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"The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible"

~ Anonymous

Tea Time with Liv

Get ready for the new year

Christmas is over, the relatives are gone, the shopping is done. Its time to start thinking about your business again. Start 2009 with a new outlook and ideas for your business. Whether just starting and been in business for years, a fresh start can always be a great thing.

We all should have a business plan in place for how we wish to conduct and grow our business. This does not matter whether you own your own business or you a consultant in direct sales. Everyone needs a business plan. If you do not have a business plan in place, what direction do you go?

Before you panic and think I don't have time to write one or I don't know how, a business plan is easier than you think. I will take you few of the basics in a business plan. By the time we are done you will have enough information to get you started in the right direction. Now I am not where near an expert in writing these. But I can give you a great start from my own experience and business classes.

We all should remember that trusty notebook I am always talking about. It is time to bring it out if you don't have it out already. Don't have one? Go buy one. I recommend the 5 star with the plastic cover. They are more expensive but they take a beating and still hold on. Buy which ever you like or just use a standard long yellow notepad with cover. Doesn't matter. Just get one.

Before we get started there are a few things I want you to remember. You are a salesperson. As a sales person it is your job to convince others to purchase your products. Your product(s) not only represent your business but also you. Because you want others to buy from you, they must believe in you and not just your product. Because of this you want them to believe you know everything there is about the product and can effectively assist them in any way they need in relation to your product. I say this now because this will reflect in your thinking while writing your business plan.

The basics to your business plan will be:
Executive Summary
Market Analysis
Company Description
Organization & Management
Marketing & Sales Management
Service or Product Line
Funding Request

They may sound like big words and even seem intimidating. Don't let it be. This is what is used when you plan to seek investors and even loans to start your business. We are not going to cover the very exstensive and detail of a traditional business plan. We are going to take pieces of this and break them down simplify a business plan so you have the basics to move your business forward.

We are going to start with your company description. This section will include several elements of your busines that fit together. What needs to be included is the nature of your business, the marketplace needs that you are trying to fullfill; include the ways in which you plan to satisfy these needs using your products or services. So what exactly does that mean? Start with what is your company and what you offer. Why would people want to buy your product? Lets say you sell candles. People like to have a tranquil home, relax, and their home smell good. This is why they would want to buy candles. Say you sell soy candles. The reason people would want to buy yours is because they are not as toxic as others. Of course you want more detail than this but you can see where I am going with this.

In your company description you are going to list your success. What key areas are you superior in? Customer satisfaction? Shipping? Product quality? Location of your business? Why these give you an advantage above others and why you have the competative edge.

Lets turn to Service or Product Line. Describe your service or product, and highlight the benefits to your potential and current customers. Focus on the areas where you have an advantage above the rest. Point out the the problems in your target market for where your service or product provides the needed solution. Provide evidence that people are, or will be, willing to pay for your solution. You don't need to go into detail about each and every product but you do want to go into detail about the major lines of product. If you don't know the answer, find it. You can't effectively sell a product if you know nothing about the product and why you are selling it. Selling it because it sounds like fast money will only cause you failure. Do your homework here.

Marketing & Sales Management is our next stop. What is marketing anyways? Marketing is the process of creating customers. This includes your ads, how you sell your product or service, packaging. In this are you want to first define your marketing strategy. There is no single way to approach a marketing strategy; your strategy should be part of an ongoing process and unique to your company.

Strategy for growing your business. This growth strategy might include what is called a horizontal strategy. This is where you would provide the same type of products to different users. There is also a vertical strategy where you would continue providing the same products but would offer them at different levels of the distribution chain.

Channels of distribution strategy. Choices for distribution channels could include a sales force, distributors, or retailers. To keep it simple this will be your sales force. You can branch out further as your expertise and skills strengthen and grow.

Communication strategy. How are you going to reach out to your customers? This will be a combination of the following: promotions, advertising, public relations, personal selling, and printed materials such as brochures, catalogs, flyers, etc.

Once you have defined your marketing strategy, you can then define your sales strategy. How do you plan to actually sell your product? This can be a meriad of avenues. You need to decide what is best for you and your skills. This will also include what you will not do and why. If you cannot do home parties, why? No babysitter? How can you get around that? Are you not good with large groups? Can you start with a small amount of people and work your way up? Strategy is not only what you are willing to do but what you can do to overcome what you are not willing to do.

You need a sales force strategy. In direct sales your sales force is those you recruit to be part of your team. You as a team leader are responsible for helping them develop the skills to build their own business. This is why you receive compensation. How many salespeople will you recruit for your sales force? What type of people are you looking to recruit for your sales force? Be specific on type. Don't just state anyone wanting to make money. Are you targeting women from ages x to y? Married men with children? People who own homes? These are just examples so make these questions relate specifically to you, your products, and your company. What type of recruitment strategies will you use? Maybe your strategy is strictly online. Be specific how this will work. Even online strategies will include some offline skills so you must include them. How will you train your sales force? Will this be conference calls, chat room training, in person meetings. What about compensation for your sales force? This is not what they earn for sales. This is what can you offer. Maybe you will offer a product package for hitting a certain goal.

Your sales activities. When you are defining your sales strategy, it is important that you break it down into activities. For instance, you need to identify your prospects and make a list. Once you have done so, you need to prioritize it. Next, identify the number of sales calls you will make over a certain period of time. This can be monthly, quarterly, or yearly. I prefer monthly as you can make these appear attainable using your present skills. This can later change as your skills develop. From there, you need to determine the average number of sales calls you will need to make per sale. It may take 20 calls to make one sale. You need to know the average dollar size per sale. You can modify this to be home parties, catalog parties, conference calls, sales meetings, and any other method you have chosen to make the sale.

Lastly we move on to Financials. This should include historical and prospective. If you are just starting you will not likely have historical so focus on prospective. You should have a breakdown of what you spend vs sell. You also should have an idea of what you need to allocate where. Even as a consultant you need to know what is coming and what is going out and not just spend whatever, whenever. Based on past you should be able to project your financial outlook for the coming year. If you plan to receive business loans or gain investors, this is a must and cannot be left out.

As you can see we have skipped a few areas. The areas we covered are where most need to focus. If you wish to start a new brick and mortar business using loans and investors, you will need a full comprehensive business plan. You can find several samples of these online. There are some who offer the service of writing this for you with the information you provide. Just do a search on Google or any other chosen search engine.

When writing don't feel overwhelmed. Take one section at a time. Once you have completed these sections, review them periodically and make adjustments as needed. This is a work in progress and will never be the end. If you create this digitally it is easier to read and change.

This is by no means complete but you now have a great start to making your business successful.

Olivia Vidal
So Chic Bag Boutique


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