Are Small Business Plans Really Needed?

Writing a business plan or even thinking about doing it drums up feelings of dread. It is a bit tedious and takes some dedicated time. You may even think it isn’t really needed for your small business. But, you are wrong!

Your business will not reach its full potential if you don’t know where you are headed. You need to have your business goals written down so you can see how far you have come. It is so satisfying to look at your business plan (or goals) one year later and say, “WOW, I surpassed all of my goals!” If that is the case, it’s time to write a new business plan with bigger goals. It is an evolving thing.

Most of the time, the only reason small businesses prepare a business plan is out of necessity. They need to show it to their banker or investor to raise funds for their small business. That is fine, but this report should be a priority when starting your business. You have to AIM for something and make a plan on how to make it happen. That is what all successful entrepreneurs do.

This applies to all small businesses. You can be a blogger, an independent home consultant for one of the many companies out there selling essential oils or beauty products, an auto repair shop, or a professional attorney or accountant. It doesn’t matter which business you create, you need to have a plan in place for your growth.

What is a business plan? It is simply a list of answers to questions that people might have about your small business. It is also a forecast of where you hope to be financially within the next year, two years, and five years from now. Your business plan should include a description of your service or what products you will offer. Once you know what your business will do, the next thing you need to know is whom you are going to be doing it for. What makes your business different? You need to explain what makes your business different from other businesses in your market. How do you plan to make the business succeed? You will need to forecast expected income and expenses. This will be a bit easier if you have solid financial numbers and have been in business for a while already. It is a lot harder if your business is brand new.

This has been a brief overview. If you need more help with your business plan, doing a quick search on the Internet will bring up several ideas and templates to use. The Small Business Administration has this great tool to use. Remember, if you are truly determined to build a successful business then you must have a business plan written and in place to help you measure that success.

Why Half of All Small Businesses Don’t Have Websites

You can easily find a small-business owner that will tell you “I don’t need a website.”

And they’re right– businesses that don’t want to be successful certainly shouldn’t spend the time and capital to build a website for their company.

Honestly, it’s tough for me to admit that every company doesn’t necessarily need a website. But any company that plans to compete in the ever-changing market and become successful in the future will absolutely need a website. A crappy one might do better than none at all.

Half of all small businesses don’t have a website to market their business online. This is not an inflated number. According to a 2013 survey of more than 3,800 small businesses conducted by Google and research company Ipsos, 55% of small businesses don’t have websites representing their company.

These numbers are outrageous when you look at how much the world has changed in the last 10 to 15 years. Consider the growth of smartphones, tablets, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and anything that has to do with the internet.

The world is forever changing. So why the hesitation?

I believe that the problem lies in lack of education and perceived complexity. Here are some of the objections that I’ve come across.

An Incomplete Understanding of the Benefits of a Business Website

As professionals in web development, we have failed to educate the older generation in the benefits of the internet and how it can be used to improve business. 76% of small business owners are over 45 and Facebook has only been around since 2004!

The digital age has only become common in the last 10 to 15 years. Our small-business owners did not grow up in a world of internet technology, they’re only adapting to what is most convenient to them and what is the easiest to understand. Since the average small business owner doesn’t have a dependency on the internet, it would be difficult for them to understand why their business would.

They also don’t understand how a website could help their customers.

Their lack of dependency on the internet, blinds them from the fact that the newer generation would be crippled without the aid and resources of the internet and that their business would be able to reach these customers more effectively online.

“Nearly all consumers (97 percent) now use online media when researching products or services in their local area, according to BIA/Kelsey’s (http://www.bia.com and http://www.kelseygroup.com) Among consumers surveyed, 90 percent use search engines, 48 percent use Internet Yellow Pages, 24 percent use vertical sites, and 42 percent use comparison shopping sites.”

At the very least, small business owners should have their address or contact information on Google so when people are looking for them, they at least have a point on Google Maps. A business card or yellow page ad simply won’t cut it anymore.

By now it will sound like I’m beating a dead horse– I get it. Just to be clear, I am an advocate of figuratively beating dead horses if it means I prove my point. My point may seem obvious to those in the industry, yet it is still foreign to those who haven’t found a use for their business on the internet. It is only natural to have the idea that websites are complex, time-consuming, and not worth their time.

The truth is, anyone can build a website. Trust me, this article was written by a monkey on a laptop. It’s one thing to create a beautiful, functional, and fluid website, it’s another to optimize it so that people can find it and find use in it. Because of this reason there are companies like us that strive to making it easier and simpler for businesses to create a website and run their business online.

But what if my business is doing fine without a website?

Just because things seem OK now doesn’t mean everything is fine. That’s like jumping off a building and halfway down saying, “So far, so good!”

-justaddcontent.com

It may be true that these businesses are doing “fine” with word-of-mouth advertising and their current customer base, but this does not account for changes in the market or guarantee that they will have continued business. The longer it takes for us to realize the need for a website the more we give other companies the time to adapt and eventually replace us completely. Ignoring this concept is a recipe for entrepreneurial disaster.

So how do we fix this?

Simplification, Education, and Affordability.

First we make it easier for anyone and any business to get up and running online.

We then teach them how to take advantage of their online business, reach their customers online, and promote their website.

In order for these to be possible, we have to find a way to make it affordable and accessible to all business owners and entrepreneurs.

Having a website for business shouldn’t just be another business investment, this should be an absolute necessity for every small business. Period. Non-negotiable.

Tips For Buying A Business That Fits Your Situation

It’s very risky to start a business. Research studies have shown that up to 99% of startups fail within two years of start. The good thing is that you can lower the risk by buying an already established business.

In addition to lowering the risk of starting a business, buying an established business ensures that you start earning immediately you make the purchase-you don’t have to wait as its common with new businesses. You also tend to have a shorter learning curve as by the time you are buying the business you will have employees who are ready to work for you.

How to Buy A Business That Fits You

Although, buying an established business is better than starting a new business from scratch, you shouldn’t buy just any business-you should buy a business that is ideal for you. Here you need to assess your skills, interests and financial resources. As rule of thumb you should buy a business that you are knowledgeable about. For example, if you have been in the medical field you should go for a business that is related to the medical field.

You should also go for a business that you enjoy. Remember that for your business to be a success you need to put in a lot of hours and it will be almost impossible for you to work for long hours in an industry that you don’t enjoy.

How to Buy A Business

You can’t wake up one day and decide to buy a business-you need to first do your research over a period of time. You should start by defining the business that you are interested in. To make the decision you need to assess your professional skills, business experience and core competencies. You should also assess your financial abilities.

If you have done your research and found an ideal business, you should make an offer. The offer of the purchase should include the price to be paid to buy the business, training to be provided to you, assets in the business, financing details to be provided by the seller and the area to be covered by the non-compete agreement.

After you have reached an agreement with the seller you should put the agreement into writing. As rule of thumb you should ensure that a business attorney is with you in order to make the agreement legal.

Conclusion

These are the tips on how to buy a business that fits your situation. Remember that buying a business is expensive; therefore, you should ensure that you do thorough research and buy the right business.

What Yogi Berra Can Teach Small Business Owners About Estate Planning

According to baseball legend Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” Yogi’s one liners often make me laugh, but they also make me think. His quip reminds me of the importance of having a plan when engaging in any endeavor that will impact our personal situations beyond the immediate here and now. That includes the process of estate planning. Now, I will grant you that Yogi probably wasn’t thinking about estate planning when he offered this particular slice of wisdom. Nonetheless, his words are absolutely spot-on insofar as the importance of planning for that day which we will not live to see. As important as having an estate plan is for all of us, it is of even greater importance for the small business owner. I think it is no exaggeration to say that thoughtful estate planning is an essential component of every small business owner’s overall business plan.

I think of a successful small business owner as someone who recognizes an opportunity to provide a needed product or service, and then invests the time, devotion and energy to developing and implementing a plan to seize that opportunity. I admire those thoughtful risk takers who harness their vision, business acumen and moxie in order to create, nurture and guide a sustainable business venture. I have found the small business owners I counsel to be thoughtful, deliberate and attentive to detail in how they go about the work of managing their businesses; i.e., they plan for the future. However, what I have also noticed from time to time in otherwise prudent and successful small business owners is a lack of any plan for their business when they die or are otherwise unavailable to manage it.

It is easy to understand how even successful small business owners who are otherwise consummate planners might prefer to avoid estate planning as it concerns their business operation. In at least one respect, these successful business owners are a lot like most people; that is, they are not accustomed (or inclined) to ponder their own mortality. It is a subject, even if not loaded with angst, which easily lends itself to defer consideration for “another day.” Yet, the stubborn reality remains that absolutely none of us will get out of this life alive. For the small business owner, Yogi’s wise counsel merits some thought, and action.

If you are a small business owner and have yet to start the estate planning process, let me suggest some relatively easy first steps to get you started. First, locate and then review your company’s organizational and governing documents. If your business is incorporated, these would include the corporate bylaws, shareholders’ agreements and those other documents your lawyers drafted when the business was getting started. If your business is a limited liability company or partnership, you will want to look at the company’s operating agreement or partnership agreement. Review these documents with the following questions in mind:

- How will your death (or permanent incapacity) affect the company’s existence?

- How will your successor be chosen, by whom and how much say do you presently have in that decision?

- Will your death trigger a buy/sell provision by which a co-owner, or the company itself, is allowed to purchase your interest in the business, notwithstanding the wishes of your own family members?

A brief review or discussion with your lawyer of questions like these may then prompt you to begin thinking about your vision for the company’s future when you are no longer able to guide it. A next step might be to consider how you would want the business operated in the event of your temporary incapacity or unavailability. A durable power of attorney will allow you (as the “principal”) to designate someone else (the “agent”) to make business decisions during your incapacity, while allowing you to retain the ability to withdraw or revoke the POA when you are ready to resume control of the business.

The POA itself might serve as the genesis of a comprehensive succession plan, by which you map out a plan to reduce your own involvement in the business and allow others to assume greater management and decision making responsibilities. An orderly transition plan is apt to increase the company’s odds of survival when you are gone. And, such a plan may help you to “let go” of control and devote more efforts to mentoring those who will eventually run the business you created.

Ultimately, you will want to focus your planning on what you want to happen to the business when you have died. Here, a well-designed trust agreement will allow you a great deal of flexibility, both in terms of retaining a degree of control while you are alive, and identifying your intentions with respect to the business after you die. The trust agreement enables you to select those who will administer your stated intentions when you are gone. You can, for example, provide for the sale and/or dissolution of the business over time, or provide for its eventual transfer to one or more family members. A trust agreement allows the owner a great deal of flexibility and for that reason makes it an extremely helpful tool in the business owner’s estate plan.

The bottom line is that you, as the small business owner, have the ability to ensure that with careful planning the company you created will survive your passing. This is a process that can be tackled incrementally over time. Given the uncertainties of life, however, the estate planning process should become a component of your overall business plan. There is no time like the present to start this process. Don’t be lulled into putting this task off for “another day”. None of us know how much of a future we will have. Or, as Yogi puts it, “It may be getting late earlier than you thought.”

© 6/16/2015 Hunt & Associates, P.C. All rights reserved.