Category Archives: Mentoring

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.

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.