The Potency of Your Plan A

It is a truism that anybody that aspires to succeed must have a plan. This is because even though success normally starts with a dream, without a good plan, nothing tangible can be achieved. But with a good plan reinforced with determination and energy that can be constantly available by persistently recharging your inner batteries, you will be able to safely paddle your canoe to the shore of success. In business, for instance, if your desire is to achieve success, you need to have a well-composed business plan that communicates the direction of your business in a bid to accomplish the most important goal, that is, profitability


Naturally, to be able to successfully execute your plan, you need to be flexible. So, flexibility is one of the fundamentals critical to easy execution of your plan through which you can achieve success. If your initial plan does not work, you can always modify it to be able to reach your desired destination of prosperity. This is the efficacy of Plan B. What is Plan B?

Explanation and importance of Plan B

Diversification is very critical to success in all areas of life. That is why countries that cherish fast development diversify their economy. Therefore, to achieve success in time or avoid relying on just a financial source of survival, individuals and organisations need to have Plan B in addition to Plan A. Basically, Plan A is the plan you will use if things work out as expected, while Plan B is the alternative plan you will switch over to if Plan A fails.

Just like I said in my background information to the review of the book “The Power of Plan B”, written by Sam Asekunowo, there is no denying the fact many corporate organisations close down today due to lack of an alternative plan in the event that things fail to go as initially planned. Many workers also lack Plan B with which to cushion themselves against sudden loss of their job(s). Self-employment or entrepreneurship may be the Plan B of workers that have vision. Lack of Plan B is like putting one’s car on the road for a long journey without a spare tyre.

Paradoxical potency of Plan A

Even though it is always stressed that flexibility is critical to successful execution of one’s plan, and Plan B is therefore repeatedly echoed as a powerful alternative means of achieving tremendous success, Plan A is very paradoxically critical to success. As opposed to the general notion that you need to diversify your strategy or planning by having Plans A and B, and even relying on Plan B for enduring success, there are times that you need to rely on Plan A alone to be able to succeed.

Let me clarify the paradox. An employee with a vision normally has Plans A and B. His or her Plan A may be paid employment while Plan B may be self-employment or entrepreneurship. The moment he or she starts his or her business later, the initial Plan B, that is, self-employment or entrepreneurship now becomes his or her Plan A while the former Plan A, that is, paid employment now becomes his or her Plan B.

In the same vein, if somebody is very passionate about self-employment or entrepreneurship right from school, and immediately he or she graduates, he or she starts his or her own business, it means his or her Plan A is self-employment or entrepreneurship, while Plan B is paid employment. To be able to achieve success in these two scenarios of resigning to start your own business and starting your business immediately after graduation from school, one needs to stick to one’s Plan A and discard Plan B, which is paid employment. If not, one’s Plan A, that is, self-employment or entrepreneurship may never work because of the confidence that one has the alternative plan of paid employment.


In the words of ken Gaub, a great motivational speaker, “Early in our planning process,… flexibility is fine, but as we get closer to our goals, it becomes necessary to commit. The time comes when we must get rid of Plan B, or Plan A never will work.”

In the same notional vein, William Matthews, a motivational speaker says the first law of success is concentration, bending all the energies to one point, and going directly to that point without looking to the right or left.

John Mason, a renowned motivational speaker reinforces this assertion by saying the most successful people have always been those of concentration who have struck their blows in one place until they have accomplished their goals. “They are of one specific idea, one steady aim, a single and concentrated purpose,” Mason expatiates.

Linguistic illustration

As a linguist/grammarian, I would like to further justify potency of Plan A by illustrating with Noam Chomsky’s Mentalism theory of language. Why is it that while children (automatically or easily) ACQUIRE languages in the second-language environment by mere exposure to those languages (that are not their mother tongue), adults undergo stress to LEARN those languages that are not their mother tongue or first language? Chomsky establishes in his language theory of Mentalism that the simple reason is that children have a natural Language Acquisition Device (LAD) that makes them speak languages automatically whether their mother tongue or a second language.

Beyond the LAD, children are able to easily acquire all languages in their linguistic environment because they stick to their linguistic Plan A. That is, they will continue to be committed to any target second language by communicating in it alone in that context. But adults will quickly borrow words from their mother tongue or first language, that is, their linguistic Plan B, to replace words of the target language that they do not remember or understand. That is, they resort to what is technically referred to as “Code-mixing” and “Code-switching” (mixture of languages) in Socio-Linguistics. With this style of quickly switching over to their linguistic Plan B when linguistic Plan A seems to pose a little challenge, it is difficult for adults to attain proficiency in the second language.

Last words

Even though Plans A and B are necessary to achieve success in life, when it gets to a stage where your Plan A becomes self-employment or entrepreneurship, you need to remain focused and determined on your road to success. Do not behave like a typical Lagos, Nigeria commercial driver that will change from lane to lane on the road to their destination and even get stuck in the process because of impatience. Plan A is indeed paradoxically potent. So if you are determined to board your Plan A plane to destination of success, God will definitely crown your efforts with tremendous prosperity.

Planning Your Small Business Success Journey – Six Steps to a Dynamite Action Plan

You are considering starting a small business. Most startups fail. So why should yours be any different. Any strategist will tell you that there are many factors that contribute to the success or failure of any endeavor, but the one factor that will guarantee failure is lack of a realistic detailed action plan.

Step 1: Set Realistic and Specific Goals

The key to knowing what goals are realistic and specific is experience. In an established business, past history provides the clue. In a franchise, the franchisor can help you set realistic and specific goals based upon years of experience in the industry. For an independent startup, much research is needed. Talk to other businesses in the area you are considering opening your business. Talk to other business owners in your industry. You will want to ask about customer traffic, revenues, and costs. Then set your goals in each specific area.

Step 2: Identify Activities, Resources, and Responsibilities

I know it worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams, but in the real world, if you build it, no one comes. You have to inform your customers about what you do and why they should patronize you. In many startups you have to lure your first customers in using couponing and special events. Identify the specific marketing and sales activities that will bring your customers in. Have a detailed list of all resources available in your area such as signage, media, and public relations. Outsource what you can. Hire when necessary. Do it yourself if you must. Have a detailed list of responsibilities for each activity and hold your contractors, your staff, and yourself accountable.

Step 3: Define Your Timetable

Your timetable is often closely related to capitalization. Industries have time-tested standards for profitability. A house painter may be profitable in 6 months, but a restaurant takes 3 years to be profitable. If you are considering investing your life savings and need to be profitable in the first month to make your mortgage, find a less expensive business to open. Chart your course carefully.

Step 4: Create Contingency Plans for Other Possible Outcomes

General George Patton once said, “Every plan is perfect until the first shot is fired.” What is your contingency if you get a different result than the one you planned for? If you run a special expecting 20 sales of a particular item, what is your plan if you sell 10? What if 30 people want the special? Always have a plan to liquidate excess with minimal or no loss, or to get more product quickly if needed. If you have done your marketing correctly, people will show up wanting to do business with you. Don’t disappoint them. If there is a piece of equipment that is critical to your business such as a brewer in a coffee shop, know where you backup is. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have another in the cabinet, but have a relationship with your repair service so you can rent one within the hour.

Step 5: Merge your Plan of Action with your Timetable

Every plan must be linked to a realistic and specific timetable. In step 4, you set a timetable to reach the overall objective you identified in step 1. Now, set specific milestones linked to the activities you identified in step 2. These can be graphed with project management software, or a simple outline will do. Just make sure you have identified which tasks need to be identified first before others can be started. Think these through carefully. Building from the bottom up makes sense, but don’t lay your carpet before your roof is finished.

Step 6: Delegate, Supervise, and Evaluate

Launching a startup is a daunting task. Often first time entrepreneurs take on too much themselves and burn out. Then they look for someone they can turn the reigns over to while they focus on what they enjoy most. This is called management by abdication and usually ends in disaster. To implement the plan, the entrepreneur needs to focus on delegation, supervision, and evaluation. This gets the job done faster without burning out the owner.

Entrepreneurship is hard work and high risk. So why do so many try it? Because there is nothing quite as rewarding as building a business that can run without you and provide you with financial security for a lifetime. It may seem the odds are stacked against the first time entrepreneur, but a good detailed action plan goes a long way to level the playing field.

How to Write a Small Business Plan

The first thing to do when starting a small business is to write a plan for your business, it is very essential and useful if you really want to focus yourself and get a whole picture of what you have to do in order to build your enterprise. A business plan is the road map for the success of your business

What do you have to offer?

What are your products or what are your intended products? What are your products or services? What kind of income will these activities be generating or what is the expected range of income once the products are launched? Give answers to these questions giving a complete picture of the principal activity that you are engaged in or will be engaged in during the timeline of your business plan.

Where are you located?

Do you work from home or do you have a business premises? If you have a business location such as a store or factory, then explain about the size and capacity of this establishment. What is the business climate like in your area? Are there significant competitors and what are your prospects or advantages of competing in this market? Find answers to all these questions as best you can and give yourself and would-be investors a clear picture of where your business is situated geographically and with relation to your overall market.

How to make it happen?

Your sales and marketing research or plan should be outlined in this section. Explain how you intend to establish your product or service and what steps you will take to create or expand your customer base. How will you fund the start-up cost and the expansion of your business? Explain the source of your funds whether you have existing loans, your savings, borrowing from friends or liabilities. How much money do you need to raise in order to get realize your entire plan for the launching or expansion of your business? Explain how you are going to put your business idea into practice.

Having a good business plan is your key to success. A well-thought-out business plan forces you to think about the future and the challenges you will be facing. As long as your forecasts are realistic and you have done plenty of market research you will definitely come out with a good result. Go ahead with your plan and stick to it.

To your success!

Business Process Improvement – The Implementation Plan

After you change a business process, how do you introduce it to your organization? Who needs to know about the change? What do they need to know? How do you communicate the change to the appropriate parties and train the affected employees?

Before you begin your BPI work, you should develop a project plan that includes an implementation phase. This section of the project plan focuses on the changes that have to occur in order for the new process to work; the testing required to make sure it works; the communication strategy that outlines who needs to know what, when; and the training plan that identifies how to train affected employees.

The implementation phase of the project plan can include sub-phases called “tracks.” For example, the implementation phase can have these four tracks:

  1. Change management track: This track includes creating an impact analysis to ensure that you include the right colleagues in making the appropriate changes to the business process. As you work to improve a process, you identify changes that must occur in the organization to obtain the degree of improvement you expect. The impact analysis is a tool used to capture the changes that have to occur to ensure success.
  2. Testing track: The steps in this track confirm that the process and tools work as expected.
  3. Communication track: This track identifies the audience you have to notify of the change (the who), and the following information for each defined audience: what they need to know, when they need to know it, how you will communicate (the audience’s preferred communication vehicle), and when they need to know about the change.
  4. Training track: This track is similar to the communication track but focuses on the training requirements: who needs training, what they require training on, where you will conduct the training, when you will conduct the training, and what method you will use to deliver the training.

Implementing the business process is the ninth step to improving the effectiveness, efficiency, and adaptability of your business.

Copyright 2010 Susan Page

Home Soap Businesses – Creating a Marketing Plan

Starting a home soap business can be fun and exciting. Yet, it is also challenging. You can only offer your soap to so many friends and family before you will need a marketing plan to get the word out to others. Here are some ways to create a marketing plan for your soap business so that you will sell so much soap that you will be amazed.

1. Create sample sized soaps to pass out for free. Then create a survey form or sheet that people can complete in order to request a sample. You want to make sure that you never give out samples without having the contact information for the person. Doing this is a complete waste of time and money.

2. Get testimonials from people who have used the soap. How did it feel on their skin? What did they like best about it? If possible, get them to give you these testimonials on video. Share these testimonials everywhere. You can include them in email newsletters, on printed marketing pieces, on Facebook, Twittter, YouTube, etc.

3. Stay focused on marketing 3-6 kinds before you start creating too many scents or kinds of soap. By staying focused on selling a few kinds successfully first, you will then be in a better position to create more later.

4. Ask your first customers to complete a brief survey telling you why they like it and what they would change out it if they could. Use their feedback to help create your marketing plan.

5. Write articles, press releases, blog posts and other content focusing on the best aspects and share them online for potential customers to read.

6. Make a list of who your ideal customers would be. What are their skin problems, health issues, etc? Then create a plan to get your marketing and product in front of them.

7. Consider passing out samples to some doctors, hospitals and other similar facilities. Let the people who work there try it themselves first so that they will be able to help you sell it.

8. Educate people about why they should buy from you instead of from the store. Know why your soap is better and what it can do for the skin and the body. Create tip sheets to share these benefits with people.

9. Use a weekly giveaway on your website and in your marketing plan to attract even more leads. People love to get something for free and this can help spread the word.

10. Seek out advice from other people who have sold similar products and include some of their advice in your marketing plan.

How Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Can Plan For ERP Implementation

Introduction: Proper Planning to Reduce Risks of ERP Failure

In the first article, we discussed how a well-structured system assessment scorecard can help Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) mitigate enterprise resource planning (ERP)[1] implementation failure risks at the system acquisition stage.

In this article, we outline certain steps SMEs can take to mitigate ERP implementation failure risks in the subsequent phase of implementation: the planning phase.

Briefly defined, the planning phase is the stage during which the organization prepares to “ERP-ize” its business. An ERP project requires much more than the mere installation of an IT software system. It requires organizational restructuring.

Generally, SMEs have to restructure their operations to satisfy the business flow parameters defined by the ERP software. These days, most ERP software packages are pre-customized to sectors according to certain industry best-practices.

The extent of organizational restructuring that is required depends on the structure of existing business processes, and on the technical and functional requirements imposed by the ERP software.

As with any complex restructuring project, ERP implementation is accompanied by certain risks of project failure. For example, failure can result from a runaway implementation that causes the project to become uneconomical. It can also result from organizational rejection of the restructured environment where such rejection impedes the achievement of the projected efficiencies.

In the following sections, we elaborate on these particular risks of implementation failure and how effective implementation planning can mitigate these risks.

Failure Risk 1: Run-Away Implementation

If an SME is planning to implement ERP, its primary reason for doing so is probably to achieve cost efficiencies. According to 2009 research by the Aberdeen Group, the need to reduce operating and administrative costs continues to be the main driver of ERP acquisition in the SME segment [2].

Since financial reasons drive the decision to implement ERP, it is critical that the implementation be completed within budget. A failure to deliver an economical implementation will mean project failure.

Since this section deals with ERP-related finance, it is important to briefly discuss some of the underlying principles.

The cost side of an ERP budget is based on a total cost of ERP ownership (TCO) calculation. TCO is the sum of the present values of system, maintenance and service costs. System and maintenance costs are fixed and largely determinable in advance.

In contrast, service costs are usually highly variable and difficult to project with accuracy. Further, service costs are proportionately significant. In 2007, service costs accounted for 45% of TCO for SMEs. Put another way, for every $100 an SME spent on ERP software, it spent an additional $81 on service [3]. As you will have probably guessed, service costs mainly reflect implementation costs.

Poor scheduling, improper resource allocation, project delays and scope creep (i.e. unplanned increases to the project’s scope) are the usual culprits for runaway implementation costs. The first three are generally well understood. Scope creep deserves a bit more attention.

During implementation, there is a holy-grail temptation to “ERP-ize” certain business processes that were not included in the original project plan. The rationale supporting a scope increase is that incremental efficiencies will be gained by “ERP-izing” the additional tasks. Implementation seems like the perfect time to widen the scope: the project is underway, consultants are on site and the teams are dedicated.

These temptations must be resisted. Implementation is seldom the right time to widen the scope (except for dealing with unforeseen items that must be addressed).

The reason the temptation must be resisted is because the argument favouring unplanned scope changes only accounts for the benefits side of the financial equation. Incremental costs must also be considered. These costs include direct service costs as well as the opportunity costs of delay. With respect to the latter, every unplanned day that the SME is unable to operate under the new system is a day of lost efficiencies.

It is fair to assume that an ERP project scope is designed to maximize the net ERP benefits (net benefits = cost efficiencies – costs). This means that all components of the project that yield a positive net benefit are accepted. It also means that all components that yield a negative net benefit (where the incremental costs exceed the incremental efficiencies) are rejected. Unplanned scope increases are typically components that would yield negative net benefits, i.e. they would be unprofitable. Since they diminish the return on ERP investment, these components should be rejected.

The following graph (omitted) depicts the relationship between a project’s gross costs, gross efficiencies and net benefits (net benefits = gross efficiencies – gross costs). As seen by the Net Benefits line, the ideal project plan is at Point A. At this point, all profitable components are accepted and all unprofitable components are rejected. Any project plan that lies to the left of Point A would mean that the plan could be profitably expanded. Any project plan to the right of Point A would mean that unprofitable components are being accepted. Scope increases are generally components that lie to the right of Point A.

The above profitability analysis explains why incremental scope changes are both unnecessary and unbeneficial to the project. As time passes, these incremental changes will either be ignored or implemented as part of a profitable optimization plan.

In summary, a well-structured plan can mitigate the financial risks associated with overly broad scope definition and scope creep. Such a plan will help keep the ERP project within budget and on time.

However, even if financial risks are mitigated, other types of failure risk still threaten the project’s success. One such risk is that certain key people will reject the new ERP system and/or the restructured business processes.

Failure Risk 2: Improperly Managed Change

Restructuring is a necessary evil. It causes the SME to undergo significant and disruptive changes. For example, the SME’s organizational and reporting structures will likely change as departments are shifted. Its operations will likely change as business processes are re-engineered. Daily tasks will likely change as manual tasks are automated. All of these changes mean that employees, management and executives will have to unlearn old habits and learn new ways of doing business.

Some people will embrace the challenges and opportunities presented by the change. These people will help move the project forward. However, there will be those who fear the uncertainties associated with change. These people may resist the project and may risk undermining its success.

Change resistors are powerful forces. Even relatively innocuous-seeming resistance can thwart success. Consider, for example, the case of a sales person at a manufacturer who decides not to input an order into the new ERP system. Instead, the employee calls the order into production – the way he had always performed the task under the old system. Although the order is now in the process queue, it was not registered in the ERP planning system.

This one omission can have severe and far-reaching consequences. Automated production planning, shop floor scheduling and material movements planning become inaccurate and unreliable. These inaccuracies will prevent sales people from providing accurate lead time quotations. As a result, sales relationships will become strained and customers will be lost. The unplanned production backlog will also cause an increase in inventory-related costs. Further, real-time performance reporting will become less accurate since the reports fail to include certain transactions. Unreliable reports will negatively impact management’s ability to make important and timely decisions.

In summary, a failure to buy-in to the new system and processes can cause the organization to fail to reap the efficiency and informational benefits of ERP. The result: an uneconomical ERP investment.

The above is but one example of a change resistor. Generally, an organization faces different groups that resist change for different reasons. Common examples of resisting forces include:

· A union that objects because its members’ job functions would change as a result of process re-engineering and automation.

· Employees who object because they have performed the same manual assembly tasks for 20 years and are afraid of or don’t want to learn new processes.

· Managers who object to donating their “A-players” to the implementation team. The loss of key performers would almost certainly have a negative impact on departmental performance.

· Executives who object to short-term business interruptions caused by the restructuring project, notwithstanding the long-term benefits. This moral hazard is caused by an incentive system that rewards the executives for short-term performance. Interruptions may cause the SME to miss compensation targets.

Fortunately, many of the various human capital forces that can sabotage an ERP-driven restructuring can be mitigated at the planning stage.

Good Planning Lessens Failure Risks

A good implementation plan accomplishes two goals:

1. It presents a clearly marked and easy-to-follow roadmap to implement the process changes and ERP system; and

2. It prepares the organization and all potentially affected stakeholders to adapt to the changed environment.

A plan that achieves these twin goals will significantly help the implementation project’s prospects for success.

Although each plan should be customized to meet the SME’s particular needs, there are certain fundamental principles that can frame the design of every project plan. These principles relate to project championship, project plan design and team formation.

Project Championship

Top management is ultimately responsible for allocating time, resources and money to the project. Its collective attitude towards the project filters down and impacts organizational commitment to the project. Consequently, top management support can make the project while its absence of support can break the project.

Given the importance of executive commitment, the project requires a top-level manager to convert the non-believing managers. This person must be both fully committed to the project and capable of influencing others’ commitment. In his capacity as project champion, this person will be responsible for ensuring that the project remains a top priority and is allocated the resources that are required. In other words, the project champion acts as an advocate who drives change, encourages perseverance and manages resistance. Ultimately, it is this person who legitimizes the project and the accompanying organizational change.

Project Plan

The project plan is a formal document that is instrumental in preventing runaway implementations and change resistance.

If done properly, the project plan helps prevent runaway implementations by memorializing the project deliverables on a timeline and allocating a specific budget to each deliverable. Each deliverable should be broken down into manageable and measurable tasks. A well conceived roadmap prevents scope creep, cost overruns and project delays.

The details of the project plan should be (to the extent necessary) transparent throughout the entire organization. Communicating the project plan will diffuse a portion of the organizational anxiety by eliminating ambiguity about the project and the future state of the organization.

In terms of its components, the main project plan should, at a minimum, include the following:

Project Charter:

This is an articulation of the project’s mission and vision. It clearly and unambiguously states the business rationale for the project.

Scope Statement

This defines the parameters of the project. The scope is broken down into measurable success factors and strategic business accomplishments that drive the intended results.

Target Dates and Costs

This sets out individual milestones. Identifiable, manageable and measurable goals are established. Target completion dates are set. Each individual milestone is valued. This step articulates the breakdown of the project into discrete sub-projects.

Project Structure and Staff Requirements

This sets out the project’s reporting structure, and how that reporting structure fits into the larger organizational structure.

The main project plan should be supported by whatever subsidiary plans are necessary. Common examples of subsidiary plans include: IT infrastructure and procurement plan, risk plan, cost and schedule plan, scope management plan, resource management plan, and communications plan. For present purposes, these last three subsidiary plans deserve a bit more attention.

Scope Management Plan

This is a contingency plan that defines the process for identifying, classifying and integrating scope changes into the project.

Resource Management Plan

This sets out individual assignments, project roles, responsibilities and reporting relationships. It also sets out the criteria for back-filling positions and modifying project teams. Further, this plan details human capital development and training plans. Finally, where necessary, it sets out the reward system used to incentivise project performance.

Communications Plan

A communications strategy is critical to manage change resistance. This plan codifies the procedures and responsibilities relating to the periodic dissemination of project-related information to the project teams and throughout the organization. Examples of common channels include email newsletters, press releases and team meetings.

A good project plan is only effective if the project teams are capable of executing the recommendations. For this reason, team formation and training are critical parts of the planning phase.

Team Formation

Successful execution requires an enabling structure. Like many well-structured organizations, an ERP project structure should contain a steering committee that has executive-level strategic responsibilities; a core team that has managerial-level delegation authority; and functional teams that are responsible for implementing the changes.

To facilitate communication and decision-making, each hierarchy level should have a member who is represented on the level below. For example, the ERP project manager should sit on both the steering committee and the core team, and certain key users should sit on both the core team and a given functional team.

The Steering Committee

The project steering committee should be comprised of the chief executive officer, the CIO, executive level business managers, and the ERP project manager. The committee has strategic-level responsibility for reviewing and approving the project plan, making changes to the plan and evaluating project progress.

The Core Team

The core team is responsible for managing the implementation project. It should be comprised of the ERP project manager, functional leads, the outside consultants and certain key end-users.

Functional leads should be top-performers who are reassigned to the implementation project on a full-time basis. They should be experts in their respective departments, should understand other departments’ business processes and should be knowledgeable about industry best practices. In many cases, functional leads will have to be backfilled in their day-to-day jobs.

During the planning phase, the core team is trained on the fundamentals of ERP theory and on the particulars of the ERP software. The purpose of the training is to ensure that the core team is capable of managing the development of the new business processes.

Functional Teams

These teams are responsible for implementing the business process changes in their respective functional departments. Each functional team is comprised of a core team key end-user, select end-users that cover all of the functional unit’s business processes, and a functional consultant with an understanding of the ERP software.

Organizing committed and capable teams is critical to the project’s success. The project teams will be responsible for managing the implementation and helping the organization adapt to the new business environment.


ERP implementation is a complex project that involves significant operational restructuring. The restructuring is accompanied by certain risks of project failure, including runaway implementation and resistance to change.

Fortunately, an SME can mitigate many of the ERP failure risks by properly planning for the project. At a minimum, proper planning requires a project champion to secure executive buy-in, the preparation and communication of a project plan that breaks the project down into manageable sub-projects, and the assembly of strong teams capable of executing the project.

[1] Briefly, an ERP system is intended to electronically integrate an organization’s functional areas, administrative areas, processes and systems.

[2] Jutras, C. (2009). ERP in the Midmarket 2009: Managing the Complexities of a Distributed Environment. Boston: Aberdeen Group.

[3] Jutras, C. (2007). The Total Cost of ERP Ownership in Mid-Sized Companies. Boston: Aberdeen Group.

The Benefits of a Marketing Plan

What is a Marketing Plan?

Marketing is to do with matching the features and benefits that your products and services are able to provide with specific customers and then telling those customers why they should buy them from you. Your marketing plan details how to do this. A Marketing Plan is a document that supplements your business plan and brings together all your market research so that you can work out exactly where your business is going and how it is going to get there.

Your plan should include:

  • Objectives.
  • Details of the current market.
  • A full analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. (SWOT Analysis.)
  • Your plans for achieving your objectives.

The plan should be flexible and able to be adapted to meet the changing conditions in the market place.

Benefits of a Marketing Plan

Having a marketing plan will help you to focus on your target market and to find if there are any gaps in the market that will provide new opportunities for you. Your marketing plan will also provide you with something that enables you to measure how you are progressing. This can then highlight strategies that are working for you and those that are not.

A good marketing plan will also benefit you in that it provides your outside financiers with confidence that you know your market and that you know how to achieve your objectives.

A good marketing plan will deal with the matter of sourcing new leads as well as creating new networking opportunities for your business. The bottom line means your plan will define your business as well as your customers and your future plans.

What is a Good Marketing Plan

A good marketing plan is really a blueprint for the action that your business needs to take in order to achieve certain goals. It will identify the most cost effective ways of performing certain functions and should show the best way to present your business to your target audience.

A good marketing plan will save you money by cutting out unnecessary expenses while at the same time presenting you with new marketing opportunities. A good plan will work for your business to make sure that what you do fits into your budget and that your marketing drive reaches your target audience.

It will essentially keep all your activities and your budgets on track. If you don’t have a good marketing plan it is possible that you are not taking full advantage of all the ways to reach your target audience. This will result in decreased sales.

A Marketing Plan must Reach People

Your marketing plan will provide you with a track upon which your business needs to run. It is similar to a flight plan for pilots. Their flight plan tells them the direction along which their plane is going to fly, where they are leaving from and the path they have to take to get to their destination.

A sports coach will have a game plan that sets out how the team is going to play the game that particular day. The coach will work on strategies that will effectively frustrate and win out over the competition so they can come out on top.

Your marketing plan should be designed in a similar fashion.

  • It has to be built with an end result in mind.
  • It should fit the specific markets you are aiming for as well as the people in those markets.
  • It has to be flexible to meet the needs of the people in the markets because those needs are constantly changing.
  • It must focus on people rather than on products.

Remember to always develop a marketing plan that is specifically designed to reach people.

Business Safety – IT Disaster Recovery Plan

In a technology-driven world, IT disasters happen. In reality, IT disasters don’t ruin your business; poor preparation does. How do you know if you need a disaster recovery plan? Basically, unless you’re running your business out of a cave, you need one. To be more specific, you should have a disaster recovery plan if:

1. Your company has a growing dependence on computerized sales, operations, and employee tracking systems,

2. A technology disaster would significantly impact your firm’s financial standing,

3. Employees and/or vendors utilize your corporate technology infrastructure, and/or

4. Your company’s user and equipment growth is increasing the potential for system security failures.

Below, you’ll find three key steps to developing a comprehensive IT disaster recovery plan for your small business.

Awareness of Potential Disasters

The drivers of IT disasters can basically be broken down into two categories: internal forces and external forces. External forces affect the community at large, and internal forces are specific to your organization or industry.

Natural disasters are examples of external forces. Building systems failures are an example of internal forces. In larger metropolitan areas like Portland or Seattle, old buildings are notorious for upending work environments. Malfunctioning sprinklers, air conditioning, plumbing could create a potentially hazardous place to conduct your day-to-day operations. Also, consider information security disasters posed by hackers and phishing scam artists an internal force.

Awareness of Potential Consequences

Once you’ve identified all the potential disasters your small business may encounter, it’s imperative to prepare for the worst-case scenarios. Given the disasters mentioned above, it’s likely you can expect to experience any one or combination of the following complications: compromising of sensitive information, loss of service, data loss, loss of power, property damage or loss, water damage, and employee injury or death. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, and organizations should devote time to discerning the consequences they may face as a result of their unique operations, location, and industry.

Develop Disaster Recovery Plan

Finally, now that you know what to plan for, here are some elements to consider when creating a small business disaster plan.

— Establish a budget. Before developing a plan, assess how much time and resources your company can afford to invest in this crucial endeavor.

— Get good insurance. Read your policy and completely understand what you’re covered for.

— Formally draft your plan. Store physical copies of your plan it in safe, accessible location.

— Include step-by-step instructions. Detail the steps to be taken after the occurrence of a disaster.

— Include important and pertinent information. Provide detailed contact information for employees, clients, and vendors; alternative methods and locations for conducting business; and any critical resources to be recovered.

— Allocate an emergency fund. This is a designated fund specifically used to implement and/or supplement your disaster recovery plan.

— Test, test, test! Once you’ve developed an initial plan, continue to refine it by regular testing and practice to ensure that your plan is functional and effective.

Each organization’s plan will be tailored to its unique needs and assessments. Consequently, I recommend working closely with a professional IT management service. This not only ensures your company takes appropriate precautions to prevent the occurrence of an IT disaster, but also greatly aids the recovery process if such a disaster should occur.

~Richard McNeal, 2009

Write a Bankable Business Plan – Ten Action Steps

Action Step # 1

Define Your Company: What will you accomplish for others?

Write down all the specific needs your company will satisfy. Potential investors need to know that your business will be meaningful and marketable to people who can use your product or service. So concentrate on the external needs your company will meet. What will your product or service enable people to do better, more cheaply, more safely, or more efficiently? Will your restaurant make people’s palates delirious with new taste sensations? Will your new mouse trap help people capture mice without feeling sick to their stomachs? Will your new bubble gum scented bubble bath revolutionize the way children agree to take nightly baths?

Think of all the positive benefits your company will provide. Write them down. Admire them. Absorb them into your consciousness. Believe in them. These are the primary motivators that readers of your business plan will respect and value.

Action Step # 2

Identify Your Company’s Initial Needs: What will you require to get started?

Whether you want to buy an existing company with 300 employees or you can start your business by only adding an extra phone line to your home office desk, you need to make a list of the materials you’ll need. Some may be tangible, such as five hundred file folders and a large cabinet in which to store them all. Other requirements may be intangible, such as time to create a product design or to do market research on potential customers. You may need to hire an assistant to develop a retrievable filing system for the five hundred folders, or hire a consultant to set up a computer system that’s beyond your technical skills.

If you’re going to build a better mousetrap, you may have constructed a prototype out of used toothpaste tubes and bent paperclips at home, but you’ll need a sturdier, more attractive model to show potential investors. What exactly will your mousetrap look like? What materials will you need? Do you require money for research and development to improve on your original toothpaste tube and paper clip construction? Do you need to hire an engineer to draw up accurate manufacturing designs? Should you patent your invention? Will you need to investigate federal safety standards for mousetraps?

Next, do your homework. Call a real estate broker and look at actual retail spaces in the neighborhood where you’d like to open your restaurant. Make a chart of the most expensive and least expensive sites by location and square footage. Then estimate how much space you require and how much money you’ll need to allow for rent.

Make a list of all the tangible and intangible resources you need to get your business going. The total estimated price of all of these items will become your start-up cost whether you’re buying highly sophisticated computers or simply installing a new telephone line on your desk. If there’s any item in your estimates that seems unreasonably high, research other alternatives. But keep in mind that it’s better to include every element you truly need along with a reasonable estimate of the cost of each item, so you don’t run out of money or default on your loans. Be honest and conservative in your estimates, but also be optimistic.

Action Step # 3

Choose A Winning Strategy: How will you distinguish your product or service from others?

Although there are millions of types of businesses, there are actually only a few basic strategies that can be applied to make any enterprise successful. The first step in selecting an effective strategy is to identify a competitive advantage for your product or service. How will you establish that your product or service is better, cheaper, more delicious, or more convenient? How can you make your company more noticeable than your competitors? What restraints in your business or its industry might determine which strategy you choose?

Your competitive advantage may include designing special features not found in rival products. It may entail superior service characteristics such as speedier delivery, a lower price, or more attentive sales people. Perhaps you’re establishing an image or brand of exceptional quality or reputation. Does your product or service bestow a certain status on its users? Does it create more profits or other benefits for your customers’ own endeavors?

Perhaps you want to position your mousetrap for a primarily upscale market because the best design requires titanium and manufacturing costs will be so expensive only rich people will be able to afford your product. But maybe the mousetrap is so fantastically effective that wealthy people will want hundreds of them around their vast country homes and polo pony barns.

You must have a reason why your business will succeed. This is the competitive advantage your product or service will deliver. Once you’ve established the competitive advantage, you will be able to select the best strategy to reach your goal.

Action Step # 4

Analyze Your Potential Markets: Who will want your product or service?

To determine your targeted market, write down the demographics of the people who will use your product or service. How old are they? What do they do for a living? Will mostly women use your service? Is your product or service attractive to a particular ethnic or economic group of people? Will only wealthy people be able to afford it? Does your ideal customer live in a certain type of neighborhood, such as a suburb with grass lawns, in order to use your lawn mower? Answering these questions about the demographics of your prime market will help you establish the clear characteristics of the people you need to reach.

If you’re selling soap, you may believe that every dirty body needs your product, but you can’t start with the entire world as your initial market. Even if you’ve developed such a ubiquitous item as soap, you need to identify a smaller, more targeted customer group first, such as children under eight for the bubble gum scented bubble bath. If your soap only works with pumped well water without fluoride, you must acknowledge that your intended market has geographical limits as well.

Establishing the size of your potential market is important, too. This will be easier once you’ve completed the demographic analysis. Then you’ll be able to research the numbers: How many car mechanics, house painters or bathroom contractors are there in any given community? How many children in the United States are currently under the age of eight? How much soap will they use in a month or a year? How many other soap manufacturers already have a share of the market? How big are your potential competitors? And where do you find the answers to all of these questions?

Identifying your market is one of the great satisfactions of starting your own business. You’re thinking about the actual people who will use your product or service and how pleased they will be buying it as you are selling it.

Action Step # 5

Develop a Strong Marketing Campaign: How will you reach your customers and what will you say?

Entrepreneurs, especially inventors, often believe that their business concept is so spectacular that promoting their product or service won’t be necessary. Sort of a “build it and they will come” attitude, especially if what you’re building is the proverbial better mousetrap. One of the most common flaws I see in plans is the entrepreneur’s failure to describe exactly how customers will be reached and how products will be presented to them. Potential investors, staff, and partners won’t be convinced that your idea can succeed until you’ve established well-researched and effective methods of contacting your customers – and the assurance that once you’ve reached them, you can convince them to buy your product or service.

Marketing describes the way you will position your product or service within your target market and how you will let your potential customers know about your company. Positioning your company means concentrating on the competitive advantages you have identified: will your product or service distinguish itself by its superior quality, its revolutionary features or its ability to make your customers happier than they’ve ever been in their lives? Marketing helps you focus on identifying your competitive advantage so you can position your product or service. It also establishes the best ways to reach your potential customers and what to say to them.

When you have the right marketing campaign in place, you have an operating plan to gain market share, generate revenue, and bring your financial projections into reality.

Action Step # 6

Build A Dynamic Sales Effort: How will you attract customers?

The word “sales” covers all the issues related to making contact with your actual customers once you’ve established how to reach them through your marketing campaign. How will you train your sales staff to approach potential customers? Will you divide up your sales staff so some become experts in selling your bubble gum scented bubble bath to small, independent retail toy stores? Will other salespeople concentrate on developing relationships with major manufacturers so your product could be sold in tandem through their national distribution outlets? Will you have a sales force expert in buying television slots on Saturday morning cartoon shows or placing ads on the backs of kid-oriented cereal boxes?

What advertising and promotional efforts will you employ – two for the price of one specials or free coupons inside those same kid-oriented cereal boxes? Where can you locate lists of the greatest concentrations of children under the age of eight or whatever group constitutes your market?

In planning your sales activities, you will also need to answer questions such as: Is it ethical to contact your colleagues and clients from your former job as a door-to-door soap salesperson to tell them about your new business. Will you be the only salesperson in the beginning stages of your company? When will you know it’s time to hire more sales staff? How do you convince your clients that your sales staff will take care of them as well as you did? What will your basic sales philosophy be – building long-term relationships with a few major clients or developing a clientele of many short-term customers?

You will also need to consider how you will compensate your sales staff – with a base salary plus a commission? Will you hire full time staff with full benefits, or part time staff without benefits. How will you motivate your staff to do the best sales job possible?

Knowledge of your competitive advantage is just as important in designing a dynamic sales effort as it is in developing an effective marketing campaign. You’ll need to think about what product or service qualities will be the most compelling to your prospective customers. Then you’ll have to devise convincing language that clearly communicates this competitive advantage to your sales staff who will in turn use it when talking to your customers. In my experience, the most important element of an effective sales effort is having a sales staff that thoroughly understands your business and the needs or your potential customers. Therefore, your sales plan must address the issue of how you will create a sales staff that is as knowledgeable about your business as it is about your potential customers.

Action Step # 7

Design Your Company: How will you hire and organize your workforce?

By the time you’ve reached this stage of thinking about your potential business concept, you’ll probably have a good idea of the number of people you’ll need and the skills they’ll require to get your enterprise up and running. Keep in mind that your initial plans will undoubtedly change as your business grows. You may need to hire more managers to supervise your expanding staff or to set up new departments to meet new customer demands. Projected growth and expansion for your company should be mentioned in your business plan, but it’s not the primary focus. For now you want to secure help in getting started and convince your funding sources that you will become profitable.

Investors will want to know if you’re capable of running the business. Do you need to bring in experienced managers right away? Will you keep some of the existing employees or hire all new people? And where do you find these potential employees?

Funding sources will also want to know if any of your partners expect to work along side of you or if their obligations are only financial.

Your plan will need to specify the key management jobs and roles. Positions such as president, vice presidents, chief financial officer, and managers of departments will need to be defined along with stating who reports to whom. You may hope to run your company as one big happy family – and it may work out that way – but organizations require formal structure and investors will expect to see these issues addressed in your plan.

And as soon as you have employees, you need to consider how you will handle their salaries and wages, their insurance and retirement benefits, as well as analyzing the extent of your knowledge of tax related issues. As you think about hiring personnel and organizing your workforce, you must also confront your desire and ability to be a good boss. If you haven’t contemplated this aspect of your commitment to owning your own business, now is the time to give it serious consideration.

Action Step # 8

Target Your Funding Sources: Where will you find your financing?

As your business concept begins to take shape, you can begin to home in on the most likely financing sources. Issues such as the size of your business, the industry it is in, whether you are starting a new business or buying an existing one, and whether you can provide collateral to a lender are among the issues that must be considered in creating a target list of funding sources. Banks and other funding sources don’t lend money because people with interesting business ideas are nice. They follow specific guidelines, such as the RMA database, which are designed to insure that they will make money by investing in or lending to your business.

For the vast majority of entrepreneurs, the well-known, high profile means of raising money, such as through venture capital companies or by going public, are not viable options. Your own credit, credit rating, and business history are key factors in obtaining financing for your venture through Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed loans and other bank credit. Your ability to tap into your personal network of friends, family, and professional contacts is crucial to raising money beyond what your own personal funds or credit can provide. In all of these cases, there are important considerations such as the potential impact on relationships when family and friends become investors.

When you have completed this process of identifying the likely potential funding sources and writing a bankable business plan that addresses their needs and answers their questions (even before they ask them!), you will have greatly increased the likelihood of obtaining the financing you need.

Action Step # 9

Explain Your Financial Data: How will you convince others to invest in your endeavor?

The accuracy of your financial figures and projections is absolutely critical in convincing investors, loan sources and partners that your business concept is worthy of support. The data must also be scrupulously honest and extremely clear. Since banks and many other funding sources will compare your projections to industry averages in the Risk Management Association (RMA) data, I’ve stressed throughout my book how you can use the RMA figures to test your projections before the bank does. Your numbers will be more credible if they compare reasonably to the industry averages.

The actual number crunching portion of your business plan is the place to discuss how and why you need certain equipment, time or talent, how much these items will cost, when you expect to turn a profit, and how much return and other benefits your investors will receive.

More new businesses fail because they simply run out of cash reserves than for any other reason. Investors lose confidence in the entrepreneur and the business and become reluctant to invest more when projections are not met. Had the projections been less optimistic and the investors asked to invest more in the beginning, they probably would have done so. In most cases, proper planning and more accurate projections could have avoided this problem completely.

Your business plan should clearly state the amount of funds you need, how soon you require them, and how long before you start repaying investors. You should also explain what type of financing you hope to acquire, either equity (such as through the sale of ownership shares in your company) or debt (such as loans to the company).

If you’re planning to buy an existing business or already own a business you would like to improve or expand, you will also need to provide a detailed historical financial summary of how well – or poorly – the business has done in the past. This analysis should also include a comparison of this venture’s financial performance compared to the industry standards.

Action Step # 10

Present Yourself in the Best Light: What are your qualifications for bringing your plan to fruition?

The talents, experience and enthusiasm you bring to your enterprise are unique. They provide some of the most compelling reasons for others to finance your concept. Keep in mind that investors invest in people more than ideas. Even if your potential business has many competitors or is not on the cutting edge of an industry, the qualifications and commitment you demonstrate in your plan can convince others to proffer their support.

Your resume will be included in the separate appendix of exhibits at the end of the plan, so this is not the place to list every job you’ve ever had or the fact that you were an art history major in college, especially if these experiences have no direct bearing on your ability to start your own business. But it is the place to emphasize qualifying skills that may not be readily apparent from your resume.

But don’t overlook the impact being some part of your background that might even seem unrelated to your new venture. For example, having been a pilot may demonstrate that you know how to supervise a crew of people working together to make a group experience if not comfortable, at least safe. You have undoubtedly handled dissatisfied or enraged customers. Even that BA degree in art history may enable you to make your products or store more appealing to the eye.

Your unique qualifications will separate you from all the other people who have sought venture capital for similar ideas. Boasting about these skills is not hubris; it indicates that you have a highly honed business savvy.

Developing an Integrated Business Plan

A Business Plan is a document that includes the qualification and characteristics of the business of an organization, its way of operating, the development of its strategies, its action plans to secure a market share, methods of financing for its investments, and the projections for expenses, revenues and financial results. The goal of the Business Plan is to provide the company’s managers with guidance to create a significant value to the customers and meet the relevant needs such customers are willing to pay for, in addition to providing a potential significant profit to investors, thus meeting the company’s cost-benefit expectations. This document must contain the following sections while observing the subsequent questions:

1. The Venture: Brief description of the business, its location and scope;

2. Description of the Business: What business is to be established? What products or services are to be offered? What is the target market and its size? What is the best way to offer the products to the market? What are the critical success factors for the business? What are the possibilities of growth of the market under study? What are the positive and negative points of the business?

3. The Market: What is the big market and the best segment status to compete? What is the size of the segment and its growth possibilities? What is the geographical distribution of the market? What are the seasonal fluctuations for demands? What is the estimated value and the location of the business? Highlight the positive and negative points of this market.

4. The Competition: What are the direct competitors to the business? What other substitute businesses or products will compete with the product? What is the size of competitors? What analysis can be drawn about the competitors? What is the company’s price strategy? What is the distribution strategy? What is the technical assistance strategy for the company’s products or services? What is the quality concept for the product? What selling methods are to be applied? What the means available for publicizing the products or services?

5. Description of the Venture’s Product: What is the technology used in the product? What is its current development stage? What function and application does the product have? What innovative solutions can be used to serve the market? What are the regulations and technical standards governing the product? What analysis can be drawn on the relation between the product and the environment?

6. Price: What is the price competitiveness? What is the price strategy to be used? (in this case, study the prices that exist in the domestic market and the price of the similar imported products). What margins are appropriate to work with?

7. Suppliers: Where are the suppliers located? What inputs are imported? How to obtain the necessary inputs for the product? What are the delivery times for the inputs and the minimum quantities required for the product?

8. Productive Process: What is the flow of the productive process? – present an example of the process core, what is the planned number of employees? What will the installations of the business be like?

9. Marketing / Commercial Plan: What are the potential customers and their locations? What is the best way to attract the customers? What will the sales channels for the product be? How will the sales promotions be conducted? What are the best suppliers of inputs? How much should be invested in advertising? How will the distribution system for the products, and the technical assistance thereof, be operated? Who are the opinion makers for the product? What is the potential and sales estimate for each the product?

10. Costs: Cost estimates shall be generated for those inputs directly involved in the production of the asset – fixed costs and overhead, as well as the level of reliability of forecasts for the critical costs of the venture.

11. Investments: What is the infrastructure required to be obtained for the business to operate?

12. Organizational Aspects: What are the skills and knowledge of each partner, director and employees of the company? What organizational structures will support the venture?

13. Financial Plan: What is the sales volume required to obtain profits? What are the financial sources for the company? What is the shareholding of the organization? Present a cash flow spreadsheet for the first 10 quarters (in BRL) and NPV for the venture.

14. Partners: What are the possibilities for establishing partnerships for the venture?

15. Entrepreneurs: What are the motivations for creating this venture? What is the experience of the entrepreneurs? What are the main barriers and threats to the venture?

16. Venture Phases: What is the time required for developing each phase of the venture: Implementation, Growth, and Consolidation?

Exit mobile version