6 Simple Answers Your Business Plan Should Provide

As I finish the editing on my upcoming book – How to Successfully Startup a Small Bakery Business, I cannot help but realize the importance of planning before starting any business venture. Here in Kenya, there is a particularly disturbing belief or perhaps I should say a kind of ignorance on the importance of a business plan. As I meet startup entrepreneurs and train individuals on starting up small bakery businesses; I continue to stress the importance of a business plan – even a basic one just to get you started.
Now you might wonder why I stress this point and I’ve decided to share it in a different way today. I want to give you six questions that your basic business plan can and should have answers to regarding your small startup. These answers will provide clarity and direction to your business as you start and continue growing. As I always point out, your business plan will change as your business grows and adapts; however, it’s important to have a basic plan as you start. You can then go changing it and adapting it to any business model or market changes you encounter as you progress.

It's very important!

It’s very important!

What?
The first question your basic business plan should answer is ‘what is your business?’ This is the part where you write your business name and the products and/or services it offers. Today I will use an example of a service business start-up that provides food delivery services. The ‘what’ of this business would be: Fresh Delivery Services provides food delivery services to its clients in Nairobi County.

What are you selling?

What are you selling?

Why?
The second question your plan answers is ‘Why your business offers the products and/or services?’ This is a very important question for your business since it should highlight what sets your business apart from any other businesses in that industry. To give an example of the ‘why’ using Fresh Delivery Services.
We realized that most delivery or errand service companies in the market offer delivery for many items but not for food. Those that do are not always effective or careful with the food contents and do not ensure customer satisfaction. Our errand services are targeted to only food and baked goods deliveries and we are well-equipped to assist in packaging, transporting and effective delivery of those goods.
Who?
Another important aspect of your business is who you’re selling to; your target customers. It is very important to know the types of customers you want to sell to in order to ensure the products and/or services are well suited to their needs as well as your marketing strategy. An example:
We offer our delivery services to home-based bakeries and catering businesses who deliver their food and baked products to their clients. We also make deliveries for restaurants and bakery shops who offer home or office delivery options to their clients as well.

Who is your target customer?

Who is your target customer?

Where?
Your basic business plan should state the location of your business as well as the location of your target customers who you are serving. This applies for both types of businesses who have brick and mortar locations such as shops, stores or warehouses. As well as any home-based businesses who deliver to their target customers. As we stated above, an example of our featured business is:
Fresh Delivery Services provides food delivery services to its clients anywhere in the Nairobi County area.
When?
This refers to the daily operations of your startup business. State the time schedules for both your in-house operational hours for employees; as well as for your clients’ delivery times.
Fresh Delivery Services is open from Monday to Saturday. Delivery hours are from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. We are closed on Sundays.
Employee hours are as follows: Monday to Saturday 6.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Sundays.
How?
Your business plan should state how you will sell products and/or services and how you will execute your daily operations. For your daily operations; it is important to have a simple system setup on daily tasks to be completed by your employees and yourself as well. You can create a basic operations manual based on the nature of your business. You should also have a marketing plan section in your business plan that describes the various marketing activities you will execute to attract your customers and therefore lead to sales for your business.
I hope these simple questions will help you while writing your basic business plan and answering them while doing so ^_^!
If you would like to get a free Basic Business Plan template, click on this link to get one.
Any questions on writing a basic business plan for your small business startup? Stuck on a specific section in your basic business plan writing? Feel free to ask below.
Please share this post if you found it helpful, help someone else who might need this information as well ^_^

4 Important Things that Start-Up Entrepreneurs need to always remember

I haven’t been posting consistently on this blog lately (I have decided to break the silence – and follow my own advice ^_^)

I was inspired to blog due to an interview I was invited to during the week of the GE Summit for a radio program called The Conversation for The BBC World Service. I was proud to be part of such an inspiring program and I met a lovely lady who was also guesting on the program; she is a co-founder of Closet 49, Serah Kanyua.

Our lovely hostess; Presenter Kim Chakanetsa, asked us several questions. One that really stood out for me and I thought was very important (enough to warrant a blog post ^_^) was: ” What do you think are the top tips for aspiring business women and men out there?” I will share my four top important tips for those who want to be or are starting out businesses.

1. Planning

Make sure before you start your business to plan ahead; make a business plan, including your start-up budget. Make an action list of what you need to do in order to get started properly. It’s also important to plan all other aspects of your life; if you’re an employee quitting a job to start a business, your personal life will change as well. Depending on what you were doing before starting your business, you need to adjust your life accordingly in order to focus completely on your business venture.

It's very important!

It’s very important!

2. Research

While you’re in the planning process for your business start-up, you also need to do a lot of research. It is imperative for your business’ success to conduct research on your business industry, your target customers, business location, whether your product or service is viable in the market and many other important aspects of your start-up. The reason it’s very important to conduct research is to reduce your business’ chance of failure. When you research thoroughly and plan properly; you have knowledge and insight that will increase your chance of success.

3. Mentorship

At any phase of starting up your business; whether it is during planning and research, after starting your business or during your entrepreneural journey – I think it’s important to have a mentor (or if you’re lucky, mentors). Mentors can be different types of people who help you gain insight into entrepreneurship. They can be individuals in your industry who guide you in the right direction while doing business; they can even be your customers or family members who also own businesses or among other individuals who offer insight and positive guidance to help improve your life. Mentors can help you “fail fast” as an entrepreneur – or at least help you avoid some business failures that slow down your business’ success. I can personally attest to the importance of having a mentor in your life as a start-up entrepreneur.

Get your own Yoda ^_^To guide you on the right path

Get your own Yoda ^_^To guide you on the right path

4. Self-Motivation

I said it on the interview and I will say it again – sometimes you don’t have someone to give you a pep talk; or to support you and inspire you daily. You have to wake up everyday and motivate yourself; you need to get up and tell yourself that you’re going to make it. You should be able to find various ways of getting inspiration to keep going; especially on those tough and challenging days. Whether it’s your favorite inspirational music, quotes that motivate you to do better or just an amazing pep talk to get you revved up for the day. Find your motivation daily, from within – then go out there and succeed!

Motivate yourself to succeed

Motivate yourself to succeed (Image Credit: BusinessDailyAfrica)

I hope those four business tips have helped you, especially if you’re planning on starting your own business soon. Make sure you are prepared before starting your venture (or as prepared as you can be).

Do you have any other important business tips to any aspiring start-up entrepreneurs you would love to share? Please do so below on the comment box – feedback is always appreciated ^_^

Don’t forget to share this awesome post with your friends – I bet they’ll thank you for it ^_^

6 Steps To Holding A Productive Meeting

As a manager in your start-up business; you will find that as your team grows, you will need to have weekly or monthly meetings. It’s also important to have meetings with either your co-founders or investors that are involved in your business.

Productive meetings are the best

Productive meetings are the best

I have found that some meetings can be very long-winded and at the end, attendees find that they have not really achieved anything. This is highly unproductive and quite a waste of time (I’ve been in my share of useless meetings ^_^). As I’ve been attending and holding some meetings myself; I’ve gradually discovered some tips that work, as well as the ones that don’t. I want to share six tips that I’ve found assist towards having a productive meeting.
1. State your agendas and set a time limit for the meeting

Set your agenda for the meeting

Set your agenda for the meeting

If you’re holding a meeting; make sure you set agendas for the meeting. State specific agendas that will be discussed in the meeting; however, keep it to a minimum of 7 to 10. Too many agendas can make the meeting very long. It’s also important to set a time limit for your meeting, my goal for all meetings is to keep them between thirty to forty five minutes long. If it’s a meeting that involves many departments and many agendas; try and keep it to a minimum of two hours. The longer a meeting is; the harder it is to maintain focus – for both the attendees and yourself as well.

2. Set objectives for the meeting

Each meeting should have goals or objectives to be achieved. Try and keep them as simple as possible; and as few as possible. I would advise a maximum of three objectives. The reason that you should set objectives is so that you are able to see if you have had a meaningful meeting or whether you just wasted the attendees’ time. It also gives your meeting focus, or a direction that you will not stray from.
3. Make sure only the required members attend the meeting

Pizza for meeting attendees only - no crashing ^_^!

Pizza for meeting attendees only – no crashing ^_^!

This is a very important aspect of holding a productive meeting; as well as a very popular one. It’s been written that the late Steve Jobs had a ‘pizza rule’ for all Apple meetings. Each meeting had only enough people to be fed by two pizzas. This ensured that there were no unnecessary attendees in the meeting who didn’t need to be there. Make sure only the required people attend your meeting for utmost productivity.
4. Give all the attendees the agendas, objectives and time limit ahead
Make sure you share the agendas and the set time limit to all the attendees at least one day ahead. This allows them to be prepared for the meeting and be aware of the time they have to discuss the agendas. It also allows the attendees to be accountable for the time spent in the meeting.
5. Make sure you keep time and stick to the set agendas during the meeting
When you’re running the meeting; make sure that you keep the time that was set on the agendas and on discussion topics. During meetings; it’s very often that attendees stray from the set agendas and the discussions go out of hand. If that happens during your meeting; set the new discussion as another agenda for another day and steer the discussion back to the right agenda. If there is an attendee who takes too long on his/her agenda or discussion topic; let them know they have a limited time and urge them to wind up.
6. Check to see if you have achieved your objectives & get feedback from the attendees

Get feedback on objectives achieved

Get feedback on objectives achieved

As you wind up your meeting; check your objectives to see if you have achieved your goals. Ask feedback from the attendees and see if they feel that the objectives have been achieved. This will assist you in realizing whether your meeting was productive and if improvements need to be made the next time. This is an important part of the meeting process; make sure you don’t ignore this step.
Those are just a few ways to ensure you hold productive meetings; no matter how small or large a meeting is, these steps will be effective.
Do you have any other tips that help you have more productive meetings? Feel free to comment below and share.
Sharing is caring; if you liked this article – please share with your followers below and spread the love ^_^

7 Important Lessons My Mentor Has Taught Me In Four Months

I recently agreed to take up a consulting job for an upcoming conference center. One of the main reasons why I decided to do so; is that there is a business lady I wanted to work with. She is a business woman based in Nyeri; however she does business all over Kenya – her name is Irene.
I am humbled to have her as my mentor-ess (^_^). It’s amazing how much you can learn from someone who has a vast amount of knowledge and wisdom in a short period of time. I’m constantly learning a lot from her and I’m glad I chose this opportunity to do so. I never knew how important it is to have a mentor, especially if you’re a start-up entrepreneur.
Here are a few important things I’ve learned from her in such a short time; that will help any entrepreneur(s) out there.
1. Create more than one stream of revenue.
When you work on your start-up and it stabilizes; create another income generating project and if possible, another. This will guarantee when you have lows in the economy – especially in some industries, you’ll have a kind of cushion when it comes to the revenue you’re collecting. If possible, ensure that the income generating projects are in different industries. An example of how my mentor does that is by having a business in the hotel industry, one in the road construction industry and another as a wholesale distributor of goods to institutions and large organizations.
2. Be tough and authoritative
If you are a start-up entrepreneur; you will wear many hats, especially the one of a manager. You will have to make tough decisions especially when it comes to your employees. As important as it is to work with your employees and get to know them; you are still the boss. If there are difficult issues to be addressed; no matter how hard it is, you should address them. If you have employees who are likable but are not working well, make sure to address the issues at hand. They may not like it; and you may not either, but you have to do it. If you are a manager in an organization; some changes may be necessary to make, they may not please everyone – but you are the boss, so they will have to follow suit. Don’t be timid in your directions, be authoritative.
3. Have your own unique personal style
Don’t be afraid to dress the part as a start-up entrepreneur; dress accordingly. If you’re in a corporate setting; dress professionally and according to the industry setting. You can dress more casually if you’re industry calls for it; or if you are in the fashion industry – ‘dress to kill.’ Make sure you dress comfortably and appropriately. Select outfits that give you confidence and make the right impression. If you’re as brave and confident as my mentor, feel free to dress in bold colors such as yellow and red ^_^. They make a statement and your look exudes confidence as well.

Even Beyonce knows how to rock a pant suit ^_^

Even Beyonce knows how to rock a pant suit ^_^

4. Be generous: give and you shall receive
Most start-up entrepreneurs I’ve met and even heard about have big hearts; therefore it’s not hard for most of them to follow this advice. Give in any way that you can, it doesn’t have to be money, give your time to people in different ways. You can teach people a skill you know and want to help them empower themselves. You can share information about a certain topic that will help many people who have similar passion or interests but don’t know as much as you do (a great way to do this is starting a blog that offers information on a certain topic e.g. baking, saving energy using jikos, etc.). You can join a group of people who help others e.g. a church, youth or common interest group. You can volunteer your time or services to an NGO that helps people. There are many ways to give back to the community. Choose one way and start giving; you’ll be blessed in return.

Be Generous

Be Generous

5. Network – network like a fiend!
One thing I’ve noticed with Irene is that she knows a lot of people in many different industries and walks of life. She is a great connector and is always meeting different people as well as introducing me to different people as well. At first it seemed to me like a talent you have to be born with due to how easy it was for her. She has however taught me to be constantly on the look-out for experts in different fields, entrepreneurs who can help by offering great products and/or services. As well as just meeting people in order to enrich your life; spiritually, mentally or business-wise. I have realized you can gain insight on many topics and industries from certain people even at one sitting. I have gotten better at networking and even though I have a long way to go; with more practice it will come naturally to me in time. Ensure you do the same everywhere you go. If you identify great entrepreneurs and individuals who seem to have insight into specific things, get to know them. Connect with them, ask questions and if possible; keep in touch. You will grow exponentially when you learn how to network.

Connect with insightful individuals

Connect with insightful individuals

6. Have faith; in God and in yourself
I am a Christian and I have a very strong faith. Whatever religion you are, make sure you have a strong belief in your faith; it will keep you strong especially through the tough times (and they are many!) You should also make sure you believe in yourself and abilities. As start-up entrepreneurs; sometimes we often feel overwhelmed by some projects and we can start doubting our skills and abilities at times. It’s necessary to be self-motivated as an entrepreneur. Believe in your idea or passion in the same way you take breath every moment of your life. Have faith in your skills and ability to grow and keep learning. My mentor is the kind of person who encounters challenges in life and doesn’t seem affected by them at all. She always finds a way out or around any issue and believes they is always a solution. She has the utmost confidence in herself and her ability as a business woman; to me that is truly inspirational.
7. You can be a successful entrepreneuress and have a happy family life
In this day and age; many marriages don’t last and families are constantly breaking apart. A large reason is mainly due to the spouses being too busy to nourish their family life and work on their relationships in order for the marriages to work. A lot of start-up entrepreneurs (especially women) find it difficult to run a business and have a successful family life. It is not an impossible thing; one just has to work hard at the relationship and work as partners with your spouse. Many great business women have shown great examples of how it’s possible; my mentor is no different. She has a successful family life and maintains a good balance of business and family most of the time. She shares that it’s not a perfect life but she knows when to give her time to her family and when to focus on business – that is the key. Create time to nurture and grow your personal and family relationships even as you do business. It’s very important in life and especially when you need moral support. It’s very inspiring for me to see up-close how achievable it is (I won’t lie, I was skeptic before ^_^).
I hope these bits of advice will help you out as an entrepreneur; I know they’ve helped me a lot. You don’t necessarily have to go out and find a mentor; but it’s advisable to have one. You can even choose someone who inspires you and read about them; learn from their actions (and even mistakes) and if possible – connect with them.
Do you have a mentor, or just someone who inspires you, challenges you to be better and gives you guidance? Feel free to share any piece of advice you’ve learned from him/her below. Thanks!
If you found this post helpful, make sure to spread the love by sharing with your friends ^_^

5 Ways To Build A Positive Corporate Culture In Your Business

I’ve been rather terrible with my content scheduling since last month I will admit, (due to a busier schedule ^_^) and so I’ve decided to follow my own advice – plan ahead and stick to the plan! Today’s post is motivated by three different business cultures that I’ve encountered over the last two months that have highlighted the need for a deliberate organizational culture in any setting; whether an NGO, Church organization, Government organization or business.
I’ve encountered two negative corporate cultures; in a festival setting that I was involved in and a church organization I’m consulting for that’s in transition from one leader to another. I’ve also encountered a very positive and open culture with a vendor I deal with that is very inspiring. This made me realize that whether a business or organization leader chooses to cultivate a culture deliberately or not; a culture forms anyway. If a leader or leaders of a business or organization cultivate a positive culture deliberately, they build a very positive, happy culture and staff that extends to their clients or customers as well. If a leader does not actively promote positive attitudes and perpetuates a negative attitude and actions as well, the organization’s culture becomes a very negative one that also extends to clients, customers and even interns (if such a program exists within the organization). This should motivate any entrepreneur to cultivate a positive business/corporate culture in his/her business for long-term success in the business. Success will be achieved because you will have highly productive employees who are happy and have a positive attitude. This positive attitude will shine through in daily operations to vendors, clients, interns and this will lead to people being satisfied with your business and staying loyal to your brand. Here are a few ways you can build a deliberate positive corporate or organizational culture in your business.

1. Show your employees respect at all times
Many company or organization leaders, especially here in Kenya, don’t show respect to their employees. They like to treat them like lowly servants and show them they are of a lower class, by addressing and treating them in negative ways. This is a colonial and out-dated way of thinking and it’s becoming increasingly ineffective in the management of companies. Many successful companies in the world these days have very positive cultures and focus on ensuring the satisfaction of their work force e.g. Virgin or Hubspot. They realize that happy employees are highly productive and will help you build a successful business. No matter what your position as a leader is in an organization or a business; respect your subordinates, whether you are a manager, department head or even the CEO or founder.

Respect each other

Respect each other

Bottom Line: Treat your employees with respect and dignity as you would treat any other human being and you would like to be treated in kind. Listen to them and do not put them down verbally or otherwise. This will earn the respect of your employees and they will work hard for the company to make it successful.

2. Keep an open line of communication in your business
Are employees afraid to speak up in meetings? Are they afraid to answer honestly when you ask any question? Is it difficult for employees to reach you when they want to discuss a sensitive matter with you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to change the way you communicate with your employees or subordinates. Have brief meetings weekly with your staff to get their opinions on the way the business is running and any challenges they are dealing with daily. Encourage honest feedback on operations and any other issues that concern the business. Employees may share important information on challenges being faced and ways to overcome them in your organization.
Bottom Line: Whether you are a small startup where your staff report directly to you or a larger company where they report to unit or department managers; ensure there is always an open line of communication. This will cultivate a culture of happy employees who feel they are listened to and their opinions are important to the company. They will work hard to make sure your company is a success.

3. Trust your team
If you have hired a team to help you run your business e.g. an accountant, a human resource manager, head of operations, a secretary etc. You have chosen them due to their qualifications, experience and they have showed they work well with minimal supervision and deliver positive results. Don’t micro-manage them, trust them to do their jobs without having to call them or stand over their shoulder every minute to inquire on the progress.

Trust your team (Image: mashable.com)

Trust your team (Image: mashable.com)

Bottom Line: Trust your team to work well and efficiently; monitor them periodically by putting systems in place to check the progress on all operations. Don’t micro-manage.

4. Show accountability
Company leaders are always asking their employees to be accountable for their actions and their work. A good leader leads by action; if you want your staff to be accountable, you should do the same. If you set goals that involve your employees or make any promises in the work place; make sure to work hard and achieve the goals, as well as fulfill your promises. If you’re not able to, communicate the reasons why to your staff and how you intend to deal with the situation effectively.
Bottom Line: Be accountable in your company or small business. Employees feel motivated to be accountable in their work if their leaders are accountable as well.

5. Have fun at work
As a business leader, CEO or founder of your business; you spend 90% (or more) of your time at work. Your employees also spend most of their week at the work place as well. It therefore makes sense to make the working place an easy and fun environment to work at for any individual who works there. It’s alright to loosen up and have some fun while working. You can even plan monthly team building or sports activities that are fun for your employees and will create a bonding experience for the whole company.

keep calm - work hard and have fun poster
Bottom Line: Ensure your employees are having fun at work, but not at the expense of professionalism or your company’s business goals.

These are just a few ways of creating a positive corporate/organizational culture for your business in order to ensure success for your company as well as your employees.
If you have any other suggestions feel free to comment below.

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Spread the word ^_^!