Category Archives: Business Basics

Ask SCORE: How can you make writing a business plan less intimidating? 

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE 

Writing a business plan is one of the important steps an entrepreneur needs to take before launching a new business. There is no shortage of people who feel that writing a business plan is an intimidating task. However, many business owners are likely to agree that their plan played a major role in their ability to launch and grow a profitable business.

A business plan isn’t about the document itself, it’s about the discovery process you use to create it. 

Business plans can be tackled in a number of different ways, but all should go after the same result – to clearly demonstrate the viability of your business to generate revenue and turn a profit. Your plan needs to state the business case for the business itself, discuss marketplace, financials, SWOT analysis, and much more. It’s a lot to think about. 

Too often owners decide to jump right in rather than take the time to properly plan. The benefits of planning – and the investment in the time it takes to write the plan – are invaluable in the end. Thinking through your start-up costs and revenue projections ahead of time, for example, will help you make the types of decisions that could be the difference between your business losing money or generating a profit.

When you’re ready to start your business plan, create manageable goals and hold yourself accountable for meeting deadlines.

The easiest way to get started is to create a task list with manageable goals and deadlines. Here are some tips to make writing a business plan less intimidating and easier to accomplish.

1. Don’t Attempt to Write Your Plan All at Once

Break up your plan into smaller sections and tackle each section one at a time. A great way to work through a business plan is to first create an outline. This will naturally create a guide for you to build from and keep your plan well-organized so you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

2. Schedule Time to Write

Schedule time to work on your plan. Get out your calendar and block out time each week to write. When you create a schedule and stick with it, you’ll complete your plan faster and be ready to launch sooner.

3. Use Technology and Other Resources to Your Advantage

There are plenty of online tools and templates available you can use as you start your business plan. Many are free. Using a template is a great way to create your plan’s outline and get started. SCORE offers a range of business planning templates that can give you a head start.

4. Get Feedback Along the Way

Ask trusted mentors and other partners to read through your plan as you go. They may offer suggestions on how to improve or clarify sections of the plan.

Writing a business plan can be an intimidating task. But, with the right approach and support, your plan will give you more clarity into and validation of your business concept than just about any other tool. 

Developing a business plan takes consistent effort and dedication. You can make the writing and planning process easier and far less intimidating with a SCORE mentor by your side. A SCORE mentor will support you throughout the entire writing and planning process, provide you with actionable feedback along the way, and help you create a strong plan for your business. Contact a SCORE mentor today and get started.

Ask SCORE: What’s the best way to communicate with my customers?

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE

You’ve seen people so absorbed with their smartphones that they appear oblivious to what’s going on around them. True, everyone is entitled to a bit of privacy, and perhaps that message or video is really, really important. However, spending too much time in a “heads-down” mode can be off-putting and, sometimes dangerous.

Many entrepreneurs, particularly those who work from home, operate their small businesses much the same way when they rely too heavily on email to communicate with clients. Email is convenient, particularly for work related issues and updates, but numerous studies have come to the same conclusion — customers want to be treated as people, not as return email addresses. 

When you take a technology-centric approach to communication, you’re missing an opportunity to build a relationship with your customers. Don’t you think they would rather do business with someone they know? Wouldn’t you? 

Tips for Driving Small Business Success with Strengths-Based Leadership

The philosophies surrounding business leadership practices have changed dramatically over the past several decades. Years ago, it was common for a single owner to call the shots and dictate orders to his or her employees. Today, the research is undeniable, showing that the most successful companies are the ones with leaders who focus on taking care of the team so the team can take care of the business.

Small business ownership is less about running a company and more about leading a team.

One of today’s most respected business leadership approaches comes from a landmark study on leadership strengths that sought to better understand how successful business leaders lead. Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s international bestseller StrengthsFinder 2.0 distills 30-years of their research on strengths-based leadership into one of the most thorough accounts of what it takes to successfully lead an organization.

StrengthsFinder 2.0 reveals the study’s discovery of three keys to effective leadership: knowing your strengths and investing in others’ strengths, getting people with the right strengths on your team, and understanding and meeting a set of basic needs of those who look to you for leadership. Continue reading

What Tax Documents Should You Keep?

And which ones should you shred?

If your filing cabinet is bursting at the seams, you’re not alone. As a small business owner, you have a lot of paperwork to keep track of – everything from business licenses, employee records, lunch receipts – the list goes on.

Some of the more challenging records to manage are your business’ tax documents and all of their supporting paperwork. Navigating tax document requirements is complicated and is often unchartered territory for a small business.

As a default, many business owners end up unnecessarily saving every last receipt for years and years. Or, they become overwhelmed and throw away important information. Continue reading

Should I take on a business partner?

Are two heads always better than one?

When it comes to taking on a partner to start or grow a small business, there’s no right or wrong answer. 

Partners can complement each other’s management skills and bring benefits such as special expertise and client relationships. 

As with any relationship, there are trade-offs that must be carefully considered before deciding whether adding a partner is a wise move, and then you have to find the right person for the role.

If it sounds a bit like marriage, you’re not far off. Having the right partner can be a terrific advantage for a business. Making the partnership successful takes as much energy, effort, and positive feelings for one another as it does to make a marriage work.

There are several important things to consider before choosing a partner and entering into a business partnership. Continue reading

How to develop a successful new product.

Developing and launching a new product requires research, resources, and a determination to follow through despite roadblocks and setbacks. If you have a product idea, how can you better ensure your development effort goes smoothly, and the end result is a win for you and your company?

While product development comes with varying levels of complexity that depend on the type of product you plan to create, several key ingredients for success remain universal. Continue reading

The SCORE Startup Roadmap: Your Guide to Successfully Starting a Business

Take the SCORE Startup Roadmap

Are You Ready to Start Your Business?

The path to business ownership is an exciting journey. As you embark on your journey, you need a few things to successfully reach your destination. First and foremost, you need a good roadmap or GPS to successfully navigate your way.

The SCORE Startup Roadmap, sponsored by FedEx, guides your journey, from your business idea through opening your doors to customers.

Whatever startup route lies ahead of you, the Startup Roadmap provides direction along the way. It will help you chart a course to success, minimizing detours and dead ends so you can get to your goal faster. This Roadmap will take you from the initial step of defining your business idea through your ultimate destination: launching your business. In each chapter, we’ll teach you what you need to do and give you the resources and expertise you need to get it done. Continue reading

Top 10 bookkeeping mistakes by small businesses.

couple working on finances

From one-person entities to Fortune 500 companies, no business can escape the dreaded task of bookkeeping. While it’s definitely not one of the more glamorous parts of the job, bookkeeping is at the heart of small business success, which means errors can be crippling.

To avoid the financial headaches that come with bookkeeping mismanagement, it’s important first to be aware of the pitfalls that can ensnare you. Continue reading

Business Help for Veterans from Facebook and SCORE.

Welcome Veterans!

We are proud to partner with Facebook to help veterans, military members and their families start and grow their own small businesses. Learn more, and find your mentor today.

How Can SCORE Help Veteran Entrepreneurs?

SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. Our 10,000 mentors can meet with you face-to-face in over 300 chapters, through video chat or via email. Continue reading