Category Archives: Business

Get Your Business Plan Right

Business plans are dead — or are they? For many entrepreneurs, the business plan is an outmoded document and start-ups rarely think they need one to get by. But the fact is that a business plan isn’t simply a paper document; it can be a very valuable tool and a roadmap for even the smallest or earliest-stage idea, writes Connor Sweeney from InterTradeIreland.

A good business plan can foster alignment of ideas, set the tone for the business and even help with the brand messaging. And by preparing one, a company can identify a clear and definite plan of action to implement the business strategy where every member of the team knows their clearly defined role.

Without a plan, a business is essentially rudderless, and day-to-day activities are likely to be haphazard and reactive, in stark contrast to those businesses that implement a well thought-out and structured business plan.

So, how can you prepare a strong business plan?

1. Presentation
Make sure your plan is easy to read – include headings, paragraphs, tables and graphs if appropriate. Include some white space. You must attempt to keep the reader interested throughout the entire document. Try to avoid the use of industry jargon – not all readers of the plan are as conversant with industry language as you are. Avoid the use of acronyms without first explaining what they stand for. This is especially important if the industry in which you operate uses acronyms as standard. Do you know what a PIP is? It’s a Programme Implementation Plan, but you could possibly have been guessing for ages if you hadn’t been told. Small things like that frustrate the readers of a business plan. Try not to do that!

 

2. Remember the objective
What is the purpose of your business plan? Is it primarily to raise finance? What type of finance? If it’s equity then you should tailor the output to an investor’s point of view, i.e. a return on their investment after a period of programmed development and a sale to maximise their investment – usually via a trade sale for cash. If you are using the business plan to approach a lending institution (bank) for funds then you need to tailor the plan slightly differently – they are interested in the business’s ability to repay. You should prepare the plan with this in mind. Think about the business idea from the reader’s point of view. Why would they have an interest in this project?

 

3. Keep it to an appropriate length
An investor may have to read a lot of business plans. The more concise and to the point that a plan is the better. The plan should only serve to get you, the promoter, in front of an investor to make your pitch for funds! Make sure that your executive summary (the most important part of the plan) is no longer than 2-3 pages and that the whole plan is less than 25 pages using a font size 12. Oh, and don’t use the executive summary to introduce new ideas – they should have been addressed in the main body of the text. Write the executive summary last. The best plans are the ones that have been distilled down from their original full size version to a clean, concise document. If you have additional information, it can go in an appendix.

The Dreaded Price Objection

In today’s commodity-driven world it is easy to fall prey to discounting your product or service in an effort to capture the sale. However, there are better ways to deal with the dreaded price objection.

First, make sure that you invest sufficient time at the front end of the sales process learning about your prospect’s current situation, problems, concerns, goals and objectives. Although this sounds basic and fundamental, too many sales people skate through this process so they can pitch their product or service. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons they encounter price objections.

Demonstrate the value of your product, service or solution.  Chances are you spend the first five to 15 minutes of your sales presentation telling people why they should buy from you or giving them background on your company. This approach is one of the LEAST effective ways to demonstrate your value. If you truly want to demonstrate value then you need to tailor EVERY sales presentation so that it addresses the key issues your prospect is facing. Here are two simple steps that will help you modify your presentation.

Step 1: Start every sales presentation or proposal with a summary. This summary must highlight their issues, concerns and situation. Focus your attention on demonstrating that you clearly understand their problem, the impact of that problem on their business, the implications of not addressing the problem, and the value to your prospect and his/her company when the problem is solved. This does not mean talking about your product! You are not actually presenting your solution yet. You are simply showing your prospect that you have listened to them and that you understand their situation.

Step 2: Now it is time to present your solution! Start by showing how your product, service or solution will address the issues that you mentioned in your summary. Start at the beginning and make sure that you clearly demonstrate how the prospect is going to benefit from buying your product or implementing your solution. Please note: you do not accomplish this by simply spouting off features and benefits.

These four strategies can help when discussing price.

Strategy 1: If someone says your price is too high, ask “Compared to what?” This will give you their perspective and help you understand why they think your price is too high. You can then respond accordingly.

Strategy 2: Remain silent. Do not say anything for at least five seconds. In many cases, your prospect will make a statement or concession or even withdraw their statement. It sounds too easy, doesn’t it? Here is the challenge. It is a difficult concept to apply because most people find it difficult to deal with silence. However, if you can condition yourself to become comfortable with these short periods of silence, your results will improve.

Strategy 3: Another strategy is to remove an element of your product or service and then drop your price. Position it like this “Mr. Bloggs, I can lower my price to, or by, this much. Unfortunately, that means I cannot include (whatever you plan to eliminate).”

Know what you don’t Know about sloppy strategic

Don’t let pride get in your way: Bridge knowledge gaps. One of the biggest growth barriers that business owners face has nothing to do with weak sales, sloppy strategic planning or lacklustre personnel. It’s a psychological hurdle: knowing what you don’t know.

The ability to recognize holes in your knowledge — and find ways to plug them — propels your business. Otherwise, you might see yourself as a jack-of-all-trades and repeatedly take on duties for which you’re unqualified. Making decisions when you lack understanding or familiarity with the issues can lead to disastrous results. It sounds simple: Admit your weaknesses and address them. Yet when events unfold at breakneck speed, chief executives of young companies may feel that they lack the luxury of time to sit back, assess the situation, recognise their knowledge gaps and fill them.

Overcome the obstacles

What makes it so hard for founders to confront what they don’t know? For starters, they grow so accustomed to improvising that they assume they’ll learn whatever they need to know by doing. They assume part of running a growing business is rendering judgments without having all the answers.

Have you fallen into this trap? See if the following statements sound familiar:

  • I’ll never have all the information I’d ideally like to have, so I need to do my best with what I know
  • I don’t have anyone critiquing my performance every day. There’s no one around telling me, “You don’t know enough about this. Learn more before you plunge in”
  • Launching a business is a leap of faith. I’m busy drumming up excitement in our future. Obsessing over what I don’t know isn’t going to help us grow

What’s more, business owners cherish their independence. They may reject unsolicited input from others, especially if outsiders try to tell them what to do or how to do it. Unless entrepreneurs schedule periodic meetings with a mentor or advisory board, they may operate in a vacuum and lose perspective on their own strengths and weaknesses.

Self-confidence is a prerequisite for building a business. But too much confidence can convince you that you know what you’re doing when you really don’t, causing you to stray far from your field of expertise. Another obstacle is the temptation to assume you can muddle through on your own. Telling yourself, “I can get by for now” or “I can figure this out myself,” prompts you to accept your limitations without attempting to patch up knowledge holes. Even if you accept your knowledge gaps, you might not want to dwell on them because it makes you uneasy. Feelings ranging from misguided pride to flaring anxiety can lead you to forge onward rather than taking the time to confront unknowns.

Starting out in Farming

The agri sector needs young, well-educated people to provide vibrancy and fresh thinking to aid industry progression, but entry isn’t always easy, particularly for those who don’t inherit a farm.

 

In the latest edition of AIB Agri Matters two young progressive farmers offer advice to aspiring young farmers in setting up a new farm enterprise or starting out in farming:

 

1.      Know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing – if you don’t it’s hard for anybody else to know. Explore the options and pick the one that suits you best. Seek advice from others to see what worked for them.

 

2.      Establish a good track record when you’re young – in work, in college and with the Bank – it gives others more comfort you have the credentials to deliver on your plans.

 

3.      Put your best foot forward when meeting the bank – prepare well in advance. Don’t sell yourself short – Have your costing’s and have your research done. Show you understand your business and its profitability and most importantly ensure your lender understands it.

 

4.      Treat the farm as a business – if you don’t look after the business, financial management is useless. The opposite is also true. Costs and cash flow must be controlled and monitored to ensure the business remains profitable and bills can be paid, when they fall.

 

5.      Have a simple system – more easily expanded, and helps ensure consistency and accuracy – especially important where additional labour is employed.

The short answer is that we don’t quite know yet about business

The short answer is that we don’t quite know yet. The UK will now have to enter into negotiations with the EU. However, to exit the EU, the UK will have to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (for the first time in EU history), to begin a formal process of withdrawal, which can last up to two years and is even extendable beyond that period. During this time, the terms of exit will be negotiated between the UK and the EU and, after the period expires, EU treaties governing EU membership no longer apply to the UK.

 

Patents

For patents, national UK patent legislation will remain largely unaffected by a Brexit, and the UK remains a member of the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) and the European Patent Convention (EPC) – meaning that patent protection in the UK can still be pursued nationally and internationally as before.

However, the coming into effect of the proposed Unitary Patent could now be delayed. Given that the Unitary Patent is intended to take effect across the whole of the EU, the exit of the UK from the EU means that the Unitary Patent will no longer take effect in the UK, and applicants for Unitary Patents should consider national UK validation (as well as national validation in Spain and Croatia, who are also not participating in the Unitary Patent) of European Patents alongside unitary effect.

The Unitary Patent is dependent on the coming into effect of a Unified Patent Court (UPC), of which the UK was a compulsory member required for ratification. Without UK participation, the establishment of the UPC could be dramatically delayed as the preparatory committee of the UPC looks to make Italy a compulsory ratification member in the place of the UK. Even when established, this means that claimants will have to start parallel proceedings in the UK and the EU and that the UK Courts will no longer be in a position to grant pan-EU injunctions.

 

Trademarks

For trademarks, the exit of the UK from the EU erodes the unitary EU rights afforded by European Union Trademarks (EUTMs), which will no longer take effect in the UK after exit. It is proposed that there will be a transitional provision to allow for conversion of existing EUTMs to corresponding UK trademark registrations. Trademark owners should now consider applying for national UK trademark registrations to supplement EUTMs or International Registrations designating the EU (or designating the UK in the International Registrations). National UK trademarks should be relatively unaffected.

Existing EUTM proprietors must also consider that any EUTMs relying on use solely in the UK could now become vulnerable to cancellation if the use in the UK is no longer deemed genuine use within the EU. Trademark owners should now consider whether it is possible to put trademarks to use in another EU member state to avoid applications to cancel the EUTM, or indeed if strategic new filings are appropriate.

 

Designs

For designs, national UK design law is unlikely to change, but the geographical scope of protection of Community Designs (both registered and unregistered) will no longer include the UK after exit.

Even if there is a transitional provision to allow for conversion of existing Community Design Registrations (CDRs) to corresponding UK design registrations, design owners will have to consider applying for national UK design registrations to supplement CDRs. Proprietors using the Hague system of international design registration will likewise have to pursue protection through national UK Design Registrations because the UK is not a participating member of the Hague system.

Designers who rely on unregistered community designs will no longer benefit from making a design available to the public within the UK in order to establish unregistered Community Design right, and should consider how designs can be disclosed outside the UK to benefit from unregistered Community Design right.