Tag Archive for 'Tim Berry'

A business plan and business planning

A business plan is the result of thinking, researching, strategizing, and reaching conclusions about how to pursue opportunities. It may exist only in the head of the planner, but it’s better when written down.

Whether elaborate or simple, a written business plan is an assembly of facts, ideas, assumptions and projections about the future. Here are three ways to use a written plan:

  1. Document the due diligence on a new business or the future of an existing one.
  2. Evaluate opportunities and challenges, and compare them with your strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Assist when getting a bank loan and essential when courting investors.

So how does a static, written plan work when a business is always in motion? It works when you turn your plan into planning. A plan is like a parked car; planning is taking that car on a trip.

Planning is measuring your business motion against the baseline of assumptions and projections you made in your plan. Planning allows you to see how smart you were when the plan was written, or where your research and assumption skills need work. It also highlights external forces you face.

Written business plans often become collateral damage during challenging economic times. But you can’t allow planning to meet the same fate. Indeed, when things slow down there is even greater need to check your position than when things are rocking and rolling.

Here is a critical two-step planning activity that is the heart of a business plan and the essence of planning. Beginning with these will help you operate more successfully anytime, but especially when things are slow.

  • Build a 12-month cash flow spreadsheet in a program like Excel, so you can project and track the monthly relationship between cash collections and cash disbursements from all sources. This planning tool will provide a rolling picture of cash flow in any given month.
  • Look at the “Ending cash” number at the bottom of each month’s column. A negative number in any month means you’ll need to add cash from sales, reduce expenses, add cash from another source, like a bank loan, or some combination.

A banker once told me that if I could bring him only one financial document with a loan request it should be a 12-month cash flow projection that included both how the borrowed cash would be used and the debt service. I always listen to my banker and you should too.

I talked more about business plans and planning on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. I’ve also talked with Tim Berry, the guru of business planning, founder of Palo Alto Software and author of The Plan As You Go Business Plan, about the difference in business planning and a business plan. Take a few minutes to click on the links below and listen, plus leave your ideas on how planning helps your small business.

Write your business plan, but practice business planning with Jim Blasingame

The difference between business planning and a business plan with Tim Berry

Success calls for two kinds of passion

Over the years, as I have talked with budding entrepreneurs, it continues to amaze me how many have not conducted anything close to a prudent amount of research as they start their businesses. Indeed, they often act as if they must get their business going right now or they will just pop.

This kind of impatience is dangerous.

Doing my best to talk them down off the ledge, I walk the fine line between slowing them down a little and dousing the fire of their entrepreneurial passion with my tough love.

Yes, passion is important. And when would-be small business owners get that far away look in their eyes at this impetuous stage of a start-up, they have plenty of passion for what the business does. They can’t wait to sell suits, manufacture plastic parts, bake bagels or (your dream here). But while their passion for what they want to do will come in handy, without a healthy attraction for business fundamentals, passion has only slightly more value than a dream. As the Texans say, it’s all hat and no cattle.

This will be on the test: Success as a small business owner requires two kinds of passion: The first is the love of what you want to do, as described above. This is like the way a mother loves her newborn baby, and it’s the easy kind. In fact, it’s too easy.

The object of the second kind of small business passion is less adorable but not less important. This is passion for a profession that requires dedication to learn and practice management fundamentals and acceptance of a return-on-investment timeline that pushes the deferred gratification envelope. See, I told you it was less adorable. The closest kin to this kind of passion would be that which is required for parents to love their teenagers anyway, during those moments when they don’t like them very much.

It’s critical for a starry-eyed start-up to make the distinction between these two types of passion. Passion for what you sell won’t be enough when payables exceed receivables, making payroll (“Is it Friday again? Already?!”), when customers are the most difficult, when an employee becomes part of the problem, etc.

These and a long list of other abiding small business challenges will require you to deliver on the management fundamentals you became good at because you had that other kind of passion – the kind that made you become a high-performing, professional business owner, not just someone who dreamed of being one.

Small business success requires both kinds of passion.

Recently on The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with my good friend, Tim Berry, about some of the myths of small business ownership, including his thoughts on passion and persistence. Tim is the founder of Palo Alto Software, developer of Business Plan Pro software, and author of The Plan as You go Business Plan and Hurdle: The Book of Business Planning. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click on the links below to listen and, as always, be sure to leave your own thoughts and/or experiences.

Myth 1: You can be your own boss

Myth 2:  Passion and persistence are enough

Myth 3:  A business plan is no longer necessary

Three myths small business owners tell themselves

Want to be your own boss? Good for you. But that’s the definition of someone who is independently wealthy, not a small business owner. When you own a small business, you’ll have many more bosses than when you were an employee.

Are passion and persistence enough to succeed as a small business owner? Clearly, they’re important, but what about those difficult days – when payables exceed receivables, on payroll Friday, when customers are the most difficult, when an employee becomes part of the problem? You’re going to need more than passion – you’re going to need management fundamentals

Do you think a business plan is passé? Well, if you think a business plan is just something to write down, print out and put on a shelf, don’t waste your time. But if you understand that a business plan you create, organize and use as a critical management tool, then it’s becomes passé on the day that success becomes passé.

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about these three topics, with one of the founding members of my Brain Trust, Tim Berry. Tim is the world’s guru on business planning and the founder of Palo Alto Software, the makers of Business Plan Pro.

Each of these “myths,” as Tim calls them is in its own short podcast, so you can listen to each topic separately. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen and learn. And of course, please lever your own comments.

Myth 1: You can be your own boss

Myth 2: Passion and persistence are enough

Myth 3: A business plan is no longer necessary

Tim Berry’s Top 10 reasons small business start-ups fail

In 1998, the SBA reported that 50% of small businesses fail in the first five years. That wasn’t good news but, sadly, it got worse. By 2008, the mortality of small businesses actually increased by 20% when it was reported that 50% of small businesses were now failing in the first FOUR years.

There are as many reasons why a business fails as there are business failures, but over the years it has become clear that all of those micro-reasons can be conveyed up into a smaller number of macro-reasons, including being under-capitalized, bad management, bad idea, failure to plan, etc.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with someone who knows a lot about why some small business fail and why some succeed. Tim Berry is the founder of Palo Alto Software, the publisher of Business Plan Pro, the #1-rated software for developing a business plan and the author of two great books on business planning, The Plan as You go Business Plan and the business planning bible, Hurdle: The Book of Business Planning.  Tim is also one of the founding members of my Brain Trust.

Take a few minutes to listen to our conversation on why businesses fail so you can avoid making these mistakes and land in the survive and succeed category. And, as always, leave your own story and/or comments. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Angel investors and other small business capital sources

Blasingame’s 3rd Law of Small Business states, “Its redundant to say ‘undercapitalized small business.’”

There are two primary reasons this Law is true:

1. Unlike big businesses, small businesses typically have only three sources of capital: a) retained earnings (profits left in the business); b) direct investment, usually by the founder; and c) debt, usually from a bank.

2. Everyday one or more elements of a small business are screaming for funds to increase the company’s competitive advantage.

Even very successful small businesses are undercapitalized. In fact, ironically, the more successful a small business is, the more undercapitalized it will likely be. If a business is not growing, it needs capital to achieve growth. A growing business needs capital for R&D, upgrading technology, acquiring new product lines, funding accounts receivable and inventory that increase with sales growth – the list is long.

For most small businesses, the lion’s share of capital comes from retained earnings and bank debt. However, other than the founder’s investment, direct equity capital is less likely. But when outside equity is acquired, the next most likely source is from angel investors, which has become an increasing direct investment option over the past few years.

An angel investor is typically an individual who has money to invest and, instead of putting all of it in the stock market, he or she will allocate a portion to invest directly into a business, which could be either a start-up or a going concern. More recently, angel investors have formed regional consortiums to aggregate their investment dollars in order to spread the risk and make sure that they don’t make the mistake of under-funding a venture.

Most people have heard of venture capitalists (VC), the big dogs of entrepreneurial investment. Angels are sort of mini-VCs. The big difference is the level of funding and, in many cases, the closeness of the relationship with management; angels will be more likely to be geographically and emotionally closer to their recipient than a VC. The big similarity is that both anticipate an exit strategy where their capital – and hopefully a profit – are returned. This last point is the primary reason why most small businesses are not candidates for any investor capital, since the typical small business founder expects to run his or her business forever and perhaps hand it off to the next generation.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about how angel investors choose investment candidates with Tim Berry. Tim is the world’s leading expert on business planning, founder of Palo Alto Software, an original member of my Brain Trust and my good friend. Tim is not only an angel investor, he is a member of one of those angel consortiums mentioned earlier. Take a few minutes to listen to what Tim told me about his experience and this fascinating process.

Successful small business succession planning

Statistics show that nine out of ten small businesses are family owned and operated; no big surprise there. After all, isn’t a start-up virtually by definition a family business? Indeed, what small business can be founded without some involvement, if not a lot of sacrifice, from the family members?

But when the founders ultimately decide to take their leave, orderly transfer of management and ownership to next generations breaks down significantly. In fact, less than one third of small businesses are transferred to family, and that number includes those that work and those that don’t.

In a past career as a business consultant, often working with families who work together in their businesses, I discovered at least two important small business succession planning truths:

1. The only thing harder than founding and growing a small business successfully is transitioning management and ownership successfully from the founder to the next generation of family.

2. The percentage of succession success increases with any combination of these three elements: higher management sophistication; high degree of respect among the parties; counsel from a family-business transition professional.

One family business transition I’ve observed, merely as an interested party, is the company founded by my friend, Tim Berry, a member of my Brain Trust and founder of Palo Alto Software, the makers of Business Plan Pro. All of his five children have worked in the company to some degree over the years, and earlier this decade he turned over the management reigns (not sure about any ownership transfer) to a middle child, daughter Sabrina.

From what I can tell, this transition is making all parties happy. With regard to my second point above, I’m not sure how much professional assistance they’ve sought, but I do know that Tim and Sabrina clearly fit the other two criteria of sophistication and mutual respect.

Recently, Tim joined me on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, as we talked about some of the key elements of succession planning. He’s been the world’s top business planning guru for a long time, but he has become a family business transition expert in the last few years. Take a few minutes to listen to his words of wisdom. And, as always, be sure to leave your thoughts.

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