Monthly Archives: August 2016

Some Things to Do Before Starting a Business

Creating a business is a huge undertaking. It’s not a simple path, and often includes details you may never have considered.

To make sure you’ve covered all your bases before opening your doors, Business News Daily asked entrepreneurs for their best advice when starting a business:

Do your research.
“One of the most important things to do before starting a business is to research the competitive landscape. Just because you have a brilliant idea does not mean other people haven’t also had the same idea. If you can’t offer something better and/or cheaper than your competitors, you might want to re-think starting a business in that area.” – Ian Wright, founder, British Business Energy

Get organized.
“The key to starting a new business is to be organized. So many people are driven and have great ideas, but they fail to follow through with them due to their organization. Small business owners wear many hats. Without a plan to stay organized, you’ll find yourself being pulled in so many directions that you won’t get anything accomplished.” – Eric Brantner, founder, Scribblrs.com

Ask yourself why.
“Every entrepreneur should be able to answer the question, ‘Why are you doing this?’ It seems like a simple question, but there will inevitably be times when things go wrong, hope is dwindling and you need to remind yourself of why you’re in it. As an entrepreneur, building and growth is a process that never fully ends. It is great practice to give yourself a mission statement to maintain focus on the project goals as well as personal ones.”– Noah Krinick, founder and partner, Solo Rugs

Get a mentor.
“The No. 1 thing I would tell a new business owner is that they should have a coach or mentor. I’ve had a coach now for a year and a half and it has easily been the best decision I’ve made. Without his help I wouldn’t have been able to grow my company and keep my best employees.” – Ben Walker, founder and CEO, Transcription Outsourcing

Survey your target market.
“Survey a focus group of the target demographic for the service or product. It is crucial to make sure you are delivering what your customer wants, not what you want. This will give you insight into your customer’s buying decision and save you lots of experimenting down the road.” – Sonia F. Lakhany, attorney, Lackhany Law

Get legal advice.
“If there is one thing I would advise for all entrepreneurs before officially opening a new business, it’s to seek legal counsel. We often make the assumption that legal counsel is for when we get ourselves into trouble, but preventative and proactive legal preparation can be the very best way to set your business on the path to long-term success. When you call on legal counsel after you’ve run into a problem, it’s often too late or could critically impact your business in both the short and long term. Investing in their insight at the start of your business can pay a huge return later on by keeping you out of trouble before you even get into it.” – Katy Blevins, co-founder and corporate publicist, The Modern Femme Movement

Boost your credit score.
“Get your personal credit score as high as possible. No life event under your control will ruin your credit score quite as much as starting a business, with the exception of a divorce. You will probably get into a lot of debt starting out. So you’ll have to be able to finance [your personal life] through your own savings. If your credit score isn’t so great, you’ll [only] be able to borrow less money at higher interest rates. If you want to start a business, increase your credit score so you have a [greater] ability to borrow as much as you need.” – Marc Prosser, small business expert and co-founder, Fit Small Business

Bring an accountant on board.
“I had a full-time job as I considered starting my own business in 2009, but I did a lot of groundwork before I started, and bringing on an accountant was an important step. It helped me understand what I needed to do to make this work from a profit standpoint, [as well as] the ins and outs of state, federal and local taxes.” – Sarah Burningham, president and founder, Little Bird

Network.
“The first thing to do when contemplating starting a business is to understand the commitment required. You will need to talk with many entrepreneurs, ideally those who have succeeded and those who have failed. Their experience needs to be recent to be useful, as it will provide valuable context for your endeavor. The most helpful advice to capture is the impact on their lifestyle, such as finances, personal relationships, health, emotional stability, and self-esteem.” – Todd Rhoad, managing director of BT Consulting, and partner with Peachtree Recovery Services Inc.

Know your tax requirements.
“You need to get organized with your taxes and fees. You have to figure out how much your payroll is going to be in order to make your tax payments timely. The timing can vary depending on your payroll. You also have to figure out other business taxes, such as city, county and state. There isn’t one list of all the fees you may have to pay, so you need to get organized and figure this out ahead of time. Forgetting and filing late can make those late charges add up quickly.” – Travis Sickle, certified financial planner, Sickle Hunter Financial Advisors

Prepare for everything and anything.
“The most important thing a small business owner can do is plan for cyclical downswings in their business activity and revenue. There is a lot to be done when you’re not providing your service or selling your goods. Make a list of marketing activities, touch base with contacts, organize your files and office. A lull in business is an opportunity to improve and plan. Likewise, revenue will come in waves. Cash flow is not a constant trickle, but expenses are. The small business owner should plan on either starting with cash reserves or trying to acquire a line of credit from a local bank.” – Joshua E. Stern Esq., Law Offices of Joshua E. Stern

Think about your exit strategy.
“The most important thing I had other than faith and tenacity, was my exit strategy. I knew if all else failed, that no matter what, I would be able to sell the huge inventory that I ordered, and only lose a tiny bit of money, rather than my entire investment. Knowing that I had a way out that would not hurt too much, made it easy for me to go full throttle and go forward.” – Sandy Stein, president, Alexx Inc.

What Happened with Deutsche Bank

What is different this time is that the outbreak is centred on the biggest bank in Europe’s biggest economy. For decades, Deutsche Bank worked hand in glove with the mighty Bundesbank to prudently finance the German economic miracle.

In the 1990s it became a serious global bank, competing toe to toe around the world with the likes of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. But just a few weeks ago, the IMF said that of all the banks big enough to bring the financial system crashing down, Deutsche Bank was the riskiest.

The bank was forced to deny it had sought government help, its share price has collapsed and this giant of world banking is currently worth half as much as Airbnb.

What happened?

Like all banks – it was laid low by the financial crisis and the ultra low interest rates that followed. Profit margins and lending volumes are thin in a sluggish European economy.

But un

like the big US banks and, belatedly, RBS, it did not take an axe to its loan book. It still has €1.6 trillion ($1.79 trillion; £1.38 trillion) of loans outstanding. Only a small percentage of them need to go bad to wipe out the €60bn it has in capital.

It is also facing a whopping fine from US financial authorities for selling risky mortgages. The $14bn demand is likely to be negotiated down but even if it is half that figure, Deutsche Bank will have to raise money.

However, It has a few options before it would even think about turning to the government.

In order of preference:

1. Cash in the attic. It is already selling a stake in a Chinese bank that should raise $4bn and it has a very valuable asset management business that could be sold off.

2. Sugar daddy. It could raise money from a sovereign wealth fund which might like to take a stake in a big-name bank at a knock down price. It could also ask its own shareholders.

3. Go back to the well. Deutsche could sell more shares to existing shareholders. This is not very popular with owners as it dilutes the value of the shares they already have so you would have to sell them new ones at a fairly hefty discount.

4. Burn your creditors. Deutsche has sold €4.6bn of bonds that can be turned into shares – a bail-IN. Bond holders would lose their income and possibly have to write off the value of their investment completely. That is what these bonds are designed for, but in practice Deutsche would be reluctant to do this as it would make it very hard to sell any more of them ever again.

5. In an emergency, break glass. A government bail OUT would be politically unpopular, probably illegal under current rules and would set a precedent for elsewhere in Europe (particularly Italy) which Germany is keen to avoid.

It is still highly unlikely we get to the bottom of this list. Indeed, the German government is reluctant to acknowledge that option five even exists, but a Deutsche Bank bust is unthinkable for Germany and the rest of the financial world. It’s got a few troubles ahead but it won’t be allowed to go the way of Lehman brothers.

Simple Business Plan Templates for Entrepreneurs

Writing a business plan is an important step in the startup process. It helps you and your partners decide if you will work well together, teaches you about the marketplace, and lets you brainstorm business and product goals. But because of all the effort and detail involved, many entrepreneurs dread the thought of sitting down and creating this critical but time-consuming document.

While business plans can be frustrating if you’re writing one from scratch, there are plenty of online templates available to take some of the pain out of the process. Small business owners can benefit from simple, easy-to-follow business-plan tools so they can spend less time writing and more time launching.

Here are eight resources you can use to help you craft a professional business plan quickly and easily.

$100 Startup
You’ve heard about those entrepreneurs who started off by jotting down their ideas on a napkin at a bar, café or restaurant. $100 Startup’s One-Page Business Plan is a little like that, but more organized. Designed for entrepreneurs who are itching to get started, this simple business-plan template asks a handful of questions that you can easily answer in one or two sentences. It covers everything from what you sell and who will buy it to how you will get paid, “hustle” to find customers, foresee challenges and overcome the obstacles — all in a single page. [Writing a Business Plan? Do These 5 Things First]

Copyblogger
Not all small businesses are concerned with credit lines, partnerships and office space — at least not in the beginning. So why should their initial business plans include these things? Copyblogger’s Remarkably Simple Business Plan doesn’t. Instead, it offers a business-plan template fit for the real would-be entrepreneur’s world. Whereas most business-plan templates assume all businesses are uniform, Copyblogger’s Remarkably Simple Business Plan was created to get to what entrepreneurs really need to know to start a business: the ins and outs of the product or service, how customers will find the business and how the business will make money. Simply copy and paste the template of the Remarkably Simple Business Plan, created by Sonia Simone, co-founder and chief content officer of Copyblogger Media, and you’re good to go.

Enloop
Founded in 2011, Enloop is regarded as an innovative player in the business-plan-creation industry. Like many others, the service uses an online interface to help automate your business plan’s creation. To get started, users enter basic information about their businesses, including product details. Then, Enloop’s software uses metrics to help predict the financial performance of the company in comparison with others in the sector. According to CEO Cynthia McCahon, the goal of the company is to help entrepreneurs make better-informed decisions. Users can get started on Enloop for free; more advanced paid options are also available.

LivePlan
LivePlan is a relatively new entrant to the online business-tools market that helps you every step of the way, from the planning stages through your launch. Like other services, LivePlan allows business owners to craft perfectly formatted plans. From there, users can create the presentation necessary to pitch their business ideas to would-be investors. Once off the ground, businesses can track revenue and expenses against forecasts, and multiple users within a company can work through the LivePlan interface. Pricing starts at less than $12 a month.

The One Page Business Plan Company
Created by The One Page Business Plan Company, this simple business template covers only the key areas entrepreneurs need to address to start a business: their vision for the company, mission for why the business exists, objectives for setting out goals, strategies to make the business successful and action plans indicating what work needs to be done. Unlike complicated business plans, boring blocks of text are not required — bullet points will do.

Platform Planner
Are you the visual type? Look no further than Angela Bowman’s One-Page Visual Business Plan. Based on the principles of the Business Generation Model Strategyzer app, Bowman’s One-Page Visual Business Plan uses sticky notes to help you creatively craft an out-of-the-box business plan. To create a One-Page Visual Business Plan, start by separating a single page into different sections or columns, such as company information and customer segments. Write down your ideas or responses on a sticky note, and then stick it on the corresponding section. You can also color-code the sticky notes for better organization. Then, if your plans change, you can easily remove a note, move it around or add new ones to better fit the direction in which your business is headed.

SBA Build Your Business Plan Tool
The fact that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has an online tool to help users craft business plans will come as no surprise to anyone who has investigated the SBA’s offerings before. The agency has a wealth of free planning, financing and consulting tools and resources, both online and through available consultants. The SBA’s online tool for business-plan creation allows a user to enter information on a Web interface that is tied to that user’s account. The administration says this is intended to be a “live” plan that can be referred to and changed as the company’s plans progress. The SBA encourages entrepreneurs to use their generated plans to discuss their company’s prospects with SBA advisers like those available through SCORE and the Small Business Development Center. The SBA’s tool is available online at no cost.

Wise Bread
Greg Go, co-founder of online finance community Wise Bread, is a big believer that entrepreneurs who are just starting out don’t need lengthy business plans. What they actually need, he said, is an “internal working plan” to get started. The internal working plan consists of four simple questions that make up the simple business plan: What is your product or service? Who are your customers? When will things get done? When are bills due, and when do you get paid? To guide entrepreneurs in completing their four-question business plan, Go provides a simplified way of answering each question in his blog post on the subject.

What Price The Reputation of Business

wwThe report on the demise of BHS would make a decent script for a mini-series. Titled “The Unacceptable Face of Capitalism” it would have a cast of colourful characters in an epic tale of greed starring Sir Philip Green.

Rarely has a single business figure come in for more vilification than he has in a report that is also highly critical of the wider financial establishment.

Sir Philip is well known as a handy retailer and BHS prospered in the early years of Green’s ownership. Perhaps his real expertise, however, lies in finance and property. As fast as BHS made money in the early years, Sir Philip Green extracted it faster. Hundreds of millions in dividends, rent and management fees were paid to companies owned by his wife who was based in Monaco – safely out of the taxman’s reach.

‘Manifestly unsuitable’

Having been efficiently gutted of profits and property, a weakened BHS lost its mojo on the high street. Sales suffered, losses were incurred and the store limped on, propped up by the success of the rest of the Arcadia group – most notably Topshop.

Meanwhile, the problem that was ultimately to sink BHS and Sir Philip’s reputation was growing. The pension scheme’s deficit began to balloon – hitting £571m by the end of last year. Sir Philip Green was well aware of the problem and had a plan to fix it, but that was aborted when it became clear how expensive it would be.

It became clear to Sir Philip that he needed to get rid of BHS at any cost. In this endeavour he was assisted by some of the biggest names in the financial establishment – most notably Goldman Sachs who gave twice-bankrupt Dominic Chappel their informal blessing and hence access to a very willing seller. For just £1 he sold it to a buyer the MPs report described as “manifestly unsuitable”.

Real victims

So willing was Sir Philip that he financially supported the person buying from him by earmarking profits from a property deal to pay Chappel’s own blue chip advisers Olswang and Grant Thornton.

He was “out of his depth” according to the report but he was a creature, at least in part, of Sir Philip Green’s creation.

There are real victims in this corporate soap opera. Shops started closing down this weekend and 11,000 workers will ultimately be out of a job while 20,000 pensioners are still waiting for Sir Philip Green to make good on a promise to “sort” the pension mess.

When I asked him when he will be returning to the UK, he said, in jest, “hopefully never” but he has unfinished business here with the Pensions Regulator and the Insolvency Service which has an investigation under way and could disqualify him from being a director.

How he goes about resolving the pension question is difficult to see but what seems clear is that unless he does something big, calls for him to be stripped of his knighthood will become louder.

What price a knighthood? According to chairman of the Work and Pensions select Committee, Frank Field – around £600m. What price the reputation of business? That is going pretty cheaply.