Every startup goes through a learning phase before it succeeds. Most often, startup founders and management teams use the trial-and-error method to find systems and techniques that work for them. Some fortunate ones get a capable adviser or mentor do a bit of hand-holding. However, a majority of startups and emerging businesses could use helpful inputs and tips at the right time.
Through this page, our intention is to provide startups with a comprehensive repository of information to help make their life a little easier. So, to start with, here is a compilation of various blogs/forums/websites which have interesting tips and useful information for startups at all stages of growth.
Startups.in :What started off as a blog is now a full fledged portal for Indian startups with interviews, news, articles, resources, event listings and a whole lot more.
A great read for all startup enthusiasts with categories covering Startups, Funding, Entrepreneurs, Strategy, Mobile And Technology you’ll always finding something interesting here.
Although Trak.in is a wider India Business content site, they feature an exclusive category for Startup with sub categories like Entrepreneurship, Hottest Startups, Venture capital and more which make it a go to place for entrepreneurs and the startup world.
Another full fledged content portal, this is a great news source with lots of content for the business and venture community in India.
This blog by Abinash Tripathy has some great tips and good advice for the entrepreneurial community. A must read.
This site hasn’t seen very regular or frequent posts of late but is a good source of content and archived posts nevertheless.
Delhi based technology entrepreneur Paras Chopra does a great job of blogging about the Indian startup space. Plenty of great thoughts and valuable advice. This is one blog that needs to be on your RSS feed.
A blog by Co Founder and COO of Slideshare.net, Amit Ranjans posts are great to read!
One of the best sources of information and inspiration available for Indian entrepreneurs. A must visit!
Care to share your favorite startup blogs? Contribute your links to the comments section if you’ve come across ones you think should be up here and we’ll add them in the next round up and update.
When you have gone through some or all of this information and are ready to join a startup team as a key member, go to the Jobs In A Jiffy job portal where India’s best startups and emerging businesses hang out looking for great talent.
(This information is courtesy of GrowVC)
All About Business Plans
What Is A Business Plan?
The primary value of your business plan will be to create a written outline that evaluates all aspects of the economic viability of your business venture including a description and analysis of your business prospects.
Keep in mind that creating a business plan is an essential step for any prudent entrepreneur to take, regardless of the size of the business. This step is too often skipped, but we have made it easy for you by providing a ready template to build your plan.
Business plans can vary enormously. Libraries and bookstores have books devoted to business plan formats. This template can be a starting point and you can then go on to design one that would be ideal for your particular enterprise.
Be aware now that most start-up entrepreneurs are reluctant to write down their business plan. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that you complete each segment of the plan as comprehensively as you can. We make it easy for you by providing an attractive blank form that you can download onto MS Word and customize yourself.
Your business plan will become your roadmap to chart the course of your business. But at the outset you cannot predict all of changing conditions that will surface. So after you have opened for business, it is important that you periodically review and update you plan.
Why Prepare A Business Plan?
Your business plan is going to be useful in a number of ways
- First and foremost, it will define and focus your objective using appropriate information and analysis.
- You can use it as a selling tool in dealing with important relationships including your lenders, investors and banks.
- Your business plan can uncover omissions and/or weaknesses in your planning process.
- You can use the plan to solicit opinions and advice from people, including those in your intended field of business, who will freely give you invaluable advice. Too often, entrepreneurs forge ahead without the benefit of input from experts who could save them a great deal of wear and tear.
What to Avoid in Your Business Plan
Place some reasonable limits on long-term, future projections. (Long-term means over one year.) Better to stick with short-term objectives and modify the plan as your business progresses. Too often, long-range planning becomes meaningless because the reality of your business can be different from your initial concept.
Avoid optimism. In fact, to offset optimism, be extremely conservative in predicting capital requirements, timelines, sales and profits. Few business plans correctly anticipate how much money and time will be required.
Do not ignore spelling out what your strategies will be in the event of business adversities.
Use simple language in explaining the issues. Make it easy to read and understand.
Don’t depend entirely on the uniqueness of your business or even a patented invention. Success comes to those who start businesses with great economics and not necessarily great inventions.
Business Plan Format
The Business Plan format is a systematic assessment of all the factors critical to your business purpose and goals.
Here are some suggested topics you can tailor into your plan:
- A Vision Statement: This will be a concise outline of your business purpose and goals.
- The People: By far, the most important ingredient for your success will be yourself. Focus on how your prior experiences will be applicable to your new business. Prepare a résumé of yourself and one for each person who will be involved with you in starting the business. Be factual and avoid hype. This part of your Business Plan will be read very carefully by those with whom you will be having relationships, including lenders, investors and vendors.
However, you cannot be someone who you are not. If you lack the ability to perform a key function, include this in your business plan. For example, if you lack the ability to train staff, include an explanation how you will compensate for this deficiency. You could add a partner to your plan or plan to hire key people who will provide skills you don’t have. Include biographies of all your intended management.
- Your Business Profile: Define and describe your intended business and exactly how you plan to go about it. Try to stay focused on the specialized market you intend to serve.
- Economic Assessment: Provide a complete assessment of the economic environment in which your business will become a part. Explain how your business will be appropriate for the regulatory agencies and demographics with which you will be dealing. If appropriate, provide demographic studies and traffic flow data normally available from local planning departments.
- Cash flow assessment: Include a one-year cash flow that will incorporate your capital requirements. Include your assessment of what could go wrong and how you would plan to handle problems.
- Include your marketing plan and expansion plans.
Six Steps To A Great Business Plan
Start-up entrepreneurs often have difficulty writing out business plans. This discipline is going to help you in many ways so don’t skip this planning tool! To make it easier, here are six steps that will produce a worthwhile plan:
- Write out your basic business concept.
- Gather all the data you can on the feasibility and the specifics of your business concept.
- Focus and refine your concept based on the data you have compiled.
- Outline the specifics of your business. Using a “what, where, why, how” approach might be useful.
- Put your plan into a compelling form so that it will not only give you insights and focus but, at the same time, will become a valuable tool in dealing with business relationships that will be very important to you.
- Review the sample plans we furnish and download the blank format to a MS Word document. Fill this in as you progress though the course.
Does Your Plan Include the Following Necessary Factors
- A Sound Business Concept: The single most common mistake made by entrepreneurs is not selecting the right business initially. The best way to learn about your prospective business is to work for someone else in that business before beginning your own. There can be a huge gap between your concept of a fine business and reality.
- Understanding of Your Market: A good way to test your understanding is to test market your product or service before your start. You think you have a great kite that will capture the imagination of kite fliers throughout the world? Then craft some of them and try selling them first.
- A Healthy, Growing and Stable Industry: Remember that some of the great inventions of all time, like airplanes and cars, did not result in economic benefit for many of those who tried to exploit these great advances. For example, the cumulative earnings of all airlines since Wilber Wright flew that first plane are less than zero. (Airline losses have been greater than their profits.) Success comes to those who find businesses with great economics and not necessarily great inventions or advances to mankind.
- Capable Management: Look for people you like and admire, who have good ethical values, have complementary skills and are smarter than you. Plan to hire people who have the skills that you lack. Define your unique ability and seek out others who turn your weaknesses into strengths.
- Able Financial Control: You will learn later the importance of becoming qualified in accounting, computer software and cash flow management. Most entrepreneurs do not come from accounting backgrounds and must go back to school to learn these skills. Would you bet your savings in a game where you don’t know how to keep score? People mistakenly do it in business all the time.
- A Consistent Business Focus: As a rule, people who specialize in a product or service will do better than people who do not specialize. Focus your efforts on something that you can do so well that you will not be competing solely on the basis of price.
- A Mindset to Anticipate Change: Don’t commit yourself too early. Your first plan should be written in pencil, not in ink. Keep a fluid mindset and be aggressive in making revisions as warranted by changing circumstances and expanding knowledge.
- Include Plans for Conducting Business Online: Consumer and business-to-business online sales are set to expand exponentially in the coming decade, and small retailers can reach an ever-increasing pool of customers.
Formulate (and Reformulate) Your Business Plan
Donald N. Sull, associate professor of management practice at the London Business School, in an article in the MIT Sloan Management Review, offers some practical suggestions on managing inevitable risks while pursuing opportunities. Here is a capsulation of his suggestions on how to formulate (and reformulate) your business plan:
- Be flexible early in the process and keep it fluid. Don’t commit too early. Expect your first plan to be provisional and subject to revision.
- Ask yourself if your experience or expertise gives you the right to an opinion on your specific opportunity.
- Identify your potential deal killers: variables that are likely to prove fatal to the venture.
- Clearly identify what you see as the key drivers of success. What are you betting on here?
- Raise money only in sufficient amount to finance the experiment or evaluation you next envision, with a cushion for contingencies.
- Delay hiring key managers until initial rounds of experimentation have produced a stable business model.
- At some point, take the plunge and test your product or service on a small scale in the real world through customer research, test marketing, or prototypes.
- Test and refine your business model before expanding your operations. .
Top Ten Do’s and Don’ts
TOP TEN DO’S
- Prepare a complete business plan for any business you are considering.
- Use the business plan templates provided here or one of several more available on the Internet.
- Write from the audience’s perspective. Tailor the plan for different audiences, as they will each have very specific requirements.
- Package your business plan in an attractive kit as a selling tool.
- Make the plan concise, but include enough detail to ensure the reader has sufficient information to make informed decisions.
- Submit your business plan to experts in your intended business for their advice.
- Spell out your strategies on how you intend to handle adversities.
- Spell out the strengths and weaknesses of your management team.
- Include a monthly one-year cash flow projection.
- Freely and frequently modify your business plans to account for changing conditions.
TOP TEN DON’TS
- Be optimistic (on the high side) in estimating future sales.
- Be optimistic (on the low side) in estimating future costs.
- Disregard or discount weaknesses in your plan. Spell them out.
- Stress long-term projections. Better to focus on projections for your first year.
- Depend entirely on the uniqueness of your business or the success of an invention.
- Project yourself as someone you’re not. Be brutally realistic.
- Be everything to everybody. Highly focused specialists usually do best.
- Proceed without adequate financial and accounting know-how.
- Base your business plan on a wonderful concept. Test it first.
- Skip the step of preparing a business plan before starting.