business plan.

I follow this process with every client as even those with extensive business experience could be limited if there is not uniformity in our combined thinking process. The corollary is that it is difficult for me to compile an effective plan without the necessary empathy between me and my client.

In the next part I will address the research process required for a successful business plan to evolve. I hope this post assists and look forward to your comments, questions and opinions.

 

What to Look for in a Business Planning Consultant – Part 1

The business of planning is similar to the life of Don Quixote, the Spanish knight best remembered for charging windmills. There will be many windmills out there and you need to be certain you are not charging one, sometimes they really do resemble the enemy.

Let us paint a common picture – you have the best idea in the World, need financial assistance to get it going but have no idea how to compile a business plan. What next? While talking to your friends, all of whom have their own opinion of your idea and their personal expert on business establishment, you end up beoming confused and often disheartened. But the idea keeps bugging you, so you go to your banker. He/she tells you that you need a  business plan and, sometimes, gives you forms to complete indicating your current financial state and how much money you think you will need.

Then you decide to look for an Expert – often thought of as a “has-been under pressure”. What are you looking for in such a person? You need somebody who:

  • Will listen to your idea and inform you how business works?
  • Will guide you in discoverning the information you need to properly evaluate your idea as a potential business venture;
  • Will inform you that they cannot guarantee funding but will provide you with the best weapons to be used when sourcing funding; and
  • Will compile your business plan, not their interpretation of it.

Where do you find this kind of animal? If you are reading this on the Net, you are on the right track. Most consultants in this field will advertise their services on the Net, but, it is my opinion that, for best effect, you really need to sit face to face with your consultant. Without this, I feel, the right “chemistry” may be lacking and chemistry I find necessary to understanding.

In my next post I will cover the process I use with a client who needs my services. I hope you have found this helpful and will appreciate your comments, please?

 

2012 and Beyond

Welcome to my World. May 2012 deliver everything you wish for yourself and most of what you never expect to receive.

At the start of the year most of us make resolutions that we immediately forget. This year let’s be a little different – make no resolution you are not determined to see to fruition. The Mayan  advocates state that we only have until Ddecember before the “wheels completely fall off”, so we dont have too long, assuming they are correct.

So what are your resolutions for 2012? Where do you want to go and where do you see yourself being in 12 months time?