Tag: phoenix score

How to Write a Business Plan for Success

December is National Write a Business Plan Month! So it’s appropriate that we offer an article on how to write a business plan for success.

how to write a business plan for successYou might ask, why do I need a business plan?

The real purpose of a business plan is to create a well thought-out document that states, in detail, your business dream and how you plan to develop and finance this business. Your business plan is, in fact, the roadmap to your future.

Additionally, investors and lenders usually require a written business plan. Just as important, stakeholders such as suppliers, customers and potential key employees want to know who you are and what you are all about.

A Written Business Plan also Serves as a Guide for You and Your Team.

The Real Value of Business Planning lies in the Process Itself.

This focuses your thinking and keeps you on track. In other words, the key to success is going through the process. Thus, it’s the process itself that leads you to issues that are required for their resolution and your ultimate success. Planning is the structure by which you determine the key steps needed to find the information required to develop your successful business. In fact, for many situations, the planning process is actually more important then actually writing the plan.

Currently, leading experts in business planning such as Alexander Osterwalder and Steve Blank suggest the development of the Business Model Canvas (BMC) as the key to the process. From their point of view a BMC is actually a prelude, a precursor to the creation of your Business Plan.

Here is an example of a simplified BMC:

how to write a business plan for success

Fully understanding each of these questions and developing appropriate responses will lead you to a clearer, better understanding of all of the elements essential for the success of your enterprise. Note the importance of starting with the value proposition and matching this with the customer segment. Once that benefit fit has been established all else follows.

As an example, let’s create answers for a hypothetical BMC for MacDonald’s as developed by Manasota Score:

  • Value proposition -> quick, inexpensive meal
  • Customer segment -> public / seniors / families
  • Customer relationship -> personal face to face service
  • Distribution channels (paths to customers) -> in store / drive through
  • Revenue stream -> company store sales / royalties / franchise fees
  • Key activities -> training staff / marketing
  • Key resources -> employees / locations
  • Key partners -> franchisees
  • Cost structure -> staff / locations / supplies /marketing

In conclusion, the BMC guides you to focus on all the key factors necessary to create the roadmap to the attainment your dream.

Note, developing a BMC is not something done all at once. It is an iterative process by which you are systematically testing out your ideas.

A SCORE mentor can help your through this process FREE! Click here to schedule a mentoring session.

Here is a list of Free Resources with Business Plan Templates from SCORE and the SBA.

Greater Phoenix SCORE also has classes and workshops on how to write a business plan. Click here for the schedule.

About the Author:

Roger_RobinsonRoger Robinson, PhD has been a SCORE mentor for over 16 years. His specialties include non-profits, business planning, specifically in restaurants and hospitality, recreational and arts and Entertainment verticals. Read more about Roger here. Click here to schedule a free mentoring session with Roger or another SCORE mentor.

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Take Social Media Seriously in 2016 9 Dec

Take Social Media Seriously in 2016

If you thought that social media and digital marketing were a fad when you first heard about it, I certainly hope that you now realize that social media is not going away and everything is going digital.Social Media is here to stay. Resistance is Futile!

Resistance is Futile

Remember the Borg? OK, that’s something sci-fi fans will recognize from Star Trek the Next Generation. Their line:

You will be assimilated.
Resistance is futile.

Well, digital marketing is similar. If you don’t assimilate it into your business, you are going to be left behind in the dust. Resistance is futile and very unwise.

So what do you have to do to take your business to the next level in 2016? Make a decision. And it all stems around your budget. Now’s the time when you should be thinking about your business plan and budget for 2016 – so it’s vital that you include social media marketing as part of your marketing plan.

There’s two ways you can approach this.

Hire someone to do it for you or learn how to do it yourself.

If you want to hire someone to do it for you, your choices are contracting with a social media services company or an ad agency. This takes a hefty budget. Depending on their experience, anyone worth their salt charges from $500 – $2500 a month depending on what needs to be done.

The other option is hire someone to do it in-house. Here you have to factor:

  • Education – has this person been trained how to properly and effectively market on social media and by whom?
  • Experience – how long have they been on social media? Just because they are young and know how to post on Facebook and Instagram doesn’t mean they know how to market on social media.
  • Time – are they going to be full-time or part-time? If part-time, do they have another job that may be conflicting? If full-time, take into consideration salary, benefits, etc.

Yet another option is to train one of your current staff members on to marketing properly on social media. This person should be creative, somewhat tech-savvy and eager to learn. Think about how he or she is going to incorporate their current tasks and social media along with blogging 2-3 times a week. You can also rally a team of different people with various skills which would require a comprehensive strategic and tactical plan and someone to be the leader.

OR you can learn how to do all the social media yourself. Here you’ll have to carve out the time to:

  1. Take classes to learn how it all works and how to do research, planning and analytics as well as when, where and what to post on which networks.
  2. Do research to get to know your target market, find out which networks they frequent and what their interests are.
  3. Learn the culture and lingo of each of the major networks.
  4. Learn how to use the tools to curate content, schedule out posts, blog and monitor your social messages.
  5. Analyze your efforts each month to see what’s working and what’s not working, if you met your goals and to plan for the next month.

It’s your choice, but you cannot afford to ignore it any longer. Why?

  1. No one is going to find you on Google search
  2. Your competition is going to beat you out
  3. No one is going to know you exist

What do you want to do next? Not sure? It wouldn’t hurt to talk to a SCORE mentor – especially when it comes to budget/cash flow, business & marketing planning. Click here to schedule a free mentoring session.

I’ll also be happy to give you a free 30-minute phone consultation and analysis of your current efforts. Click here to schedule yours.

About the Author:

Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media WizGiselle Aguiar, founder of AZ Social Media Wiz is a social media, inbound and content marketing strategist & trainer helping business owners learn how to leverage the power of social media marketing, increase traffic to their websites, generate leads, increase brand awareness and establish themselves as experts in their fields. She’s the official Social Media, Newsletter and Blog Manager for Greater Phoenix SCORE and offers Social media classes at the new AZ Social Media Training Center. 602-738-1700. You can connect with Giselle online at LinkedIn or on Google+.

 

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2 Things a Business Can’t be Without

2 Things a Business Can't be without: Accounting & Marketing
Accounting & Marketing are 2 things a business needs for success.

What are two things a business needs to be successful?

Accounting and Marketing

And face it, you’re probably not an expert in either of them. You are an expert in what you do!

I was once told, “you’re an expert in social media, you’re never going to be an accountant. I’m an accountant, I’ll never be an expert social media. I’ll do your books, you do my social media. Deal?”

Deal!

That was the best decision I ever made! I used to dread going over my accounting each week. I’d rather clean my refrigerator than do accounting! When it came to doing my taxes each year, I needed a few stiff drinks when I was done. No more! That fee was sooooo worth it!

And I bet many of you look at social media and online marketing — like creating a website and blogging — in the same way. It’s not your thing!

The problem is that your business can’t succeed without both!

Sure, there may be businesses that don’t need to find new customers, but that’s rare. Most businesses

  • have competition
  • depend on getting found in the Google search engine
  • need to be known as the go-to place for whatever it is they offer

Today’s marketing takes time. It’s like going to a live networking event at any given time of the day.

You get out of it what you put into it.

But who has that kind of time?

Ah, we’ve hit on one of the conundrums of entrepreneurship: Either you learn how to do it yourself or you hire someone to do it for you.

That’s one of the secrets that Derek Halpern talks about in the video in the prior SCORE blog post.

“Focus on high-value work.”

You have to figure it out. It has to be part of your business plan and your budget. If you can’t afford to hire someone to do it for you — which in the beginning, that may be the case — then you need to learn how to do it yourself. I present a class on social media marketing for SCORE at least once a month and they also have Quickbooks classes for beginners, intermediate and advanced users.

Check out the upcoming Phoenix SCORE Classes for entrepreneurs. The next 5 seminars are listed on the left column of this page, but if you don’t see what you need, click here for the full list and search for either Quickbooks, marketing, business plans, etc. to find a local seminar. National SCORE also offers free online webinars, check those out here. They also have free tools and templates.

About the Author:

Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media WizGiselle Aguiar, founder of AZ Social Media Wiz is a social media, inbound and content marketing strategist & trainer helping business owners learn how to leverage the power of social media marketing, increase traffic to their websites, generate leads, increase brand awareness and establish themselves as experts in their fields. She’s the official Social Media, Newsletter and Blog Manager for Greater Phoenix SCORE and offers Social media classes at the new AZ Social Media Training Center and social media set-ups and  implementation services. 602-738-1700. You can connect with Giselle online at LinkedIn or on Google+.

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SCORE Success Story: AZ Social Media Wiz

I have a unique relationship with Greater Phoenix SCORE. I am a volunteer as I manage their social media and teach a workshop at least once a month. I’m also a vendor – they pay me monthly to manage this very blog site and to send out the weekly email newsletter and email promotions for their seminars. But I wouldn’t be where I am today, with out the free mentoring. And since I spend so much time there, I get to pick their brains every whenever I have a question.

I’ve been doing Internet marketing in one form or another since 1995. I moved to Phoenix 10 years ago and was working in various sales and marketing jobs till September 2008 when I got laid off. I was unemployed for 2 years. When I lost my job, I started a blog, “Internet Marketing Tips” and became active on LinkedIn. Those two efforts got me a job doing online marketing and events for a financial planner. I got laid off after a year and I saw it as a blessing in disguise. Having learned all about blogging and social media marketing on-the-job, I gave a presentation on blogging and Twitter for a group of writers and I saw that there was a huge opportunity training small business owners, over 40, on how to use social media marketing to promote themselves.

SCORE Success Story: AZ Social Media WizHence, I took the leap of faith and started AZ Social Media Wiz, providing 1:1 training, set-ups, strategic plans and implementation. I went first to the AZ Small Business Development Council (AZSBDC) (a sister organization to SCORE) to get help with my business plan.

I first encountered SCORE at a NetworkingPhoenix.com event and asked them, “who do I need to talk to about holding classes for SCORE.” That started it. My first class was a joint seminar with SCORE and the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce.

I was about 3 months into my start-up when I attended the free SCORE’s ABCs of Starting a New Business at the Phoenix Public Library that they present every first Saturday. (You can see their schedule here.)

A few months later, I was contacted by Scott Schreiber, now retired, about writing a couple of blog posts a month. In the summer of 2013, Scott asked me to help promote their upcoming Symposium on social media. I informed him that you can’t just start doing social media and stop after an event. People will think you fell of the face of the earth. It’s an on-going effort. That’s how I became a volunteer managing their social media. (My post, “11 LinkedIn Reputation Killers“, is the most popular post in their blog!)

Besides doing the 1:1 training and providing the social media services, I thought of recording training videos and offering them online. The challenge is that social media changes constantly and as soon as something is published — book or video — it’s obsolete. The other challenge was taking the time to record the videos. I remodeled my business plan in attempts to get some funding so I can take 3 months off to record the videos. I met with several SCORE mentors, Rod Houston, Andy Beran regarding my “pitch” for an Indigogo crowdfunding campaign and I also picked the brain of Tom FitzSimons when I thought of bringing on a business partner.

My problem – no collateral and lousy credit history. Crowdfunding didn’t work for me.

I ditched the video idea and decided to hold more local classes for the Phoenix-area entrepreneurs. I searched for the right space, rented a room at a computer school for a while, but I felt the best way to go was to find my own retail space. Problem came back to: no funding.

At the annual SCORE volunteer appreciation dinner, I sat next to Mike Levy. Not wanting to miss the opportunity of picking his brain, I started, “I’ve been growing my business with just the income – no funding or investors.”

SCORE Success Story: AZ Social Media Wiz“You’ve been bootstrapping,” he said.

“Yes, I want to open a training center in a retail location, but I have to buy tables, chairs and equipment. Any ideas?”

He said, “Try ACCION. They’re here in the Southwest and they help minority business owners with loans – and you cover 2 minority – Hispanic woman.”

I ran with it. The next day, I applied and I got an $8,000 loan. The SCORE dinner was a Wednesday night, the money was in my bank account Friday. Wow!

July 28, 2015, I signed a lease for a 1250 sq. ft. space in North Phoenix and opened the AZ Social Media Wiz Training Center. It’s a dream come true!

If you’re a business, no matter what stage you’re in: just thinking about it, starting-up, growing or established, you can benefit from either the free mentoring sessions and/or the local workshops and even online webinars! They also have free templates and tools to help you put together your business and marketing plans, budget, financial statements, etc.

Thank you, SCORE for all your continued help! Oh, and you’ll all get an invite to the grand opening!

Giselle Aguiar
Owner, AZ Social Media Wiz

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SCORE Success Story: Heartsweet Cakes

Heartsweet Cakes, a SCORE Success Story“When starting your business, you are going to need a plan A, B, C, and D,” said my SCORE mentor Roger Robinson, at one of our first meetings together. I left this meeting frustrated and discouraged because I only had a plan A.

Upon graduating college with a degree in business, I moved to Chicago and began working downtown at a marketing research firm, working only the left side of my brain in a cubicle for three years. From day one, I yearned for something more. I knew I wanted a career that I was passionate about and fulfilling. I went back to my love of art and design and began searching for cake decorating programs at culinary schools. I enrolled at the prestigious French Pastry School and I never looked back.

A couple of internships later, I worked my way up and managed the top cake shop in the city. I honed my skills and learned as much as I could about the industry and cake design. It was at this shop where my vision and dream for Heartsweet Cakes began to take shape. I drafted a 40-page business plan, complete with a 600+ item inventory list with prices and suppliers, and I estimated all of my start-up costs.

I moved to Arizona with a plan, a single plan, a plan A. I knew what I wanted my business to become and I was confident that I had the skills and talent to achieve it, but I reached a point in the process where I needed some help. Specifically, I was looking for advice in finding a commercial property and financing support/advice. I reached out to the local SCORE office in Phoenix and both Roger Robinson and Bill Robinson were assigned as my mentors.

Haley Cairns of HeartSweet Cakes - a SCORE Success StoryOnce Roger and Bill had a chance to review my business plan, we dove into some in-depth discussions and analysis of my financials. This was when my plan A started to seem like something that may be too risky financially. They asked me, “Is there a less risky way to start your business but still produce the same product to the same client market?” The answer was “yes”, and I truly feel like they both guided me into a less risky start of my company.  I decided to begin my business out of my home and I installed all of my commercial equipment into a spare room with a separate entrance. I am able to produce the same quality product that my clientele expects from me with less overhead and minimal construction costs. I was able to invest my startup capital into my branding, website, high-quality equipment and materials. I now have room to steadily grow my business with less pressure and financial risk and I will have a lot more control over my work-life balance.

I owe a big thank you to SCORE and the mentors that devoted their time, knowledge, advice, and support to me with my journey of making Heartsweet Cakes a reality. I believed that I could start my business with my plan A but, along the way, I was guided into a plan B, which was the smarter way to achieve my dream and I can attribute this to my experience with SCORE. Thank you to my mentors, Roger and Bill, and all of the other SCORE mentors who support entrepreneurs like me, who are willing to work hard to turn their dreams into a reality.

Haley Cairns
Owner of Heartsweet Cakes – Phoenix, AZ

You can be a SCORE success story! Get free business mentoring no matter where you are in your business: thinking of starting, start-up, growing or established. Click here to schedule a mentoring session with a mentor in one of our many Phoenix Valley locations.

Are you a SCORE Success? We’d love to feature you here in our blog and in our newsletter! Contact your SCORE mentor or the SCORE office with your story.

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Lies Scams and Myths of Credit Card Processing

Lies Scams and Myths of Credit Card ProcessingCredit card processing is an unregulated industry. It is electronically based with no short cuts. Pricing is the biggest area of misinformation. It flows like this: The Processor (big computer in the sky) gives “interchange rate”, then to ISO then to merchant. Interchange rate is a risk assignment and has more several hundred lines of rates based on type of card and how it is processed. The ISOs have several levels and each level is slightly more expensive. Level One pricing is the first level of pricing down from processor. They provide pricing to banks, wholesale big box stores, associations, who offer Level Two pricing.

Pricing comes in two kinds. Most typical is TIERED. It is the easiest to sell and the most misleading. You will see this promoted using one “rate” as a come on. The fine print says rewards cards, corporate and foreign cards clear at a higher but unspecified rate.

INTERCHANGE, also known as cost plus, is the lowest rate to the merchant. It takes rate of the credit card actually presents clears at plus a small fixed amount. This system is harder to explain to merchants but assures them the lowest possible rates. The best managed stores insist on “interchange plus’ rate. This is the ONLY rate big box store will even look at!
Processing a charge and money: the charge transaction ALWAYS goes direct to the processor, then VMCD for funding, back the processor for distribution to the merchants account. NO SHORT CUTS, ever.

  • LIE: keep all you money in one place. TRUTH: it simply is not possible for the system to work like that.
  • LIE: we work directly with the processor. TRUTH only a few Level One ISOs work with pricing direct from the processor but ALL machines, shopping cards, etc., work directly with the processor. Typical sales lie.
  • LIE: you don’t need a contract. TRUTH: VMCD will not process a merchant without a contract ever. A three year contract is typical. All have auto renewals and a buy out clause. Read your contract!
  • LIE: We will give you a free machine. TRUTH: machines cost hundreds of dollars. They WILL make up the money by increasing in your processing fees and hiding it. No free lunch.
  • LIE: the sales person has you best interest at heart. TRUTH: most salespeople are only paid to sign up a merchant and stay in the business a few months. No responsibility or follow up. Find a salesperson that only gets paid if they keep you! They are interested in keeping you happy.
  • LIE: The sales person knows what they are talking about. TRUTH: most sales people have no training on anything but the contract. They have no idea about the reality of what they say. While some are intentionally lying, the majority simply do not know what they are talking about. That may be even worse! Ask about their initial and ongoing training. The best have continuous training in this constantly changing industry. They can give you information you need to informed business decisions.

About the Author:

Bear ThomasBear Thomas is the SW Regional Account Rep at Merchant Solutions International – providing low cost credit card processing that really is low cost. They offer all processing methods at cost-plus pricing, like all the big box stores get. His goal is to help merchants keep more of the money they have already earned. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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