Business Plan Development – Free Government Resources to Aid in Business Planning

In your quest to develop your business plan you will want to obtain information regarding industry analysis, legal and regulatory statutes, manufacturing, training and counseling, and maybe corporate financials and international information and data. This is just a few of the areas you can research through our government’s online resources. Though they are free and free is often synonymous with undervalued they are indeed not free. Your tax dollars pay for them and the information is rich and vast. These government resources are put there to help you succeed so there is no better place to start your research than with the resources you pay for. The U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, Small Business Administration, Internal Revenue Service, The State Department, FedStats, Export.gov, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission all have information that you will find helpful. I will talk a little about each one, what they do, and how you can use them.

The first place you may want to start with your investigation on industry analysis is through The Department of Commerce. The DoC is comprised of twelve separate agencies responsible for many things regarding business from weather forecasts to patent protection. Their mission statement states exactly what they do and there is no better way to sum it up, “The DoC touches the daily lives of the American people in many ways, with a wide range of responsibilities in the areas of trade, economic development, technology, entrepreneurship and business development, environmental stewardship, and statistical research and analysis.” There is much to the DoC and they also are a portal to several other government agencies and partners that you may find useful.

The U.S. Census Bureau, a derivative of the DoC, is a great resource for industry analysis and they are arguably the most important branch of the DoC for demographic information ranging from population breakdown, income, education levels, and housing to name just a few which you can find in the Peoples and Households section of their website. The Census Bureau also collects massive amounts of data on economic activity. You may need to search the industry code for the particular type of business you’re in or looking for, by searching its NAICS code. You can break information down from a national level and/or by zip code for information on total number of businesses as well as types and average sales in their business and industry section. They also have information on foreign trade and so much more. The fact of the matter is that there is so much data that the U.S. Census Bureau has accumulated it may seem daunting. It is in fact a huge database with so many useful links that I have to write three paragraphs about all the different links worth noting. You should spend some time navigating around, taking notes, and leaving yourself a trail of breadcrumbs one way or another so that you can remember just how you got from place to place.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s website is vast, as I previously stated, and there are a number of portals you should know a little about and even bookmark. Censtats is a database that includes county and zip business pattern information, international trade data, demographic and economic data for states and counties, Census Tract Street Locator, and some other databases on top of those. American FactFinder has information regarding demographic information about people that can be broken down in many ways to suit your needs. QuickFacts provides information on people, business, and geography which can be targeted on a national, state, and/or county level. If you need information on industry and manufacturing you can skim through the Current Industrial Report section. There contains vast amounts of information which may satisfy your needs for market analysis, forecasting, and decision-making.

The next noteworthy online resource at your disposal is the SBA or Small Business Administration. If you need information on federal and/or state legal and regulatory information the SBA has important and detailed information on these two important issues. The SBA also funds and supports business’s and you can find and apply for government grants, contracts, as well as sign up to receive training and counseling from SCORE. Score are a group of retired executives that volunteer their time to help business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with development of their business plans and give advice to current businesses management dilemmas and questions and other assistance. If you have never spoken with a SCORE representative you should. They have a plethora of experience and expertise on a variety of subjects and industries. The SBA’s website also offers you a place to register your business, find business licenses, and permits. Ultimately the SBA is another great government resource that is a must-add to your toolbox.

If you’re interested or need to get your hands on international data and statistics our government provides information through U.S. Census Bureau, The State Department, and Export.gov. The Census Bureau’s contains an international database (IDB) that provides rankings by population size as well as global trends and demographic data. The State Department’s website has background information that includes information on each country’s economy and a great deal more all in alphabetical order by country. You can find out information on that country’s history, people, government, relations, travel, and more. Export.gov’s slogan is helping U.S. companies succeed globally by combining and providing the resources from across the U.S. government to assist American businesses in planning their international sale’s strategy. They have in-depth data about markets and industries on a global scale.

If you need information on corporations The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Edgar Database provides information regarding corporation’s financial information as well as their operations. There is a lot more to the Edgar Database. They also have a user guide that will provide you a more detailed analysis of who they are and what all they can do for you.

The last government resource that is worth mentioning is Fedstats. FedStats is a government sponsored website that has vast quantities of data collected by over 100 different agencies. You can search by topic compiled in a nice, user-friendly A-Z format or you can search the agencies in which they receive their data from, also in an alphabetical format. If you’re interested in state-by-state statistical data you might try clicking through FedStat’s MapStats section which profiles states, counties, cities, congressional districts, and even federal judicial districts. Besides the particular places I have pointed out there is also information on international comparisons, statistics from the individual agencies, press releases, and more.

I have written a similar article on my blog that has the full list of links to many of the areas that I have spoken of in this article if you would like to check it out. I hope that I have provided you valuable resources that will aid you in your pursuit to complete your business plan. Good luck and best wishes for your success!

Learn From My Experience – First Year Tips For Small Business Entrepreneurs

The Number One first year tip – it’s ALL about finding customers and keeping them happy

Whether you are at the feasibility, seed, or launch stage, you need customers!

If someone is showing interest but is not asking about prices, then you may have a new hobby, which is nice, but not a business.

Why? Ideas and plans are a dime a dozen. Cashflow is King. A potential customer is proof positive you may have found a genuine demand or gap in the market – but only when they start talking price.

A vision means squat without a plan for customers.

“A customer base equals capital”

Attracting investors will be much easier if they can see you are already generating a cashflow.

Also customers will attract people interested in working with you – and eventually you will need a team to go anywhere significant.

A customer means you are not dreaming!

Don’t wait for qualifications

You could be forgiven for thinking that in the 2010’s you need a string of qualifications and / or an MBA before making a move. It’s not the case. Examples abound and if necessary you can hire to cover the gaps. Rather, try to emphasise product, ideas and team.

Which book learning are we skipping over here? What are some of the nice to have’s you might defer?

In the initial stages of a business there are marketing skills – be content with seeing the original gap and creating a product to fit. Then finance skills – skip high finance and stick to the basic organisation of personal and business finance to cover risks, and finally time management skills where the essentials can be mastered quickly.

Later in the development phase we have operations – leadership, management, IT, property, culture/psychology, teamwork, loyalty, communications and regulations – the list goes on.

While it may seem heresy to some, the fact is there are many successes in business who started young with no management training.

Beware Franchising

Starting out under the protection of a franchise is a seductive option. Beware! While it may be a way to start-up with less risk, pay particular attention to:

· The franchise sale

Franchise operators are very good marketers – of their franchises. Be wary that you are not sucked in too much by the promises and pictures. Seriously, it’s their job to sell you, just make sure they have a viable plan and you can sell their product.

· Your independence

The bottom line is that you have decided to become an entrepreneur, for reasons which quite likely include working for yourself, and by signing up with a franchise you have immediately given that independence away.

Will you be happy working for a head office? How much input to the business do you really have? Have you just bought yourself a job?

Take a real close look at your marketing plan

How are you going to find and reach customers? Your first job is to run like mad just to find them:

First, are you in an active sector and do you have a ready path to market? Where are you sourcing your leads – today?

Watch out for your own psychology. When starting out you may want to just go with the first half decent opportunity you come across. Relax; try to look at things objectively.

Beware of the “1% of the market is huge” syndrome. Yours may be a billion dollar market, but how do you get any of it? What do you think the competition is doing right now?

Any idea of the cost of acquisition of a new customer? Will your model develop repeat customers? If not you will be forever selling, and this is not a good place to be.

Most forms of marketing except word of mouth are very expensive. When starting out there is no doubt the best marketing model is word of mouth.

Branding. Despite the hype it’s nothing new. Don’t even think about mega-brand style exposure. A start-up is about a reputation, person to person sales and keeping a handful of customers happy.

What is the shelf life of your idea? How are you going to protect it in the internet age?

How smart is the business model?

A business model is the way we do things – how we find and reach customers, differentiate the business from the pack, price, sell and deliver our product.

But there is more. Other desirables include a residual structure, one that compounds growth, and which is leveraged either in time (employees) or money (loans).

Is it going to be a dynamic business or a job?

Realistically – are your finances strong enough for the first year or two?

Being an entrepreneur is a gamble and you must be prepared for the worst if it happens. How do you view losing money? Perhaps try investing on small bets in the stock market and see how it feels before investing in your own ideas.

Don’t get into debt you cannot handle. We should be bold but not take risks. Avoid betting your lifestyle, limit the investment to what you can “afford to lose”, then do everything to make sure that does not happen.

Entrepreneurs should always have backup plans. Not everything will work by any stretch of imagination.

How many hours are you working?

Have you really planned your diary? How will you fit everything in? Not all of us can survive on 4 hours sleep per night.

Remember the working rule – hard and smart.

And if you do work all hours, what is your effective hourly rate? Planning any time off?

Do you have a good business partner?

If you aspire to anything other than a micro business, you will have to think “team”. The synergy gained outweighs potential downsides. While a committee of one gets things done, eventually you need others in your corner.

Are you ahead of trends?

No business can ignore trends. Try to have an eye on the picture three to five years ahead.

Customer Service Adage Correction – For Wholesale Business Entrepreneurs!

The customer is always right! Well if uch adage is true everyone in labor could get fired easily thanks to some customers, dont you think? If by the books you are self-employed, a certain customer may just not be right for you. When you become your own boss, there is a good amount of stress that you already need to cope with on top of the other challenging responsibilities that go with the CEO title.

Decreasing as much stress as possible should make your business way better in overall terms. When deciding to eliminate the time waster, who indeed takes up a lot of your support time issues – you are likely doing both you and him a favor.

If you deal with wholesale merchandise business and customers on a daily basis, it does not mean you are being rude to them by rejecting their business. You are just setting up your standards, your ideals and the respect for your self-employment status.

If you think it would be bad business to turn up front cash or customer lifetime value, the fact of the matter is- aggravation is just one of the many top of the line negative issues you have to decrease to a heavy extent with troublesome customers.

But you may believe in entrepreneurial options. Be it e-commerce in the wholesale merchandise business, the 80/20 rule of the wildly known Pareto’s Principle, it all applies! Yes, the one that states that 80% of your income comes from 20% of your customers.

Well if the Einstein’s are correct, 80% of your stress shall also come from 20% of your beloved customers. Likely case today if structuring online business correctly, that ratio may be more like 95% of the stress arrives from 5% of your customers. My entrepreneurial tip if you really want to stay with the majority of your new customer’s, whether they are high-maintenance or low-maintenance, outsource your business and developing projects.

By now you may be asking, how in this world can I hire them? Go creative – it’s the 21st century. I personally love how Subway has structured part of their marketing system and expansion mythology with royalty fees and monthly attachment with the franchisee. By 2010, you can expect more Subway’s in our city then gas station country wide here at Puerto Rico! Their methods works, why not do the same with our own budget?

You could hire a professional for your wholesale merchandise business and pay an agent monthly fees, what is the equivalent of royalty fees in the Internet marketing world. Many of us started doing it heavily in some of our businesses a while back, you might as well find creative ways to get a talent in your team for more productive time and more profits!

2008 surely sounds more exciting! You either will retain your customer thanks to a hired professional on your end and pay small monthly fees, $100-$200.00 per month are reasonable these days, or you will end the potential lifetime value from your ready to buy prospects.

It’s all about deciding. Decide in reasonable terms whether you are in the wholesale merchandise fulfillment relations business or you are on your own. Play the game smart and adjust your way to niche stardom, as one of the best bets as you may know is making right decisions!

Home Based Business Entrepreneurs Look For Million Dollar Opportunities With Life’s Lemons

Life Happens!

Many times, even our best laid out plans go awry. How we respond to those lemons and mishaps reveal the strength and resolve of our character, problem solving abilities and our mindset. Circumstances test us and grow us far beyond what we wish we didn’t have to experience.

This article specifically addresses the economic lemon so many people in the world have been handed. By reading this article, one will discover 7 simple action steps they can take right now to begin formulating their lemonade recipe.

Our mindset and thinking will determine the outcome when we are handed a lemon. What we tell ourselves about our circumstances will become our reality. It comes down to mind over matter.

Entrepreneurs learn early on how to make lemonade from lemons if they want to succeed.

Entrepreneurship does not make you immune to problems, in fact, it’s an invitation for them to surface! For those who can take lemons and run with them, they will survive. Those who are unable to do so will find themselves further back from even square one.

Lemons can be beautiful if you will accept them with the right attitude.

I look at real life lemons and truly they are beautiful. The bright yellow color is sunny warm and inviting to the eye, the outside texture is fun to touch, the aroma captures your senses, the complimentary green leaves provide decoration and adornment… they are beautiful. It’s when you taste them that makes your eyes clasp shut and lips pucker. So one must be able to alter the taste and blend some good sweet components into the lemon to make the fruit bearable and even enjoyable to eat.

Have a game plan for how you will think and behave the best you can when lemons are tossed your way.

Be prepared mentally to respond creatively. Personal development again, will teach you how to prepare. The entrepreneur will take lemons, add a dose of personal development and mindset, mix it up with creativity, throw in some action, stir in lots and lots of desire and commitment and the recipe often alters the course of their life in ways they may not ever have thought possible.

What if your lemons are worth a million dollars?

You want to look for opportunity in the challenge. Leaders do that. When an entrepreneur responds creatively, magic can happen.

  • Doors open.
  • Opportunities arise.
  • Products are developed.
  • Joint Ventures are forged.
  • Leadership and Personal Growth happens.
  • New meaning and purpose in life manifest daily.
  • Deeper awareness of life is appreciated.
  • Energy and excitement become part of your being.

Often people who have suffered a great tragedy in their life will take their lemons and share their story about how they survived because it encourages others who are going through the same thing to press forward. These individuals often become authors, speakers and highly sought after mentors who inspire and help others in becoming a better person, a better coach, a better employee or employer, a better parent… the list can go on forever.

We’ve all had lemons.

One of my lemons emerged after a wonderful 13 year run in my real estate career. It was snuffed out almost overnight by the economy in 2006. Thousands of real estate professionals, mortgage brokers and investors, home inspectors, real estate appraisers along with almost every industry in the world were handed this same lemon. While many people sat and waited to see what happened next, others acknowledged the lemon and looked for creative ways to deal with it.

That’s what I did. I took my lemon and began searching online for ways to create an income.

The first decision I ever made in entrepreneurship turned out to be a $35K lemon and 8 months of wasted time. Now I was holding two lemons!

Did I quit my exploration and interest in having an online business and watch my two lemons mold and rot and stink up my life? No!

I continued to look for ways to make lemonade (a bigger batch I must say because now I had two lemons to work with!). I knew there had to be a great lemonade recipe; I just hadn’t found it yet.

My lemon #2 taught me to make better choices and what NOT to do. Do I look at the $35K loss as a lemon today? No, not at all. I look at that as ‘tuition’ for home based business entrepreneurship. My journey would reveal smaller lemons along the way (more tuition) but lemon #2 was no longer a lemon. I had made delicious lemonade with that. Knowledge lemonade. Applied knowledge is power. I had a good foundation in online business. I learned so much and today I have such an appreciation and insight for online business because of the 8 month journey I took down the wrong road.

Will my experience help others so they don’t have to be the proud owner of that lemon? Yes. I’m grateful for that.

Over time, lemon #1 began to provide a lifestyle for me I would have otherwise never pursued.

Had the economy stayed strong, I would still be getting up every day to go to work. I would have continued to slave away in my real estate career ‘thinking I was happy’. I didn’t realize how much stress and pressure and time that real estate took from me as a top producer until I began to compare that to the joys of having a home based business. Today, I go to bed when I’m tired and get up when I’m done sleeping. I do what I want to do. I put the hours and work into my business when and where I choose to. That is swweeeeeeet lemonade!

Life is what you make it, lemons and all.

Positive people take lemons and do things with them. Negative people allow their lemon to rot and mold sets in. They look to their future as hopeless and depressed.

What are YOU doing with YOUR economic lemon(s)?

If you have a tendency to be a sourpuss and really want to change that about yourself and your home based business but need some simple directions, here’s some help.

7 Lemonade Action Steps You Can Do Immediately

1. Bathe yourself in personal development.

Question your drive, your commitment and resolve to take your lemon(s) and turn them around for the good. Home based business entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It’s for those who can taste time and financial freedom and who will climb the highest mountain and swim the widest/deepest ocean to obtain that. Personal development teaches individuals how to grow up as an entrepreneur and sets a tone for leadership and acting in spite of fears. It has to start here.

2. Check out books from the library or surf the net to learn what other successful people are doing online.

You’ll find thousands and thousands of individuals are affiliates for various network marketing/MLM companies. Others are coaches, some specialize in offering website design, or blogging and technical services. Some are marketing products they have created based on what they are interested in. They took their hobby and turned it into a business. The sky’s the limit for you. The list is miles and miles long. It’s a beautiful buffet! Your home based business can be whatever you want it to be.

3. Read and study to learn marketing because when you know how to market, you can write your own ticket.

If you plan to market something, anything, online, there are skillsets to learn in terms of marketing. You’ll want to learn to blog, to write articles, to make videos, and other stuff. If you’re not open to learning how to market, there’s little that will happen for you I’m afraid. Entrepreneurs are excited about learning new skillsets that will allow them to present themselves and their value to the world. Many people think it’s going to take too long to learn, or they are baby boomers and fear technology. It’s really no big deal. Nobody will see your home based business if you are not lite up online.

Time is going to go by anyway so why not learn these basic skillsets that you can use the rest of your life? There’s a lot of free ‘know how’ online. Just search “how to ____ (fill in the blanks) and you’ll be surprised what you can learn.

If you have a budget you can work with, there are many online training platforms that you can plug into that on an average run from between $47 and $150 a month. They teach everything on how to do internet marketing.

4. Take what you are passionate about and start a blog where you can share with others.

Have you seen the movie Julie and Julia? You should if you haven’t. Not that it’s an A+ movie, (far from it in my opinion) but it shows the entrepreneur the sheer power of blogging and what sharing your passion can do. Watch it from that perspective.

Your blog will be your home online. It’s a place where people can get to know, like and trust you. It’s a place where you invite others to join in your conversation and share your passion with you. Overtime you will come to have a following.

Begin to write articles and post your thoughts and interests about what you’re passion is on your blog. You can post a couple times a week. Your readers will look forward to hearing from you.

5. Create a product around your passion and offer it to your subscribers who find value in your education.

For example, one of my hobbies is scrapbooking and foster parenting. I saw a need and I wrote a book and live hands-on training for foster parents and social workers on how to make lifebooks (scrapbooks but with a new name) for foster children. It’s a very popular training still today and I wrote it several years back. Share your knowledge about your passion and package it in a report, ebook, video or video series, audio/podcast series or a combination of any of those. Create a PayPal button and add that onto your blog and sell your product.

6. Get involved in social media.

Establish a profile at Facebook and twitter. Research forums and groups online where people are talking about and sharing in your passion and participate. Share your love, enthusiasm and knowledge with others in those communities. Be a go-giver. You will find the greatest people who become your dearest friends through online relationships.

7. Share your story on your blog.

Share your lemon story and how you are, making lemonade (or already have made a batch!). You will inspire others as they are wondering whether a home based business is right for them. They will appreciate you for being transparent. You will be real to them and being authentically yourself doing something you are passionate about feels super good. Try it, you’ll like it.

As you work on these ingredients of your lemonade, be mindful of value you have that you can offer others. This is called attraction marketing and by sharing your very best information and giving the world the very best you, you will find that people will start to flock to you.

This is by far, not a complete list of action steps in dealing with the economic lemon you may have been given, but it’s a great start in appreciating your circumstances in that it will open new doors of opportunity for you if you’ll allow it. You may find yourself in a home based business you never dreamed of until you were handed a lemon. And that home based business could turn into a 7 figure income. It’s a possibility. Dream big and go far.