A 5 Step Value Proposition Plan, Steps 3, 4 & 5

We continue to build the value proposition that will convince clients and prospects that doing business with you helps to make them more successful in their own jobs or businesses.  Let the important customers know that they are important by soliciting their thoughts and opinions about your products and services;  let them tell you what you do that makes their work easier or more productive;  and let them tell you what else you might do that would make their work still more productive or less problematic.

Step Three is to motivate customers to sell for you.  When you demonstrate to customers that they’re on the VIP list,  they will love that feeling of importance.  They will feel even better about doing business with you and will be inclined to talk you up and make good referrals for you.  Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising,  make no mistake about it.  It will give your business tremendous credibility.

Bring your top clients behind the velvet rope and into the VIP section.  Oh, and make sure you devise a “rewards program”  for this advisory board.  Pass along a few perks to those who help you upgrade your game.  Perhaps you also can make a referral or two?

So Steps One and Two set the stage for Step Three,  when top customers deliver to you prospects who are ready to spend money.  Personally referred prospects are likely to be pleased with your services, because they will have heard about you from one whom they trust.  An expectation of success will be established.

In Step four,  incorporate what you’ve learned in the interviews done in Step Two. Implement those suggestions that make good business sense.  Make the necessary adjustments if  you get the heads up on competitive activity or changing conditions of some sort.  Don’t let your good  work go to waste.

In conversations with your customers,  what common themes emerge? Be sure to respect and value in your business practices what your customers respect and value.  For example,  let’s say you’re about ready to trim certain costs in order to stay within a particular price range—yet the VIP crowd indicates otherwise.

If leading customers crave a certain level of service,  quality of merchandise,  or style of packaging and they are willing to keep paying for it,  don’t take it away and disappoint them! Stay the course and give them what they want.  They will love you for it and show that love by handing over more money to you.

Lastly,  in Step Five acknowledge your strengths and apply them to running your business. View your strengths through the prism of a restaurant.   Are you front of the house—excelling at customer contact and relationship building,   making sales calls, networking and schmoozing,  forming strategic partnerships?  Or are you back of the house—most comfortable and effective while overseeing operations,  crunching numbers, devising long term strategies,  negotiating a lease?

Recognize where you excel.  If you work solo,  perhaps outsource what can be comfortably handed over to another party (like PR or bookkeeping).  If you are going into business with partners,  make sure that skill sets are complementary and not competing. This will make roles and  responsibilities  easier to delineate and ensure that the important bases are covered, thus improving the venture’s chances for success.

So there you have it,  5 easy pieces that will help you re-examine and re-focus your business practices,  optimize client loyalty and goodwill,  encourage referrals and the right kind of buzz and build up your bottom line.  If you can convince yourself to try the first two steps,  I guarantee that you will be impressed with the results and sold on working through the entire program.

Good luck to you,
Kim

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A 5 Step Value Proposition Plan, Steps 1 & 2

No matter what,  human beings must do business.  In feudal societies and capitalist dictatorships;  in flush times and depressions;  in war and in peace;  there will always be traders,  sellers and buyers.  Where there is a need (real or perceived),  there will be a product or service available to provide some level of fulfillment.  Someone always makes money.

The most successful sellers present the most compelling case,  i.e. the strongest value proposition,  for their product or service and  they become  market leaders.  Maybe you’d like  to position your business for that kind of success?  There will be work involved,  but nothing that is insurmountable. The process can be broken down into 5 manageable steps and implemented according to a timetable convenient for you.

Getting started is easy— ask your customers! They may know more about your business than you do.  They certainly know the market place in which your business operates,  because they navigate those waters as purchasers and consumers of the products and services offered therein.  Your customers have done their homework and they have chosen you.

Above all,  we must  value our customers and communicate that to them.  Big spenders, the VIP customers,  deserve to receive the most value.  Important customers can benefit a business in more ways than one.  They are able to become our opinion leaders,  our advisory board. These customers can play a key role in helping to grow the business. Understanding this is Step One.  Next, demonstrate your trust and respect by implementing  Step Two:  interview the VIP customers.

Identify your three biggest billable hour clients and invite those with whom you interact the most out to eat at whatever meal you can afford to buy.  Client priorities can change as their organization and business environment changes.  Organizations will change in response to economic,  leadership,  competitive and consumer preference changes.

Stay on top of things by asking your VIPs what you can do to better serve them,  help them to do business better or make their jobs easier.  You can also ask what the competition is doing,  what changes may be on the drawing board within their company, etc.  You get the idea.  You may even find out about new markets for your services.

If you can access your competitors’ customers,  take them out to coffee,  too and see what you can find out about that scene as well.  What next big thing (or old school remix) is winning the hearts and wallets of customers?

Strengthen relationships,  make important customers feel even more so,  find new business opportunities,  tweak your business model or your advertising choices and maybe even get your foot in the door with a competitor’s client. Talk less,  listen more, take notes and be humble.

Next week,  we’ll examine the remaining three steps that will help you to create a winning  value proposition for your business.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

The ROI on 2.0 Part II

This week  we take a look at the corporate-style social networking tools.

Plaxo began as an online address book for those who use Microsoft Outlook.  Plaxo Pulse is the social networking iteration—think Facebook added to LinkedIn.   On Plaxo you can create an extensive business related profile,  plus share videos and photos with professional colleagues,  personal friends and family. You can also add links to favorite websites  such as your blog,  YouTube,  Netflix,  Amazon and other social networking sites,  for easy access.

Zoominfo is an online listing service that provides comprehensive info on businesses and individuals.  It is likely that you are already in the Zoominfo database, with a nascent profile waiting to be “claimed”.

Information is compiled by scanning online listings,  press releases and websites,  which are searched and updated 24/7,  to provide the most current data on people and businesses.  You can scroll through the database,  find your name, create a profile and upload a photo.

Zoominfo power search can give a real boost to your ability to do business.  The very impressive PowerSell feature will help you prospect within just about any organization at any level, while the JobCast feature helps hiring managers ferret out qualified candidates. These services are not free,  but they just might pay for themselves when you are able to identify and contact the decision maker who can seal the deal for you.

LinkedIn is of course the big Kahuna for business networking, the gold standard against which all others are measured.  Professionals of every stripe are here, along with Freelancers and business owners.  I think of LinkedIn as an adjunct website.

You can create a profile and  make and receive recommendations that testify to your professional competency and that of your contacts. You can join networking peer groups within LinkedIn to trade info,  talk shop,  get to know people in a similar industry or with similar interests,  or re-connect with alumni from your alma mater.

You can link your blog to LinkedIn (as I have done), alert contacts to your speaking engagements and events you will attend,  research companies for prospecting and even demonstrate your expertise on a range of business topics in the Answers forum.

I’ve heard a lot about how referrals and introductions are made via LinkedIn, but I’ve yet to either meet or know of someone who has done this, nor have I experienced it myself. Still,  I find it sort of useful to participate,  although my ROI expectations are modest.

If you decide to delve into multiple 2.0 sites,  I recommend that you use Google Alert or a similar service, to let you know when someone has posted a comment to one of your profiles,  so that you can respond ASAP.   Quick response is key.  I also recommend that you use a service that will automatically post updates to all of your profiles.  You might like ping.fm.

So ROI can be derived from social networking, perhaps for some more than others.   We are in it now and there will be no turning back the clock,  so why not make the best of it?

Do what makes sense for your business,  but be mindful of the time you spend on the upkeep of this stuff.   At the end of the day,  I still say that there is no substitute for face to face networking.  It can be augmented, but not replaced, by 2.0.

Thanks for reading,
Kim

The ROI on 2.0 Part I

By this time,  nearly every Freelancer has hopped onto the social networking 2.0 bus.   As a matter of fact, a large cohort of Americans has established an online presence in some fashion, possibly even your grandparents.  Your loyal Diarist can be found on LinkedIn.

Still,  among Freelancers and other business owners, nagging little doubts about the meaning of all this will sometimes surface in our conversations.  What does social networking really do for business?   Have you ever gotten so much as a referral,  let alone an actual piece of business, through social networking? Do you know anyone who has? What is the ROI on 2.0?

It appears that much depends upon the business you are in.   Are 12-25 year olds your target market? Are you an athlete or a rock musician looking to build and connect with a fan base? Are you an author of books aimed at the teen and young adult market,  trying to grow your book sales? Do you operate a retail business that sells clothing,  anime or video games to the teen and ‘tween crowd? Then MySpace is where you want to be,  because this is where your target market hangs out.

Visual and performing artists of all types,  plus restaurants and nightclubs,  most often gravitate to Facebook. This site is also popular for personal networking,  providing a nice way to stay connected to family and friends.   Facebook is about the visual.  Here you can post photos of your latest group of paintings or sculptures;  display the bar scene on Tuesday nights at your establishment;  or show off pix of your new haircut,  the baby,  or your new puppy.  Maybe you sent out Thanksgiving greetings to those you have “friended” and will do the same at Christmas and the New Year.

To create in the moment on the ground buzz,  go to Twitter. You can put the word out about performances at your nightclub,   special events at your store,  book signings,  the waves in Perth, Australia or skateboarding at the Xtreme Games.   Wine shops can announce tastings and let customers know that Beaujolais Nouveau c’est arrive.

I even read about a woman in Belfast, Ireland who tweets these great recipes.  In 140 characters,  she will hook you up with good ideas for dinner! Twitter is best used to augment the connections you’ve made on MySpace and Facebook with microblogging. Here’s how to keep your young, short attention span crowd in the loop about interesting happenings at your business that will keep your business at top of mind.

More 2.0 next week,
Kim

Mind Your Budget

As you brainstorm survival strategies for yourself and your business, creating a budget may be a good item for the to-do list.  A good budget can help you manage costs, understand where your profit centers are (and are not) and most of all,  let you know if you’re really making money and if so, how much.

For Freelancers, the temptation is to simply add up the 1099s at the end of a quarter or year and assume that tells the story. Yet there are always costs of doing business and it is very important that we know where, how and for what purpose we are spending our money.

Do you really need to rent office space?  Is it necessary for clients to visit your office, or might it be perfectly acceptable for you to go to them?  What is the ROI on the networking events that you attend?  Be strategic and selective about the rooms you pay to enter and go to events where you get the most bang for the bucks.

After you’ve been a few times and met a few people, try cutting back to bi-monthly or even quarterly appearances.  If you want to keep in touch with colleagues in between, invite them for a coffee.

Tally your gross revenues and cast a cold eye on expenses. These are the foundation of any budget for any business, or household for that matter.  Managing expenses has a huge impact on the bottom line.  It is possible to lose money overall even if sales are strong, because you either spent too much (money or time) to make the sale or overspent on other operating and production costs.

So if you make and sell jewelry, for example, watch how you buy the raw materials.   Do you have the best available sources?  Should you buy more and stockpile inventory in order to get a better price? Pay attention to market fluctuations and buy big when prices drop.   Managing the cost of goods sold adds to your profit margin.

On the expenses side, be sure to divide fixed expenses (rent, salaries, utilities, long term payment obligations, etc.) from variable expenses (sales commissions, advertising, travel, etc.).  Make note of seasonal fluctuations.  Does business slow down in July and August—or pick up? Identify where you can trim expenses or negotiate a better deal.

Once you’ve figured out the money coming in and money going out over the past 2 or 3 years and assessed where you are,  you can then decide what financial targets you’d like to reach.   Maybe you want a certain overall profit margin on goods sold, or perhaps you’d like to have average net quarterly earnings of a certain amount?

While you’re analyzing gross revenue,  you may even discover that spending a little money will make it possible for you to make much more.  For instance, hiring an assistant at $18/hour to answer the phone,  send invoices,  deposit checks,  post transactions into a ledger or help make jewelry in preparation for Christmas or Valentine’s Day can give you more time to network,  prospect,  make sales calls or double your output of jewelry available for sale.

Especially for Freelancers and other sole proprietors,  how you spend your time can be factored into the budgeting process.  Digging into your company finances may just turn up some buried treasure.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kim

Squeezed

It is difficult to be in business these days.  Billable hours and revenue are down for most, especially for those who offer intangible services.  Unless a clear and visible link to a sale can be demonstrated, many decision makers are reluctant to sign a contract.

Sometimes that link to a  sale is  fantasy, especially when the transaction results in a tangible product.  This phenomenon may explain how videographers have been making so much money. The desperate and the naive seek to drive traffic to their websites in the hope that customers will spend some dollars.  Unfortunately, the video produced may not communicate the right message to target customers.  Furthermore, sticking a video onto the website is  often not the best  solution to the client outreach objective. Traffic to the website may actually increase—but will that expensive little film clip also increase revenue? Not if the message is wrong.

Paula Harris, owner and co–founder of WH Cornerstone Investments, says that one of the biggest mistakes that an entrepreneur can make is thinking that the phone will just ring when you spruce up your website.  She says it’s all about networking (source: Boston Business Journal Nov. 6-12, 2009).

On the other side, we’ve got the credit card companies squeezing us.  Need $10,000 from AmEx to finance a contract? Fuhgeddaboudit! Two or three years ago a reasonable account holder could call them up and request a credit line increase for a legitimate reason.  If you paid on time and your credit rating was decent, you could almost guarantee that increase, especially when a contract representing the pay-back money was involved.

Try making that call today (if you dare).  Not only will there be no credit line increase, but for good measure they’re liable to claw back a couple of thousand from the line you’ve got now! Oh, and let us not forget about the inflated interest rates.  I worry about small retailers who tried to purchase inventory for the all-important 4th quarter. What was that like this year?

The credit card companies and big banks—many of whom brazenly took our tax money in the form of bailouts—have turned around and are working overtime to kill our cash flow. With business down, we need to float expenses more than ever, just to pay the phone bill and eat! Big business has denied us our bailout.  As we all know, it takes money to make money and their actions are preventing small business people from making the money we need to survive.

As a result of these disturbing trends, both business and personal bankruptcies have increased nationally.   Cash flow is tragic.  Many have run out of options. Why has this been allowed to happen in the United States? How can we manage to hang on and ride out this awful storm that will last for God knows how long?

No one knows what to do exactly. There are defensive measures to take:  some may have an immediate benefit,  others that only in hindsight will the effects be revealed.  If you’re still in business and still  living in your house next year at this time, well then you did something right (or you got lucky).

I respectfully suggest a few defensive measures.  Increase your visibility through networking:  do some speaking, teaching, volunteering and attend selected business events,  so that good relationships can be made or renewed.  Whatever business you manage to  get is likely to come in through a referral source.  Remember also to make referrals and facilitate introductions for colleagues, when possible.

Refine and hone your elevator pitch and sales pitch repertoire.  Make sure that your verbal package contains the hooks that prospects and clients want to hear.  Prospecting will likewise be essential,  as you must identify all credible sales opportunities.

Negotiations  and compromises  are likely to be necessary and perhaps advantageous.  Consider offering discounts for invoices paid within 15 days.  Consider also trades and barters.  Make sure that you’re trading equivalents.

Short term employment or an under the radar type part time job (maybe in the evening) will ease your cash crunch.  If you can be certain that colleagues and clients will not encounter you,  particularly as you labor in a low wage gig for $12.00/hour,  this can  help to pay a bill or two each month.

Times of adversity demand a special resolve and resourcefulness.  I wish you good luck.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Business Certifications Part II

Women owned businesses have grown at one and one half times the rate of all businesses  created in the US (1997-2002) and contribute nearly $2 trillion to the nation’s GDP.  One in 11 women are self-employed or business owners (source: Center for Women’s Business Research cited in The Boston Globe January 25, 2004).

Women are now outright or majority owners of 40% of all privately held businesses registered with the IRS, representing 10.1 million business entities (source: Center for Women’s Business Research 2008 report).

Nevertheless, a January 2008  CWBR report stated that women owned businesses receive less than 3.3% of federal contracts awarded.  Perhaps the following certification program will help the ladies  reach a few more paying customers?

WBENC

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council is where we women go to get ours.  To be awarded a certificate as a Women’s Business Enterprise, the company must be at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman (or group of women).

Evidently, the assumption is that women have money; the WBENC certification fee is about $350.00 (varies by location).  Certifications are for one year only,  so there is a yearly recert. process,  reportedly simpler than the maiden voyage.  Certification is handled by Regional Partner Organizations which seem to be SBA affiliated Women’s Business Centers (see wbenc.org).

As always, you’ll need to hand over business financial statements plus your tax returns (will somebody please tell me how surrendering your tax returns and your social security number got to be routine in this country? It is all too intrusive. Is there any wonder why  identity theft occurs? Every frigging body knows the intimate details of your life!).

WBENC claims not to evaluate the profitability and viability of a business. The objective is to know who owns and controls the company.  I do not understand how delving into your P & L and balance sheets will verify that information but hey, it’s their game.  It’s just that ownership issues are more accurately revealed on incorporation and LLC documents.  As for  sole proprietorships, they are a  one person shop.  If necessary, a gynecologist can verify the gender question!

Do businesses that are not making money, but are going for the certification as a strategy to bring in much needed clients, actually get certified? WBENC committee members side step that question (I asked). Once your documents are received,  the review committee will certify (or not) in 60–90 days.  Expect a site visit to your business.

On the plus side, WBENC is a widely accepted certification. Prime Contractors love it.  I don’t believe there are any revenue restrictions involved, so WBENC is not exclusively for small businesses.  Certificate holders must be US citizens or legal resident aliens.

CHECK OUT THE SBA

Regardless of your gender or ethnicity, a visit to sba.gov is worth your while,  if for no other reason than to find out what resources are available for free. The information is good and reliable. There are also special business development programs for Native Americans, those over 50 years, veterans, Spanish speakers and of course, small businesses in general. There is a place at the table for everyone, including white non-Hispanic males!

If you can visit a district office, check out the monthly calendar and see what workshops are offered.   If you’d like info about stimulus loans (what stimulus loans?), micro–lending and other local business initiatives, the SBA will point you in the right direction. Your tax dollars in motion!

More next week,
Kim

Business Certifications Part I

As you weigh strategies that could  help to better market your services,  you might happen upon  special category certifications.  In fact,  some large corporations are less willing to do business with small business vendors unless a particular certification is in hand.

If a Fortune 1000 company has government contracts,  it is necessary to demonstrate that business is being done with small businesses, women owned businesses and minority owned businesses.  Hence, these companies need a certain percentage of  their small business vendors to  have a certification in one of these categories.  The Fortune 1000s can then report to the feds that they are in compliance.

HUB ZONES

If your physical business address lies within an historically underutilized business (HUB) zone, then your business may qualify for set-asides in the contract bidding process.  In general, HUB zones are disadvantaged areas in urban, suburban and rural locales.  To find out if you can apply,  go to sba.gov, click on services,  then opportunity gaps and  HUB zone.  Type in your business address.  If  in a HUB zone,  you can apply on line—but first  ask the SBA how to get the log in password.  Be prepared for a site visit at your business location by someone from the SBA about 2-3 months after you apply.  It may also be necessary to hand over certain financial records.  There is no fee.

8a CERTIFICATION

To obtain 8a certification,  it is necessary to officially state that you are disadvantaged economically because of your race or ethnicity.  The application process is a bear.  Start by calling up Dun & Bradstreet and obtaining a DUNS number.  Next, look up your business specialty codes,  sign up and create a business profile on the federal Central Contractor Registration  ccr.gov.  Then you can do the online 8a application.

At sba.gov, click on services, opportunity gaps and 8a to find good basic info that will get you started.  Furthermore,  SBA offers free workshops nearly every month at its district offices on what one needs to know about doing business with the government and special certifications.  Preparing to do business with the feds is a  Byzantine process, but government agencies will pay in 30 days and thus will not wreck your  fragile cash flow.

In the application there will be much supporting data to supply and there are restrictions.   As always, they want your tax returns, 2 years in this case. You must  have been in business for minimum two years,  you cannot have more than $250,000 in assets, you cannot be employed full time in a job outside of your business and your credit has to be good enough to finance a contract.  There is no application fee.

It’s a royal pain to get this certification and of course there is no guarantee that your efforts will yield any business.  You must still sell yourself to prospective clients.  SBA Small Business Development Centers  have on staff a Procurement Specialist who will speak with you about useful strategies to promote your business and win contracts.  It’s all about  relationship building and it takes time.

However,  the  Fortune 1000s  with the government contracts, called Prime Contractors,  like the 8a certification.  They have forms to fill out, boxes to check.   Ask  SBA who the primes are in your locale,  speak with the local procurement specialist and try to meet people.  There are trade shows to pay for and attend so you can make contact.  Also, visit fbo.gov and view available contracts.

Next week,  the spotlight will  be on the ladies.

Kim

The Best Prospects

We are all looking to expand our client base and bring in more business.  Most of us are out there spreading the word about our products and services, meeting and greeting, delivering an expert elevator pitch to whomever will listen and positioning ourselves as experts within our field.

If the gods smile, our efforts will deliver unto us a decision maker and a real sales call. How can one increase the odds of making that happen? Effective prospecting is the method.  Prospecting is a vital function for all Freelancers and business owners.  If  the goal is to have a successful business, then we must make a practice of continually replenishing our sources of potential clients.

First,  let us dispense with the myths.  Prospecting is NOT sales.  Prospecting is a tactical function of sales.   It is the process of identifying and qualifying businesses and individuals who have the potential to become paying customers.

Prospecting is NOT a numbers game. Time = money and you have no time to chase so-called prospects who have a low probability of becoming a customer. You want only those with motive and money to hire you or patronize your business.

Prospecting need NOT be hugely time consuming.  Plan to budget about 15% of your weekly or monthly calendar for prospecting.  Make the time to keep your pipeline filled.

Contrary to common belief,  prospecting is NECESSARY even when billable hours are high and sales are strong.  Because business always waxes and wanes,  it is important to use the good times to create opportunities that will sustain  in the lean times.

So let’s think strategically about the prospecting function.  Start by identifying your key customer groups.  Do you typically work within certain industries? Why not target other businesses within that industry as likely prospects? Your experience within those industries will provide the trust factor that your prospects will appreciate.  You will  know the usual priorities, concerns and preferred benefits.

Are you a member of a business association? Do you have visibility within the group? Are any of the members your clients? Have you made good referrals for any members? Think about  which member businesses could benefit from using your  products or services.  Leverage your proximity to these targets to learn more about their businesses.  Once again, the trust factor will be on your side, especially if a member or two are clients of yours or you are visible in the association.

This approach can also work with job titles.  For instance, who usually hires you–the VP of marketing, the CEO, the CFO, or the director of development? Target that title as you prospect.  Prior experience will have taught you what will resonate with these individuals, thus adding to your  credibility.

Once you’ve developed a list of targets, devise an approach.  Might any of your colleagues have contacts within these organizations? Do company names appear in the online member listing of the chamber of commerce or neighborhood business association? Is there a trade show coming up that the prospect –or company representative–  may possibly attend (trade show sponsors are ususally listed on the show’s website)?

When you meet someone at the targeted company (oh, happy day!), let the contact/prospect know that you’ve done your homework and see possible alignment between their business and your product.  Emphasize outcomes and benefits.  Aim to schedule a time for further discussion with either the ultimate prospect or someone who can substantively influence the decision.

If you are met with an objection, handle it with aplomb.  If the answer is, “we already have someone” inquire about current or recent projects.  Offer a comment or two that displays your expertise in the subject. You may discover that the objection was just a smoke screen.

If the answer is ” I have to think about it”,  let the person know that you  respect their desire to make an informed decision.  Ask what information might assist the decision, who else in the organization you might speak with and when you can follow up?

The objective is to get a dialogue going and not get shut down.  If you choose your prospects wisely and plan a good approach,  you are guaranteed to bring in at least a mid-level client nearly every quarter.  Now get busy!

More next week,

Kim

Starting A Business? Consider Your Exit Strategy Part II

SUCCESSION

The sentimental favorite!  So many entrepreneurs dream, perhaps secretly, of passing their business on to the next generation.  If you can make this stardust covered dream come true, it’s a lovely option.  Unfortunately, more often than not succession does not pan out.  I’ve read that 70% of family businesses do not survive the transition from the founder to the second generation.

Family rivalries and other dysfunction often intrude to tank the business.  Sometimes the owner refuses to cede control (like Queen Elizabeth II, whose ego prevents her from stepping aside so that Prince Charles can do the job for which he’s trained his entire life). Other times, the youngsters get a little power mad and want to take over before they know what they don’t know.

As with a business sale,  get the financial records in order, maintain business property and equipment, call in your accountant, attorney and appraiser and share information. Family members deserve to know what they’re getting into.

It will be very important to distinguish between the company managers (perhaps one child or two) and the company owners (all the children) and make sure that no one feels devalued.  Remember that you’ll want Christmas dinner to be a happy occasion!

I strongly recommend that you consult a family business specialist if you’d like to pass the business along to family members.  Being able to groom your hand picked successor is a wonderful thing.  Recruit a specialist to help you choose the candidate who is best qualified to assume the reins.

INITIAL PUBLIC OFFERING

If your business has grown substantially and is poised for still more significant growth, provided that a major  infusion of cash can be raised, then offering publicly traded stock in the company may be the best strategy.   I’ve included IPO in this  section, although the entrepreneur may remain within the company after it  has gone public (or not).

Preparing your company for an IPO is an intense piece of business.  A couple of years ago, an acquaintance of mine took his biotech company public and damn near found Jesus in the process!

You’ll need an investment bank to underwrite the offering;  a magnificent business plan that portrays your company and its growth potential in an excellent light (but does not oversell);  and a first rate IPO attorney.   The Securities and Exchange Commission governs the proceedings.

If you’ve done everything right and have fortune on your side,  your stock might even sell and bring in the growth capital that your company needs. You might even get rich:  the value of the stock sale may far exceed your original investment in the business.   However, you may not be able to jet over to Dubai and buy an island just yet.

Major investors may dictate that nearly all cash raised through the IPO must be reinvested in the business.  Moreover, a portion of the owner’s share may be held in escrow for a period of years.  If that’s not enough, the owner’s role in the business may be greatly diminished.   That may suit you just fine—or not.  Are you ready to give up control to a bunch of outsiders who may not share your vision or priorities?

So there you have it,  a business plan guide that I hope will give you the inspiration to get started on a business  venture for yourself.  I’ve left out a couple of elements,  such as Operations and Executive Summary,  but I feel that you have the tools to build a plan that will  launch a successful business.  Good luck!

I’ll be back next week with a new topic.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the series!

Kim