Business Planning 101


Business Plan 101

Once you are confident with your concept, one of the first things that an entrepreneur will do is write a business plan. There are several reasons to do this:

1.    It’s the least expensive part of starting a business and will pay the highest dividend.

2.    It will make setting priorities easier.

3.    It will help to explain your business concept.

4.    For most business to succeed, it is a must have.

I’ve written about a dozen business plans that I have started or thought of starting. I have done it for friends that wanted some help.  But in all cases, I decided that the business plan was going to be a work in progress that needed constant attention and updating.  A business plan should evolve over the entire life of the company.  It’s not just something that you create at the beginning and then put in the drawer.  It’s a tool like a set of drawings for an architect that can be modified while the building is taking shape and can be referred to later when modifications need to be made to the structure.

So just what is a business plan and what should it look like?  If all you intend to use it for is the reasons I have just listed, it can be pretty simple.  Remember the KISS rule, keep it simple silly.

Start with the following:


1.         The product or service you plan to create.

2.         The value it will have to those who will use it.

3.         Why you think your idea has merit?

4.         What you hope to accomplish with the business, besides make money?

5.         How will it make money?

6.         What will the money be used for?

7.         Will your business need funding? Initially or soon thereafter.

8.         What resources will the business need?

9.         How will the business be structured, LLC, C Corp, S Corp, Sole                             Proprietorship etc?

10.       How long do you think it will take to be profitable?

11.       What is your alternate plan?

After writing down answers to these points, and anything else that comes to mind while reviewing them, you have the makings of a business plan, at least an informal one.  You may have noticed I didn’t list “give it a name”.  That’s because the name should reflect the idea, and not the reverse.  Sometimes naming the company first can misdirect the intentions you have with the product or service you are planning.  I don’t want to understate the importance of the name, just when you should do it.  Naming a child before it is born is a real frustrating and stressful exercise.

Finally, once you’ve put things down on paper you are ready to start working on all the things that you’ll need to form the business and get things rolling.


Mike Ross
Site Manager, Business Innovation Center
President at 4PSA – CLOUD CALLING – Cloud OnDemand – Virtual Phone Systems – Hosted UC, Orlando, Florida Area

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Planning for a Successful Business


One of the challenges in planning a new venture or business is taking an objective look at what is ahead for you.  Time and money are two critical resources for startups and applying them to the tasks in the right priorities is important in defining the business and executing the business plan.

One of the traditional ways of doing this is using a simple approach called the SWOT method of analysis.  This acronym stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.   I’ve done this a number of times for a variety of projects and its always sheds some light on the matter that wasn’t intuitive.  Its a fairly simple process and you can start by yourself or get others to participate in the effort.

Here’s what I am talking about:

●      Strengths: characteristics of the business or project that give it an advantage over others

●      Weaknesses: are characteristics that place the team at a disadvantage relative to others

●      Opportunities: elements that the project could exploit to its advantage

●      Threats: elements in the environment that could cause trouble for the business or project

By creating a table that lists the elements in these categories, a variety of things begin to emerge. 

●     First it may show you that the objective of your new business may need to be redefined in some way to allow you to accomplish your objective.

●     New strategies may begin to emerge that weren’t apparent before

●     Asking and answering questions that generate meaningful information for each category makes the analysis useful and provides an opportunity to find their competitive advantage.

Taking a look at how a separate SWOT analysis looks with regard to the 4Ps of Product, Price, Promotion and Place, will bring some things into focus as you try to try to balance a negative element with a positive ones.  Failing to find a way to overcome a negative that you uncover will help you modify your strategy.

Once you get familiar with this way of clarifying your thinking about your business you’ll begin to realize how even the simplest of planning efforts provide a huge advantage in setting priorities.  Start planning for your success with a simple panning method and you will save time and money as a startup.


Pamela Kidwell
Executive Director, Business Innovation Center

Virtmark Consult

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To incubate or not to incubate – that is the question


The Business Innovation Center at Florida State University Panama City is structured around a modern proven business incubation model.  That’s simple enough to say, but actually describing what the benefits are to a new startup takes a little time.

Business incubation is not a guarantee of success, but it will reduce your odds of failure considerably.  Statistically only 40% of startups succeed on their own.  Startups associated with incubators increase their odds to 90%.

So here are the beginning steps to take your idea and build a business around it.

1.    Idea Generation – what is your Big Idea?

2.    Planning – build a business plan that will take the idea from concept to revenue.

3.    Getting started – the standard things that every business has to do.  

First: the reality check

Spend some time taking “inventory” of what you have to start with.  How much money will you have available for the first 12 months of your business?  How much time are you going to put into it on a daily basis?  What resources do you have available to help you get things going? 

Second: get someone else on your team

Don’t let the reality check discourage you from going to the next step which is talking your idea over with a trusted advisor of some kind.  It is not really important that this person fully gets your idea, but that he or she will be someone you trust and is honest and willing to express their opinions. Someone with whom you feel comfortable discussing all of your thoughts about the idea. Their opinions aren’t as important as their feedback about your feeling about the idea.  When you hear someone else repeat your idea back to you, it often turns a light bulb on that you needed to better express and shape the idea.

Third:  start your engine

This is where a modern business incubator comes in.  Once you are convinced that you want to pursue your business idea, it’s time to sit down with someone that will help you start putting the pieces of the puzzle in place.  Their job is to help you visualize what steps you will have to take transform your idea into a revenue producing reality.  They can offer you a range of assistance with low cost office space, business plan writing, branding, sales and marketing advice, and legal resources to form and protect your business idea. There is great value in having advisors to help you along the way, and provide ideas on sources of additional capital to fuel your startup.  A big part of the value of the incubation model is to reduce the time it takes to get your business formed and producing results. 

Remember success is process and having someone help you with that process is the most likely way to get the results you want.


Mike Ross
Site Manager, Business Innovation Center
President at 4PSA – CLOUD CALLING – Cloud OnDemand – Virtual Phone Systems – Hosted UC, Orlando, Florida Area

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