4 Business Plan Musts

How having your business plan on-point can put you ahead of the competition

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[caption id="attachment_143677" align="alignleft" width="199" caption="Centerstage: Two years after the Rihanna incident, Brown is in the news again for another angry outburst (Image: Getty)"][/caption] I don’t usually go here, but I could not not speak to what happened with Chris Brown this week when he was interviewed by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. Let me say up front that I have nothing but respect for their individual talents. Roberts was a subject in my book, Take a Lesson, and when I took my daughter to see Brown at Madison Square Garden three years ago, I acted more the fool than she did (she’s still not quite over the embarrassment). But when it comes to this latest chapter in both of their professional lives, the haters and debaters have gone into overdrive over who did what to whom. The bottom line is this: Robin Roberts did her job. Chris Brown and his handlers did theirs too--but poorly. Let’s be real: How much is there to say about a new album in and of itself? Once an artist has said the predictable, “It’s out. It’s great. Go buy it,” there’s still an interview to fill. How could Roberts not address the Rihanna assault-saga, which is now, whether he likes it or not, a part of Chris Brown’s story (as is the subsequent broken window he is reportedly responsible for over at the GMA studios and his rambling apology on BET's 106 and Park yesterday). Robin Roberts is a journalist, and despite the chummy co-mingling of what were once totally disparate elements-- entertainment and news--that Good Morning America and most media outlets now embrace, Roberts remains a journalist. She is there to ask the questions that her bosses and her audience want answered. She did that. Somewhat awkwardly, but insistently, as she is expected and paid to do. She is not paid to be a Chris Brown fan, or his friend, and she is certainly not his flack (aka publicist). Thus, it is not her job to sanitize Brown’s reputation, spin his comeback, feed his ego, promote his latest album or in any other sense make Brown look good. That’s his job and, no doubt, the job of an entire staff of pros and wannabees on his payroll who are supposed to help him do it. The fact that Roberts doesn’t have Oprah’s touchy-feely format or Barbara Walters’ reputation for making her subjects cry doesn’t mean she didn’t have every right and reason to ask the tough questions. In fact, it was her responsibility to do so. Otherwise, what is he doing there? Albums drop every day--from artists with a broader reach and bigger following than Chris Brown has (his last album, 2009’s Graffiti, fell way short of goals)--and yet, they don’t typically warrant air time on morning television. So, it stands to reason that part of why Brown was there at all is that this album’s release is considered a news story. Why? Because he’s attempting a comeback. From what? Well, that’s precisely the question, isn’t it? Robin Roberts knew that. The GMA producers who booked Brown knew it. The viewers all knew it. Why didn’t Brown and his handlers know? This brings us to my objective appraisal of their job performance. It’s been reported that Brown’s management requested that the interview not address his past physical abuse issue at all, and that they had settled on the expectation that there would be, at most, one question on the subject. Seriously? First of all, any artist’s manager worth his or her salt knows that they cannot control an interview. Unless there are written and signed assurances, everything is fair game. [caption id="attachment_143678" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Brown leaves GMA after reportedly throwing a tantrum backstage (Image: Getty)"][/caption] Secondly, does Chris Brown or his mother, his manager, his stylist, choreographer, producer, driver, body guard, assistant, housekeeper, tattoo artist, dentist… you get the idea….does anyone in the Brown camp really expect that he can be interviewed anywhere by anyone anytime soon and not have this issue arise? Even if they thought the topic was dead and gone (as unimaginable as that is) wouldn’t it make sense to be prepared, just in case? Wouldn’t it be wise to have a calm, consistent, believable script that Brown would adhere to as if it were one of his many tattoes? A little of his vintage boyish charm wouldn’t hurt either. Instead we got the muscle flexing, platinum headed, self-righteous, jaw clenching F.A.M.E. pusher. And whose brilliant idea was it to reference his “enemies” in the album’s name (Forgiving All My Enemies). Really, Chris? Enemies? The very word is associated with anger and resentment, with grudges and negativity. And how arrogant to suggest that you’re now granting forgiveness instead of seeking it. Again. Look, I’m a mom and a music lover. A black one. So I want Chris Brown, and every young black man on this planet, to succeed. Everybody loves a comeback story and most folks (including those associated with GMA, who declined to legally pursue the matter despite the property damage Brown caused in his post-interview tantrum) want to forgive. But to forgive is not to forget. Even at the tender age of 21, Brown ought to understand that. Forgetting comes with time and an accumulation of esteemable acts, acts that prove a lesson has been learned and real growth has taken place. Time’s gone by, but no such proof is in evidence. Quite the contrary. F.A.M.E is expected to debut on the Billboard charts at #1 next week. Sadly, it seems that’s all Brown and his camp care about. If so, maybe they performed well after all. See Chris Brown's Good Morning America interview with Robin Roberts here and tell us what you think in the comments below. Was she fair in the questions she asked? Did Chris handle it well while on-camera?

Get serious about your business plan (Image: Thinkstock)

Whether you have 100 investors or 100 dollars to fund your start-up, your business plan being on-point is a must. It should meticulously and thoroughly describe the launch of your product and/or service as well as reflect how you will make use of the resources that you do have as well as garner success from them.

I’m fortunate to be a part of the annual MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneurs Series (MUES) business plan competition as a national judge. The dedicated team awards grants to the most viable business concepts. It’s always those with solid business plans that secure the money and resources to propel their business forward.

Having reviewed business plans ranging from polished to pitiful over the years, I can tell you there are patterns in poor preparing. So, to make sure your document delivers, here are four business plan must-haves.

Not clearly addressing crucial areas within your plan easily assures the death of your business, in some cases, before it even begins. Because, if you can’t tackle it in writing, what makes you or any potential investor confident it can be done face-to-face? It doesn’t. So, let’s get to work.

1) Develop a viable revenue model.

Having a great idea is, umm great, but the follow up question to that would be: How you are going to make money? Don’t expect to put a product/service out there, stand back and watch the magic happen. It just doesn’t work like that.

Within the business plan, the revenue model shouldn’t be indecipherable or a secret to you or those reading it. But what it should set out to do is reveal–in a clear, concise yet thorough, and realistic explanation–how you intend to maximize profitability in offering your products and/or services to your clients and/or customers. This may involve one or, over time, multiple revenue streams.

Research plays a huge role in developing this portion of your plan. In determining the revenue model, you must know the following:

  • Who your target audience is.
  • How many of them actually exist.
  • How you intend to reach them (if you even can).
  • What the results will be for your business and for them.
  • Revenue models that worked or failed for your competitors.

Your plan needs a viable revenue model. It’s the most vital piece of your business plan’s puzzle. So, don’t leave people puzzled about how the money will actually be made.

2) Get the financials right.

It baffles me how often prospective entrepreneurs — and even those already doing business — include in their plan inaccurate, incomplete, or just plain incoherent numbers on their company.

There’s no getting around it, you are responsible for having accurate financial documents that offer a true snapshot of your company now and a rational, realistic look at how the company will look and produce over time. This is where the majority of mistakes are made. Some entrepreneurs either undermine the process or overestimate the result.

From how much monies the company currently has on-hand to projected cash flow to budgeting for salaries, equipment and supplies needed, required travel or marketing and advertising, this and more must be included.

The three basic financial statements are the…

  • Balance sheet, which shows firm’s assets, liabilities, and net worth on a stated date.
  • Income statement (also called profit & loss account), which shows how the net income of the firm is arrived at over a stated period.
  • Cash flow statement, which shows the inflows and outflows of cash caused by the firm’s activities during a stated period.

Even if the numbers aren’t what you may have anticipated, putting on paper the financials helps to further determine the company’s viability. Unless you are qualified (and have the background to prove it), pay an experienced certified public accountant or other financial professional to make sure the numbers not only add up but also make sense. (Key words here: experienced professional. This is neither the time nor the situation for Do-It-Yourself.) Hiring the right people to get the numbers right is an investment in your business. So be willing to budget for it.Of course, it goes beyond hiring people to crunch the numbers and handle the related paperwork; you need to know, be highly familiar with, and understand what the numbers represent. Also, what the financials mean to the business in the short- and long-term. (Book: Finance for Non-Financial Managers and Small Business Owners by Lawrence W. Tuller (Adams Media; $16.95).)

Too many prospective entrepreneurs stammer with this query, offering vague to no explanation. Don’t be one of them.

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