Writing a Business Plan

Writing a business plan and using business plan templets. I guess the first question is why do you want to write a business plan? To rise investment capital? To get a bank loan? To work through the feasibility of your project? Is it to communicate the purpose of you project to executives and staff or external stakeholders like philanthropists, government or not-for-profit organizations who you want help from?

A business plan is a strategic tool it’s a bit like a road map it should show where you are and where you want to be and how you are going to get there? People have different opinions about written business plan’s and some people will tell you that it’s a waste of time. Knowing why, when, were & how to use a tool makes an enormous difference to the results you get so yes sometimes writing a business plan could be a waste of time. When used correctly writing a business plan should provide clarity of purpose and give the entrepreneur the ability to store information and communicate that purpose / info in a compelling way that achieves results.

A written business plan won’t fool a venture capitalist, but a big nice-looking document will probably fool a bank manager and a lot of other people. There is a big difference between a business plan and a minimum viable product (MVP) real sales are cash in the bank and nothing is better proof of concept (MVP) than a customer who has paid you for your solution to their problem.

I’m a fan of the written business plan I think it is good to write one and then just keep a soft copy you can update & print out when you need to show someone or impress a fool.

There is a lot of business plan templets on the web, a word of advice for newbies don’t pay someone to write you a business plan for like $400-$1,000 it’s a rip off, if you just need a nice-looking document that no-one will read then use a free templet and have a nice cover page.

If you are going to write a business plan learn to do it yourself its your business after all and you will learn lots form the experience. If you need help with writing a business plan seek out a mentor for advice or enrolled in a course like Certificate 4 in small business management.

If you want to hire a consultant to write your business plan be very careful as they should be very expensive not a couple of hundred dollars but tens of thousands of dollars. You would probably be better off learning to write a basic business plan using a template and getting some help from a mentor / advisor.

If you need to raise capital a basic business plan is ok because any serious investor will not be fooled by a nice-looking but meaningless document, a MVP will impress them much better. If you are out to raise investment capital you should focus on being “investment ready” The pitch to investors will be much easier if you do all the hard work first to become investment ready and have a kick ass MVP.

All business plan templets follow a kind of formula they mostly start with an executive summary, an over view of the business, a marketing plan, an operations plan, a financial plan & appendix. It’s important to take which ever templet you chose and modify it to suit your business / project. Every business / project is different and its worth thinking about taking a few different templates and then writing your own plan from scratch once you get the feel for what is usually in a business plan.

Now if you spend three months writing a business plan and then you put it in a filling cabinet and forget about it you have wasted three months of your life which you will not get back. It’s your business plan so use it, act on the things you say you have planned to do and then update you written business plan every three months or so. That way when you get a call from that billionaires personal assistant asking if you can do a meeting next week you can quickly whip out that written business plan and impress any fools.

Who built Capitalism and why?

This post is an attempt to kind of basically explain and answer these questions in a way that empowers the reader, hey knowledge is power, right?

About 1% of the population have what is called “anti-social personality disorder” sometimes this is called being a psychopath or sociopath. These people lack empathy for other living things, so they will hurt and manipulate others for their own ends. In a “hierarchical” “authoritarian” social order like “capitalism” sociopaths get ahead both financially and socially because they don’t empathise with the suffering of others and are willing to step on others to get what they want.

This is most notable in “bureaucratic” organisations that have authoritarian hierarchies for example, Banks, Governments, the police & military, multi-national corporations. These sociopaths will “get what they want at all cost” and this attitude allows them to do things others would hesitate to do. By sucking up to those above them and then stabbing them in the back and standing on anyone who gets in their way these people rise through the ranks of the hierarchical authoritarian system.

let’s just take this one step further and call them white, patriarchal, authoritarian, males from the 1950’s. Yes, that is a stereo type but like most stereo types its mostly right, there are exceptions. These people (Men) basically took to ruling over their woman & children through violence way back in the caveman days. They become tribal leaders and then kings as their system developed they became CEO’s (Chef executive officer not chef enabling office, get the difference?) and Presidents. These people are the pyramids builders, the empire builders, the rulers. (See Anarchy without ruler) Now that we have established who “They” are we can look at how they do this or the tools these architects use to create their pyramids of wealth & power.

There are three sides to their triangle (or tools)

Knowledge: this is fundamental to having power either over yourself as we encourage you to do or over others as the rulers do, so yes knowledge is power.

Violence: We guess it was some caveman who worked out he could use violence and the threat of death to make others do what he wanted and dickheads still do this today. Ask your self are your one of these dickheads?

Fear: The obverse example of this is the fear of violence that all authority hypocritical uses to control people’s behaver. But most importantly it is the subtle way that fear is used by authority to control and get you to limit your own freedom. This is most important to understand if you want to empower yourself and others.

The system of control works like this, firstly we keep the knowledge of who you really are from you and we hide our own existence. Then we use violence on you so you have something to fear. Now you are hurt and scared, so we give you someone to blame. This is how we the wolfs divide and conquer you the stupid scared sheep. We trick you into blaming us or anyone ells, so you will not take responsibility for yourself and act to make your situation better.

To start empowering yourself right now seek knowledge about yourself first and the world you live in second. Seek to understand and challenge all fear, it is an illusion in your own mind. Then you will see that violence & fear are coward’s tools and that love & compassion are better tools, YOU HAVE THE POWER. We will get technical with law, tax, economics and stuff letter, but for now you have the basic building blocks of most human social structures like capitalism.

So what do you think about that? let us know your opinions.

Maz.

Places to get help.

If you are new to the world of business, it can be a bit overwhelming and the unbelievable volume of information on the internet can level your head spinning. In my last post, I talked about the value of finding mentors to guide you. Ideally if you are new to business then you want one who has built a business like what you are trying to do. This is easier said than done so let’s look at some other places to get help with your business / project. In Australia, we have a lot of support for business more so than a lot of other countries including the USA. So much so that I’m just going to focus on the easily accessible ones and try to categories them, so you have some leads to follow.

Business.gov.au: This is a federal government website to help business in Australia it has a lot of stuff on it and it’s a good place to start a search for stuff like finding mentoring & advisory programs. It has lots of document templets if you need to write a business plan / marketing plan or something. It has a lot of links to other government programs that maybe helpful like grants and government tenders. It can be a bit overwhelming as they try to cover everything you need from starting your business, hiring staff, exporting overseas, selling your business, going bankrupt, intellectual property etc. Check out this website as it’s a good place to start exploring and you can find useful stuff hear.

Australian Tax Office (ATO): some people fear the ATO and no one likes dealing with them they can be total “Vogons” that said like Vogon’s they are not evil as such just bureaucratic. The ATO has had a lot of problems lately as their boss had to step down because of his son’s tax fraud. They are also hopelessly out gunned by the Multinationals when it comes to tax evasion. But they are equipped to give you a hard time if they feel like it. Lucky for you they are not interested in “Rats & Mice” this is actually what one of them said to my students when pressed for the truth. You are going to have to deal with the ATO at some point so understand your rights & obligations. Some of the people at the ATO can be really helpful if you treat them right. By the way you must have an Australian Business Number (ABN) to operate a business in Australia and you get this from the ATO.

Australia Securities Investments Commission (ASIC): If you want to start a company then ASIC over sees this and lots of other stuff. They are a small organisation and have a lot of useful stuff on their website.

Farework.gov.au: If you need to hire someone this is the place to go for all things about hiring & firing your staff. If you hire staff build a win-win relationship with them and you will do better than the people who treat their workers badly.

Business Enterprise Centres (BEC) This is a really cool government program it’s kind of like an outreach service for small business owners. There are offices all over Australia and probably one in your suburb. Give them a call and just have a chat with them they are normally very helpful. The BEC’s tend to run a bunch of different programs like mentoring & training, the NEIS program etc. A lot of what they provide is free or heavily subsidised by the government so its affordable.

Local Chamber of Commerce: These are not-for-profits that are run by local business owners to address local small business needs. They are a good place to look for free or cheap workshops, attend a networking event, meet other small business owners etc. It’s worth checking out your local one and sometimes you can score some really good free Food & Booz at their networking nights. They can also be very dysfunctional as individuals or groups will push their agender. Sounds like every anarchist meeting you have ever been to, right? But it’s worth checking out your local one out.

Networking & Meet-up groups: There are so many of these just type your topic into google and add networking or meet-up on the end.

Co-working / Business incubators / Business Accelerators: There are a lot of these around especially in the cities but if you are out bush you should try a BEC or chamber. These types of places / organisations can be both for profit & not-for-profit. They tend to offer networking events, workshops and sometimes mentoring. It’s worth doing some google research to see what is in your area. Working / operating out of one is usually very beneficial. Sometimes business incubators & accelerators will want a part of your business this can be incredible helpful. But it can also be a disaster if you let the wrong people get involved in your project / business.

I think that covers it very basically for now, if you have questions or want to give us some feedback please email us as we love helping people.

Maz.

The Value of Mentoring

The real value of mentoring is bit hard to understand until you have experience with it. That’s why it’s important to start looking for mentors NOW. No matter what you are trying to do in life, there is a mentor for all of us. Mentors are sign posts on the road of life and they can help you in ways you don’t even know of yet. Often you won’t realise you have a mentor or how much they have helped you until later. When you are looking back on things and think, fuck that person really help me.

When you have had enough people like this in your life and you get to the point where you can help others by giving them your experience. You will find a different value in mentoring and a deep level of satisfaction in “paying it forward”.

So maybe you are not convinced? just try to think of someone in your life you have looked up to? Who has helped you or given you good advice (mentored you) couldn’t you use more of that now? If you don’t think you need people like this in your life and you think you already know everything you need to know? Well then you are a real dumb ass so stop reading this and FUCK OFF. Good hopefully that gets rid of the wrong people.

Ok so you are smart enough to know that you don’t know everything you need to know, so let’s look at how to find mentors. Some people and organisations will try to narrowly define mentoring but we think this is a mistake. The sign posts on the road of life can and should not be defined. It is up to you to recognise them and heed their advice when you come across one. Also, you need as much knowledge & wisdom as you can get, so you need as many mentors as you can get.

I had three amazing mentors one was a venture capitalist who I meet through university and he mentored me for 6 years. Another was a business angel who I meet through a business incubator program and the third was one of my first customers who took the time to teach me how his industry worked. I had no idea that I would meet these people or that they would go so out of their way to help me.

So how do we find them? Fact is you never know when or where these people (Mentors) will appear. Or in what form so you need to constantly have an eye out for them.

If you are at school / university pick out people who can help you now or maybe in the future? They can be anyone teachers, fallow student’s, gest presenters. The next place to look is in your industry or field of endeavour they can be anyone customers, suppliers even competitors. Look outside your business / project / field of endeavour you may find mentors through your friends & family or sporting / social clubs. Also check out networking groups or even through your social media network. Don’t be afraid to buy someone a coffee or beer and ask for their opinion.

Now there are organisations that specialise in mentoring, there are a range of them. Firstly, there are privet mentoring networks this is where one person may say to you “go and speak to such & such” take their advice and speak to that person. Personal referrals hold a lot of weight and if you need a Billionaire to fund your “save the world campaign” then a personal referral is how to find them.

Secondly there are formal mentoring programs these are usually run by not-for-profit organisations and there are lots of them. Sometimes they will charge you money, there might be a waiting list or a time restraint like you get six mentoring sessions over six months etc. Lots of business incubator / accelerator programs have a mentoring component. But some of these organisations also cherry pick mentee’s projects to invest in. Maybe this works for you and maybe it does not, so just keep it in mind.

Lastly what to look for in a mentor, well you know when someone honestly just wants to help you? That is what you are looking for. The mentor does not need to know everything sometimes they might just help you with a specific problem like finance or rising capital or marketing. Other times they can be more of a life mentor, someone that you like the way they approach life. It’s ok to pay for mentoring through a formal program and sometimes this can give you access to skills and knowledge you may not be able to get otherwise.

This is very IMPORTANT if you get a good mentor treat them like gold because they are, their advice can make all the difference between success and failure. There is one thing that shits mentor’s off and that is not being respected or being taken for granted. Remember they are trying to help you because they are paying forward (the good someone ells did for them) so take and act their fucking advice.

Ok so it does not matter were in life you are there is someone more experienced than you (Mentor) and someone less experienced than you (Mentee). When you meet the person who is less experienced, remember all the people who helped you along the way and PAY IT FORWARD.

Maz.

 

How to turn your ideas into reality.

Ok so I said I would share the process for turning ideas into reality so hear go’s. This is a very basic description by the way and I will dig into each section a bit latter for those of you who are working on projects.

1) Your Entrepreneurial Mindset.

To quote one of the most amazing people I know of “anyone can do anything they want It’s all in your head” This is the starting point and the single most important thing to get right because if you don’t have your head screwed on strait nothing ells will work properly.

Know thyself, yes that’s right kids I have just given you the hardest thing to do strait off the bat. Fact is most people spend their whole lives never really knowing them self’s that well. The Capitalist system will do anything to keep you from really knowing yourself. That’s why the Capitalist system wants to spay you with deodorant and cover your face up with make-up. When you truly get to know yourself, you’ll be empowered and can create the world you want. Sorry for the rant just had to tell you the truth because the man does not want you to know this.

Let’s talk about the entrepreneurial mind set a bit, so you are probably a bit of an entrepreneur already if you are reading this. When thinking about your idea you want to really ask yourself why you want to do this? Really drill down into why you want to do this because you must know what your motivational driver is? Because if your idea / goal is not in line with what motivates you, you will never achieve your goal. So be really honest with yourself and really do your best to know why you want to make your idea a reality. Please take the time to explore more entrepreneurial mindset / mindset for success stuff it will make all the difference.

2) Vision, Mission, Values.

This is where you start to create your idea in your mind and then “Think It, ink it, act on it” Start by trying to put the idea into words and sum it up in a short statement (google how to write a vision statement). A powerful vision statement should say how you are going to solve your customers problem or save the world. The bigger your vision is and the more people it helps the more powerful it will be and the easer it will be to get people to help you build it. If your vision scares the shit out of you because it seems to big, that’s what you want. There are only two things between you and anything you want, fear & hard work. The best bit is fear is an illusion so go for it.

Ok so you have written a vision statement it does not need to be perfect just throw something down and get started you can change it latter and you probably will. Now a Mission statement is a bit different is say what you must do to achieve your vision. You should be able to measure if you are achieving you mission and if you are it should be taking you closer to your vision.
Next you need to have a think about what you & your project stand for or stand against? Try to write a list of values (Values statement) you and everyone involved with your project will adhere to. They need to be things that help to create the type of culture that will drive your team to achieve your mission.

3) Know your value proposition.

Human beings trade to get something that is of value to them but what is of value to one person is different to another. When you to ask for someone to give you something most of the time they will want something in return. But this is not always the case see the “gift economy” for example.

This exchange of value we call a value exchange relationship, you should always seek to make that relationship a win-win one. Otherwise people will not want to do business with you or help with your project.

Have a think about who your customer is? and what is their most pressing need or problem is? can solve that for them? For example, if you own a café maybe they are hungry and in a rush but still want healthy food. Can you solve that problem for them? This is a value proposition and without a strong and compelling value proposition you will find it very difficult to convince people to buy from you and or help with your project. Consider writing a “value proposition statement”.

4) Testing your Idea.

If you know what motivates you to pursue your idea, you have a clear vision and understand what is in it for other people (value proposition) It is time to get out there and start talking to people about your idea / project / business. At this point some people get scared others will steel their idea, but remember FEAR is one of the two things that will stop you. You should be more concerned that no one will give a shit about your idea and if that is the case then that’s ok just change your idea. (Nothing ventured nothing gained) Talk to everyone you can about it but most importantly your customers (or the people who you want to pay for it). If your project does not involve money you still need to talk to people and get their help, ideas & advice.

Here are some questions that I stole from Colin Jones (please don’t get angry and sue me) They are good questions and they are all about trying work out what you don’t know, that you need to know. Try to work through them.

Questions you forgot to ask.
1. Who do you need to know to succeed? (not start)
2. What do you need to know?
3. What do you have to access to succeed?
4. Dose everyone understands what you are trying to do?
5. Does everyone approve of what you are trying to do?
6. Do you understand how your opportunity space changes?
7. What local factors directly work against your idea?
8. What local factors support your idea?
9. Do you understand how value can be created in your opportunity space?
10. To what extent do others win due to your future actions?
11. Are you organising for the short or long term?
12. Are you reaching out to a select few people of everyone?
13. What sources of energy can you tap into?

5) A Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

This term MVP gets used a lot in the innovation / entrepreneurship seen the other term you will see a lot is lean methodology. A minimum viable product is just that, what is the absolute lest you must do to make a sale and check that your value proposition will work? Do you really solve someone’s problem so well that they will pay you for it?

In the project space were money is not changing hands you can still use the MVP concept you just need to modify it. What is the absolute minimum expression of your idea? so you can test if people will care about it. The lean methodology is just a philosophy that says provide the most value to your customer at the lest cost it’s all about being efficient, you can apply this idea to a project that does not include money.

Colin Jones has a game that I am planning on steeling it teaches the concept of “affordable loss” The idea is that if you can afford to lose then you will have a go at it. A straightforward way to express it is “you should not gamble if you can’t afford to lose”. Now when Toyota, Apple or Samsung lose they lose big so they cannot afford to lose to often that’s why the ideas of “Lean methodology” & “minimum viable product” are so popular because they work.

You can probably start to see how you can “fail forward” so now is the time to talk a little about the second thing standing in your way HARD WORK. If you think you are just going to write an app and next week be Mark Zuckerberg you have another thing coming. Just go speak to anyone you consider successful and if they are honest they will tell you if you want it? you have to put the work in period.

Check out this idea about “10,000 hours” it’s interesting just try to imagine putting that much work in? In the medical research & development space it might take them 10 years of experimentation and failure to get a medicine that works. When it comes to getting a successful MVP don’t expect it to work expect it to fail and then learn and try again and again and don’t stop. Practise makes perfect and that is maybe 10,000 hours’ worth of practise.

Ok you will hear this term “Business Model” it just means were does the money, product, info come from? And go to? in your business / project. Get out the calculator and start playing with the numbers you need to have a really good understanding of how your project / business is going to work and you cannot afford to sell yourself short.

In an environment that is constantly changing its not survival of the fittest but those that can adapt to change the fastest and out evolve the competition that survive & thrive. Unfortunately in the capitalist economic environment being able to change what you are doing often requires cash.

To grow a business, you need to have 20% net profit after paying for everything including yourself otherwise you will not have enough money left over to reinvest in building your business / project. Even Not-For-Profit organisations need to make 20% after all costs to be able to grow. So if you project involves money do your best to make lots of it and help lots more people.

If you cannot make a profit / living from it it’s not a business it’s a hobby and that’s ok, you just need to find a different way to fund yourself and your hobby, sale’s alone wont do it.

If you are out to make a profit and do make mega bucks don’t be a capo pig, you live on this planet to so invest some of it back into whatever social / environmental problems your care about.

6) Building a Crew / your A Team.

Ok so you made a sale or maybe you have had to change your idea a bit (this is called pivoting) it just means you are still pursuing your vision but you have had to change how you are going to get there. It’s a change in your Mission statement but not your Vision statement. You might have had to change your MVP three or four times before people buy from you or people are really stoked on your idea / project and want to support it.

Any which way you now have something called “Proof of concept” or a working prototype or a successful minimum viable product. They get called different things in different fields of endeavour but it just means you can prove your idea works and this is very important if you want to raise capital from professional investors almost no-one in Australia will touch a start-up that does not have sales / proof of concept. An idea is not an investment opportunity so go out and get your proof of concept once you have it the ball can really start rolling.

So now to build you’re A team, think about what skills you need to grow your business / project, can you do it all by yourself? probably not. You need to start giving up control over your project / business to other people this can be scary & challenging. This is where having a very strong Vision, a clear Mission and set of Values to live by will help you to work out who and what type of people you want involved in your project / business. A venture capitalist once said to me “we want everyone sitting on the same bus, facing the same way going to the same destination” and you need this to successfully grow your project / business.

There are a few types of skillsets / personality’s you will need for your adventure. You will need an elf, a wizard, a fighter, a thieve and a healing cleric. Just kidding but you should think about it a bit like that. The “start-up weekend” guy’s put it like this you need a hipster, a hacker and a hustler. Another way to think about it is that you will need a marketing & sales person, a production / technical person, a CEO, a bookkeeper / admin person etc. At the start, you may be doing all these things (wearing many hats). Whatever way you chose to tackle your business / project, adventures that start with three people are more likely to succeed (Hipster, Hacker, Hustler). Because your group / team will go through distinct phases “forming storming norming and performing pdf”. Check it out the pdf it will help!

There is not enough space to discuss business structures hear but I will say this, at the very least have partnership agreements signed or get an accountant to set up a company / co-operative. Get some professional advice around what type of business / not-for-profit structure is right for your project. Because things will go wrong there will be disagreements and probably more than they go right so be prepared for this.

7) So you have started on an adventure.

There you have it the basics of getting started and turning your idea into reality. I have tried to put enough links in the text so you can do more research. Having had several adventures, myself and helped many others on their adventures I can tell you things almost never turn out how you expect and you will have many failures along the way. But if you are really motivated towards your vision just keep going and don’t give up. Remember there are only two things standing in your way fear & hard work, lucky the first one is an illusion for you to overcome. We hope this helps.

Please leave a reply (above) and or subscribe we are very interested in your opinions & feedback, thanks.