How to Know if it’s Time to Throw Away Your Business Plan and Start From Scratch

Ricardo Ibarra of Trio Group discusses how to evaluate if your strategic business plan is working for you.

Summary

  • “A well-written business plan is a strategic exercise in understanding the people your business seeks to serve. And the work you do to gain more insight and knowledge about your ideal client will serve as beacon to guide you as you grow your business.”
  • Not sure if your business is on track to reach your goals? In this video, learn the five components of an effective business plan and how to evaluate your business plan to see if it is working.
  • “Most business owners create a solution or an offer and expect everything to come up roses. A clear understanding of your ideal clients, the market in which you operate, and the money required to develop, create, and produce your solution are all important considerations if you want to ensure your business has long term success.”
  • Schedule time this week to evaluate the strategic value of your business plan based on these five areas.
  • Watch the video to get the full training.
  • Did you identify areas to improve your business? Download the FREE Small & Minority Business Checkup for the 10 questions you must ask to help you get your business back on track and thriving.

About the TAS Program

The City of Seattle and Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council (Northwest Mountain MSDC) have partnered in the development and launch of the City of Seattle’s Technical Assistance Services program. This program is designed to support small businesses in the development of their capabilities thereby making them more competitive.

This program is sponsored by the City of Seattle and hosted by the Northwest Mountain MSDC. For more information, visit the TAS webpage.

About the Presenter

Ricardo Ibarra combines over 15 years of marketing and business experience to help small and minority-owned businesses thrive in today’s digital economy. Combining his signature energetic style with the latest marketing strategies, Ricardo has helped dozens of small and disadvantaged business enterprises reach new clients, launch new products, and gain a sense of confidence as they grow their business.

3 Ways Your Business Plan Can Help You Make More Money (Without Going Crazy)

Ricardo Ibarra of Trio Group discusses how a well-crafted business plan can take your small business to new heights.

Summary

· “Without an effective business plan, your business is like a ship leaving the harbor without a map. It’s easy to get thrown off course by the currents of busy work or distracted by islands in the sea and their promise of riches.”

· Ready to grow your business? In this video, learn why it’s important to use your business plan instead of forgetting it on a shelf.

· “‘Shiny object syndrome’ affects business owners more than most. The key is to evaluate those business opportunities through the lens of your business plan and the strategic direction it sets.”

· Start now to refresh or write your business plan so you have a strategic guide to growing and scaling your business.

· Watch the video to get the full training. · Not sure how to fix your business? Download the FREE Small & Minority Business Checkup for the 10 questions you must ask to help you get your business back on track and thriving.

Video Transcript 

Many small business owners think of their business plan as something they only need when applying for a bank loan. Those same business owners are missing out on an incredible opportunity for growth. That’s because your business plan is the roadmap for your business success.

Without an effective business plan, your business is like a ship leaving the harbor without a map. It’s easy to get thrown off course by the currents of busy work or distracted by islands in the sea and their promise of riches. What the most successful small business operators know is that by sticking to their well-crafted business plan and executing only the mission-critical activities, they can grow and scale without all the headache and overwhelm that comes from winging it. Plus, if you’re like me and are a business leader who didn’t go to business school, chances are you’re learning as you’re leading. Take a moment to congratulate yourself for all the success you’ve enjoyed up to this point. Let’s agree that operating a business is tough work and the fact that you’re here demonstrates your commitment to being a great business operator for your clients, your employees, and of course the people who depend on you.

Even for the folks who do have business degrees or formal training, operating a business is always a learning experience because the real world is a lot messier and has far more twists and turns than any textbook or course. No matter where you are on your business journey or what your level of expertise, your business plan is the first step in taking your business to the next level. Now that you understand how important it is to have and reference your business plan, let’s dive into the three ways your business plan can help you make more money without going crazy.

Number one. Your business plan eliminates the guesswork of day-to-day operations. That’s because at its core a business plan is a strategic document that outlines the direction of your company. The very act of writing a business plan forces you to say yes to some things and no to others.

When my principals at Trio Group and I made the decision to focus on serving only two core audiences, public agencies and disadvantaged small businesses, our business took off! That’s because before, we weren’t really known for anything. We were Jacks and Jills of all trades, but because we were trying to be helpful to everyone, we never stood out. Now that we’ve narrowed the focus of who we serve to just public agencies and small disadvantaged businesses, we’re known for that. People immediately understand how we can help them solve their problems.

Here’s how this looks in action. Take some time to review your business plan and create a “yes and no list.” Does your business plan clearly outline the people, opportunities, markets, and products or services you are saying “YES” to? Does it also outline who and what you are saying “NO” to?

For those of you who may not have a business plan right now, or your plan is too old to be helpful, don’t worry. I’ve created a free business checkup tool to help you evaluate the strength and effectiveness of your business. You can download it free by clicking the link below.

Number two. Your business plan helps you identify partnerships and supporters to boost your business growth. As your business grows and you meet new people, you’ll be presented with lots of opportunities. This can be a blessing or a curse. Have you ever said yes to an opportunity only to realize it wasn’t as lucrative as you had hoped? Or, did you chase the new opportunity at the expense of becoming masterful at your own core offering? “Shiny object syndrome” affects business owners more than most. The key is to evaluate those business opportunities through the lens of your business plan and the strategic direction it sets. I recently had the pleasure of working with a small business owner who was in the IT staffing space. His company’s expertise is in Microsoft Azure and related cloud computing. Because of his network and success, he was approached by another firm who asked if he could provide staffing services for administrative support. After careful consideration, this small business owner chose to turn down the opportunity because he wants his company to be known as the Pacific Northwest’s best IT staffing firm. Without the clarity of who his business serves, he would have said yes to the opportunity and simultaneously taken his attention away from his core value proposition.

On the other hand, well-formed partnerships can dramatically grow your business by exposing your offering to new customers, a new geographic area, or greatly reduce the costs of doing business. Here are three ways to evaluate potential partnership opportunities:

The first is internal alignment. Why are you pursuing this opportunity? What is the need or desire behind seeking the partnership? The second is strategic alignment. What are the goals, objectives, and ideal outcomes for the partnership? The final is the partnership structure. Who manages, what does each partner contribute, and how do the partners benefit? The third way your business plan can help you make more money is understanding your business finances and what to watch. I know that money isn’t most peoples’ favorite topic but it’s a key component of your business plan. By going through the exercise of identifying your financial goals and writing your budget, you’ll be better prepared to run a successful business than most other small business owners. That’s because many operators would rather avoid the sticky subject of money than approach it with a calm, rational plan. Plus, a business plan can help you prepare for your business growth and point out hidden areas where your business may be costing you.

So there you have it. Three ways your business plan can help your business grow without feeling overwhelmed. Your business plan should be a living, breathing document that guides your day to day operations, help you identify partnerships and supporters, and paint a clear and compelling financial future for your business. If you’ve recognized that you need to boost your business with a more effective plan, be sure to check out the free Small & Minority Business Checkup tool, available at the link.

About the TAS Program

The City of Seattle and Northwest Mountain Minority Supplier Development Council (Northwest Mountain MSDC) have partnered in the development and launch of the City of Seattle’s Technical Assistance Services program. This program is designed to support small businesses in the development of their capabilities thereby making them more competitive.

This program is sponsored by the City of Seattle and hosted by the Northwest Mountain MSDC. For more information, visit the TAS webpage.

About the Presenter

Ricardo Ibarra combines over 15 years of marketing and business experience to help small and minority-owned businesses thrive in today’s digital economy. Combining his signature energetic style with the latest marketing strategies, Ricardo has helped dozens of small and disadvantaged business enterprises reach new clients, launch new products, and gain a sense of confidence as they grow their business.

Small Business Flex Fund for Washington Businesses

On June 30th the Small Business Flex Fund was launched as a joint project between the Washington State Department of Commerce, Heritage Bank, and WaFd Bank. The Fund helps small businesses and nonprofits access the financial support they need to thrive by providing flexible working capital loans

Small businesses and nonprofits can borrow up to $150,000 and the money can be spent flexibly, including on payroll, utilities & rent, supplies, marketing & advertising, building improvements or repairs, and other business expenses. Interest rates are 3% – 4.5%, with no fees & interest-only payments for the first year. Loan terms of 60 month and 72 months available.

The qualifications to apply are:
  • Business headquartered in Washington
  • Fewer than 50 employees
  • Annual revenues of less than $3 million
  • Experienced direct economic hardship due to COVID-19
To learn more and apply today, visit smallbusinessflexfund.org and review the program brochure here.

WA Department of Commerce ScaleUp Business Trainings

Courtesy reposting from the Washington State Department of Commerce:

Three new sessions of ScaleUp: The Rebuild Edition free business trainings scheduled

More than 350 growth-oriented small businesses helped during pandemic

OLYMPIA, WA – “ScaleUp: The Rebuild Edition,” an education and training partnership between the Washington State Department of Commerce and Thurston Economic Development Council, has scheduled three new eight-week course tracks for small businesses interested in achieving exponential growth as the economy reopens.

Each interactive course is two hours long and held once a week for eight weeks. The ideal participant is a business owner or president who has operated a business for at least two years and had pre-COVID annual gross revenue in excess of $100,000. The course, which ordinarily costs $1,599, is free to qualifying businesses, thanks in part to a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The program is based on the Thurston Center for Business Innovation’s ScaleUp program, which uses the proven Kauffman Foundation’s Fast Trac® Growth Venture coursework as its foundation. To date, more than 350 businesses throughout the state have benefited from the program.

Participants in the ScaleUp coursework will learn how to strengthen their strategic decision-making, create new operational efficiencies, explore new markets and improve the bottom line. Topics include creating efficient business systems, improving product/service alignment, creating a stronger competitive advantage in the marketplace, understanding financial statements and key business drivers, increasing sales leads and improving the sales funnel. A special “study hall” provides additional opportunities for private mentoring and coaching.

“Support for small businesses is a key building block for strengthening communities as we enter a post-pandemic world,” said Lisa Brown, director of the Washington State Department of Commerce. “ScaleUp: The Rebuild Edition offers participants mastery of essential skills that will help them grow and take advantage of opportunities as Washington’s economy fully reopens.”

Interested businesses can choose from three different tracks at http://MyStartup365.com/programs/scaleup. Class size is limited to allow significant time for questions and group interaction.

Session #6 Wednesdays: July 7 – Sept. 1, 8:30 to 10:00 a.m.

Session #7 Thursdays: July 8 – Sept. 2, 8:30 to 10:00 a.m.

Session #8 Thursdays: July 8 – Sept. 2, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

There is no cost to qualifying businesses. For more information, contact James Davis, jdavis@thurstonedc.com, or (360) 464-6051.

 

Fernando Martinez Defines the 7 Attributes of True Leadership

“Leadership is the ability to motivate and lead individuals, teams, and organizations through discovery, discussion, and actions they would not have arrived upon on their own.”

It took a lifetime of work, research, experimentation, and refining before I arrived at my definition of leadership.  To become a great leader, more importantly a visionary-leader requires a significant deal of work and conscious effort. I had to be very intentional in my search for understanding what a great leader does, why a great leader seeks this role, and ultimately understand how to become a visionary.

1st attribute of Leadership – Desire:  I consciously committed myself to become a great leader.  It takes time, effort and risk.

2nd attribute of Leadership – Be a Teacher:  I have enough confidence in myself to be willing to share all my learning’s from my work, education, and experience.

3rd attribute of Leadership – Challenge:  I have been willing to lean forward into risk throughout my career and being a provocative thinker: consistently asking the question “So What?” – not to be difficult but to encourage thoughtfulness and deep level 2nd and 3rd level thinking (i.e., critical thinking).

4th attribute of Leadership – Courage:  Intelligently face challenges.  It takes courage to lead into the fray day-after-day, defining accountability, holding people accountable, and putting the right people in the right seats.

5th attribute of Leadership – Team Builder:  Respect for everyone is the foundation of building a team: Respect for themselves; their teammates, and, for the organization.  Respect for the leader that sets the course and helps them understand how to get there.

6th attribute of Leadership – Collaborator:  Very early in my career I found that all the good leaders pull all the appropriate resources/stakeholders together and help them achieve a common goal.

7th attribute of Leadership – Communicator:  Without the appropriate level of communication the other characteristics of leadership are of no value.  A good leader communicates, communicates, communicates!

Lastly, as these seven attributes build upon each other and become an innate skill, we achieve the pinnacle of leadership – Insightfulness – Visionary:  Through my years of experience I feel I have moved from being a first line employee to becoming a Visionary – a state of “Enlightened Competence.”  This is a state true leaders desire to achieve.  It is the state where we see things no one else sees as well as gaps, solutions, opportunities, and improved methodologies that no one else sees. This is the highest state of Leadership we can achieve – become a Visionary, become a Great Leader!

Download – Fernando Martinez Defines the 7 Attributes of True Leadership

Strategic Approach Samples by Fernando Martinez

President and CEO of the Northwest Mountain MSDC, Fernando Martinez, helps Corporate Members strategize Supplier Diversity efforts for the future. Below is a sample deck including some of the Council’s approaches towards equity in Diversity and Inclusion practices in supply chains.

Strategic Approaches Northwest Mountain MSDC Sample Deck

Technical Assistance Services Workshops

The Northwest Mountain MSDC hosted a series of free online workshops for businesses interested in doing business with the City of Seattle as part of the Technical Assistance Services program. This series included insight from industry experts and open discussions on a number of topics. Missed these workshops? Click on the attachments below to review any or all of the presentations. This series will be repeated in the summer, so let Zavere Weeks, Program Assistant, know if you are interested in registering!
  1. How to register to do business with the City of Seattle? Firms learned how to properly register with the City of Seattle’s Online Business Directory. All firms seeking to do business with the City of Seattle must be registered as a Supplier. Registering here places your firm into a directory utilized by City of Seattle departments when searching for businesses to fulfill work orders. Firms engaged in the process of developing a capabilities statement. To learn more: TAS Workshop 1
  2. How to research the City of Seattle opportunities and contracts? Firms learned how to search and find City of Seattle solicitations and reviewed effective searching practices. After finding solicitations participants learned how to evaluate whether or not a particular solicitation is right for them (make go/no-go decisions). This training discussed choosing the opportunity that appropriately fits your business. To learn more: TAS Workshop 2
  3. How to read and respond to a City of Seattle Request for Proposal? In this workshop, firms gained an  understanding of how to properly respond to the City of Seattle’s Request for Information, Request for Quote and Request for Proposal. Knowing how to respond and with what information, will help to gain further consideration from the City. To learn more: TAS Workshop 3
  4. How to design and develop your marketing collateral? Learn how to develop a complete marketing strategy to prepare your business to successfully engage with the City of Seattle for potential business opportunities. In this workshop, firms discussed creating marketing with purpose! To learn more: TAS Workshop 4
  5. What are the back office responsibilities you are accountable for? In this workshop, participants learned how to interpret the terms and conditions of a contract and translate that into actionables. This helps to create deliverable timelines to better manage back office  responsibilities and comply with contract terms and conditions. To learn more: TAS Workshop 5
  6. Now that you have the business, how do you finance it for growth? In this final workshop, firms dove into a discussion around growing your business smart. Participants learned from subject matter experts in the following fields: Finance, Accounting Budgeting and Tax Planning.  They also reviewed tips on how to best use and manage credit. To learn more: TAS Workshop 6