Monday, June 13, 2011

Air Net Planning Serious About Writing A Business Plan... Start A Business Plan Library

Tap these treasures of ideas. The best money you can spend
is money invested in your business plan education. Don't
shortchange yourself when it comes to investing in your
dream. Start gathering samples of business plans and collect
business plan books and get a business plan library started,
it can change your future. Here's what your library needs to
show: that you're a serious student of business strategy and
planning, finance and economics, selling, and writing.
Sample Business Plans
Start by gathering sample business plans. Look at the annual
reports and S-1s, S-4s, 10ks, or 10Qs filed with the
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of companies in
your industry. See how they present their case, explain
their business, and discuss their industry and competition.
What exactly are these forms and how do you get them? Good
These are forms that public companies must file with the SEC
in order to register their securities or to maintain the registration
of previously registered securities with the SEC. You can find
these forms by going to, clicking on the Edgar
database, and searching for a public company in your industry.
The key is to find the most helpful filings. These are the ones
labeled S-1, S-4, 10K, and 10Q. They usually contain
descriptions of the business, its products, industry, competitors
and strategies. Sections that should sound familiar to you if you
are planning to write a business plan.
Go to these sections and read how the company presents their
business and its products. Look at how they describe the industry
and their competitors. I encourage you to read as many filings in
your industry as possible. See what the "big guys" are saying, the
issues, challenges, and trends they see in the industry and how
they're attacking them.
Be careful though about mimicking what they write. Many of these
documents are written in legalese despite the SEC's protestations
and push for plain English. Just remember, you're doing this
exercise to see how other companies have built their case to
business investors.
Another approach is to gather and read professionally
written business plans of companies in your industry and use
them as guides to prepare your plan. Try to avoid generic
business plan templates. They're too general and often not
worth the investment. Either way. Start filling your
business plan library with business plans and registration
statements. Keep them close by and refer to them often as
you write your business plan.
Now, here's a good book to start your business plan library
with. It's called: Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter.
In this landmark book, Competitive Strategy, Porter shows
you how to identify the forces that drive competition in
your industry. Learn what moves your competitors are likely
to make within it. Competitive Strategy provides a framework
for evaluating the competitive alternatives you must
consider and for thinking about how to change the rules of
the marketplace in your favor. Competitive Strategy is the
bible venture capitalist, investment bankers, and business
development executives use when analyzing an industry or
business venture. I use this book as the centerpiece of my
business plan library. So I'm just asking you to take a look
at Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter. If it suits you
fine, if it doesn't suit you, keep looking till you find
something that helps you understand strategy.
Opening your mind to strategic alternatives is a creative
process. You can never have too many books on strategy in
your business plan library. Read as much as you can to learn
why some companies can sell their products more cheaply than
others. Why others provide the best products...products that
are just far superior to their competition. And, why some
companies just always seem to provide unmatched service.
Fill your business plan library with business books that
inspire, challenge and answer these questions. Read. Read.
Read. And, study too. Find out how some companies are
reinventing competition in their markets and obtaining
funding while others are seemingly oblivious to the changing
world around them.
Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema set out to find answers to
these types of questions in their book The Discipline of
Market Leaders. Although the authors won't appreciate this
comment, I found the underlying fundamentals in The
Discipline of Market Leaders to closely parallel those laid
out by Porter in Competitive Strategy. Perhaps that's why I
like it so much. The difference, however, is that they
present their material in a less academic, more engaging
way. And, they provide excellent case studies that are sure
to generate many aha's! The Discipline of Market Leaders
will make you think about what it is your company or new
venture does better than anyone else; what unique value do
you provide to your customers? How will you continually
increase that value? If you can't easily answer these
questions about your business, The Discipline of Market
Leaders is required reading and a must for your business
plan library. The business owners and entrepreneurs that can
answer these questions are not only raising the value bar in
their industries, they're raising capital for their
Finance and Economics
Be sure to keep your business plan library well balanced...
Let me give you a sense of that balance. First is finance
and economics. We all have got to have a sense of how to
make money...the universal laws of business success, no
matter whether you are selling fruit from a stand or running
a Fortune 500 company. Finance and economics are the basic
building blocks of business. Your business plan library
needs a few books on the numbers. When you understand the
basics of finance and economics its possible to bringing the
most complex business down to the fundamentals. You become
empowered to focus on the basics and make money from your
Here's a good book to help you in this area: What the CEO
Wants You to Know by Ram Charan. What the CEO Wants You to
Know captures the basics of finance and economics and
explains in clear, simple language how to do what great
business owners and entrepreneurs do instinctively and
persistently. Charan explains the basic building blocks of
business and how to use them to figure out how your company
can, does, or will make money and operate as a total
business. Learn how to use these building blocks to cut
through the clutter of day-to-day business and the
complexity of the real world. What the CEO Wants You to Know
by Ram Charan. This little book is only a 137 pages: but I'm
telling you, it's so well written you'll be as intrigued as
I was. What the CEO Wants You to Know by Ram Charan. Get it
for your business plan library.
Next is writing. You have to be able to get your thoughts
down on paper. Businessese, academese, legalese - all appear
too often in business plans. Often preventing a
knowledgeable writer with good intensions to fail at getting
the message across to an intelligent, interested reader. For
some reason, when people write business plans they are
compelled to write "commence" and "prior to" instead of
"begin" and "before." If you want to write an effective
business plan, your business plan library must have books on
how to be an effective writer.
Start with Edward Baily; he wrote a surprisingly
straightforward book called The Plain English Approach to
Business Writing. This book, The Plain English Approach to
Business Writing, is about writing as you would talk, which
not only makes your writing easier to read, it's also makes
it easier to write. In a brief, entertaining 124 pages Baily
clearly lays out the dos and don'ts of plan English,
illustrating them with examples drawn from business
documents, technical manuals, trade publications, and the
works of writers like Russell Baker and John D. MacDonald.
The Plain English Approach to Business Writing offers
practical advice on clarity, precision, organization,
layout, and many other topics. Best of all, you can read it
an hour...and use it for the rest of your life.
But writing well is only a part of writing. A good business
plan must be persuasive. Listen carefully to what I just
said: persuasive. Not misleading or untruthful, but
Here's a book you need to look at Persuading on Paper. How's
that for a title? Persuading on Paper by Marcia Yudkin.
Yudkin is a writing consultant who coaches small-business
owners and professionals on improving their marketing
materials. In a witty and vivid style, Persuading on Paper
shows you how to use the written word to convert strangers
to prospects to paying customers (or in our case,
investors). What I like about this book is that Yudkin takes
you step-by-step through the process of creating marketing
materials that sell. Don't underestimate the power of
marketing copy in your business plan. You'll be surprised
how her methods and strategies can help create a more
powerful business plan. Persuading on Paper is a must-have
for anyone who wants to attract more clients, customers, or
Raising Capital
Next is an understanding of the process of obtaining
capital. No business plan library would be complete without
a book on the process of raising capital. Without capital
your venture is destined for failure. You need to learn how
to select the right venture capital firm, make
presentations, and negotiate your deal.
Try this book: The Venture Capital Handbook by David
Gladstone. As an executive officer at Allied Capital
Corporation, a large publicly-owned, venture capital firm in
the United States, David has reviewed many proposals for
venture capital financing. The Venture Capital Handbook
takes you through the entire process from presentation
through negotiations, commitment letters, legal closings,
due diligence, the exit by the venture capital company, to
when the entrepreneur is left to own it all. As a result,
The Venture Capital Handbook provides anyone who wants to
spend the time and money with an insight into what venture
capitalists really want. Prepare for the process of raising
venture capital with The Venture Capital Handbook.
Finally, study the art of selling. Like it or not, when you
are trying to start a business venture or raise money for
your business you have to sell investors on why they should
invest with you. It's like a rite of passage. But fast
talking salesmanship won't raise the money you need for your
business. You need an approach that respects the power of
the that builds a relationship with investors.
So, fill your business plan library with books on selling
and presenting.
Here's a book to try: Socratic Selling by Kevin Daley with
Emmett Wolfe. Socratic Selling as the title implies, uses
the Socratic Method: "A method of teaching or discussion, as
used by Socrates, in which one asks a series of easily
answered questions which inevitably lead the answerer to a
logical conclusion" (Webster's Unabridged). Dalely's
concise, easy-to-follow chapters explain how to open a sales
dialogue and go right to the heart of the matter. Socratic
Selling is a fun and informative 162 pages for those of us
who believe selling means talking with, not at, investors.
Study these techniques; they can make you more effective
with potential investors.
If you are serious about writing your business it.
Start a business plan library that shows you are a serious
student of business plans. Fill it with business plans,
public filings and annual reports of businesses in your
industry. Stay away from those generic business plan
templates. They are too general. And, Read, read, read and
study too about strategy, finance, economics, writing, selling,
and how to raise capital. Spend the money. Buy the books. The
reward can be great...a funded business plan.

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