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.
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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 ^_^

3 Signs You Need To Change Your Business Model

I hope your New Years was great, mine most definitely was. I have been reviewing my business plan and model to see if I needed to change it for this new year. I feel that this has been a long time coming due to certain results in business actions that I took and therefore; I decided to sit down and see how to make necessary changes.

I’m sure as a start-up entrepreneur or even if you are a seasoned entrepreneur, you’ve made certain changes in your business model over time. This happens especially if you realize that you’re not getting desired results in your business or for other reasons. Today I want to share three signs that show you need to change your business model for the better in this new year.

1. Your sales have reduced drastically

If you realize that your sales have reduced a lot and you’re still doing the same things you’ve been doing in your business then you have to change your business model. You may be trying very hard to market to the same customers and you still don’t get higher sales; if anything, they continue dropping. This is a very big sign that you need to change the direction of your business (like big flashing red light kind of sign ^_^). If you can’t sell, then your business can’t survive. Find a way to change your business for the better.

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If your sales keep going down – something’s gotta change

2. Your market industry has changed

Customers sometimes change their preferences and tastes; what used to be a trending product or service stops being popular. As an entrepreneur, you have to continually observe these trends in your industry and your business may have to adjust as they change. As a start-up entrepreneur, you may notice these changes late and that may affect your business. Start-up entrepreneurs have to learn to keep their ear to the ground when market trends shift or change so as not to get left out and start losing out in sales. This means you have to keep getting feedback from your customers, keep reading about your industry and any new changes or trends. Always stay informed and keep in touch with your customers by taking surveys and ensuring they are satisfied; as well as improving your products or services to suite their ever-changing needs.

Markets change often - keep an eye out

Markets change often – keep an eye out

3. You, as an entrepreneur, have changed

As an individual sometimes changes can occur in your life that change you in different ways. This can happen due to certain situations, environments or even changes within you as a person. These changes can affect you in a positive or a negative way. If you’re a start-up entrepreneur; if these changes affect you negatively, it can affect your start-up business negatively. This can manifest in different ways such as neglecting your employees or customers; which would result in lower productivity and sales. It’s best if you feel that you’ve changed as an entrepreneur; make the changes work for you in a positive way – even if it means changing your business model. This is especially necessary if your priorities have changed and they don’t go hand in hand with what your business is doing.

Image Credit: essentiallifeskills.net

Image Credit: essentiallifeskills.net

If you are experiencing any of the signs above or even all of them (yup, this can all happen at the same time ^_^), make sure you sit down and have a serious review of your current business model/plan and see what you have to change. Make changes that are necessary and positive to you and your business in the long run.

Have you ever had to change your business model as an entrepreneur? How did it go? Please feel free to share below.

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7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail Within The First Year

We hear many statistics about small businesses often, especially about their failure rate within the first three years. Those statistics have become very personal to me due to the fact that my small business struggled a lot last year and almost closed. I have also encountered at least three young entrepreneurs that I know, who have closed their businesses over the last year – and their businesses were less than a year old. Today I want to focus on seven main reasons why small businesses fail within the first year. I believe that knowing the reason why, will help small business owners avoid most of these pitfalls and keep their small businesses going, and it time, successful.Business closed sign

1.Underestimating capital requirements

A lot of small business start-ups don’t think that having a business plan is necessary, however; it’s imperative to write one, especially when starting your small business. A business plan not only helps you put down your business idea on paper and how it will be executed; it also helps you know the capital requirements required to start and run your business for at least six months. Some start-up owners get so excited about starting their small business that they don’t sit down to write the actual required cost of starting their business. They tend to find out when it’s too late and the business is failing already. Make sure you have a business plan for your small business if you don’t already have one or if you want to start your business.

Budget for your start-up accurately

Budget for your start-up accurately

2. Poor business store location

This is one reason I can testify to personally; especially when it comes to researching whether a specific location will match the products or services that you offer. It can be a great high traffic area, but your business may not do well because you do not offer what the customers in that area want or require. It’s necessary to always do product and market research in the area you want to start your business to see if your business has a fighting chance. If it does not, don’t start your business in that location; no matter how good the shop or area looks. Just be patient and keep looking for a better location for your business.

3. Poor Management of Business

This is a major cause of small business closure in Kenya; a small business owner may be very motivated and have qualities of an entrepreneur; however, you also need to have management skills to run your business as well. The day to day operations of a small business require knowledge on how to manage different aspects of your business e.g. cash flow management, how to hire employees, how to choose vendors, etc. It’s necessary for small business owners to either acquire basic management skills or to either partner or hire a  person who has the management skills required. This might not seem necessary to a start-up owner at the beginning; but trust me, it’s very necessary for your business to stay open in the long run. A great website for resources on running your small business is Kuza Biashara, they have blog posts and ‘How-To’ videos that assist small business owners in Kenya.

4. Lack of Creativity and Innovation

Whatever product or service your business offers, make sure you’re always innovating it. Every successful company has gotten there because they are constantly being creative and innovating in their business. A great example of innovation and creativity is a Kenyan company that manufactures energy saving jikos – Cookswell. They originally just sold jikos and charcoal ovens; but in time, they added barbeques to their product list. They then started creating barbeques in animal shapes such as boars or ostriches. This kind of creativity and innovation keeps your customers coming back and loyal to your brand since they’re curious as to what you will do next.

The Cookswell Animal BBQs - Great creativity & innovation!

The Cookswell Animal BBQs – Great creativity & innovation!

5. Poor Control of Expenditure

This is another major reason for small business closure, especially in Kenya. A small business could be bringing in revenue but if the owner does not have control over the expenditure of the business cash; the business could close in time. A major problem for the small businesses is also the mixing up of personal and business finances. It’s good to ensure that as a small business owner you separate your personal finances from your business finances. It’s also necessary for a small business owner to ensure that they are tracking all their business expenditures by keeping all the necessary accounting records necessary.

6. Theft, Fraud, Fire and Natural Disasters

Unfortunately for a small business other factors that may be beyond your control can lead to the closure of your business. The best way to avoid such factors or at least to survive them is by getting small business insurance. Insurance can cover you when either theft, fraud, fire and natural disaster strikes. Make sure you understand your small business insurance policy very well, get the insurance agent to explain to you what it really covers and what it doesn’t to avoid any misunderstanding. Small business owners tend to think that they don’t need insurance since they have small business; however, since there are things you cannot have control over; it’s better to be prepared instead.

Theft can occur in your small busines (Image: uca.org)

Theft can occur in your small business (Image: uca.org)

7. Poor or no marketing plan

This may seem obvious but I have noticed some small business owners seem to ignore this aspect of their business. Marketing is an activity that never stops as long as your business is open – I mean, look at Coca Cola, they have never stopped marketing and they are such a large international company. Marketing is what brings in sales into your small business; therefore, you should always ensure you have a marketing plan in place. Other small businesses also have a marketing plan, but it’s either very weak or not effective. In this day and age of social media and online search; you need to make sure that your business’ presence is felt. It is a very competitive business market out there in any industry and your competitor is probably still marketing to your target market whether you are or not.

Baking Class Poster - Never stop marketing your biz

Baking Class Poster – Never stop marketing your biz

I hope this seven points have helped you, as a small business owner, realize where your problem points could be and avoid business closure or failure in the future. If you have any other points you would like to share that can also cause business failure; please feel free to comment below.

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